One need not be an Anglophile to enjoy the heroine’s London adventures, but it definitely adds to the overall experience.

London Belongs To Me

An aspiring playwright, fresh out of college, moves to the city of her dreams in this debut novel.

After an inauspicious arrival, including delayed baggage, a sudden downpour, and cramped living quarters, Alexandra “Alex” Sinclair settles into a routine of sorts in London. Still, the Emory University graduate battles with occasional panic attacks as she navigates the ups and downs of living abroad, including an economical housing arrangement that sparks many complications. She hopes to deepen her relationship with her father, who returned to his native England after divorcing her mother many years ago. But Alex also desperately wants to make it on her own, without financial assistance from him, so she seeks employment opportunities that will allow her the flexibility to work on her writing projects. Eventually, she will face a blatant case of plagiarism and other acts of sabotage, so she is fortunate to rely on the support of relatives and friends, principally Lucy, a former online acquaintance, and Lucy’s sidekick, Freddie. They both share Alex’s obsessions with Doctor Who, Sherlock, and the like. Will Alex ultimately make some real progress with a love interest? Will her chief antagonist finally receive a richly deserved comeuppance? Undoubtedly, Middleton’s novel is a love letter to London. As such, it goes a bit overboard in its effusive style and passionate outbursts, but the underlying sentiment remains sweet and contagious. At times, the author is overly fond of clunky similes and unlikely coincidences. For instance, Alex’s accidental reunion with Lucy (with whom she had lost contact) is one of the plot mechanisms that strains credibility, though most of them involve her encounters with a potential suitor. Middleton sometimes risks venturing into the realm of torrid, bodice-ripping romance novels, as in this overwrought passage: “Friday’s kiss and the possibility of seeing him today kept her awake last night, teasing and tormenting her; the ache for him still constant, it warmed her like a fever that wouldn’t break.” Still, despite these minor drawbacks, chances are that even the most skeptical or cynical readers will surrender to the many delights of this compelling narrative. Prepare to be seduced by engaging characters, irresistible in their own quirky way, and transported by keen descriptions of the sights, sounds, and tastes of London (plus two side trips to Manchester).

One need not be an Anglophile to enjoy the heroine’s London adventures, but it definitely adds to the overall experience.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9952117-1-1

Page Count: 398

Publisher: Kirkwall Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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