For a certain middle-of-the-road, book-loving, romantic sensibility, a perfect escape novel. Despite its off-the-charts...

BOOKENDS

With more warmth and fuzziness than Harrod’s sweater department, up-and-comer Green (Mr. Maybe, 2001, etc.) offers a near-perfect—and near perfectly clichéd—romantic wish-fulfillment fantasy, complete with perfect gay best friend, perfect bookshop, perfect Hugh Grant–like love object, and perfectly coy tricks to keep the lovers apart for 400 pages.

Cathy (wisecracking, frizzy hair, slightly overweight, can’t be bothered with makeup), Josh, and Si all met at university, when the center of their circle was elegant, stunning, Portia. All changed when Portia seduced Josh just so somebody else couldn't have him, then walked away. Ten years later, Josh has married perfect wife and mother Lucy. Cath—long celibate but content to spend her free time in the warm glow of her perfect kitchen with best friend Si—has a successful advertising career. And nobody has seen Portia since graduation. When Lucy, the best cook in London, proposes that she and Cath open a bookstore/café, they meet charming real-estate agent James, who, as it happens, is also a brilliant painter. Everything is perfectly lovely, studded with long cozy brunches and dinners, until the shop opens and Portia, now a celebrity TV writer, walks back into their lives. From there, Green pushes forward her scenes that slather on the coziness “like layers of snuggly warm clothes” with glaringly obvious plot-teasers (Did Portia come back for Josh? Is James sleeping with the sexy au pair? Will James forgive Cath for canceling their date? Will Si realize that his arrogant boyfriend is a bastard?) that could be resolved with a phone call but aren’t. Even the one bit of grim reality (Si turns up HIV-positive), used first to keep Cath and James apart a bit longer, turns into an opportunity for true love and another dinner party.

For a certain middle-of-the-road, book-loving, romantic sensibility, a perfect escape novel. Despite its off-the-charts predictability, only the coldest of hearts will not be warmed.

Pub Date: June 11, 2002

ISBN: 0-7679-0780-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2002

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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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