Eccentric, intriguing, almost perversely readable and entertaining. Hamilton never disappoints.


Hamilton (When Madeline Was Young, 2006, etc.) reinvents the ménage à trois via the Internet in her lively sixth novel.

When stoically married Laura tires of her puppy-like husband Charlie’s volcanic sexuality and swears off lovemaking, her energies are reawakened to look beyond the successful “farm nursery” they run together in rural Wisconsin. Laura’s dream of writing innovative, grownup romance novels is realized in surprising ways after she meets Milwaukee Public Radio talk show host (and neighbor) Jenna Faroli. Laura engineers Jenna’s friendship with chronically extroverted Charlie, then manipulates that friendship by first assisting, then appropriating her husband’s e-mail correspondence with his new girl friend/girlfriend. The inevitable occurs, skeletons emerge from both women’s marital and familial closets, and a plot cleverly linked to that of a favorite novel (Evelyn Waugh’s elegiac Brideshead Revisited) gathers up Jenna and Charlie in its jaws. Laura pulls strings; risks wrecking lives she believes she’s enriching; and finds bliss at a climactic writers’ conference. This very unusual novel’s ballsy premise and haywire momentum are juggled expertly by the accomplished Hamilton, who somehow circumvents legitimate objections (e.g., no reader will believe Laura would not have foreseen Jenna’s and Charlie’s reactions to being thus thrust together) and keeps us eagerly guessing what further craziness lies in pages ahead. The harrowing story of how her father died serves to explain the narrowness of Laura’s vision; nonetheless, she’s never fully credible as a mixture of unpretentious charm and emotionally stunted duplicity—it’s as if Mary Pickford and Joan Crawford took turns playing the same person in the same movie. Charlie, however, is a wonderful character and an irresistible enigma: “Dreamer, yes; underdog, yes; artist, yes; bonkers, yes.”

Eccentric, intriguing, almost perversely readable and entertaining. Hamilton never disappoints.

Pub Date: April 9, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-53895-4

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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


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.


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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