Nothing wrong with a narrator this shallow, but she should at least be funny.

THE WASHINGTONIENNE

Party girl leaves cushy New York life for meagerly paid Capitol Hill job and starts sleeping with the high and mighty for extra cash.

While there are plenty of mistakes Cutler doesn’t make in her first novel, subject matter as salacious as hers still deserves to be more interesting than this. Cutler was the briefly infamous Senate employee whose blog about her scandalous romantic entanglements led to her being unmasked and losing her job. Here, Jackie is a New York club fiend interested only in dancing, drugs and screwing around who loses her rich boyfriend/meal ticket after cheating on him and has to crash with a friend in D.C. while getting subsistence pay working for a senator. Always quick to figure out how to have a good time on someone else’s dime, it’s not long before Jackie is sleeping with some powerful men and getting money in return. She’s not quite a hooker, in that there’s never talk about price—envelopes of cash are left on bedstands, Jackie mentions her rent is due and it gets paid, etc.—but the difference is fairly academic when her secret is blown. It’s a relief that Cutler seems to have few illusions about Jackie, an aggressive airhead who’s looking for her next meal ticket and can be counted on to be the most self-obsessed person in any room (“Despite my life-shattering emotional trauma, it was nice to know that I still looked hot”). Still, that clarity of vision doesn’t mean the reader is in for any insight beyond a few pop-psych tidbits tossed out near the end. Cutler has a tendency to use spoiled and lazy writing to talk about spoiled and lazy people who think they deserve acclaim for how spoiled and lazy they are. The result, ultimately, is a book best read for its depressing portrait of the scrounging, idea-free juveniles who staff Capitol Hill offices.

Nothing wrong with a narrator this shallow, but she should at least be funny.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-4013-0200-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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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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