A sprightly plotted thriller and dynamic characters should leave readers eager for the sequel.

SALVAGING TRUTH

From the Hunters & Seekers series , Vol. 1

A university professor hunts for her marine biologist mother’s enigmatic research, which dangerous individuals also want, in this series opener.

Professor Riley Rawlings’ late-night voicemail from her mother, Claudia, is obscure: “Don’t let them get my research.” Riley soon learns that the research vessel, on which Claudia was lead scientist, has sunk. The Coast Guard finds 16 passengers dead, but as Claudia is not among them, Riley initially believes her mother is still alive. Riley quickly offers her help to Hunters & Seekers, the salvage and investigation company the San Diego Police Department has contracted for assistance. Not only is she an experienced diver, but she’ll also be able to decipher any possible evidence her mother has left behind regarding her location or research. Riley doesn’t know any specifics about the research, but she’s able to follow a string of clues from Claudia, much like a scavenger hunt. Riley, along with Hunters & Seekers’ Dagger Eastin, Kaleb LaSalle, and Stone Garrison, all former SEALs, searches with caution, as it’s apparent that the sunken ship was no accident. Indeed, someone wants Claudia’s work, and a mysterious man is shadowing the group, hoping Riley will lead him to the research and seemingly waiting for his chance to strike. Jaytanie’s (Love, Take Two Collection, 2017, etc.) concise writing begets a swift narrative with no extraneous characters. For example, a woman from Dagger’s past is a dual threat—to Riley’s life as well as her blossoming relationship with the ex-SEAL. Riley, whom Dagger rightly dubs “fearless,” holds her own with her male comrades, and it’s gratifying to watch her decode Claudia’s cryptic clues. Unfortunately, the entertaining scavenger hunt ends a bit too soon, prior to the novel’s halfway point. But other mysteries ensue, including Claudia’s whereabouts, Dagger’s connection to the woman from his past, and the identity of the villainous mastermind. Although gradual details of the baddies’ plot become increasingly convoluted, the ultimate reveal is comprehensible and the story’s resolution is thorough.

A sprightly plotted thriller and dynamic characters should leave readers eager for the sequel.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-948170-04-8

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2019

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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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