A winning novel about how small missteps can result in global consequences.



This thoughtful debut novel illustrates the impact of war on three young Americans visiting Paris.

Ponepinto (The Face Maker, 2013) seamlessly blends two of his interests: World War I and vaudeville, in which his grandfather once performed. His novel is set just before the start of the Great War, when three American vaudeville performers find themselves drawn into the orbit of Jean Jaures, the French peace advocate whose speeches single-handedly managed to postpone the start of the European conflict for two years. With war in the air, Jack and Gus, who team in a lonesome-cowboy act, and Kera, “The Parisienne Nightingale,” find themselves stranded in Paris, where the owner of the club at which they’re playing refuses (or can’t afford) to pay his performers. Fed up with his unrequited love for Gus, Jack decides to come out, and their forays into gay nightlife culture reveal the underbelly of the French capital, specifically at the smoke-filled cabaret Le Secret. From this dingy nexus, the trio divides, each following a separate destiny and initially making questionable choices, as the young often do. Yet they mature against the backdrop of a steady march toward war, inevitable after the assassination of Jaures. As Gus explains, “There was no need for the factions to debate the war any longer. It would come now. He took a last drink of the chill, bitter coffee—this was what the future would taste like for the Parisians.” Blending real and fictional characters, Ponepinto remarkably sketches the end of an era for France, which is slipping into a war that ultimately sparks another. All this is seen through the naïve eyes of three Americans, blank slates for history to sketch upon as they admirably evolve.

A winning novel about how small missteps can result in global consequences.

Pub Date: March 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1942797005

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Woodward Press

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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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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