This tense, haunting tale gives readers front-row seats to the protagonist’s torment.

THE DEPTHS

Armed strangers kidnap a vacationing couple in Kjeldsen’s (Land of Hidden Fires, 2017, etc.) taut thriller.

After three miscarriages, Marah Lenaerts has been sinking into depression. She’s an American expat who’s been living overseas for years with her trader husband, Eden, a Belgian currently based in Shanghai. Eden has been distancing himself from Marah, but he suggests they take a Malaysian getaway, and Marah reluctantly agrees. This decision may not bode well for her neuroses. Scuba diving is on the itinerary, and it triggers her terror of sea creatures. But the couple seems to grow closer, and Marah’s anxiety eases. This quickly changes when Eden and Marah are accosted by men brandishing M16s. Although the aggressors’ English is limited, it’s abundantly clear that they’re kidnapping the couple. What’s less clear, at least initially, is who their captors are and what exactly they want. Marah has always looked to Eden for a sense of safety and protection. But with her husband just as helpless as she is, she will have to find her own strength. Kjeldsen’s short novel moves at a blistering pace, putting Marah through one ordeal after another. The protagonist’s mass of trepidations amplifies the tension; even breaks from the captors’ threats, for example, are wrought with inner turmoil, including a fear that Eden will attempt escape without her. Sharp, concise writing only improves the tale. Furthermore, readers will relate to many of the experiences and, after tiger mosquitoes, sand flies, and other insects leave behind “a tapestry of bites and rashes,” will feel as uncomfortable and itchy as Marah. The kidnappers’ objective does eventually come to light, and though some will guess where the plot is heading, it won’t lessen the impact of the ending or Marah’s harrowing struggle.

This tense, haunting tale gives readers front-row seats to the protagonist’s torment.

Pub Date: May 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9984657-3-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: Grenzland Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2018

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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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