RENAISSANCE MOON

Nevins's second novel, following her Commonwealth Avenue (1996), is the slow-moving tale of a beautiful scholar whom the cold moon goddess Artemis drives mad. Readers familiar with myth will know midway just what Nevins has in store for a climax and may go along to see how she brings it off. Selene is the daughter of Professor Sterling Alva Catcher, a Greek scholar at Cambridge who holds moonlit rites to Artemis and tells his students that the pagan Moon Goddess is the true goddess of mankind. A Star Chamber meeting brings Sterling to heel, but he roars that ``I am an initiate of the Mysteries!'' and leaves Cambridge. Selene knows that as a baby she was offered to the goddess, and she grows up hoping to be an initiate as loyal as her late father. At first she has an active sex life, but then takes a vow of chastity; her hatred of men eventually grows into a mania, poisoning her life and eventually making her a less interesting figure. Selene largely raises her sister's daughter, Carmen, and Carmen grows up in awe of her aunt. Selene, meanwhile, publishes some impressive works on Annunciation paintings of the Italian Renaissance, coming to believe that the Virgin Mary is an incarnation of the Moon Goddess, which mildly shocks Father Giovanni Corio, the narrator. The adult Carmen falls in love with Victor BellacÇra, a ravishingly handsome man who seems to resemble the noblemen portrayed in Renaissance paintings, and we know that Selene will disapprove. We also know that her vicious pack of untrained dogs is in the wings, waiting to act out the story of Actaeon, who was torn to pieces by dogs. Despite the lapidary writing, Nevins chooses to pad nearly every page with descriptive detail, and one grits one's teeth waiting for the author to get on with it. Selene swiftly loses our sympathy, Nevins turns to ever more forced inventions, and the narrative lags in a book that's, finally, chilly and unmoving.

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-15200-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1997

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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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