Like a southern-fried meal, fatty and indulgent, and the more delicious for being so.

THE LADIES OF GARRISON GARDENS

In a sequel to The Three Miss Margarets (2003), Shaffer employs all the components of a Lady’s Southern Novel—but creates something fresh and likable from the old tricks.

Laurel Selene McCready is as shocked as the rest of small-town Charles Valley, Ga., when she learns she is sole heir to Miss Peggy’s vast fortune: the whole of Garrison Gardens and Resort. Friend to the grand dame in the last years of her life (and with the other Miss Margarets, too: L’il Bit and Dr. Maggie), Laurel is now the company owner in a company town. Though with no father, a drunken mother (now dead), a poor-paying job (now lost) and a penchant for kicking it up herself, Laurel is hardly capable of running a multimillion-dollar concern, or so scheming lawyer Stuart Lawrence would have her believe. All Laurel has to do is sign a power of attorney and Stuart will make all Garrison Gardens decisions for her (top of the list is a big employee layoff and a drastic hike in health insurance premiums). Despite her daughter-like relationship with Miss Peggy, Laurel has always hated the Garrisons and the way they’ve strong-armed the town for generations. Now that she has the power to change things, she realizes she doesn’t have the know-how. Meanwhile, she becomes intrigued with the mysterious first Mrs. Garrison and the trunk of lacy costumes she finds hidden in the house. While Laurel’s moral dilemma is sincere, the story’s real spice comes from the nicely imagined subplot detailing the Depression era exploits of the Sunshine Sisters. A second-rate vaudeville act, Iva Claire, her mother Lily and foundling Tassie travel the circuit, dodge trouble and aim for the big time while surviving on hush money arriving regularly from Georgia. It becomes apparent that the Sunshine Sisters have everything to do with Garrison Gardens and, by the close, lies, secret identities and a murderer are revealed.

Like a southern-fried meal, fatty and indulgent, and the more delicious for being so.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-6062-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ballantine

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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