PART OF THE FURNITURE

A tart and persuasive portrait of an uncertain young woman's discovery of her heart's true needs. This is not new terrain for Wesley (An Imaginative Experience, 1995, A Dubious Legacy, 1992, etc.), who has often before tracked characters stumbling along the long path to something like real love. No one does it better: Her prose is simple and precise, her view of love's varying needs and confusions exact, her skewering of human foibles amused and exact. Juno Marlowe is, as the novel opens, attempting to escape an air raid. She is in London, in the early days of World War II, and has just said farewell to two young men going off to join their regiment. She has loved both Jonty and Francis since childhood; they, having decided with the chilling ruthlessness of youth that it won't do to go off to war as virgins, have managed to talk the insecure Juno into sleeping with both of them. Juno is given shelter during the air raid by Evelyn Copplestone, a polished, evidently wealthy, dour individual, who is also mortally ill. He makes Juno promise to take a letter to his father in the country, and dies before morning. Partly as an excuse to avoid being shipped off to Canada, and away from Jonty and Francis, the until-now pliable Juno pursues her quixotic mission, showing a surprising independence. Robert Copplestone, despite his despair at the loss of his wife and, now, his son, gives Juno shelter. His odd, somewhat raffish household begins to arouse her exuberant enjoyment of life; to her amazement, Juno, at first stunned by the discovery that her night with Jonty and Francis has left her pregnant, begins to develop a new frankness and sense of purpose. Amazed, she finds herself deeply attracted to Robert. It's some testament to Wesley's skill that the unlikely romance between Robert and Juno seems both right and entirely believable. An elegant, satisfying entertainment.

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-670-87363-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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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