Though the love story is a bit hollow, the parts about living as an expat in China ring true.

BESOTTED

In this debut novel, two women experience life, love, and loss as expatriates in Shanghai.

Sasha moved to Shanghai a few years ago to get away from her overbearing father. Liz arrives in China looking for something to shake up the predictability of her life. Both working at the same international school, Liz gratefully moves into Sasha’s spare room and the two become roommates, friends, and eventually lovers. They explore the expat community of Shanghai, a raucous group of English speakers that meet in bars every week to party and remind themselves they’re not alone, including Dorian, an architect and longtime acquaintance of Sasha’s who wants to put down roots. Liz, meanwhile, has made her own friend: Sam, a Chinese language-exchange partner who wants more from Liz than just help with his English. The book is told entirely from Sasha’s point of view, a kind of omniscient first person that takes a little bit of getting used to while also creating distance from the other characters, as the reader is unsure if they are getting an accurate picture of events or just Sasha’s thoughts on what might have happened. The relationship between Sasha and Liz, in theory the heart of the novel, is hard to connect to, as readers hear only one side of the story and many more anecdotes about fights and misunderstandings than moments of connection and love. The true star of this piece is the expat community that Duclos has perfectly drawn. Any expat who has spent an amount of time in Asia will find at least something in there that speaks to their own experience. The worldbuilding is excellent.

Though the love story is a bit hollow, the parts about living as an expat in China ring true.

Pub Date: March 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-7328686-4-9

Page Count: 246

Publisher: 7.13 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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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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