AN ACT OF LOVE

Can a tale of the rape of a teenaged girl by her stepbrother, even when it's told by the author of Belonging, 1995, among other contemporary romances, really be anything but sordid and unpleasant? Apparently not. Novelist Linda McFarland is a happy woman—wife of fellow novelist Owen, mother of Emily, a bright chatterbox of a high school sophomore, and stepmother to handsome 17-year-old Bruce. Living together in Owen's comfortable Massachusetts farmhouse, the McFarlands have worked hard during their seven years of marriage to treat the children equally and lovingly, and have hoped that their guidance—as well as the kids' shared experience of being abandoned by their other parent—would bring the children as close as real siblings. Until Emily's and Bruce's current year at Hedden Academy, an exclusive Boston boarding school, the parents were convinced they'd succeeded. Now, however, they're summoned to a hospital near the school with the news that Emily has attempted suicide. When Emily reveals that the reason for her action is that her beloved stepbrother raped her, Linda and Owen swing wildly between horrified belief in Emily's confession and denial that Bruce could possibly have committed such an act. Eventually, each parent inevitably takes his or her child's side—a situation that leads to a marital separation as Emily prepares to leave the hospital's psychiatric ward and live with her mother. Just at this propitious time the truth about the rape erupts—leading to the possibility of healing for the family of four, and an eventual reconciliation between husband and wife. More off-putting and icky than heart-stopping. Thayer's bland prose style doesn't help. (TV rights to ABC-TV; Literary Guild Alternate Selection)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-15471-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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