A crowded, buzzing canvas, and the draftsmanship is superb. But it seems less a satiric novel than a flattering court...

A MUCH MARRIED MAN

The latest from Coleridge (Streetsmart, 2001, etc.), Condé Nast U.K.’s editorial director, is a witty, nimbly plotted upper-crust soap opera, but one that favors glamour over substance.

1965: Eighteen-year-old Anthony, heir to a banking fortune, meets kohl-eyed and sultry teen adventuress Amanda at a party and is so smitten that he trails her to France, wrests her from a rival and marries her in Nice. Two years later, Amanda abandons Anthony and an infant daughter. He reluctantly divorces her and plights his troth to the child’s salt-of-the-earth nanny. A decade and two children later, that marriage implodes when Anthony sires another daughter by his acupuncturist. Soon he weds Dita, a chilly social climber. Thanks to the bank’s expansion into Asia, Anthony’s fortune grows, despite Dita’s squandering enormous sums on household opulence and the social whirl, and by 1995 Anthony is living comfortably at his family’s ancestral seat in Oxfordshire, surrounded by the detritus of his messy romantic life: five children, five stepchildren, a wife, three former wives or consorts. There comes, inevitably, a disastrous reversal, but everything is put right at the end. Anthony is well-meaning and likable, but readers may lose patience with his easy self-forgiveness and near-total lack of introspection—nor does it help that the narrator sometimes plays advocate for him.

A crowded, buzzing canvas, and the draftsmanship is superb. But it seems less a satiric novel than a flattering court portrait of an aristocrat who’s bought and paid for it.

Pub Date: June 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-312-36383-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2007

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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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