More compact than five seasons of soap operas, but equally brain-curdling.

SHEER ABANDON

Sixteen years after a trip to Thailand, youthful indiscretions dog four 30-something ex-backpackers, in this voluminous latest from Vincenzi (Almost a Crime, 2006, etc.).

At Heathrow Airport, a teenaged, anonymous returnee from Thailand gives birth in a closet, then abandons her infant. Never fear—“Baby Bianca” becomes a London tabloid darling, and is adopted by a decent middle-class couple. Flashback to Heathrow the year before: Four rucksack-toting strangers—vicar’s daughter Martha; pretty, chubby Clio; tycoon’s daughter Jocasta; and her golden-boy brother Josh—meet while awaiting a flight to Bangkok. They vow to reunite, but lose touch after fanning out across Southeast Asia and Australia. Cut to 2000. Martha is a successful corporate lawyer. Jocasta relishes reporting for a London tabloid, the Sketch, and sex with her “commitment-phobe” boyfriend and fellow scribe Nick. Clio is a caring geriatrician defying NHS restraints (no fan of universal coverage, Vincenzi) to care for her elderly patients. Sterile, she dreads bursting her control-freak surgeon husband Jeremy’s bubble of stay-at-home motherhood. Josh, married father of two, is still as randy as he was back in Thailand, where bronzed backpacking beauties were flinging themselves at him. When Baby Bianca, now Kate, surfaces (as a patient advocate for her grandmother), red herrings proliferate. Blond, striking Kate resembles Jocasta, who covers the NHS-bashing story and forms a bond with her. Kate models for a Sketch fashion spread and would-be birth mothers pester her. Meanwhile, her real mother begins to spiral downward, despite a rejuvenating affair with a younger man and a role as an MP candidate. Rebounding from Nick, Jocasta marries a wealthy retail magnate. Clio leaves Jeremy and finds her soul mate in Kate’s publicist/manager Fergus. Then a jealous mentor spills the MP candidate’s secret to Nick. Nick sits on the story until Kate and the candidate’s conservative parents can be told, and the plot, flirting with implausibility all along, succumbs.

More compact than five seasons of soap operas, but equally brain-curdling.

Pub Date: May 29, 2007

ISBN: 0-385-51988-5

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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