THE SINGING TEACHER

Ambitious would-be actors are the pawns of a mysterious evil force in former actress Guerin's hyperventilating suspense debut. Sandra's career is going nowhere fast when, at yet another disastrous audition, she runs into an old pal, the talentless Lori, whose star is on the rise—thanks, she says, to her singing teacher. So Sandra seeks out Madeline and is invited to join her Sunday night group class. The session begins with students sharing a cup of cinnamon-scented tea; a creepy humming ritual precedes the singing. Sandra's confidence is instantly restored so dramatically that she manages to talk her way into a Broadway role she'd previously been denied. But fellow student Ray waylays Sandra and confides that he finds something disturbing about the scene: Isn't it a chilling coincidence, he asks, that all the students are orphans? He begs Sandra to take a class sans tea: Sure enough, it all seems like a scary scam. She rushes off to wring hands with Ray, only to witness him being kidnapped. Then she's taken prisoner herself, and later wakes up in a suburban safe house, where earnest employees of an unnamed government agency convince her that Madeline is working for a mysterious (extraterrestrial? diabolical?) power. Sandra fears that Lori is in mortal danger and leads the agent assigned to protect her back to Madeline's aerie for a showdown. Guerin doesn't make much of her setup—Madeline's students aren't serving up their souls to see their names in lights: They're simply drugged, hypnotized and waiting around for marching orders to wreak unspecified havoc. And how, exactly, is this small army of show-tune-belting zombies going to advance the bad spirit's ill-defined plan? Don't expect a satisfying answer. Silly and overwrought, then, rather than smart or scary, but with enough action, sex, and showbiz maneuvering to keep the pages turning.

Pub Date: April 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-312-11891-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1995

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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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