Some of the people are wise, some foolish, some murderous. Ditto the animals—and not since Anthony Trollope has foxhunting been so vividly novelized. In Charlottesville, beautiful, elegant “Sister” Jane Arnold is the longtime Master of the Jefferson Hunt. As unabashed a nature-and-animal—lover as her author (Loose Lips, p. 646, etc.), she adores the job, but these days she’s less than her usual sanguine self. Maybe it’s because a young black vixen has been spotted on her farm, and, as everybody knows, “[e]verything happens in the black fox years.” Or maybe it’s because the matter of succession has been much on her mind. Sister is 70-plus and regarded as imperishable, though she well knows she isn’t. So who among the Hunt membership is best qualified to take the reins when she must relinquish them? Fontaine Buruss, an excellent rider, Virginia-born and -bred, is one candidate: flawed, naturally, yet Sister has known him and his flaws all his life. Some in Charlottesville view his major rival, Crawford Howard, as the quintessential Yankee carpetbagger, but he’s been generous with his money whenever the Hunt has needed it, which is often. Each hungers for the chance to put MFH (Master of Foxhounds) after his name, and each hates the other cordially. Before Sister can choose between them, however, the “black fox” prophecy is fulfilled. An extraordinarily brilliant Thanksgiving Day hunt ends in tragedy when Buruss winds up with a bullet in his chest. Although the leading suspect is Howard, of course, Sister knows there are others who might have wanted to pull that trigger. Cleverly enough to earn approval from Uncle Yancy, Target, Inky, et al., she isolates the one who actually did it. “Sister thinks like us,” the foxy establishment agrees. Original, funny, poignant, irresistible: Brown’s best work in years. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-345-42818-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1999

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


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.


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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