ROB THE VATICAN

Politics, romance, and murder descend on the Vatican as a jewel thief works to pull off the biggest heist in history.
Craig Reynolds, a dashing and enigmatic jewel thief who “aborts elaborate alarm systems, unlocks the most intricate vaults, and eludes massive manhunts,” has stumbled on a golden opportunity. On a train to Rome, he runs into Darlena Aldonzo, a beautiful Italian gymnast who had previously been his hostage—the sense of mutual respect and admiration that led him to release her is now blossoming into something more. Unable to resist his charms, Darlena goes against her better judgment and agrees to spend time visiting the eternal city with her former captor. She even takes him to meet her dear friend Thad, a priest who currently works at the Vatican. Thad conveniently reveals to Craig that he is the only person alive who possesses a map of the Vatican’s vast underground catacombs—a chance Craig can’t pass up. As Darlena allows herself to be drawn into Craig’s plans, a terrible danger brews in the background and threatens to complicate the heist and put all of their lives in danger: a group of ruthless cardinals is plotting to usurp the pope. Meanwhile, INTERPOL Detective Martin Von Meier, who has been chasing Craig for years, is getting closer. Gallant has created likable main characters who careen from one unbelievable scenario to the next, but his emphasis is clearly on their predicaments. Within the first 20 pages of meeting Darlena, she is almost drowned, almost raped, almost strangled, kidnapped, and finally chased by a gang of rioters “plundering” a commuter train—all before the main plot begins. The rest of the novel follows this aggressive pattern, delivering well-staged, suspenseful action sequences in rapid succession but leaving little time for much else. Craig’s disabled sister, for example, vanishes from the novel. Some may be disappointed that Gallant didn’t devote more time to the intriguing relationship between his two leads, but those who love page-turning thrillers will be delighted that, for these characters, danger lurks everywhere.
A thriller that delivers real excitement but glosses many gripping plot points.

Pub Date: May 14, 2007

ISBN: 978-0595439249

Page Count: 234

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

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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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