A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES

Rendell’s 46th (Road Rage, 1997, etc.) is a modern-day fairy tale—Margaret Yorke meets Fay Weldon—that shows the dark side of lovers’ reckless pursuit of their objects of beauty. In long-ago happier days, Harriet Oxenholme was the lover of rock star Marc Syre. (In the novel’s opening scene, their love is being immortalized in a famous painting; the next time we see them, two years and many pages later, he’s throwing her bodily out of his house.) Now, faded and florid, she’s reduced to searching the adverts for workmen who can come to her lovely house to fill the hours left empty by her loveless marriage. Beautiful woodworker Teddy Brex seems perfect for the role of her next lover. But Teddy, an unloved child whose scary lack of nurturing has led him to prize beautiful things above people, is less interested in Harriet than in her house—or in Francine Hill, a fairy princess with a secret that, if he only knew it, makes her perfect for Teddy’s frighteningly abrupt style of courtship: as a child of six, she saw her mother open the door to the man who shot her to death and then came upstairs to Francine’s hiding place. Surviving both that nightmare and the six months of muteness that followed, Francine has grown up under the pathologically controlling eye of her wicked stepmother Julia. Once she’s set up her constellation of users and beautiful objects and shown how Harriet and Teddy can fulfill both functions at once, Rendell focuses on the doomed romance of murderous Teddy and haunted Francine with all the loving attention of a watchmaker regarding a ticking bomb. If the result lacks the energy and inevitability of the classic A Judgment in Stone, Rendell supplies a Dickensian wealth of social detail that brings her beautiful people and their predators to startling life.

Pub Date: March 17, 1999

ISBN: 0-609-60417-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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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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