A/K/A

An occasionally bizarre tale from Robson (Another Mother, 1995, etc.), this about two lesbians who have assumed so many personal and professional disguises that they've forgotten who they really are. Margaret Smyth and BJ meet each other outside a professor's office but, blinded by defensiveness and fear, find it difficult to explore the sparks of sympathy between them. Margaret is on the verge of getting her law degree; by doing so, she hopes to transcend a traumatic past in foster homes, forget the early death of her lover, Dominique, and escape a complicated secret life as a lesbian prostitute. In that still on-going life, she assumes a different persona for each of her clients, managing to become whatever is required of her. For the unhappily married Ann-Marie, she provides sexual fulfillment; for unattractive Patty, she's a bleached-blond, big-breasted ``gorgeous'' date her mean-spirited cousin can lust after at his wedding; she's also a cover for disturbed Jeanine, a heterosexual woman molested as a child who now masquerades as a lesbian to keep her job with a gay organization. BJ's story is somewhat more conventional: She's a soap opera star who has many lesbian viewers but whose attempt to out herself in a fan magazine has been suppressed by the editors. BJ lives with her lover, Lenore, with whom she's raised Lenore's son, Malcolm. But Lenore, whose father married three women named Lenore and gave the name to all of his daughters, has her own serious grapplings with identity, actually suffering from bouts of insanity; when Malcolm's sperm donor shows up, Lenore runs off with him, leaving BJ worried about whether she'll be able to keep custody of Malcolm. Both BJ and Margaret yearn for solidity and connection, but their outward differences keep them apart through much of the story, even as their lives inch closer to crisis. A potentially intriguing meditation on lesbian identity, but episodic and too gratuitously weird to have much impact.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-15469-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1997

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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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