Hardly a Booker contender, but an enjoyable bedtime read.

TURNING FOR HOME

Second novel, first US publication from Britisher Challis: a surprisingly affecting tale about an old lady’s (and an old horse’s) last chance for the grand life.

When plucky Maeve Delaney finds herself in London with only 35 quid, she reluctantly decides it’s time to find some sort of work. With help from best friend Sophie (they went to a posh girls’ school together; Maeve’s vagabond life is her own choice), Maeve lands a job as caregiver to Lady Pamela. Since injuring her hip, Lady Pamela has been wasting away in the Somerset countryside, knowing that soon either death or her daughter-in-law Bunty (who’s got extravagant ideas about remodeling Lady Pam’s house for herself) will be removing her from her beloved Charlton House. Death would be a welcome relief from old age, but to be placed in an old folk’s home—that’s more than the proud Lady can bear. Unbeknownst to everyone, Maeve is to the rescue. A sort of wild, foul-mouthed, sexy Mary Poppins, Maeve isn’t bullied by Lady Pamela’s haughty ways, and in no time has the old girl out of bed and up for garden strolls, installs cable for the new big-screen TV, and includes a nice stiff drink with their evening meals. Soon Maeve discovers the existence of Irish Dancer, Lady Pam’s racehorse that was a serious contender before an injury that’s now behind her. Maeve and Lady Pam conspire to bring Irish Dancer back into form, which of course gives Lady Pamela a new lease on life as well. Though her plot’s simple, Challis peoples her tale with an assortment of likable characters: Sophie, who is struggling to reinvent herself after her husband left her with twin toddlers to raise; gentleman Sam, Lady Pam’s longtime beau; and Matt, the country vet. An interesting twist saves the story from becoming too chirpy and full of false good will.

Hardly a Booker contender, but an enjoyable bedtime read.

Pub Date: May 19, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-31446-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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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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