Amusing in a Green Acres kind of way, but far too cute for comfort overall.

BLESSED ARE THE CHEESEMAKERS

Cheesy US debut about a collection of misfits and losers who come together on a magical dairy farm in Ireland.

Lynch must have watched too many reruns of The Quiet Man and Waking Ned Devine for her own good, for she seems to have re-created the same nauseatingly enchanted Ireland that was inhabited by both of those high-fructose films. Basically, everything here revolves around Coolarney House, a dairy farm outside of Cork. Run by two old codgers named Corrie and Fee, Coolarney House produces the finest cheeses in Ireland, possibly the world (their Princess Grace Memorial Blue is particularly famed). One of the secrets of the Coolarney cheeses is that the cows are milked by vegetarians singing Rogers and Hammerstein songs. Naturally, Corrie and Fee have to scout afield for musical, meatless milkmaids and keep them happy once they find them, so Coolarney House soon acquires a reputation among its neighbors as a kind of commune of happy cranks. So much the better for Christopher “Kit” Stephens and Abbey Corrigan, both simultaneously hitting bedrock at opposite ends of the globe. Kit (a recently widowed stockbroker who has taken to the bottle hard since his wife and baby died six months before) has just been fired, while Abbey (a childless relief worker wasting her efforts on a South Seas island where the natives don’t want her help) has just found out that her jerk of a husband has been cheating on her. So off to Ireland both go, hoping to put life back together with some fresh air, fresh dairy, honest toil, and more than a bit of blarney. Naturally, neither knows the first thing about farming, but Coolarney House is, as we say, used to all sorts. There’s sure to be a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.

Amusing in a Green Acres kind of way, but far too cute for comfort overall.

Pub Date: July 2, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53128-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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