Thanks to Strohmeyer’s penchant for humor, Kat’s adventures entertain despite the transparently contrived plot.

THE PENNY PINCHERS CLUB

A spendthrift interior designer, fearing that her economist husband plans to divorce and impoverish her, joins a support group of eccentric skinflints, in the latest from Strohmeyer (Sweet Love, 2008, etc.).

Without regrets, Kat jilted fiancé Liam, now a billionaire big-pharma exec, for her soul mate, Griff, a charismatic economics professor at a small New Jersey college. Twenty years later, daughter Laura is finishing high school, and Griff and Kat, always strapped for cash, are worrying about how to put her through NYU. A long-term factotum for Chloe, a social-climbing designer, Kat yearns to go independent, if only her paycheck weren’t already dedicated to paying off her ever-ballooning credit-card debt. She rationalizes her mall habit, Lexus SUV and daily venti lattes by arguing that interior designers have to ape their wealthy clients. When she discovers condom wrappers while laundering Griff’s pants, her busybody sister Viv goads her to investigate further. There’s a fancy restaurant bill, unusual for famously frugal Griff. Is he wining and dining his young, sexy assistant Bree? Griff has a secret MasterCard, and he has somehow diverted $10,000 to a separate bank account. Kat’s denial evaporates when she finds e-mail exchanges between Bree and Griff indicating that he is going to “break it to” Kat when Laura graduates high school. Kat has about seven months to amass a divorce contingency fund of $15,000. Enter the Penny Pinchers Club, endearingly fanatical misfits who introduce Kat to the secrets of samurai saving, e.g. swarm en masse in search of discounts and rebates, buy in bulk and freeze, etc. Kat is arrested while dumpster-diving with “freegan” former investment banker Wade. Griff and Bree are increasingly closeted, allegedly researching his book about a reclusive ex-Fed chairman. Liam resurfaces, seeking a designer to refurbish his new mansion. As Liam, still smitten, offers her a safe harbor, Kat is increasingly tempted to question the choice she made years before between financial security and the love of her life.

Thanks to Strohmeyer’s penchant for humor, Kat’s adventures entertain despite the transparently contrived plot.

Pub Date: July 2, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-525-95117-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2009

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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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