Hale’s prose is friendly and funny, but she doesn’t bring her premise to life.

THE ACTOR AND THE HOUSEWIFE

Mormon housewife meets British heartthrob, and the two become best friends. Disbelief is duly suspended.

Hale, author of a number of imaginative YA titles and an adult novel (Austenland, 2007), here offers a strange concoction: a romantic comedy missing romantic leads. In Los Angeles to sell a screenplay (what luck, and on her first try!), pregnant Becky bumps into Felix Callahan (think Colin Firth/Hugh Grant). They engage in the kind of witty repartee that hasn’t been heard since Carole Lombard graced the screen, and become bosom buddies. Becky returns to Utah and her husband Mike, resuming their happy suburban life filled with church and children. This leaves little room for a movie-star friend, especially since Felix is sophisticated, in possession of a “potty mouth” and an atheist with an aversion to children, while Becky is devoted to her kids, baking and the million other domestic miracles that occupy a day. Yet this mismatched pair improbably adore each other, and Mike is jealous. Though concerned—as are friends, family and church—Becky finally decides it is alright to be at home alone with a man who is not her husband: Felix, who is happily married to a French model, can be her friend! They chat every day and even make a movie together. (Yes! Starring Becky!) The odd, safe fantasy Hale has created is then jangled by a more sober realism. Mike gets cancer, and the domestic bliss Becky has enjoyed comes to a crushing end. Becky’s devotion to her husband, her depression, her inability to see a romantic future for herself—all these elements ring true and tragic. Unfortunately, the novel hinges on Felix and Becky’s relationship, and aside from a mutual love of quick-witted banter, their friendship is largely unbelievable.

Hale’s prose is friendly and funny, but she doesn’t bring her premise to life.

Pub Date: June 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59691-288-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bloomsbury

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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