A bodice-ripper debut with a lesbian twist, too self-conscious to be erotic.

GEOGRAPHY

An Australian woman traveling in India tells a new friend the story of her seven-year sexual obsession with an older man living across the world in Los Angeles.

Catherine, a former ad writer on her way to a meditation retreat, meets Ruby in Sri Lanka during local political upheaval. Pleased to discover they both like quoting poetry, the two women begin traveling together through southern India. On the way Ruby shaves her head under the influence of drugs while Catherine tells the saga of her affair with Michael during the 1990s. Born on the day JFK was assassinated, Catherine pins her life story to accompanying historic events. She met Michael in Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots and watched her first episode of Seinfeld with him. Twenty years her senior, he had dazzling blue eyes like Peter O’Toole, and after a bit of graphic sex, Catherine was hooked. She then returned to Australia, and the next seven years were punctuated by occasional torrid reunions (he came to Australia for Christmas; she found business excuses to visit L.A.) and hot e-mails. Friends and mutual acquaintances warned her that Michael was seeing other women, and since they met at most every six months, sometimes not for years, it made sense that he had a life. But Catherine could not move on, even when the seemingly right man came along. She finally ended the affair after undergoing surgery to remove growths in her uterus. Catherine tells Ruby this story as they continue their travelogue-like journey. When Ruby acknowledges she’s a lesbian, her traveling companion is briefly taken aback, but since Melbourne-based author Cunningham uses all her male characters, including Michael, as mere props or background noise, readers will not find it too hard to guess where Catherine finds true love.

A bodice-ripper debut with a lesbian twist, too self-conscious to be erotic.

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-3856-0739-3

Page Count: 225

Publisher: Doubleday UK/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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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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