Marketing campaign aside, this is about as bad as it gets.

THE NIGHT BEFORE THIRTY

Five near-30 women win a contest and come together for a celebration of shopping and sisterhood.

Butler (Hand-Me-Down Heartache, 2001) continues her assault on the English language with another story straddling the line between modern genre romance and words splashed randomly on the page. In this world of uppity African-American women hugely successful despite adolescent mindsets, the only real problem is that everyone keeps falling for the wrong man—partly because all men are wrong. We first meet the women individually: Catara is voluptuous, not fat, but it still hurts when her date turns out to be a sophisticated ploy for a loan; Alecia is beautiful and knows it, but when she’s attracted to William, she has to remind herself, “Wait a minute. I am the shit. He’s the one who should be excited”; Tanya knows how to please her drug-dealing beau, “the kind of nigga that didn’t take no shit, but she could tell he had a gentle side”; Elise is worried about her attraction to a coworker; and when Lawshanda’s boss hits on her with a cheesy line about kissing her in all the right places, Lawshanda thinks, “She did deserve those things, and she longed for them.” Before the women all win their radio contest and head for the tropics, we’ll deal with ex-wives, drive-bys, and muggings—but then it’ll be all shopping, cruises, and loads of confessional bonding. Butler aims low and even then fails to hit her mark in an effort cumbered throughout by writing as clumsy as her concepts are simple.

Marketing campaign aside, this is about as bad as it gets.

Pub Date: May 20, 2003

ISBN: 1-4000-6020-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: N/A

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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