A slim volume packed with rugged tales and smart, brawny characters.


Short stories on ranching and relationships.

Linse grew up on a ranch in Wyoming, broke her leg at 4 and a horse at 12. While her debut collection of stories spans 15 years of writing and vast narrative terrain, she never strays far from her roots. The folks who swagger and steal through these stories are tough; they’ve had it tough, but Linse carries them handily. In the title story, Birdie Gunderson is a farm girl but sees herself as neither girl nor boy but “an efficient cog in the machinery of the farm.” The story reads as a series of affirmations as a teenager struggles for identity amid the forces of society and tradition. Linse vividly renders the story with details likely gleaned from experience: using bag balm for cow teats as lip gloss; pollinating tomato plants at sunset. Strong women and girls dominate the collection. In “Nose to the Fence,” 14-year-old Cindy breaks in horses and city boys with arms made muscular by bailing hay. In “Mouse,” a 10-year-old rescues baby mice from the irrigation ditch but accepts their fate and dispatches each one with a heavy stone. Though less nuanced, Linse’s male narrators still hold the stories together. “Revelations,” for example, is full of bravado: With disjointed dialogue, three friends vie for control over women, nature and each other. “Hard Men” opens in perfect, deranged passion: Teenage Johnny has shot his father; the pizza man decomposes in the bathtub; Linse deftly sets the scene, weaves in back story, and adds a waft of bacon and the feel of blood through Scotchgarded carpet. Like most of Linse’s characters, Johnny is clever, and he wrangles the unfathomable to a rational end. But the end comes too soon—Johnny raises more questions than several pages can answer, as do Cindy, Mouse, Birdie and others. Linse writes as if flexing her own ranch-toned muscles, creating intense, original characters and letting them loose. The result could fill a novel—or two. All bodes well for Linse’s future work.

A slim volume packed with rugged tales and smart, brawny characters.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9913867-0-3

Page Count: 238

Publisher: Willow Words

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


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.


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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