Moderately interesting, but not riveting.


A mysterious inmate in a Spanish asylum believes he’s Christopher Columbus—and to complicate things further, his psychiatric nurse begins to fall in love with him.

Trofimuk (Doubting Yourself to the Bone, 2005, etc.) creates all kinds of mysteries to surround the man brought to the Institute for the Mentally Ill in Seville: his perplexing appearance at the Strait of Gibraltar, his hallucinatory incoherence, but most particularly his resolute conviction that he’s the famous explorer, ready to embark on a 15th-century adventure. As “Columbus” spins amazing tales of previous lovers and of his obsession with navigating to new worlds, Nurse Consuela Lopez is drawn into the force field of his personality. She finds herself intrigued, then fascinated and finally seductively attracted to this baffling figure. The first psychiatrist who tries to make sense of Columbus’ situation fails miserably, but the more sensitive and intelligent Dr. Balderas works tellingly to figure out the mystery. Meanwhile, in a narrative that eventually converges with the story unfolding in Seville, Interpol investigator Emile Germain tries to track down the identity of the enigmatic “explorer.” In a spasm of emotional complication, both Emil and the patient are attracted to Consuela. Dr. Balderas tries to make sense of Columbus’ warped psychological state by explaining that he is “suffering from something we big-brained doctors call a dissociative break…Sometimes, when a patient is faced with an overwhelmingly traumatic situation and there’s no physical escape, the patient will resort to going away in his or her head.” It turns out that Balderas’ intuitions are correct; Columbus has indeed experienced a trauma that has exerted psychic pressure on him to escape. The recovery of his original self is devastating to Consuela, for she has fallen in love with the persona of a 15th-century explorer, and when the mask falls, her Columbus vanishes.

Moderately interesting, but not riveting.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-385-52913-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2009

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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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