If a Nancy Chan franchise actually looms on the horizon, this happy hooker will need to learn some new tricks.

DIARY OF A MARRIED CALL GIRL

In this uninspired sequel (Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl, 2001), Quan’s proud prostitute heroine simply goes back for sloppy seconds.

The sometimes amusing “diarist” narrator has married her impossibly perfect (and impossibly unsuspecting) banker boyfriend Matt, but otherwise it’s business, Brazilian waxes and Botox as usual. Weekly sessions with her shrink give Nancy a chance to be honest about her double life as wife and call girl, but for the most part it’s just lip service from a shallow, self-unaware liar hoping to keep her profession a secret. The most shocking thing about Nancy’s story isn’t the sex or her loyalty to the life, but the tiresome logistics. Someone is always coming or going, waiting in a hotel room or on voicemail, and they all require an excuse or a fresh lie. Covering-up has become this unnecessarily desperate housewife’s driving force, and it seems like quite a lot of hassle for a thirtysomething with a successful, baby-mad husband to want to put up with. Subplots involving sex-worker activism and a family funeral in Trinidad do little more than introduce more indistinct, dead-end supporting characters for the protagonist to manipulate or lie to. Meanwhile, Nancy seems to neither love nor want to leave hooking behind, and it’s not quite clear how the reader should view this conundrum: Is she sad and warped by the things she has done, or empowered and enviable? One thing that is for certain, Nancy is no Carrie Bradshaw, even if lunch conversations with her working-girl girlfriends read like tepid Sex and the City deleted scenes. And with the entire story taking place in early 2001, all this pre-9/11 grunting and groaning feels dated. Anyone looking for confessional, know-how secrets from a sexual dynamo will be woefully disappointed by advice like, “When in doubt, wear black.”

If a Nancy Chan franchise actually looms on the horizon, this happy hooker will need to learn some new tricks.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-5354-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Three Rivers/Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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