The most imaginative and outrageous in the series thus far. It would be a crime and a sin, and just plain un-neighborly, to...

MRS. ROBERTO

OR THE WIDOWY WORRIES OF THE MOOSEPATH LEAGUE

An exuberant superabundance of plot distinguishes this fourth installment of the popular author’s ongoing Moosepath Chronicles (Daniel Plainway, 2000, etc.).

Once again, kindly bachelor Tobias Walton and his strapping “gentleman’s gentleman” Sundry Moss find themselves on the road in the general vicinity of Portland, Maine, and points thereabouts, reencountering old acquaintances (among them Cordelia Underwood, eponymous heroine of the initial Moosepath Chronicle), and pausing for fascinating intrigues at Fern Farm, where the enigma of a depressed pig named Hercules masks an even more unusual family scandal. Meanwhile, Moosepathian Joseph Thump, having learned that the celebrated “ascensionist” Dorothea Roberto is pursued by dastardly villains, travels with fellow clubmen Eagleton and Ephram from crime boss Fuzz Hadley’s Portland waterfront to a hobo “shantytown,” thence toward the hamlet of Dresden Mills, where rural mailwoman Deborah Pilican (a.k.a. bestselling novelist Rudolpha Limington Harold, among other pseudonyms) lives out a real romantic fantasy, and where a conflagration in the nearby town of Iceboro brings most of Reid’s remarkably busy characters coincidentally together. In the series’ now-familiar manner, subplots keep springing surprises (there’s a doozy involving Thump’s mirror image, tavernkeeper Thaddeus Sharp, the latter’s plucky son Timothy, and Tim’s waiflike friend Mailon); charming absurdities multiply exponentially (don’t miss the episode in which a boisterous drunk throws a piano out a second-story window, or the explanation for Hercules’ seeming drunken state); and (Groucho-) Marxist near–non sequiturs (“I once knew a cow that had a very refined sense of humor,” etc.). Good prevails, lovers are united, the social fabric is deftly mended, and all ends well, with Mr. Walton prepared to head for Halifax, and further delightfully implausible Dickensian adventures.

The most imaginative and outrageous in the series thus far. It would be a crime and a sin, and just plain un-neighborly, to miss it.

Pub Date: July 14, 2003

ISBN: 0-670-03225-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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