A poignant melodrama with a heroine that readers will root for.

THE VIRTUOSO

In Burges’ debut novel, a professional violinist searches for meaning in life after a tragic incident leaves her unable to play.

London-based Isabelle Bryant has a well-celebrated and critically acclaimed career as a violinist. She’s known for both her talent and beauty; some critics call her “Beethoven’s Babe.” But although her public life is glamorous, she’s privately unhappy: Her alcoholic husband, Howard, a conductor, emotionally and physically abuses her and calls her a “celebrity whore.” One night, he viciously attacks her, resulting in her losing two fingers of her left hand in a car door. Unable to play her violin professionally, Isabelle struggles with depression and disillusionment. She travels with her friend Hortense Lafayette, a singer, and begins a new romance with Daniel Carter, a publishing executive, and she starts to feel better about her life. She finds a new passion in writing and public speaking, ultimately discovering she can still spread the joy of classical music without playing her violin. Although Howard looms in the background of her journey, she relies on her friends and newfound inner strength to overcome her past tragedies. Burges offers a moving ode to classical music in this tale. Her love for and expertise regarding the genre comes across in her many glowing descriptions of Isabelle’s skills and of the music she plays: “Shimmering strings then picked up the mantle again and it felt like they were being surrounded by legend and mythology.” Isabelle’s emotional transformation is captivating, from the harrowing moment she loses her fingers to her final acceptance that she can no longer play. Although the road-to-redemption plot isn’t exactly groundbreaking, Burges doesn’t lean on predictable clichés. Instead, the story unfolds at a smooth, entrancing pace with enough twists to keep one engaged.

A poignant melodrama with a heroine that readers will root for.

Pub Date: May 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9930777-1-5

Page Count: 458

Publisher: Satin Paperbacks

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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