Utter nonsense, but as readable as ever. Really big retro-fun for the gents.

THE BLUE HORIZON

Superprolific chronicler of Afro-colonial glory days Smith continues the saga of the Courtney family from where it left off in Monsoon (1999).

The outcome of Smith’s Big African Adventures is never in doubt: big lusty white men will prevail over evil, grasping white men with considerable assistance from hordes of adoring black men who have had the good sense to recognize lusty leadership when they see it. So what tension there is must come from the many, many, many intermediate battles between the big lusty white men and the evil, grasping white men, and from the electricity that flies between the big lusty white men and the fair bodies of the straight-shooting, outdoor-loving women lucky enough to come into their lives. Sailing now into the lives of the superrich 17th-century British Courtney family is long-legged Louisa Leuven, a plucky Dutch orphan who escaped the plague only to fall into the clutches of a sexually predatory, sadomasochistic, Amsterdam burgher who framed her when she tried to blow the whistle on him. As the ship transporting her and other hussies to the Indies rounds the Cape of Good Hope, Louisa captures the heart of young Jim Courtney, who, when the ship comes a cropper in a squall, spirits her away, enraging the grumpy Dutch overlords of the Cape Colony and forcing the entire Courtney clan to flee with their fortune. Louisa, understandably off sex for the present, is not immune to the manly charms of her rescuer, but Jim is a perfect gentleman, never pushing, just showing her a swell time as they hack their way north, dodging pursuers, slaying animals by the score, riding the finest horseflesh in Africa, prying the biggest tusks anyone has ever seen from elephants unlucky enough to meet up with them. While the young folk blaze new trails, the older generation sails up the east coast and into big trouble. Time to call in those adoring native armies.

Utter nonsense, but as readable as ever. Really big retro-fun for the gents.

Pub Date: May 13, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-27824-1

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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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