Mann’s party boys make a sexy first impression but prove surprisingly deep upon further inspection. The same goes for Where...

WHERE THE BOYS ARE

Against a background of sweaty bodies, fierce divas, and the drug-induced lust of gay circuit parties, former lovers struggle to reconnect.

Picking up where The Men From the Boys (1997) left off, Mann brings thirtysomethings Jeff O’Brien and Lloyd Griffith back together years after their relationship fell apart and their best friend and mentor Javitz died of AIDS. Jeff and Lloyd have traveled divergent paths in the meantime. Jeff, living in Boston, has become obsessed with working out, casual sex, drug use, and circuit parties where he can meet thousands of beautiful, shirtless gym bunnies on the dance floor. Lloyd, living in Provincetown, has found his spiritual side, remained celibate, and eschewed the narcissistic adventures his ex-lover has embraced. Despite these differences, when the two come together, old flames are rekindled and the men start to rebuild what they’ve lost. Complicating matters, though, is a web of secondary characters who keep interfering. Jeff has a circle of friends—including nebbish-turned-stud Henry, who looks up to Jeff the way Jeff once looked up to Javitz—who don’t want to see him settle down in domestic bliss. And Lloyd has an unbalanced business partner who’s jealous of Jeff’s intimate bond. Mann weaves this emotional tale deftly, shifting narrators from Jeff to Lloyd to Henry and giving insight into each one’s motivations. Two mysterious characters—Lloyd’s partner Eva and Jeff’s latest infatuation, Anthony—add interest by having secrets that are only gradually revealed. A breezily conversational tone makes for an easy read even as Mann grapples with complex questions facing many gays today: What does family mean? Why is trust so simple among strangers and so difficult between lovers? How can the patterns be broken that paralyze emotional growth?

Mann’s party boys make a sexy first impression but prove surprisingly deep upon further inspection. The same goes for Where the Boys Are.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7582-0326-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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