END OF THE DRIVE

The late, great, vastly prolific L'Amour (Jubal Sackett, 1985, etc.) rides again, with a recently discovered never-before-seen novella and sheaf of stories. Most of the tales feature Homeric diction and wonderful hooks. ``Caprock Rancher'' begins: ``When I rode up to the buffalo wallow, Pa was lying there with his leg broke and his horse gone.'' ``Desperate Men'' opens with: ``They were four desperate men, made hard by life, cruel by nature, and driven to desperation by imprisonment. Yet the walls of Yuma Prison were strong and the rifle skill of the guards unquestioned, so the prison held many desperate men besides these four. And when prison walls and rifles failed, there was the desert, and the desert never failed.'' That's a big, gritty voice at work, lifting melodrama to the heavens of storytelling. And, for the most part, these stories cleave to that voice throughout. ``Caprock Rancher'' tells of a 17-year-old who must rescue $20,000 from three toughs who have found it, although it belongs to several poor ranchers back home who've trusted the boy and his father to take their cattle to market. ``Desperate Men'' follows four prisoners who escape from Yuma Prison during an earthquake and flee into the desert with an Army payroll. Their greed is as much against them as the sun. In the title tale, a young man who heads a cattle drive finds wooing a beautiful woman to be more fraught with difficulty (and danger) than life on the trail. And in the superbly burnished novella, ``Rustler Roundup,'' the Laird Valley cattle war pits some smart rustlers, who want to grab Finn Mahone's herd and acres, against an even smarter hero. As ever, L'Amour's characters distinguish themselves from run-of-the- mill westerners by the hard thud of their boots on soil and the worn leather ease of their dialogue. Awesome immediacy, biting as creosote slapped on a fencepost.

Pub Date: June 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-553-10648-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1997

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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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