LONDON HOLIDAY

A slight story about three girlhood friends, now in midlife crisis, who take a London holiday that miraculously takes care of all their problems. Reunited just outside of St. Louis for a funeral, Julia, a hardened New York interior designer; Margo, a recently divorced schoolmarm; and society lady Les can see clearly through each others— threadbare facades of happiness. Through flashback we learn of the three women’s youth: how Les became pregnant to catch Harry, the richest college boy in town, how studious Margo entered into a self-sacrificing marriage to an academic, and how Julia’s fierce determination to leave provincial life fueled her relentless drive for success—and how, though all goals were achieved, the women are unfulfilled by their long-ago fantasies of perfection. When a random act of violence puts Margo out of commission and her arm in a sling, the three decide to visit London. They stay with a Mrs. Smith-Porter, a mysterious woman with an invented identity who serves as their fairy godmother. Mrs. Smith-Porter (whose oh-so-tasteful and elite bed and breakfast is furnished with exhaustively described antiques) introduces Julia to Hugh, a roguishly handsome antiques dealer, and’surprise!—a landed lord, whom she falls quickly in love with. Margo also has an opportunity to fix her life when her surly teenage daughter runs away (the girl tagged along to rendezvous with her boyfriend, studying abroad) and her ex-husband and his’surprise!—male lover come to sort things out, allowing Margo the closure she needed to get on with her life, which she promptly does by hooking up with a widowed London doctor. Which leaves Les, whose terminal ennui is erased when Mrs. Smith-Porter is accidentally killed by a speeding truck and Les decides to stay in London, too, taking over the B&B business and escorting socialites like herself around town. A thoroughly silly, predictable tale from a prolific YA author.

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-87368-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1998

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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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