Lightweight, pleasant and unobjectionable.

THE CAVALIER IN THE YELLOW DOUBLET

Pérez-Reverte (The King’s Gold, 2008, etc.) returns to familiar territory in 17th-century Spain, dispatching Captain Diego Alatriste for a fifth round of swordplay, gamesmanship and swashbuckling romance.

Introduced in Captain Alatriste (2005), our hero is battle-hardened but tender-hearted, skilled with swords both literal and (ahem) metaphorical. In fact, his tenderness for women, in this case for the beautiful actress María de Castro, tends naturally to lead to complications with their husbands. Alatriste is accompanied by a young servant, Íñigo Balboa Aguirre, whose innocence leads him to folly and to some questionable decisions that endanger his master. Íñigo’s narration (though the author also uses an omniscient third-person voice) unfolds from the perspective of an old man who knows how the story is going to end; he gives us occasional flash-forwards to the fate of some of the characters, including the death of Alatriste, as well as to the decline of Spanish culture later in the century. The novel is set during the reign of Philip IV, and political intrigue both foreign and domestic stirs men to occasional acts of violence and attempts at assassination. It’s also a golden age of Spanish literature, and writers such as Lope de Vega and Tirso de Molina play roles on the periphery of the action. The lubricious villains try to implicate Alatriste in nefarious plots against the king, but our intrepid gallant of course manages to escape every shackle imposed on him. Although Íñigo’s fascination with one of the ladies of the court almost gets both master and servant killed, this is a world in which the good guys ultimately, and predictably, triumph.

Lightweight, pleasant and unobjectionable.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-399-15603-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2009

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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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