A lovelorn winemaker’s daughter seeks the right way to crush sour grapes into a winning blend.

EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES

Days before her wedding, Georgia’s relationship breaks down. But when she tries to escape home to wine country, she discovers nearly as many fissures in her family.

In the navel-gazing microcosm of California, worlds don’t get much more different than Los Angeles and Sonoma: the former rich in artificial vice, the latter in cultivated flavor. Dave, a seasoned writer of literary romance (The First Husband, 2011, etc.), explores this divide through the eyes of Georgia Ford, a 30-year-old LA–based corporate lawyer on the cusp of marrying her dream guy, Ben. He’s a devastating British architect, of course—rom-coms breed such fellows on a Burberry island somewhere—and his long-ago fling with an equally devastating movie star resulted in a 4-year-old daughter he's just learned about. Cue the devastation for Georgia, who flees up the coast in wedding garb after spying the seemingly happy family walk by during her final dress fitting. Destination: The Last Straw, the idyllic family vineyard in Sebastopol where she grew up with handsome twin brothers and crazy-in-love parents. Unfortunately, the clarity Georgia hopes to find there is quickly marred by everyone else’s problems. Her parents’ marriage is faltering; her feisty brothers are warring over a woman; and, in the deepest cut of all, her dad plans to sell the vineyard that’s always anchored them. As Georgia weighs her ambivalence about Ben, she struggles to understand the parade of relationships blooming and busting around her. Through a series of flashbacks that range from canny to cloying, we learn how the Ford family has reached this collective crisis point. Resolutions arrive slowly and often unexpectedly for each of them, giving this satisfying novel legs.

A lovelorn winemaker’s daughter seeks the right way to crush sour grapes into a winning blend.

Pub Date: June 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-8925-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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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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