“The Hotel Nantucket” by Elin Hilderbrand

Genre: Beach ReadThe Hotel N
Publisher: Little, Brown, and Co.
Pub. Date: June 14, 2022

Elin Hilderbrand is the queen of Nantucket. This is the author’s 28th beach read set on the tiny, isolated island off Cape Cod.  I have read three of them. Given that my most recent reviews of literary novels have been deep ones, I was seeking something light. My mind yearned for a vacation. Similar to the previous Nantucket books that I have read by Hilderbrand, this one isn’t all that unique. Despite this, every time I read one of her books I cannot help but escape from reality and enjoy the sights and sounds of beach life. Here the protagonist is a delightful ghost. She was a young hotel maid who passed away in 1922 during a fire in the hotel. The question is did someone purposely start the fire?

For decades, the hotel lay dormant.  In the present, a billionaire has bought the hotel and brought it back to life, well beyond its former splendor. Other storylines include a male rich kid working as a maid to atone for some mysterious, terrible thing that he did not long ago. The female head of housekeeping has a secret. And, the nasty breakups of island marriages. This being a Hilderbrand tale, there is plenty of gossip, and love affairs. The male chef, who is hotter than any dish on the menu, falls for the beautiful female general manager as she recovers from heartbreak. The author doesn’t stray from her usual style. I don’t believe that she has ever had a gay love affair in her books. I would need to research to learn if this is true or not.

Of course, there are twists, usually not believable, but heck this is a beach read. And also, of course, all the characters are chiseled or doe-eyed.  However, I give the author credit for making most of her characters middle-aged, which is unusual for this genre. For the guests, the general manager creates a “Blue Book” containing all her recommended island itineraries. In the appendix, the author includes a lengthy, real-life version of the “Blue Book.” I guess if you are going to Nantucket, you will appreciate it. But, I thought she was filling up pages. Links alone would have been a preferable alternative. Still, I recommend the novel, especially if you read it wearing a bathing suit, on a beach, and drinking a chilled glass of wine.

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“The Summer Place” by Jennifer Weiner

Genre: Beach Read/Women’s Fiction The summer place
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pub. Date: May 10, 2022

In the book-beach lovers’ world, summer means it’s time for another Jennifer Weiner novel. This year it is “The Summer Place.” The plot is typical of Weiner’s works, with family drama, secrets, and imperfect yet endearing characters. Even though I am not always a fan of Weiner’s books, I read them every summer since they are a terrific way to escape real life. Weiner’s humorous, fast-paced debut 2001 novel, “Good in Bed” has a charming female protagonist who is always dealing with her weight issues, a strong cast of characters, sharp banter, and a take on life’s priorities.  I thoroughly enjoyed it. How I laughed but also felt the woman’s pain when I read that her ex-boyfriend publishes a magazine article about their relationship calling it “Loving a Larger Woman.” I devoured her next 2002 novel, “In her Shoes,” where the tension is between two sisters. One is wild and beautiful while the other sister is stable but not so pretty.

Here the tale revolves around Ronnie Levy’s summer house, which she expected to fill with family through the summers, but is now feeling empty after her husband died and her children are tied up in their own lives. But, when her daughter, Sarah, brings her ten-year-old stepdaughter, Ruby, to the summer house she falls in love with it. Now at the age of twenty-two, Ruby wants to get married at the house. Every family member is dealing with a secret revolving around having an affair that could unravel the fabric of the family. It all comes to a head on the day of the wedding.

It would be a spoiler to tell you who ends up with whom. It is not a spoiler to say Weiner’s books have happy endings. That is the purpose of a beach read. However, this family should not have had a feel-good outcome. I have read about half of Weiner’s thirty-something novels. Somewhere along the line, these endings became too far-fetched to believe, as they were in “Summer Place.” It’s simply too out there to buy into. You need to shift your level of disbelief considerably to accept the plot. Maybe, it is only me who is disappointed and critical of her later books. Still, to the author’s credit, I still read them every summer preferably on a beach.

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“The Island” by Elin Hilderbrand

Genre: Beach Read The Island
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pub. Date: 05/01/2012

Mini Review

I had just lost a pet and wanted/needed a beach read. Something fluffy, something to lift my spirits, and to help me get through the mourning process.  I had read Elin Hilderbrand’s  “Summer of ‘69” as an Advance Review Copy (ARC.)  I very much enjoyed the novel so I went looking for something from her.  I usually don’t buy books.  But, I bought “The Island,” because I thought it would fit the bill.  It did not.  The story revolves around a family of four women—a 50 something mom, her sister, and her two grown daughters. The eldest daughter had a mental trauma surrounding the death of her ex-fiancée and is in a deep depression. They decided to revisit the family’s bare-bones cabin on a tiny island near Nantucket to help her regroup.  The plot sounds like a perfect beach read.  I was expecting lots of female bonding. My issue was with the characters and their love interests.  When it comes to the women’s’ love life, I swear the dialogue sounded like they were all in junior high. How could four intelligent, successful females talk as if they are in the TV series “Saved by the Bell?”  Quote from the middle-aged mom, “My boyfriend doesn’t love me.” From mom’s 30-year-old daughter to her 32-year-old sister (the one who is too depressed to come out of her room), “You are trying to take him from me.”  Enough already. I enjoyed reading about the island and beach life, which did help me forget my sadness, but not enough to enjoy this tedious chick-lit novel.

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