Grab a copy of “The Hotel Nantucket” by Elin Hilderbrand, and head for the nearest beach or pool. This tale of sun and summer even has a spectre, the ghost who was killed in the hotel a century before in a fire. There are samples of star-crossed love, second chances, atonement, blackmail, and hidden wealth in this sumptuous story about a newly renovated hotel and the people who work there.
The main character is Lizbet Keaton, not Elizabeth. She is newly separated from JJ, her boyfriend of 15 years, with whom she built a fabulous, successful restaurant on the island of Nantucket. But when she finds evidence he’s cheated on her, she’s gone. Getting the prestigious job as general manager of the newly renovated Hotel Nantucket (tens of millions was spent on the reno), she needs to hire staff and make sure everything is just right. The absentee owner, Xavier Darling, a British billionaire, informs her that his goal is to attain a heretofore never-awarded five key review from an Instagram influencer, Shelly Carpenter. No one knows who Shelly Carpenter is, but Lizbet is determined that they will succeed where others have failed.
There is also Alessandra, the mysterious new front desk manager. Were her references as she presented them? We know she has secrets, but even so, we don’t realize the extent of what she’s hidden. Her co-worker at the front desk, Edie, an island native, has secrets of her own. We learn that newly hired Chad—who is the epitome of what the name Chad apparently stands for: preppie, entitled, and scion of a wealthy family on the island—has a heavy burden that he is carrying. Instead of a summer of leisure, drinking and partying as his friends are doing, he is working cleaning the hotel. A chambermaid. What sins is he atoning for?
There is also the ghost, Grace. She was, indeed, killed in a hotel fire in 1922, but what we learn is that the fire was set deliberately. She has been waiting at the hotel for justice, for someone to realize that she was murdered, not just a tragic death in a fire. Her persona is delightfully insightful as she flows between doors and floors and shares some of the private moments she witnesses with us readers. In fact, the narrative is lovely as Hilderbrand creates an island “we,” a plural first person group persona who tells the story as it unfolds. For example, on the very first page we read, “However, none of us are quite prepared for the tornado of rumors that rolls up Main Street, along Orange Street, and around the rotary out to Sconset when we learn that London-based billionaire Xavier Darling is investing thirty million dollars in the crumbling eyesore that is the Hotel Nantucket.”
The omniscient narrative works well as we are privy to much of what the many characters are thinking and the motivations behind their actions. But Hilderbrand doesn’t share all; some secrets are kept for the end, surprising us a bit, but making sense as the author has cleverly left clues strewn along the way like bread crumbs to lead us to the truth.
If this is the first Elin Hilderbrand book you read, as it is for me, you’ll be sure to come back for more. The setting and the narrative, the plot and the twists, the touching relationships and connections of the characters, will all keep you reading way past your bedtime.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Little, Brown and Company, the publisher, for review purposes.