Review: Summerland, by Elin Hilderbrand

Elin Hilderbrand

Product Description/Synopsis (from
A warm June evening, a local tradition: the students of Nantucket High have gathered for a bonfire on the beach. But what begins as a graduation night celebration ends in tragedy after a horrible car crash leaves the driver of the car, Penny Alistair, dead, and her twin brother in a coma. The other passengers, Penny’s boyfriend Jake and her friend Demeter, are physically unhurt – but the emotional damage is overwhelming, and questions linger about what happened before Penny took the wheel.

As summer unfolds, startling truths are revealed about the survivors and their parents – secrets kept, promises broken, hearts betrayed. Elin Hilderbrand explores the power of community, family, and honesty, and proves that even from the ashes of sorrow, new love can still take flight.

My Thoughts:
Summer just wouldn’t be summer without a new book from Elin Hilderbrand, and her latest novel, Summerland was exactly what I needed this year.

I should confess that my introduction to Hilderbrand’s Nantucket came about two years ago when I was browsing in Half Price books with my husband and many visiting relatives. I found her first seven novels there, took them home, and spent most of April reading them before boxing them up and sending them to my mother in Mexico.

This year’s read, Summerland seemed a little more poignant than previous novels, mainly because it opens with the death of a teenager. As well, a good chunk of this novel actually takes place in Australia, where one of said teenager’s friends is ushered by his depressed mother and well-meaning father.

Nevertheless, Hilderbrand works her magic, and gives us slices of summer at the beach like no other can (although Ann Rivers Siddons and Dorothea Benton Frank certainly have their own charm). As always, her female characters are well developed, though not without flaws, and her male characters aren’t quite as rich (though, in this novel, the men we meet are better developed than they have been so far).

While I am always happy to have a new Hilderbrand novel on my summer reading list, one thing that always disappoints me is the fact that her various novels don’t seem to occupy the same version of Nantucket, but separate versions that exist separately for each book. Still, her work is always entertaining.

Goes well with…lemonade and homemade berry pie.

Review: A Summer Affair, by Elin Hilderbrand

A Summer Affair

A Summer Affair
by Elin Hilderbrand

This novel is both the seventh novel the author wrote, and the seventh of her novels that I read, but that happened purely by coincidence. I hadn’t read any of the others in order of publication date.

Unlike many of the other protagonists in Hilderbrand’s work, Claire Danner Crispin, art-glass blower, wife, and mother, is a full-time resident of Nantucket, where she and her husband have a relatively happy life, though she harbors a secret – she feels responsible for a car accident that her friend Daphne was in several months before.

When Claire is invited to co-chair a charity gala and create a new art piece for the auction attached thereto, she’s surprised, because the the person in charge of the charity, Lockhart, is Daphne’s husband, and Claire had assumed he held her responsible as well.

As the title implies, Claire and Lockhart begin an affair, which heats up as problems plague the gala planning, and Claire’s rockstar ex-boyfriend arrives to stay at her house (he’s the big draw for the gala, as well as the entertainment).

There’s also a B-plot between Claire’s best friend, a caterer, and her gambling husband.

In the end, A Summer Affair, is a typical Hilderbrand novel with great beach-town settings, well-written women, and men who lack depth, though they’ve improved somewhat in this novel. Both Claire’s husband and the rockstar boyfriend seem like decent men.

Goes well with lemonade and quiche

Mini-reviews: Three by Elin Hilderbrand

I’ve been reading a lot of Elin Hilderbrand’s work this summer. In fact, I think I now own all of her Nantucket novels, though I still have at least three left to read. These novels, which are not a series, but are all set on the island of Nantucket, are easing my yen for the beach the way the best weight loss pills help you shed pounds safely.

Here’s a brief wrap-up of the last three Hilderbrand novels I’ve read:

The Castaways

The Castaways is the story of four successful couples, all friends for years, who refer to themselves collectively as The Castaways. When one of the couples dies in a tragic boating accident, secrets about the intertwining relationships among the surviving six people then come out. This was a deliciously dishy novel about affairs of the heart and the flesh, and it’s much more satisfying a read than I thought it would be.

Nantucket Nights

Nantucket Nights starts out being a story about female bonding, when three long-time friends meet for their annual ritual of Midnight Swimming, off a remote stretch of beach, after the summer season is officially over, but one of them doesn’t come back from the swim. All three women, Val, Kayla and Antoinette, are distinctly different but still strong personalities, but I thought the mystery element of the plot was a bit predictable.

Summer people

Summer People is the most recent novel I’ve finished reading, and while I enjoyed it, it felt a little unfinished. While the adult storyline is a little weak – that of Beth grieving over her dead husband while being confronted almost daily with her former lover, a year round Nantucket resident, as opposed to she and her family who are summer people – the teen storyline is a little meatier: Beth’s twin teen children, Winnie and Garrett each deal with grief and first love during their summer, Winnie with Marcus, the son of her dad’s last client, and Garrett with his mother’s ex-lover’s daughter. Like Nantucket Nights, this novel includes an unwanted pregnancy story, and the pair leave me suspecting that author Hildebrand is anti-choice, but despite that, her stuff is wonderful summer reading.

Goes well with: Fresh caught saltwater fish, grilled, with summer veggies, and either lemonade, iced tea, or beer.

Review: The Blue Bistro, by Elin Hilderbrand

The Blue Bistro
The Blue Bistro
by Elin Hilderbrand
St. Martin’s Griffin, 336 pages
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The Blue Bistro may be the fourth of author Elin Hilderbrand’s novels set on the island of Nantucket, but it’s only the second I’ve read. Thankfully, her novels are not a series, as much as they are a collection. Most don’t even mention the same restaurants.

In any case, this novel, which is set in and around a beach front restaurant, (restaurant books are not the best appetite suppressants, by the way), tells the story of 28-year-old Adrienne Dealey, freshly off the Colorado ski slopes, where she worked as the concierge in a tone-y hotel, and looking for a new life, without her old lover, who wasn’t good for her. Telling is the fact that she misses the dog, more than the man.

Having been advised to try Nantucket for the summer, Adrienne begins looking for work, and in the process, meets Thatcher Smith, who co-owns the famous Blue Bistro with his childhood friend, the reclusive, but amazingly talented, Fiona Kemp. What follows is part hard work, part romance, and part mystery – what hold does Fiona have on Thatcher, that he can’t (or won’t) even spend the entire night with Adrienne after they become lovers?

As is expected of Hilderbrand novels, there is sophisticated, realistic romance set against the charming backdrop of Nantucket in the summertime.

You can almost feel the salt in your hair.

Goes well with: Champagne and lobster tails.

Review: Barefoot, by Elin Hilderbrand

by Elin Hilderbrand
Little, Brown and Company, 528 pages
Get it at Amazon >>

Last month when I got home from Mexico, and had the opportunity to splurge on books, I looked for beach reading – books that took place in cute coastal villages. I’d been eying the paperback version of Elin Hilderbrands’s sixth Nantucket novel Barefoot for months, and finally brought it home on that trip. I didn’t actually read it it until the beginning of June, however, and when I did, it took a while before I was hooked. This is a novel that starts slowly, cresting like the gentlest of waves.

I don’t mind that sort of novel – sometimes they can be really satisfying reading – and I also didn’t mind that this was really an extended character piece. It begins, of course, with three women, Vicki, Brenda and Melanie, arriving on Nantucket for a summer in the cottage that Vicki and Brenda (sisters) inherited from their aunt. Melanie’s along for the ride because she’s a friend of Vicki’s. Each woman comes with baggage of the figurative kind as well as actual luggage. For Vicki, it’s cancer – she’ll be having chemo while summering by the shore. Brenda was a hotshot professor at a small, private university, fired for having an affair with her student (it should be noted that this isn’t a creepy kind of affair – her student was older than she was – but it was a professional faux pas). And Melanie…Melanie is newly pregnant, but because her husband is having an affair he refuses to end, the only birth announcements she’s made – or pregnancy announcements, for that matter, are to the other women with her on the trip, and, within a couple of chapters, the young islander Josh, who first greets them at the airport, then ends up becoming whatever the male version of an au pair is, since Vicki came with her two young children.

During the summer, Brenda works on the book/screenplay that she hasn’t been able to focus on elsewhere, Vicki becomes empowered with regard to her disease, and Melanie has a summer fling with young Josh.

None of these things are at all surprising, nor is the ending of the novel remotely unpredictable, but sometimes you don’t need a great twist for a novel to be satisfying; sometimes, all you need are vivid descriptions, three-dimensional characters (even when you find some of their behavior a bit annoying), and a cute coastal village. Hilderbrand provides all of those.

Goes well with: lemonade and a tuna sandwich from inside a picnic cooler at the beach.