A classic Elin Hilderbrand beach read with her characteristic mingling of characters. It’s a fun story that mixes past and present but feels rushed, is overloaded with side stories, and lacks the Nantucket magic we are used to.
First, some context. I love Elin Hilderbrand; she’s tops in my Guilty Pleasures list, and a 100% literary girl crush. I don’t love all books equally, but have yet to meet one I don’t at least like. However, I don’t foresee ever having a 5-star love because of her unhealthy attachment to exclamation points.
The Hotel Nantucket adds a bit to the normal beach read romance and dramas by telling much of the story through Grace Hadley, the resident ghost. Grace has spent the past century watching the hotel shift from grandiose youth to its current state as a decrepit barnacle that Nantucket just can’t let go. She refuses to leave the hotel until someone figures out her murder, so she lurks around sharing the stories of what she sees.
We join Grace’s story as the hotel is being revived by a faceless billionaire, a stranger to Nantucket. The new general manager is Lizbet, a beloved local who is fresh off the crushing end to her 15 year relationship. Lizbet has no hotel experience, is oddly gullible, and hires about seven people to run a hotel that would require at least 4x that. The entire staff are so underqualified for their jobs that it’s laughable, less one person who has actual experience. But they are relatable – you care about the good ones, scowl to yourself at the bad ones, and a few surprise you, and their quirks and secrets make for fun interactions. Their progression from the chaos of opening a seasonal hotel to finding their groove is entertaining. Throughout the story, Grace adds another layer of observations on the modern day folks, gives Lizbet some free marketing by getting the hotel some “haunted” attention, and gives us nuggets of the days before she died. Throw in the personalities of the various guests and the directive from their mysterious boss to get the elusive “5 Key” review from a well-known travel blogger, and you have the makings of another good story to let you get lost in the Nantucket mystic.
It’s not a great one though. This is not one of her personal bests, and will land in the lower half of my list. It tries to pack in too many storylines, leaving potentially strong ones neglected like a broken seashell to give time to others that are built up to disappointing ends. Nantucket – let’s be real, she’s our perpetual main character – barely feels like she has a supporting role. There are some great scenes (I WANT the cottage on the water!), but the true immersion we are used to is lacking. And the details of actually operating a high-end hotel were cringy to someone who has lived in that seasonal world. I know it’s just a story, but it’s hard to love the story when you are constantly distracted by things making your internal monologue go “yeah, right…”.
Yes, I’m probably nitpicking, but here’s why. My girl crush on Elin H is based a lot on the travel lust it inspires; my husband is sick of me suggesting we quit our jobs and move to Nantucket every time I finish one of her books. How she has so wonderfully shared her chosen home with her readers is a huge part of why we love her books – we want to ride our bikes to Sconset, swing by Bartlett’s for our fresh salad veggies, and snooze to the sound of the waves while we sleep off our Chicken Box hangovers. She makes it real. So when you keep getting distracted by contrived storylines and unbelievable details, it sucker punches the magic a bit.
Please know though – I will still recommend this, and maybe even re-read it one day. Was it rushed because she has too many projects going? Or just a weaker at-bat? Who knows. At the end of the day it is not a bad book, it’s just not near as good as Elin Hilderbrand has shown many times over that she is capable of.
Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for an ARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.