Tag Archives: Nantucket

The Hotel Nantucket by Elin Hilderbrand

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<em>The Hotel Nantucket</em> by Elin Hilderbrand

Hilderbrand, Erin. The Hotel Nantucket. 592 pp. Little, Brown and Company, 2022. ISBN 978-0316445610 $37.00

*****

A Nantucket ghost story about a woman who signs on to manage an up and coming property to score a perfect review from a travel influencer? Sign me up! I could not order this in advance from my local bookseller fast enough, and it devoured it in two nights, reading a few passages aloud in delight to my partner as I read; I waited until my second read-through at the end of the summer to draft this review and it was even better the second time around.

Lizbet Keaton has been hired by moneyed Brit Xavier Darling to oversee the renovation of a turn of the century hotel that is home to the unsolved death of a young chambermaid in 1922 fire. Reeling from a bad breakup, Lizbet makes the leap from front of the house at the popular restaurant The Deck to manage the Nantucket Hotel through it’s first season. Xavier challenges her to score a coveted 5 key (like stars) review from a popular travel blog. Lizbet, like Adrienne in The Blue Bistro, understands white glove service and eagerly agrees that the hotel will get the rating. The story details the season from the hiring of the staff to the quirky demanding guests, leaving several riddles to be solved: who are the two women Xavier says he purchased the hotel to impress? Why does privileged white boy Chad need a job as a maid? Why is Edie’s ex-boyfriend blackmailing her?

There are a lot of interwoven love stories to unravel: the ghostly chambermaid Grace and her affair; Lizbet, whose partner cheating by sexting another woman and is being pursued by a celebrity chef; Kimber, a divorcee who takes up residence for the summer with her children and dog and falls for the night watchman. Hilderbrand deftly weaves a tale with both historic detail and pop culture references. Ghost Grace is a perfect device to catch behind the scenes details and give insight and perspective to character and action.

I feel I have an appreciation, but neither skill or talent, nor cultivation of, interior design and architecture, art, and fine dining, blended rich descriptions of food and renovations. This novel was especially satisfying because Chef Mario Subiaco, pastry chef from The Blue Bistro, is running the hotel’s Blue Bar and woos the protagonist with fresh, fun appetizers and her namesake cocktail, the Heartbreaker. Realtor Fast Eddie from Rumors, police chief Kapenash and other familiar characters have references or appearances as well; Sweet Edie on the front desk is the daughter of Vance and Love from The Beach Club.

I don’t usually comment on cover art, but a Victorian edifice might have been a better choice for this one. Not only is the Nantucket Hotel not on the beach, but with only one day off every two weeks, most of the characters are so busy working they don’t go to the beach (there might be one reference to Children’s Beach, but even the wealthy owner jets out of town and misses a scheduled beach picnic).

If you enjoy Elizabeth Berg’s quirky characters and read Architectural Digest for fun, this one’s for you.

The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand

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The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand

Hilderbrand, Elin. The Blue Bistro. St. Martins, 2010. 336 pp. ISBN 9780312628260. $16.99

*****

Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money for fine dining or vacations; my parents took my brother and I over the Cape Cod Canal to visit Edaville Railroad once, when we were maybe 4 & 6, and it took me 20 years to return. The strong sense of deja vu at the sight of scrub pines, weathered shingle homes, and salt tang air made me immediately feel like I’d come home. The Cape is magical, and I feel the odd sense of homecoming every time I return.

Besides the fact that The Blue Bistro is set on a romantic and charming Nantucket Island off the coast of my native Massachusetts, I am not sure I can completely place what I find so compelling about it that I’ve read this book about 20 times in the last ten years. Is it the fly on a wall feeling to the restaurant industry? The encapsulation of summer on the Cape? The hopeful but doomed romance? The mouthwatering menu descriptions? All of the above.

Adrienne is on the run from her latest relationship disaster when she lands on the island. No stranger to the hospitality industry, she ends up as the first lady hostess at a playful and upscale fine dining beachfront restaurant at the whim of the boyishly handsome co-owner Thatcher who takes an instant liking to her. The Bistro is opening for it’s final season (no one will tell her why) and she’s not only learning the ropes of the restaurant industry, she’s trying to figure out the relationship between Thatcher and Fiona, the very private and reclusive chef who doesn’t give interviews, come out of the kitchen, or show up at staff meal, even as she falls for him.

Articles about The Blue Bistro that Adrienne digs up help tell the story of its rise to fame, while plot, character and setting are further revealed not only through Adrienne’s present day narrative, through emails and postcards to her father and friend, and through flashbacks and reflections about her past lovers as she struggles with figuring out why she is so adrift, and how to make this relationship different. She has a thing for assholes. Thatcher isn’t one, but his heart, for all his denied it, seems to be committed elsewhere.

The pacing of the summer season helps to drive the plot. June is a soft open, the fourth of July over the top, the rest of the month is the first steep hill of a roller coaster, and then August is a frenzy of tomato specials and guests stealing the silverware as the last day rockets ever closer.

The drama between the various characters is completely spot on. I only waited tables for about a year, but the credit card wars, flitations between staff, old school kitchen brigand style, and kids making a mess at a fancy night out all rang true. The descriptions of food will make you drool and have you out of bed at 2am to put together a poor substitution of Fiona’s creme fraiche and caviar dip with hand cut potato chips (Ruffles and dill dip made with mayo, sour cream, and dried dill, don’t judge me).