The Hotel Nantucket
When one thinks about beach reads, Elin Hilderbrand inevitably comes to mind as the author of many satisfying novels that take the reader to Nantucket's historic and well-known island.
As we travel down the cobblestoned streets at the beginning of the summer season, gossip among the locals runs like wildfire. Billionaire Xavier Darling from London is investing $30 million in renovating the Hotel Nantucket—a place with a long and curious history that would be better off leveled than renovated. Most surprising is that Mr. Darling has never set foot on Nantucket, giving the residents more fodder for conversation.
Xavier hires Lizbet Keaton as the general manager. Lizbet is well-loved on the island and is grieving over the end of her 15-year relationship with JJ O'Malley. JJ, the owner of the trendy restaurant, The Deck, hired Lizbet years before to market the restaurant, and as the saying goes, the rest is history. They worked and lived together, becoming very close. Then Lizbet discovers compromising texts on JJ's phone between him and Christine Cross, their wine rep. Hurt and angry at all those years lost, believing she and JJ would be together forever, she now wants no part of him; her trust is gone.
Lizbet is thrilled at her employment opportunity and tucks her heartache inside. At the same time, she sets about hiring her staff and making sure Hotel Nantucket becomes the most desired destination for tourists.
Throughout the winter of 2021 and spring of 2022, contractors work tirelessly on renovations while Lizbet recruits employees. She notifies the local newspaper, thinking an article will whet everyone's appetite to book a room or suite when the hotel opens. After all, Mr. Darling is sparing no expense to make this luxurious and welcoming.
As Lizbet starts interviewing, her first candidate is Edith Robbins, a 22-year-old local known as "Sweet Edie," whom Lizbet hires to man the front desk, knowing she'll be a real asset. Her next hire is 59-year-old Magda English, whose resume extols her virtues as the housekeeping director of a cruise line. She is retired and returned to the island to be with her brother and nephew after her sister-in-law passed away. Now bored, she wants to work and will be perfect for the position.
She fills the other positions with Adam and Raoul Wasserman-Ramirez, a married couple for the bellman jobs. Lizbet next thinks 33-year-old Alessandra Powel could be promising. Fluent in several languages and with hotel experience, she will hire her as the front desk manager. Though her credentials are sterling, Lizbet has some misgivings yet offers her the job regardless.
Zeke, Magda's nephew, is another hired in charge of the guests' luggage.
Magda engages the housekeeping staff consisting of three young women and Chadwick "Chad" Winslow, a long shot. He is a wealthy young man whose family owns a home on the island but is sincere about working, even knowing the downsides of the job. She is desperate for another hand, and she gives him a shot and nicknames him "Long Shot," believing he won't last the day. She pairs Chad with Bibi Evans, for the chambermaids work in pairs.
Now—the big deal about this hotel. It is purported to be haunted. A fire razed the building 100 years ago, and 19-year-old Grace Hadley perished, her body found in the attic. Grace allegedly was mistress to Jackson Benedict, the hotel's owner. Rumor suggests Grace's spirit still occupies the building, for she will not move on until it is proven Jackson's wife caused the fire that killed her. However, she is a benevolent spirit and causes no harm.
And there is another factor—Xavier wants to make his investment the envy of the tourist industry, which means he needs to get a "Five-Key" rating by Shelly Carpenter. Ms. Carpenter runs the blog, Hotel Confidential, awarding the properties she visits one to five "keys" depending on how she rates them—and she is said to be a tough taskmaster.
"The secret to her success is her witty, brilliant writing, her razor-sharp intelligence, and her refined sense of what works and what doesn't where hotels are concerned—but there's also mystery involved. Nobody knows who she is. The internet agrees on only one thing: Shelly Carpenter is a pseudonym."
When the hotel opens for business, their first walk-in arrives: a harried-looking, peacock-haired woman with two children and a dog. She introduces herself as Kimber Marsh and her children, Wanda and Louie, with Doug, the American Staffordshire terrier. Edie upgrades them to a family suite when she mentions they plan to stay the entire summer. But Kimber does not have a credit card, and she's been turned down at the other hotels. When she pulls out a massive wad of cash, stating she'll pay in advance, Edie needs to talk to Lizbet. Now in a dither, Kimber tells Eide her husband left her for the nanny, and she has nowhere else to go. Being a sucker for a sad story, Edie allows them to stay, fearful she may lose her job and the $1,000 bonus Xavier has promised each week for the most outstanding employee.
The summer advances, and each character offers a backstory detailing the circumstances they currently face, making this a complex and in-depth read. Secrets lurk everywhere, like in a soap opera, and the island residents love the gossip. Will this hotel succeed in becoming the success Xavier hopes for? Will Lizbet reconcile with JJ, or will she find another love interest? Will everyone's secrets be divulged, mainly Chad's?
A long and intense novel, The Hotel Nantucket shouldn't be classified as a beach read, for it is drawn-out and overly descriptive. Though jam-packed with drama, the prose is highly expressive and reads like a travel guide for Nantucket. Hilderbrand includes her "Blue Book" (something Lizbet devised for her guests in the novel), offering various information about Nantucket.