Hilderbrand’s breezy family drama, the first of a series, plays out against the pristine beaches and sparkling waters of St. John in the Caribbean. Pragmatic Iowa City magazine editor Irene Steele has finished restoring her beloved Queen Anne home, leaving her eager for another project. Her doting husband, Russ, travels often for work and her adult sons, Cash and Baker, juggle jobs and family. When she gets a call that Russ has been killed in a helicopter crash in the Virgin Islands along with a woman named Rosie Small, she’s devastated and shocked to learn that he owned a lavish home there. Accompanied by Cash and Baker, Irene heads to St. John and discovers that Russ was leading a separate life, causing her to question everything she thought she knew about her marriage. As usual, Hilderbrand’s characters are as familiar as old friends, and her smooth prose is as tender and welcoming. The questions surrounding Russ’s death and double life provide suspense, and readers will be happy to lose themselves in paradise while getting to know these irresistible new characters. (Oct.)
Launching her new winter-set "Paradise" series, Hilderbrand takes us to the Caribbean warmth of St. John's, where Irene Steele's husband is found dead. Why so far from home? He had a second family and shady dealings on the island. With a 150,000-copy first printing.
When a Midwestern businessman is killed in a helicopter crash in the Caribbean, his wife and sons learn that he had a secret life.
The prodigious Hilderbrand (The Perfect Couple, 2018, etc.), author of high-style beach reads set on Nantucket, looks to a new island for her 22nd novel—St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In an introduction, she explains that she has been going to St. John to write for years now and has finally decided to break the mold and share her love of the place in her fiction. However, the story begins in Iowa City, where magazine editor Irene Steele is ringing in the New Year alone, as her husband, Russell, is away on business. The next day she receives a call from a secretary named Marilyn Monroe informing her of his death, and before long, she and her sons, Baker and Cash, are on their way to St. John, a place they've barely heard of, where they will be escorted to a $15 million villa that Russell apparently owned and shared for years with an also-dead longtime lover, Rosie. They will meet Huck, Rosie's stepfather, and Ayers, her best friend, and develop romantic entanglements accordingly. As in the Nantucket novels, Hilderbrand delights in studding her fiction with the real, whether she's telling us what books the characters are reading—the new Curtis Sittenfeld, Lilac Girls, and The Hate U Give, among others—or sending them to actual shops, hotels, restaurants, and bars, with food and drink described in detail. We learn a great deal about the characters' pasts, but little light is shed on the shocking secret at the core of the book, and suspicions raised about Russ Steele's business dealings and the details of the helicopter crash are also left unresolved. Perhaps further volumes of the planned trilogy will tackle all this, but it's a lot to leave up in the air.
The island setting and characters are done in classic Hilderbrand style, but the balance of backstory to resolution seems off.