A celebrity chef’s sudden death leaves his widow, exes, children, and best friend in a quandary.
And since this is a Hilderbrand novel, is there any doubt that the dilemma involves Nantucket real estate? A somewhat dilapidated (or at least, dated) and decidedly downscale beachfront cottage known as American Paradise serves as plot driver and central symbol. As his success grew, Chef Deacon Thorpe bought the house with his first wife, Laurel, as a repository of happy memories for his son, Hayes—the kind that Deacon himself had been denied. (He had one idyllic day on Nantucket with his own father, who then mysteriously and permanently disappeared.) Deacon and Laurel never wanted to upgrade the house, and there are still reminders of earlier inhabitants, including a ghost supposedly occupying the smallest attic room. Now, Deacon has died (on the cottage’s back deck, of a coronary), leaving nothing but debt. American Paradise is facing foreclosure due to the three mortgages Deacon took out, unbeknownst to his family. Surprisingly, or perhaps not given Deacon’s (and Hilderbrand’s) sense of humor, he has left the place to his three spouses, current and former—Laurel, Belinda, the movie star he left her for, and official widow Scarlett, the Southern belle who was the nanny for his and Belinda's adopted daughter, Angie. Best friend Buck, Deacon’s long-suffering fiduciary, has called the wives and children to American Paradise to scatter Deacon’s ashes and—a duty Buck has been dreading—read the will. Each member of this unique blended family has a say, as they squabble over turf and mull over their past and ongoing missteps, loves, and addictions. Angie, a talented chef in her own right, prepares lavish meals (rendered in mouthwatering detail, including recipes). The question looms—if Deacon’s Nantucket legacy can’t be shared, can it be saved?
No one captures the flavor and experience of a summer place—the outdoor showers, the seafood, the sand in the floorboards—like Hilderbrand.