In Hilderbrand’s fifth Nantucket novel (The Blue Bistro, 2005, etc.), a vacationing college student arranges to meet with her mysterious godmother, a former restaurateur of renown, to learn more about her dead mother.
Despite ambivalence, 19-year-old Columbia sophomore Renata has become engaged to Cade. While visiting his wealthy family at their Nantucket summer home, she calls her godmother Marguerite and arranges to have dinner. Renata wants to know more about her mother Candace, who died on the island 14 years earlier. Renata does not realize that Marguerite was so overcome by guilt and despair after Candace’s death that she had a psychotic break, sold her very successful restaurant and has been living for years as an island recluse. The novel follows Renata and Marguerite’s lives hour by hour throughout the day leading up to the dinner Marguerite prepares for them. While shopping for the meal, Marguerite visits key people from her past who force her to relive what happened years earlier: how she met her long-time, part-time lover Porter, and through him his half-sister Candace, who became her dearest friend; how Candace fell in love and married Dan, owner of the Beach Club; how they had Renata and moved away; how in a moment of despair after Porter’s final rejection, Marguerite declared her love for Candace; how shortly thereafter Candace was hit by a drunk driver while jogging. Meanwhile, Renata is struggling against Cade’s insufferable mother and against her own attraction to the handsome houseboy. She calls her father to announce her engagement, subconsciously knowing Dan will come to the rescue. He does, but not before Renata has come face to face with near tragedy and run away to Marguerite, leaving Cade’s engagement ring behind. Dan, Marguerite and Renata finally reunite, truths are told and old wounds healed.
Less chick-lit beach read than old-fashioned Joan Crawford tearjerker.