The Steele family’s three-volume St. John adventure comes to a poignant end.
As the author warns in the foreword, if you haven’t read the first two books of this trilogy (Winter in Paradise, 2018; What Happens in Paradise, 2019), don’t start here. If you have, read this one slowly, because at the end we'll be saying goodbye to the series' endearing cast of transplanted Midwesterners, their new friends in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the many wonderful bars, restaurants, estates, bungalows, beaches, and seafaring vessels they frequent. In truth, you may find a leisurely pace easier to maintain than usual. The confounding mysteries and shocking reversals that drove the first two installments are wrapped up here, but the answers are pretty much as expected, and no new excitement is introduced. Threads that could have added a plot boost—a high-powered New York lawyer hired to deal with the devastation Irene Steele suffers as a result of her dead husband’s criminal activity, the FBI investigation into same, an old diary, an unplanned pregnancy—play out gently, or are dropped, instead of picking up the momentum. Hilderbrand’s choice to tell us in the introductory note about her fictionalization of Hurricane Irma takes away any element of surprise that might have had, and she doesn’t use the disaster for much in the way of plot, anyway. Oh, well. There are still plenty of lemongrass sugar cookies and a gorgonzola Caesar with pork belly and wood-grilled sirloin, served with an expensive bottle of cabernet pulled from the cellar of some annoying rich people, reviving the old joke about wine descriptions one last time: “Notes of fire coral, DEET and the Tide Pod challenge.” Just like everything else in 2020, this is not quite what you had hoped for, but, on the other hand, the comfort of a Hilderbrand novel is never something to sneer at.
Like your third serving of a delicious meal—still very good, but not much excitement left.