The Literary Salon: The Perfect Couple

Beach Book

We all know them – the perfect couple.  Or are they?   The Perfect Couple is the perfect book for Valentine’s Day, because who doesn’t like to read about relationships, perfect and otherwise.    At the very least, you can escape winter for a few hours  – just keep an eye out for any dead bodies washing up on shore!

The Publisher’s Blurb:

It’s Nantucket wedding season, also known as summer – the sight of a bride racing down Main Street is as common as the sun setting at Madaket Beach. The Otis-Winbury wedding promises to be an event to remember: the groom’s wealthy parents have spared no expense to host a lavish ceremony at their oceanfront estate.

But it’s going to be memorable for all the wrong reasons after tragedy strikes: a body is discovered in Nantucket Harbor just hours before the ceremony-and everyone in the wedding party is suddenly a suspect. As Chief of Police Ed Kapenash interviews the bride, the groom, the groom’s famous mystery-novelist mother, and even a member of his own family, he discovers that every wedding is a minefield-and no couple is perfect. Featuring beloved characters from The Castaways, Beautiful Day, and A Summer Affair, The Perfect Couple proves once again that Elin Hilderbrand is the queen of the summer beach read.

A bit about the Author:

Elin Hilderbrand is a graduate of The Johns Hopkins University and the Iowa Writers Workshop. She has lived on Nantucket for 25 years and is the mother of three teenagers.   The Perfect Couple is her twenty-first novel.

My Goodreads Review:

My Goodreads Review:The Perfect CoupleThe Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Perfect Beach Read. Her best book yet, the usual island fare with the added twist of a murder mystery. After a dead body is found floating in the water the morning of a fancy wedding all the guests and family members are suspects. Intricately plotted, the characters and descriptions are so real you will feel like you just spent a week on Nantucket. If you take this book to the beach you will not look up once it is so engrossing…..I could hardly put it down. I hope she does more murder mysteries…..looking forward to her new winter series.

Discussion:

The first book in my Literary Salon series – An Unwanted Guest – was a study in plot development, just how does one plot a murder mystery?   One of the reasons I chose this second book was for it’s characterizations.  If you have written 21 novels, how do you keep coming up with new characters?  Or are they just cookie-cutter people – change the job, name, appearance?   Her characters are usually flawed beings who make bad choices.  They drink a lot….like fish since we’re going with the water theme.   Sometimes they are so annoying and make such stupid decisions that you feel like abandoning them altogether.   You want the reader to like your characters or at least sympathize with them, not think they are fools.  (Note to self –  make my characters smarter and sober…..no vino for them).    

Elin Hilderbrand is the Queen of Beach Fluff, a genre that is often romance but usually just something lighthearted enough to take to the beach.    She comes out with a big fat beach novel every July, and often a short novella before Christmas.    While I have always enjoyed her books, I had grown a bit weary of the format.   The same old bed-hopping, drinking, even worse drinking while driving, piss-poor parents (her words) whose uncontrollable teenagers are doing the same thing – tale grows stale after awhile, and I admit the books wouldn’t be half as appealing if they weren’t set on the island of Nantucket.   (In much the same way I had tired of Joanna Trollope but her last novel, An Unsuitable Match, about a late in life marriage, was actually quite good – but that’s a whole other topic).    These books are fast food fiction, you already know what you are going to get.   There’s usually plenty of family dynamics and complicated romances all destined to work out (or not) in the end, because hey – it’s beach fluff.   But in this her latest book, you have all of the above, plus she has added a murder mystery and the book seems to have taken on a more serious tone.   She is older now and survived breast cancer in 2014.    I enjoyed the mystery aspect of it, and hope she does more in that vein.    I am currently reading the first of her new winter series, Winter in Paradise – see link, in which a wife loses her husband of 25 years in a helicopter crash in the US Virgin Islands, and finds out he had a whole other life on the island.   (not good – back to trashy again….five drinks on a boat cruise before 10am????)   In the jacket blurb the author says she vacations on St. John’s for five weeks every spring, so she can get big chunks of her writing done in privacy.  (maybe that’s my problem – I need to rent a Caribbean villa with turquoise views).   She does seem to like writing about islands, and the island lifestyle.   She’s certainly been a very successful author financially, and if the format works keep at it, but I can’t help but wish she would tone it down a bit.   But then I probably fall into this category, wherein, Tag the father in law, (who was having an affair with the maid of honor), describes the average reader of his wife’s books.         

‘Her fan base is nearly down to no one but the devoted cat ladies.  Tag is thinking about the devoted cat lady – tucked away in her Cotswold cottage fixing a cup of tea and preparing to spend a rainy afternoon in an armchair with a tabby spread across her lap as she cracks open the latest exotically located Greer Garson mystery.’

In his view, this is a dull life, but it sounds appealing to me and I don’t even own a cat.   But then I am older and her books are pretty much the only romance genre I read.   Although she is a good storyteller, I sometimes find her books are just too trashy.   I would love to see what she does with a theme and characters a little less shallow….and a little less preoccupied with booze and infidelity.   That may seem like an odd thing to criticize as we read escapist fiction to escape, but she is such a good writer that I wish she would tackle some more important stuff, like Jodi Picoult does.   Despite that, The Perfect Couple does have something to say about relationships, both old (how many long term couples stay together for financial reasons despite the affairs) and new, plus a riveting story-line.    If you grew up in the eighties with the Not-Married- Before-Thirty-Terrorist Theory of Love and rom.coms like When Harry Met Sally (doomed IMO, totally incompatible all that arguing) and Sleepless in Seattle (flying all the way across the country to meet someone whose voice you liked on the radio?) then love at first sight may seem perfectly plausible – but do the couple at the end of the book stand a chance?  What do they know about each other?  Yes, there are red flags, but isn’t it all unpredictable anyway – fate is fickle.    Success in love and marriage happens for some people and not others, but hopefully you don’t drown in the process.

Quote of the Day:    “Remember that sometimes not getting what you want, is a wonderful stroke of luck.”   (Dali Lama)  

Song of the Day:  Makin’ Whoopee – because the lyrics are fun

 

20 thoughts on “The Literary Salon: The Perfect Couple

    • thehomeplaceweb says:

      It’s the perfect escape! We are currently on day two of a snowstorm, (first snow, then ice pellets, then freezing rain, back to snow), and my only venture out has been to the mailbox. It’s a good day for baking sticky toffee pudding which will be next week’s post…..so I can justify it! I hope your weather is ok?

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  1. lindasschaub says:

    I liked your review of “The Perfect Couple” Joan and I would know you’d enjoy it as you like mystery novels. The other books you mentioned don’t seem your cup of tea and the author sure strays away from this novel that you highlighted. I must get back to the enjoyment of reading again. You make it sound so pleasurable that I wonder why I stopped.

    Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        That’s true – I do have the Rubbermaid containers downstairs with paperbacks my mom read and I have not read yet, plus books upstairs as well – all paperbacks. I often wonder what I’ll do when retired – all the time to do the hobbies I have tried or enjoyed at one time but no time to enjoy them all the time. Years and years ago I took an art class through the City. We went to nearby Wyandotte as it has a lot of old buildings. I wrote a blog post about going back to visit a very old cemetery, some 50 years after the first time I was there and did charcoal sketches of the various tombstones. Also we did some charcoal rubbings of the really old tombstones. I had some sketchbooks and art books and did some black and colored pastels back in the day – I keep them downstairs in a briefcase “awaiting retirement” … my mom used to say to me “I would like to be a fly on the wall and see how many things you actually accomplish when you retire.” The drawing I could see starting back up, but it takes a lot of time – you have to make time to go places to sketch unless you are just doing still life around the house. I can’t see me going to the Park to sketch – I guess I could use a photo of something – a squirrel perhaps. The Creek with waterfowl. I think I’d like that. I was at Heritage Park last Summer and there were two women there doing watercolors. I usually went earlier in the morning – don’t know why I was there later, but two different women who sketched and did water colors. Took pictures of their work – in fact I’m going to share that blog post, never thought to share it with you before as you may be interested since your mom is an artist: it is a long post and the two women who were painting are fairly close to the top. The first woman was not friendly; the second one was very nice and we chatted it up for awhile. Maybe that would be a nice hobby to get into again … after fifty years (wait, did I say fifty years?) I do look forward to retirement. My job is not the easiest sometimes … even working from home. Sometimes my boss’ instructions are clear as mud or he is often distracted when doing things. We have worked together for 20 years. The idea of having whole days to do what you want is enticing to me. Also I hope to not be on the computer for hours and hours but to be away and reading or doing things I have not enjoyed in decades.
        https://lindaschaubblog.net/2018/07/28/christmas-in-july/

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      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        You could do the drawings for your children’s book! That would be perfect. My mother’s late in life art career was just a lucky break because I entered her in a contest at a prestigious provincially owned gallery that never shows local people and she won! I think they were amazed at her age and the fact that most of her paintings were done after the age of 87yr when she quit driving. She as about 300 of them now. So you never know! She certainly enjoys it and just does it for fun, not profit. But yes, I can see you illustrating your books. I have heard watercolours are hard to do….but then I have no artistic talent. I’ll take a look at the post later. I find in retirement my days are always busy – the time just seems to fill in although I don’t always accomplish anything. Don’t miss work at all…too stressful. I would only go back to work if it was something fun with no commitment.

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      • lindasschaub says:

        That is interesting that your mother didn’t start until age 87! That is an amazing feat. I did enjoy drawing with charcoals/pastels when I was younger. Class was in the Summer and they bussed us to different cities and a local artist taught the class. I had some books on how to draw that I got at an art and hobby shop, long before Michael’s was around. My parents bought me the books and supplies. But that was in the Summer that year and then school started and homework, etc. I am looking forward to retirement … too many things to do, too little time to myself now, although I have to admit that once the blogging picked up, I’ve abandoned a lot of the household chores/taxes that I did religiously and now I put off everything. I was going to compile all the tax stuff this weekend as I figured the ice would still be around – well, we had that balmy weather Thursday, it melted and we will have some snow on Sunday afternoon (minimal), so I decided I should go out to walk, take pictures and likely do a blog post. I feel like I have to reward myself … a looooong week at work, crummy weather, worries about weather … time to put it aside and just BREATHE. Perhaps I indulge myself too much, but I figure I’m not spending any $ on entertainment, might as well just enjoy the weekend as it was meant to be enjoyed. When my mom was alive, I tried to keep things orderly, chores/tasks done and by the end of the weekend, I’d scratch my head and say “where did the weekend go – it’s back to the grind already!” I think work is stressful and the older you get, the less tolerant you are. I don’t know if I would/could illustrate a book, but I sure would like to pick up sketching again.

        Liked by 1 person

      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        My mother took a few art classes at a local college when she was about 50 and we all went away to school, but painted very little until five years ago. I think that’s why people like her story – it shows anyone can have success later in life. I think that your comment is true – work is stressful and the older you get the less tolerant you are! I could have walked today but had hair appointment and errands and visited my old workplace where everyone was stressed!

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        That is interesting that you mom got back into it after that long period of time away. Yes, work is stressful and I can remember in my 20s and 30s getting up in the morning in the Summer – out at sunrise to hand water the front/back yard, feed the birds, top off all the birdbaths and back in to do makeup/hair and get dressed. I was on the bus by 7:45 and busy all day at work. I did things in the house, cut the lawn at night if it needed it – my mom and I sometimes went out at night when the Summer nights were long. I have trouble sticking to a regimen, especially when walking can’t happen – it throws me off. See, didn’t you feel good realizing that you have that stress in the workplace in the rear view mirror Joan?

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      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        I don’t think I ever had that much energy….but as I have gotten older I have to pace myself and rest more. I miss the structure of work and the people I worked with, but not the stress and responsibility of it! And of course I miss the paycheck! But it’s surprising how you can live on less if need be, and I don’t really miss a lot of the stuff (clothes, makeup, travel), that I used to splurge on.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Well when we both worked it seemed okay to buy those things … the too many pair of black pants, or the makeup, accessories … we felt we could justify it if we had to. I can live on less too and have since getting laid off in 2009. Then unemployment, then hired back in 2011. But I am only paid for part-time, I work more hours than I’m paid, but I figure it works out as I would have spent that time commuting … I am glad there is no commute. I am grateful for that. I wish I had finished all my travels in my youth. On my bucket list is an Alaska cruise, Italy and France. I don’t know if it will happen now. There is so much unrest in the world. When I traveled things were so much easier. I don’t even have a passport – I let it lapse years ago. I am looking forward to retirement. Some people say they are bored – I don’t think I will be. I think it would take me years to get through the assorted reading material at the house … “Readers Digest” kept sending us subscription renewal notices for so cheap, they were almost giving it away, so we kept that subscription. I have them in plastic shoeboxes under my bed? I know some of their stories are evergreen, but will I be able to climb under there and retrieve them?

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      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        Oh, Italy and France are on my bucket list, and England, but not Alaska – too cold. I would like to travel someday but I would have to do a tour where everything is organized for you, as the world is too unsafe now. For years I would go south to an island or Mexico with a girlfriend, then I got tired of it – it seemed like a lot of money just to escape winter for a week. I went to Ireland in my 20’s by myself with a Eurarail pass – not something I would ever contemplate now! Tours are nice because everything is organized for you, but they are usually too busy, up early and a different city every day and usually the whole bus sick with the same cold by the end of the week. I tend to get sick when I travel, bad immunity to foreign germs. I think it would be nice to rent a villa/farmhouse/apptment though, then you could explore at your own pace. I know many people do those air BnB’s but I don’t have any experience with that. So I just stay home and read travel books, which is okay too! I have a friend who travels with a group called Women’s Travel Network out of Toronto, and they had a nice 10 day trip to France – Paris/Provence/The Riveria for $6500 plus air fare – it would easily cost $10,000 by the end. Maybe if I win the lottery. I think this has inspired me – I might do a blog on travel….

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      • lindasschaub says:

        That is an interesting concept but wow – it is pricey isn’t it? I did some traveling with friends of the family but the rest of the trips were tour groups. I had good experiences with American Express (Greece and Greek Islands) and Maupintour (Four Scandinavian countries and a week in the USSR). For both we had our own guide the entire time and a foreign guide for each of the countries we were in. For both of those tours, which were two weeks and three weeks, respectively, there was another single woman traveling in the group. We did not share a room, but we did kind of hang out together if there was free time, so that was nice. And the people in both groups were very friendly – they would ask us to join their table or sit with them when we were on a bus or train ride to get to know us better. My boss and his wife/son went to Italy about five or six years ago. They went with an other couple who had twin boys … all the boys had just finished high school. So the boys were active in swimming in high school and my boss won scholarships for undergraduate school by high school swimming competition. So they rented a villa in the countryside and had a big pool in the courtyard. He sent some pictures of it. They had a kitchen and the two women made dinner every night from their walk every morning through the markets. In Ireland, was it like other European countries where people shopped for their food every morning – fresh bread and produce? So, that’s what they did and had pasta every night, salad, breads … they never did a bit of sightseeing. I’d be okay with that if I had a chance to see Italy’s famous tourist sites as well. France, especially Paris, having so many issues these days … travel is not so easy and enjoyable as when we traveled and that is sad. I think Alaska is best done in June or July to get the warmest months of the year. I think to see the glaciers and whales right from the boat would be nice. They say for Alaska, that the smaller the ship, the better the view and they can get closer to the inlets, where the big cruise ships, while cheaper as they carry more people, have to tender in to shore and are not apt to stop in as many smaller towns. My boss took a trip on the Great Barrier Reef and they were on a catamaran which was able to get into lots more places … I looked at that trip as I wanted to see the boat … I don’t know if I’d go for that … looked a little small if you got into a bad storm. I worry too much about the weather though. I would like to win the lottery and not some gargantuan lottery, just enough to never worry about my old age. I rarely buy tickets as I never even get one number and get discouraged.

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      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        I was on a Windjammer cruise once on a smallish ship and it was a horrible experience….I may blog about that and the Tall Ships when they come here this summer. No, Ireland was not like Italy food-wise – I found the food generally blah – other than breakfast in the B&B’s but after almost 3 weeks of that I was sick of eggs. It seemed like whatever small town I was in it was the day the shops were closed, and there was no hot food anywhere on Sundays, (cooks day off), but that was in the 80’s. I think they are much better at tourism now. I went to do family history and had booked a week at an English riding horse farm, but got sick with a bad cold/pneumonia so that ended up being one lesson. But your bosses villa sounds like the type of thing I would like, but I would prefer some side trips to Florence and Rome and Venice too! Daydreaming……

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Thank you Joan – I am glad you enjoyed them. It’s funny … sometimes when I pass these posts on to you, and I scroll through them, I think I simply cannot wait until Summer … I always hated Winter, but since walking and writing, I seem more impatient than ever. I wish it was March 15th instead of February 15th.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Chomeuse with a Chou says:

    That does sound a lot more fun than typical ‘beach holiday romances’ and I really like the idea of mixing ‘chick lit’ with a murder mystery. I hadn’t heard of the author before. I hope you’re still surviving the snow. It feels like spring here – so unseasonably warm that the bulbs are starting to open…bad news if we get a cold snap later on 😕

    Liked by 1 person

    • thehomeplaceweb says:

      I’m jealous……snow and ice here…..but it is keeping me inside plotting……I now have a 20 page plot outline for my MM, which is a start, but it’s a lot harder than I thought……no actually writing yet though, still on character development and plotting.

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