Book Review: Great Beach Reads by Beatriz Williams and Elin Hilderbrandt

Her Last Flight, by Beatriz Williams
28 Summers, by Elin Hilderbrandt

For anyone looking for a good beach read during these dog days of summer, two authors of the genre have new releases that might interest you.  I recently read Her Last Flight by Beatriz Williams and 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand.  I loved the former, I liked the latter, and I’m sharing my thoughts with you, dear reader, for what they’re worth.

Beatriz Williams is a best-selling author of lush, historical fiction.  Some of her books are meant to be part of a wider series (The Schuyler Sisters trilogy – no connection to the sisters of Hamilton fame, or the Wicked Readhead books) and all of her books seem to be a part of her own literary universe.  In other words, though this book is a stand alone story, fans of Williams’ work will recognize characters from other stories.  Her Last Flight is what I can imagine critics calling an achingly beautiful novel.  The story spans the globe and covers the exciting evolution of flight from the heyday of Charles Lindbergh and new flight records, to the weaponization of aircraft in the Spanish Revolution and WWII.  It’s essentially a story about Irene Foster, an Amelia Earhart type pioneer who disappears without a trace during an around the world flight, and Janey Everett, an independent and rather salty photojournalist who thinks she just may have solved the mystery of Foster’s disappearance.  As we learn the stories of these two women, we are treated to tales of female empowerment in difficult terrain, complicated parent/child relationships, and epic romantic stories that capture the rapture, hope, and sometimes heartbreak of love.  If you’ve got a case of wanderlust, this story will take you to Hawaii, California, Australia, Spain, France, and a few far-flung locales in between.  I have read all of Williams’ novels, and to me, this one is as strong as anything she’s written.  Her Last Flight wrapped me in a dreamy mood and stayed with me for days.  I highly recommend this book as a satisfying beach read.

28 Summers was the selection for a Mom’s bookclub that meets on the beach (Maine is pretty great!).  I’ve read a few of Hilderbrand’s books, and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read.  Her novels are set on beautiful Nantucket, and it’s clear that she loves the island.  She also has a knack for describing food and drink with appetizing detail.  I confess to seeking out Sancerre from my local beverage retailer to see for myself how refreshing it is (it’s featured in all of her novels that I’ve read; it’s now a favorite summer white).  All this is to say that I approached this book expecting to enjoy it.  The basic premise of the story is that Mallory Blessing, a 20-something recent graduate trying to make her way in NYC, inherits a cottage on Nantucket and escapes her unhappy city life.  Her big brother comes to spend Labor Day weekend with her, and he brings his best friend from their hometown, Fray, and his college roommate, Jake.  Mallory and Jake have spoken on the phone, but never met.  It turns out that Jake and Mallory have a real connection, and it spawns a unique relationship whereby they meet every summer over Labor Day weekend, no matter what.  We are supposed to want Mallory and Jake to be together for always, but they have created a self-imposed obstacle to their happiness.  Over the years, we’re along for a ride of their individual ups and downs, triumphs and heartbreaks, children and career changes.  The end is heart-wrenching, though we know how it ends from the first pages of the book.  It’s a good read – a consumable read – and even if it doesn’t leave you in the sort of fog where you can’t quite part with the characters, it’s a solid option for escapist fun.  As with Williams’ novels, fans will enjoy the cameos from other characters in the Hilderbrand universe.  Though different, I found these books to be interesting companions.  They both explore femininity, motherhood, friendships, love and loss, and the life-changing nature of unsought fame.  If anyone would like to read these books and gather a group for discussion, I recommend meeting on the beach.  Perhaps with a glass of Sancerre.

Review by Emily Read, Development Director.

Click here to reserve a copy of Her Last Flight. (It is also available through the Cloud Library in eBook or eAudiobook format.)

Click here to reserve a copy of 28 Summers.

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