Author: Elin Hilderbrand
Overview from Goodreads:
A husband’s secret life, a wife’s new beginning: escape to the Caribbean with #1 New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand.
Irene Steele shares her idyllic life in a beautiful Iowa City Victorian house with a husband who loves her to sky-writing, sentimental extremes. But as she rings in the new year one cold and snowy night, everything she thought she knew falls to pieces with a shocking phone call: her beloved husband, away on business, has been killed in a helicopter crash. Before Irene can even process the news, she must first confront the perplexing details of her husband’s death on the distant Caribbean island of St. John.
After Irene and her sons arrive at this faraway paradise, they make yet another shocking discovery: her husband had been living a secret life. As Irene untangles a web of intrigue and deceit, and as she and her sons find themselves drawn into the vibrant island culture, they have to face the truth about their family, and about their own futures.
Rich with the lush beauty of the tropics and the drama, romance, and intrigue only Elin Hilderbrand can deliver, Winter in Paradise is a truly transporting novel, and the exciting start to a new series.
First of all, this novel is a part of a series with the last one being released this year. As a word of warning, you will want to immediately read the next one after you finish this one. (At least that’s how I felt…the moment I finished this book, I had to find a copy immediately to continue the story.)
I absolutely love the setting of this series – St. John – as it truly sounds like paradise. After reading, I found that almost all the places that the author wrote about are actually there and it gives an additional element of the story as you feel as if you could run in to any of these characters on a visit to the island hanging out at any of the locations from the novel.
Irene Steele is a mid-western magazine editor who lives in a beautiful Victorian home that she spent tons of time renovating to perfection. She seems to have the picture-perfect life, however, things might not be as perfect as they seem. Her two grown sons, Baker and Cash are also integral members of our story. Her husband, Russ, is constantly traveling for his job. During one of his business trips over the holidays, Irene receives a life changing phone call on New Year’s Day. Her husband has died in a helicopter crash in St. John. Irene had no idea that he was even in the Caribbean in the first place and now has to go to the island to deal with the aftermath of his death. In the crash were the pilot and an unknown woman. The mystery that surrounds his death is the central story of this novel.
Irene, Baker, and Cash arrive on St. John where they begin to unravel the secret life of Russell (Russ) Steele. They are taken to live at the house that he owned (that now belongs to Irene) hidden as its own piece of paradise. Both Baker and Cash end up having a crush on the same girl, Ayers. She is a guide on one of the tourist boats as well as a waitress. Not only is she dealing with her own life struggles, but her best friend, Rosie, just died. Her ex-boyfriend also wants to get back together. With three men interested in her, Ayers’ life becomes a lot more complex. Throughout this novel, Ayers tries to explore her feelings as it’s further complicated by the fact that she has a rule not to get involved with tourists.
Each of the characters struggle in their own way to deal with Russ and Rosie’s mysterious deaths to not only deal with the grief, but also with trying to find some closure with what actually was going on before their deaths and to come to terms with the deaths themselves.
Every character in this story is well-written and you become invested in each of their lives. Even though there are a lot of characters to keep track of, the author weaves together their stories with ease. The perspective changes as each chapter focuses on one of the characters – whether they are solo or interacting with each other. It is a great concept of writing as we get to move the story along, but still keep track of all of the players.
To me, the hardest part about this novel is the cliffhanger ending (it’s a great ending, but it does remind the reader that this is a series and not meant as a standalone) as it only fuels your desire to get your hands on the next novel. I honestly can’t wait to read book number two! It’s the hardest part about a series, especially a good one, is that you have to get your hands on the next one to find out what happens after the events of the first come to a semi-end.