If you are wondering where to start or what books by Elin Hilderbrand to read next from the “queen of the beach reads,” look no further, as this post contains the best Elin Hilderbrand books. Plus, get a printable PDF of the full list of Elin Hilderbrand books to track your reading.
Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket are my happy places, and since most of Elin Hilderbrand’s books take place there, they always feel like a mental escape to me, as a coastal grandmother at heart. And I love how, while Elin Hilderbrand’s books are beach reads, the characters and storylines have some complexity. As a self-proclaimed preppy, I also love that these are books with preppy details!
First, if you’re extra curious or in a rush, below is a quick, shoppable list of all the books that made the list, along with their Amazon ratings.
Details on the 10 Best Elin Hilderbrand Books
- My #2 Top Pick for Elin Hilderbrand’s best book
- #1 New York Times bestseller
Best for those who enjoy popular culture references and decades-long romances
28 Summers lived up to all my expectations of a classic Elin book: It has a preppy Nantucket setting. It’s light but still has substance, well-drawn-out characters, and realistic (yet clever) dialogue. Lastly, it’s compulsively readable.
It’s about two people, Mallory Blessing and Jake McCloud, who decide to have a “same time next year” meeting that lasts each Labor Day weekend over the course of … you guessed it … 28 Summers. Naturally, this becomes more complicated with age, marriage, and kids.
While I can normally be critical about books glamorizing affairs, I thought this book did it in a really smart way that made sense and showed that all relationships are different and complex. I can also be critical of books dealing with 9/11 (sometimes it feels wrongly used for the sake of drama to me), but I thought this one handled it well.
And I would be remiss not to mention my favorite part — each “year” came with a rundown of all the pop culture items we were talking about at the time. It was just a really fun addition to a book taking place over a few decades.
28 Summers was a 5 STAR read for me. I read it during the midst of the Coronavirus quarantine and honestly felt like it “saved” me during this experience.
Best for those who love a good wedding story
Beautiful Day is Elin Hilderbrand’s Nantucket wedding novel. Years earlier, while Carmichael matriarch Beth was living her final days, she detailed instructions for daughter Jenna’s wedding in a “Notebook.”
Years later, she has passed and Jenna is planning her Nantucket wedding in the backyard of the family home per her mother’s wishes. While the idea of a “Notebook” (capital “N”) seems hokey in theory, in practice, it worked well. The tone and details were quirky and unique while never being too sentimental or sappy.
Along the way, there are “outtakes” by the guests and all the family drama that comes along with all Elin Hilderbrand novels, and weddings themselves, to keep you entertained and wondering how (and if) the wedding will play out. I flew through this one!
The Blue Bistro
Best for foodies
It begins with a simple sentence that ends up meaning so much:
“Adrienne needed a job.”
After Adrienne lands an assistant manager position for the last Summer the acclaimed restaurant The Blue Bistro would be in business, she lives the events of an entire lifetime in the span of three months. She starts dating her boss and part-owner of the restaurant, Thatcher, but there’s a third wheel in this relationship — Thatcher’s business partner and lifelong friend — Chef Fiona, who is reclusive and hiding a very big secret.
The descriptions of food in The Blue Bistro were nothing short of delectable and tantalizing, from the opening pages, containing a full menu of farm-fresh delights to the daily tomato specials in the month of August.
And the restaurant environment feels so real and alive that you can envision yourself actually working there, from the bustling bar to the melodic piano and the ocean views, along with the regular patrons and lively staff. I could feel the influence of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential within the pages. Magnifique!
There were some plot issues, and most of the reviews I read reflect that. All three of the main characters had some really unlikable personality traits. And the ending leaves multiple loose ends. That being said, I was still fully immersed in The Blue Bistro and really enjoyed it overall. I also know that MANY avid Elin Hilderbrand fans consider this to be one of her best books.
The Hotel Nantucket
Instant #1 New York Times bestseller
Best for fans of The Blue Bistro and the tv show Below Deck
The Hotel Nantucket is about the Summer in which a haunted old hotel is restored to the epitome of luxury and the staff who aims to get it a coveted “5 keys” rating. There are lots of references to The Blue Bistro and The Beach Club for fans of those novels, but you need not read them first by any means.
Like the TV show Below Deck (which takes place on a luxury boat instead of a hotel), the storyline follows drama and love amongst both the staff and the guests throughout the Summer, and there are even some twists!
Many readers are saying it’s their favorite Hilderbrand novel to date. For me, it was excellent but still fell below my top 3.
I should also mention there’s an amazing guide to Nantucket by Elin at the end, which I saved for future visits.
Related Post: Discussion Guide for The Hotel Nantucket
Best for fans of family/sibling drama
I loved the concept of The Identicals from the outset — identical twin ladies almost age 40, were split by their divorcing parents as children — Tabitha stayed in Nantucket with their fashion designer mother and Harper went to Martha’s Vineyard with their father.
Around age 25, the twins became further estranged by a tragic event, the exact details of which unfold over the course of the novel. When they experience difficult events (not to give anything away) with their parents, they “switch” islands for a Summer and tackle both their past and present lives.
I loved how The Identicals incorporated more of Martha’s Vineyard (my favorite of the two islands) than most of her other books and loved all the references to our favorite spots there. For this reason, this book made my list of best books set in Martha’s Vineyard.
One thing that did make me cringe was some of the adult behavior of the twins toward each other felt immature and just plain mean to me. I really don’t like it when adult siblings take “revenge” on each other, I would just rather them stay away from each other if they don’t get along.
Those parts of The Identicals were small, though, and overall it was another really enjoyable Elin read for me.
The Love Season
Best for fans of The Blue Bistro and coastal grandmothers
Never has a book ever reminded me more of the coastal grandmother aesthetic! The Love Season takes place in the course of one day on Nantucket, in which a middle-aged chef who made it on her own, Marguerite, goes about the day running island errands and preparing for a delectable homemade dinner with her recently engaged goddaughter, to whom she must reveal secrets about her past.
Throughout the day, Marguerite also recounts her past and sets the reader off on a jet to luxurious places like Paris, Morroco, and New York.
The novel’s short timeframe of one day, and the promise that deep secrets will be revealed, also add suspense. It’s everything a coastal grandmother will cherish, and I loved it!
The Perfect Couple (Nantucket Series)
My #3 Top Pick for Elin Hilderbrand’s best book
Best for fans of thrillers/mysteries
The Perfect Couple is one of Elin Hilderbrand’s best books because it truly transported me to the island of Nantucket while indulging in this “death at a wedding” mystery.
As you try to figure out whether the death was an accident or murder (and if so, whodunnit?), you learn that all the major players have secrets making them darker than their glossy exteriors. Oh, the drama and intrigue!
While the bride and groom may not be the “perfect couple” after all, this is quite literally the “perfect” book for Summer and/or a beach and/or an escape and/or all of the above.
And, by the way, while I have been correctly guessing the ending of the recent thrillers I have read, I did *not* correctly guess this ending of The Perfect Couple, so bonus points! I didn’t really find any “cons” in this book.
Best for fans of middle-aged protagonists
Silver Girl has been a popular Elin Hilderbrand backlist book, and it lived up to my expectations, with some common themes that are characteristic of her books and some unique themes.
One thing I really liked about it is that it was about middle-aged women, which isn’t always at the heart of Hilderbrand’s books.
Meredith Martin Delinn has lost everything, all because her husband Freddy cheated investors out of billions of dollars. Looking at this type of scandal from the perspective of the wife of an imprisoned man was unique, and I had empathy for Meredith’s struggles in dealing with public notoriety and managing feelings of guilt that she benefited from Freddy’s wealth as his wife.
Silver Girl is also very much about friendship as opposed to love, as Meredith’s old friend Connie contacts her to heal together in a Summer on Nantucket, after Connie’s husband’s death.
The story weaves in the history of their lives, loves, and friendships as they came of age in the Philadelphia suburbs. It’s a great read about starting over later in life and looking back on your past decisions.
Summer of ’69
- My #1 Top Pick for the best book by Elin Hilderbrand
- #1 New York Times bestseller
Best for fans of historical fiction with an uplifting tone
Elin Hilderbrand’s best book (in my opinion) has a bit of so many things I adore — historical fiction, family drama, Martha’s Vineyard, and pop culture.
The plot follows the Levin family during a monumental Summer in Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Whereas they usually all spend the Summer in Nantucket with their grandmother, this year, Blair is pregnant with twins in Boston, Kirby is working in Martha’s Vineyard, Tiger is fighting in Vietnam and only young Jessie is vacationing with their grandmother in Nantucket.
When the Summer of ’69 heats up, Senator Ted Kennedy’s car sinks in Chappaquiddick in Martha’s Vineyard, causing the death of a woman. And, man flies to the moon, all amidst a backdrop of civil rights and war.
Summer of ’69 keeps you immersed in the family’s lives and it transports you to the 60s at the same time for an extremely satisfying read. I simply could not stop Googling searches about the book and the background, which is always the mark of an excellent book for me.
Based on the quality of the writing and how much this book accomplishes, I recommend this one as the highest of all Elin Hilderbrand’s books.
Winter in Paradise (Paradise Series)
Best for fans of stories about family secrets
Winter in Paradise is the first of three novels in the Elin Hilderbrand Paradise series, an it will whisk you away to St. John, for a change of scene from Elin’s usual Nantucket setting. As a middle ages Irene rings in a cold Midwestern New Year, a shocking phone call changes everything. She learns that her beloved husband, who was away on “business,” was killed in a helicopter crash on the Caribbean island.
After Irene and her two sons arrive in St. John, they soon discover that Irene’s husband was living a secret life involving some of the locals. This one is pure drama and Winter escapism, with some heart.
Winter Street (Winter Series #1 of 4)
Best for the holiday season
In Winter Street, the first in a festive series by Elin Hilderbrand, Kelley Quinn owns the Nantucket Winter Street Inn and is the proud father of four grown children, all of whose personal lives are in a state of chaos.
The oldest, Patrick, is a hedge fund manager dealing with a white-collar crime. Bartender Kevin has a secret relationship with the Inn’s housekeeper. Teacher Ava can’t get her dream boyfriend to commit. And Bart, the youngest, and the only child of Kelley’s second marriage to Mitzi, is fighting overseas in the Marines.
Christmas approaches, and Kelley walks in on Mitzi kissing the Inn’s Santa Claus, bringing all of the family drama to a head. It becomes up to Kelley’s first wife, famous news anchor Margaret Quinn, to attempt to save Christmas.
It’s a light, yet heartfelt, holiday start to the Winter series of four books, filled with all of the family drama that can be characteristic of this festive season.
Frequently Asked Questions
Readers widely consider The Blue Bistro, an emotional romance novel set at a Nantucket restaurant, to be her best novel.
This list of the best Elin Hilderbrand books guided you through the “must read” titles from the “queen of the beach reads,” so you can devour all her most popular books first. To recap and help you decide what to read first or next, my top 3 best books by Elin Hilderbrand, ranked in order, are:
- Summer of ’69: light historical fiction drama set during a momentous Summer in Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard
- 28 Summers: a tear-jerker with a wealth of pop culture references
- The Perfect Couple: the ultimate “death at a wedding” in Nantucket mystery.
Share your favorite Elin Hilderbrand book in the comments below.
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