Special Note: Welcome to Seven Days of Hilderbrand! Want to learn more about Elin Hilderbrand’s novels? In celebration of The Rumor’s release, I’ll be posting a different review of one of her novels for the next seven days. Be sure to come back by and visit!
Every summer I look forward to visiting the beaches of either North or South Carolina with my family, relaxing under a shaded umbrella, and losing myself in the world created by one of my favorite authors, Elin Hilderbrand. Imagine my excitement when I received an ARC copy of The Rumor in the mail a few months ago—I couldn’t wait to dive back into Nantucket Island with Hilderbrand’s latest cast of characters.
The first thing I noticed about the book is that it is shorter than her usual novels. I immediately attributed the shorter length to the fact that Hilderbrand was fighting breast cancer during the time she was writing this book—completely understandable. Also—the subject matter of The Rumor—how quickly gossip can spread on a small island—is decidedly lighter than her other books, such as The Matchmaker (I cried for probably two hours after finishing that one), Summerland, Barefoot, etc. The novel centers around novelist Madeline King, struggling with writer’s block and a looming deadline for her next deadline (art imitating life, perhaps?) and her best friend Grace Pancik’s crush on her hunky gardener, Benton Coe.
As the mother of two children and a freelance writer, I found myself relating to working mom Madeline much more than Grace, who comes off as privileged and so into her house and gardens that it borders on the ridiculous. Grace’s husband, the realtor “Fast Eddie,” spends so much time wheeling and dealing (and digging them deeper into debt) that Grace is left to her own devices, which includes a beautiful estate, her gorgeous gardens, and a gardener who is just the distraction Grace is seeking. When she begins an affair with Benton and confides in Madeline, she never imagines Madeline will use the affair as the basis for her next novel as the answer to her writer's block.
The Rumor is juicy, fun, and fast-paced. Rumors abound all throughout the book, and they include Grace’s twin daughters, Hope and Allegra, and Madeline’s son, Brick. Is Allegra cheating on Brick, and why does Hope seem so happy about it? Why is Madeline renting a studio apartment on the island instead of staying at home—and why did someone see Grace’s husband Eddie visiting her there? The usual Hilderbrand mainstays are all in this novel—the gourmet food, the social scene, the pristine beaches, and a whole lot of sneaking around with some calamity thrown in for good measure.
I enjoyed The Rumor for the most part, except for the resolution of the storyline involving Fast Eddie. It’s wrapped up a little too simply for my taste and doesn’t jive with information given earlier in the novel. Also, at the beginning of the book, the relationship with Hope and Allegra is horribly strained, but after an incident toward the middle, they magically repair it, which I felt happened unrealistically. Those few items aside, if you’re looking for a light, entertaining beach read, Hilderbrand remains the “Queen of the Summer Novel,” in my humble opinion.
As a fun side note, I finally read Hilderbrand’s Christmas-themed novel Winter Street recently, and noticed Eddie and Grace Pancik made an appearance in that novel as well, as did a few characters from her other novels.