5 February 2021

The Paradise Trilogy by Elin Hilderbrand



This is a 3-in-1 review because it covers the entire "paradise" trilogy by Elin Hilderbrand. I did sort of the same thing with her last series here. The books are super quick to get through and with the same locations and characters it doesn't really make sense to review them all separately. This is the first time Hilderbrand (that I'm aware of) has set her books someplace other than Nantucket, and not for that reason, but this is also the first time I've found myself bored of her writing.

Hilderbrand set these books in St. John, a US Virgin Island and somewhere I just learned she spends most of her winters. I feel like setting is especially important in a Hilderbrand novel as historically all of her books have been set on Nantucket and the island has come to serve almost as a character itself in all of her novels. Readers grow familiar with the restaurants and beaches. I myself have developed a groaning obsession with the place from reading her books and a deep, undying need to go there one day. 

St. John has no traffic lights, no chain stores, no fast-food restaurants, and no nightclubs, unless you count the Beach Bar, where you can dance to Miss Fairchild and the Wheeland Brothers in the sand. St. John is quiet, authentic, unspoiled."

Caneel Bay, St. John... the island is reportedly full of wild donkeys


For this reason, I was a bit nervous to jump to a new place, but I am happy to report that now I need to go to St. John. It turns out the locations are only as romantic as Hilderbrand writes them to be, and I must have told Scott while reading these over 100 times that we needed to go to St. John ("add it to the list" he says, like I'm not fucking serious). She makes places come alive in her work and if she didn't have homes on both Nantucket and St. John I'd swear they were paying her a marketing fee from their tourism budget. 

Sadly, at some point between writing these books and them hitting the shelves, St. John suffered from a hurricane. Hilderbrand includes a somber but hopeful note as a foreward for each noting that a lot of the places she wrote about didn't survive the storm, but that the island is still as magical as ever. 

Like a newborn with indecisive parents, a hurricane first forms without a name, as a collection of thunderstorms."

I know I've just now droned on about the setting for three paragraphs but it's really the best part of all her books. I was lucky to spend a lot of time in the Caribbean growing up and I still feel like St. John is something new to experience.

I've written a brief blurb on each of the books in the trilogy below but if you don't make it that far (I don't blame you), I'll summarize now. I found these books, besides the setting, incredibly dull. I didn't connect with any of the characters, I felt they all lacked real emotions considering the plot lines, and it felt really predictable in an unrealistic way. It's how the books would have ended if Nick Sparks had wrote them. I am really hoping I'm not hitting the Nick Sparks level of boredom with Hilderbrand because I get so excited about her new books. 

Check them out if you're looking for something light and easy to work through, lord knows we all need it during this year that's shaping up to be no better than the last, but there are better books out there even for this genre.

Winter in Paradise: This book serves as mostly character introduction and setting up the 'crime' that shapes the rest of the trilogy and connects all the characters. This was actually my favourite of the three but it's because I was falling in love with the island and hadn't spent enough time with the characters to be bored of them yet.

Cash avoids group tours for a reason: they turn even the most authentic experiences into a Disneyland ride."

A family discovers after his death that their dad/husband had a lavish villa and a whole other live on St. John and travel there to try and investigate what's happened. They end up meeting some of the people he was close to and forming relationships with them.

I can't say there was any one sub-plot I favoured over the others. Something I wrote down that I thought was funny is that one of the characters alludes to knowing an author was good because they'd attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop. It's a pretty famous writing program so yeah, but I had a little snicker because Hilderbrand attended it and it felt like she was patting herself on the back. I want to note that I found it funny but in a very annoying way.

His first year in Vietnam was spent facedown in the mud, in the jungle, in the rice paddies, fearing for his life every second of the day, developing an addiction to nicotine he still can't shake."



What Happens in ParadiseThis was probably my least favourite because really nothing happens (contrary to the title). The 'crime' that kicks the whole thing off in book 1 becomes stagnant and all of the plot lines surrounding character relationships I had predicted 15 pages in.

At the end of the first book the family returns home to the USA after sorting out their dad's affairs on St. John but in this book they all move there permanently after realizing the island had had a lifechanging affect on them. This makes things complicated for some of the people who live on the island, etc.



Troubles in Paradise: Once again this book is pretty stale except for the ending where Hilderbrand incorporates the hurricane that destroyed the island. One of the characters gives birth during it and the locals come together almost immediately after the fact to begin salvaging infrastructure, etc. I thought it was a nice nod to a place Hilderbrand obviously loves so much.

Maia gets tears in her eyes and thinks, I am never, ever having a baby. It's incredible that each and every person in this world had a mother who'd endured some version of this."

The crime plot is wrapped up in this novel (although it wasn't great and Hilderbrand should steer away from mystery as a genre), and as I mentioned previously, there's a sort of Nick Sparks-esque ending.

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