Fresh off a bad breakup, Nantucket sweetheart Lizbet Keaton is desperately seeking a second act. When she's named the new general manager of the Hotel Nantucket, a once Gilded Age gem turned abandoned eyesore, she hopes that her local expertise and charismatic staff can win the favour of their new London billionaire owner, Xavier Darling, and Shelly Carpenter, the Instagram tastemaker who can put them back on the map. While the Hotel Nantucket appears to be a blissful paradise, there's drama behind closed doors. The staff (and guests) have complicated pasts, and the hotel can't seem to overcome the bad reputation it earned in 1922 when a tragic fire killed chambermaid Grace Hadley. With Grace gleefully haunting the halls, the staff harbouring all kinds of secrets, and Lizbet's own romantic uncertainty, is the Hotel Nantucket destined for success or doomed to failure?
Release date: June 14, 2022
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Print pages: 447
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The Hotel Nantucket
Nantucket Island is known for its cobblestone streets and red-brick sidewalks, cedar-shingled cottages and rose-covered arches, long stretches of golden beach and refreshing Atlantic breezes—and it’s also known for residents who adore a juicy piece of gossip (which hot landscaper has been romancing which local real estate mogul’s wife—that kind of thing). However, none of us are quite prepared for the tornado of rumors that rolls up Main Street, along Orange Street, and around the rotary out to Sconset when we learn that London-based billionaire Xavier Darling is investing thirty million dollars in the crumbling eyesore that is the Hotel Nantucket.
Half of us are intrigued. (We have long wondered if anyone would try to fix it up.)
The other half are skeptical. (The place, quite frankly, seems beyond saving.)
Xavier Darling is no stranger to the hospitality business. He has owned cruise lines, theme parks, racetracks, and even, for a brief time, his own airline. But to our knowledge, he has never owned a hotel—and he has never set foot on Nantucket.
With the help of a local real estate mogul, Eddie Pancik—aka “Fast Eddie” (who, for the record, has been happily reunited with his wife)—Xavier makes the savvy decision to hire Lizbet Keaton as his general manager. Lizbet is an island sweetheart. She moved to Nantucket in the mid-aughts from the Twin Cities, wearing her blond hair in two long braids like the younger princess in Frozen, and at the start of her first summer on island, she found a “prince” in JJ O’Malley. For fifteen seasons, Lizbet and JJ ran a wildly popular restaurant called the Deck; JJ was the owner/chef and Lizbet the marketing whiz. Lizbet was the one who came up with the idea for the rosé fountain and the signature stemless wineglasses printed with the day’s date that became a social media phenomenon. Not all of us cared about Instagram, but we did love spending long Sunday afternoons at the Deck drinking rosé, eating JJ’s famous oyster pan roast, and gazing out over the shallow creeks of Monomoy, where we spied the occasional white egret fishing for dinner among the eelgrass.
We all believed that Lizbet and JJ had achieved what our millennials called #relationshipgoals. In the summer, they worked at the restaurant, and in the off-season, they could be found scalloping in Pocomo or sledding down the steep hill of Dead Horse Valley or shopping together at Nantucket Meat and Fish because they were planning to cure a side of salmon into gravlax or make a twelve-hour Bolognese. We’d see them holding hands in line at the post office and recycling their cardboard together at the dump.
We were all shocked when JJ and Lizbet broke up. We first heard the news from Blond Sharon. Sharon is the turbo engine behind Nantucket’s rumor mill, so we were hesitant to believe it, but then Love Robbins at Flowers on Chestnut confirmed that Lizbet sent back a bouquet of roses that JJ had ordered. Eventually the story came out: At the Deck’s closing party back in September, Lizbet had discovered 187 sexually explicit texts that JJ had sent to their wine rep, Christina Cross.
Lizbet was, according to some, desperate to reinvent herself—and Xavier Darling provided a way. We wished her well, but the once-grand Hotel Nantucket had a tattered reputation to repair (along with the roof, windows, floors, walls, and sinking foundation).
Throughout the winter of 2021 and into the early spring of 2022, we watch local contractors, architects, and interior designer Jennifer Quinn entering and leaving the hotel—but every single employee has been sworn to secrecy about what’s going on inside. There are whispers that our favorite fitness instructor, Yolanda Tolentino, has been hired to run the wellness center and that Xavier Darling is looking for someone with an “island pedigree” to operate the hotel’s new bar. We see Lizbet Keaton come and go, but when Blond Sharon bumps into Lizbet in the vehicle-inspection line at Don Allen Ford—Lizbet in her Mini Cooper and Sharon in her G-Wagon—and asks how the hotel is coming along, Lizbet changes the subject to Sharon’s children. (Sharon has no interest in talking about her children; they’ve just become teenagers.)
Jordan Randolph, the editor of the Nantucket Standard, ignores the first two calls he gets from Lizbet Keaton telling him the interior of the hotel is finished and asking if he would like a “behind-the-scenes first look.” Jordan is one of the skeptics. He can’t stand the idea of someone like Xavier Darling—a business titan from overseas—buying a historically significant property like the Hotel Nantucket. (Jordan is aware that Herman Melville wrote Moby-Dick before he ever visited the island. Does that make him feel any better? Not really.) But, Jordan reasons, if not Xavier Darling, then who? The place has been left to rot. Even the Nantucket Historical Association has deemed the hotel too big (and expensive) a project to take on.
When Lizbet calls the third time, Jordan answers the phone and reluctantly agrees to send a reporter.
Home and Lifestyle editor Jill Tananbaum is obsessed with interior design, as anyone who checks her Instagram will immediately realize (@ashleytstark, @elementstyle, @georgantas.design). Jill would love to use this job at the Nantucket Standard as a stepping-stone to a position at Domino or even Architectural Digest. Covering the renovation of the Hotel Nantucket could be just the way to do it. She’s not going to leave out a single detail.
As soon as Jill steps through the grand front doors, her jaw drops. Hanging from the vaulted ceiling of the lobby is the skeleton of an antique whaling boat that has been ingeniously repurposed into a statement chandelier. The ceiling’s beams, salvaged from the original structure, lend the room a sense of history. There are double-wide armchairs upholstered in hydrangea blue (which Jill soon learns is the hotel’s signature color), suede tufted ottomans, and low tables that tastefully display books and games (backgammon, checkers, and four marble chess sets). The far corner of the room is anchored by a white baby grand piano. On the large wall next to the front desk hangs an enormous James Ogilvy photograph of the Atlantic off Sankaty Head that succeeds in bringing the ocean into the hotel.
Wow, Jill thinks. Just…wow. Her hand is itching to reach for her phone but Lizbet told her that, for the time being, photos are forbidden.
Lizbet gives Jill a tour of the guest rooms and suites. Local artist Tamela Cornejo has hand-painted the ceiling of each room with a mural of the Nantucket night sky. The light fixtures—glass spheres wrapped in brass chain link—evoke buoys and ropes. And the beds—Excuse me, the beds! Jill thinks. The beds have canopies fashioned from driftwood and thick nautical rope. They’re a custom size—emperor—and they have ethereal white sheers hanging at the sides.
The bathrooms are the most spectacular Jill has ever seen in real life. Each one has a shower tiled with oyster shells, a hatbox toilet in a separate water closet, and a slipper tub, the base of which is painted the hotel’s signature hydrangea blue.
“But the secret to success for any bathroom,” Lizbet says to Jill, “isn’t how it looks; it’s how it makes the guest look.” She flips a switch. Surrounding the long rectangular mirror over the double vanity is a soft halo light. “See how flattering?”
Jill and Lizbet gaze at themselves in the mirror like a couple of teenagers. It’s true, Jill thinks; she has never looked dewier than she does standing in the bathroom of suite 217.
Then—then!—Lizbet tells Jill about the complimentary minibar. “I can’t count the times I’ve been in a hotel room and just wanted a glass of wine and a salty snack, but being charged seventy dollars for a bottle of chardonnay and sixteen dollars for a pack of peanuts is offensive when I’ve already paid so much for the room. So our minibars will be stocked with a thoughtfully curated selection of Nantucket-sourced products”—she mentions Cisco beers, Triple Eight vodka, and smoked bluefish pâté from 167 Raw—“and everything is free, replenished every three days.”
Free minibar! Jill writes in her notes. Nantucket products! Jordan should give her article front-page placement for this announcement alone.
Lizbet leads Jill out back to see the pools. One is a sprawling family affair with cascading waterfalls. (“There will be lemonade and fresh-baked cookies served every day at three,” Lizbet says.) The second pool is an adults-only sanctuary, a teal-blue lozenge surrounded by gray-shingled walls that will be covered with pale pink climbing roses in the height of summer. Around the pool are “the most comfortable chaise longues in the known world, extra-wide and easy to adjust,” and stacks of custom-ordered Turkish cotton towels in hydrangea blue.
Next, it’s off to the yoga studio. Jill has never been to Bali, but she has read Eat, Pray, Love, so she appreciates the aesthetic. The ceiling of the studio is an elaborate teak carving salvaged from a temple in Ubud. (Jill considers how much it must have cost to ship and install such a ceiling…mind-exploding emoji!) There’s a gurgling stone fountain in the form of the somewhat terrifying face of the god Brahma that empties into a trough of river stones. The light from outside is diffused through rice-paper shades, and gamelan music plays over the sound system. All in all, Jill thinks, the new yoga studio will be an idyllic place to find a child’s pose.
But as far as Jill is concerned, the ultimate reveal is the hotel’s bar. It’s a high-concept jewel box, a space painted Farrow and Ball’s Pitch Blue (which falls on the spectrum between sapphire and amethyst) and a blue granite bar. There are domed pendant lights that look like upside-down copper bowls and an accent wall sheathed in bright pennies! There’s also a copper disco ball that will drop from the ceiling every night at nine o’clock. There’s nothing like it anywhere else on the island. Jill is gobsmacked. Can she make a reservation now, please?
Jill races back to her desk at the Standard office. Has she ever been so inspired to write a piece? She types like a fiend, getting all the details down—including the rainbow-hued Annie Selke rugs, the curated selection of novels on the bookshelves of the suites, the pin-tucked velvet stools in the new hotel bar—and then goes back over the piece one sentence at a time, making certain the language is as gracious and rich as the hotel itself.
When she finishes her final edit, she takes the piece to Jordan Randolph’s office. He likes to read each feature article on paper and then mark it up with red pen like he’s Maxwell Perkins editing Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Jill and her colleagues joke about this. Hasn’t he ever heard of Google Docs?
Jill stands in the doorway as he reads, waiting for his usual “Outstanding.” But when he finishes, he tosses the pages onto his desk and says, “Huh.”
Huh? What is huh? Jill has never before heard her extremely articulate boss utter this syllable.
“Is it not okay?” Jill asks. “Is it…the writing?”
“The writing is fine,” Jordan says. “Maybe it’s too polished? This reads like one of those advertisement sections in the middle of Travel and Leisure.”
“Oh,” Jill says. “Okay, so…”
“I was hoping for more of a story,” Jordan says.
“I’m not sure there is more of a story,” Jill tells him. “The hotel was falling to pieces and Xavier Darling bought it. He hired local—”
“Yes, you say that.” Jordan sighs. “I wish there were another angle…” His voice trails off. “I’m not going to run it this week. Let me think on it for a little while.” He smiles at Jill. “Thank you, though, for going to get a ‘behind-the-scenes first look.’” He uses air quotes, which makes him seem like such a boomer. “I appreciate it.”
Privately, Jordan Randolph suspects that the Hotel Nantucket will be like a work of art by Banksy—after it is unveiled, it will shine for one glorious moment and then self-destruct. One person who agrees is a ninety-four-year-old resident of Our Island Home named Mint Benedict. Mint is the only child of Jackson and Dahlia Benedict, the couple who owned the hotel from 1910 to 1922. Mint asks his favorite nurse, Charlene, to push him all the way to Easton Street in his wheelchair so that he can see the spiffy new facade of the hotel.
“They can fix it up but it won’t succeed,” Mint says. “Mark my words: The Hotel Nantucket is haunted, and it’s all my father’s fault.”
Mint is talking nonsense, Charlene thinks, and he definitely needs a nap. She spins his chair toward home.
Haunted? we think.
Half of us are skeptical. (We don’t believe in ghosts.)
Half of us are intrigued. (Just when we thought the story couldn’t get any better!)
“Good 4 U”—Olivia Rodrigo
“All Too Well” (Taylor’s version)—Taylor Swift
“If Looks Could Kill”—Heart
“You Oughta Know”—Alanis Morissette
“Far Behind”—Social Distortion
“Somebody That I Used to Know”—Gotye
“Another You”—Elle King
“Gives You Hell”— The All-American Rejects
“Kiss This”—The Struts
“Save It for a Rainy Day”—Kenny Chesney
“I Don’t Wanna Be in Love”—Good Charlotte
“Best of You”—Foo Fighters
“Better Now”—Post Malone
“Forget You”—CeeLo Green
“Go Your Own Way”—Fleetwood Mac
“Since U Been Gone”—Kelly Clarkson
Ever since her devastating breakup with JJ O’Malley, Lizbet has been searching for an inspirational meme that will make her feel better. She spent seventy-seven dollars at Wayfair on a framed quote attributed to Socrates: The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new. She hangs it on the wall at the end of her bed so that it’s the first thing she sees when she wakes up and the last thing she sees before she turns off the light.
All your energy. Not on fighting the old. But on building the new. The secret of change.
Easier said than done, she thinks. She spends all her energy fighting the old.
Reliving September 30, the Last Night at the Deck.
Last Night at the Deck is a bittersweet tradition—it marks the end of the summer season. Lizbet and JJ have to say goodbye to the team they poured so much time and energy (and money) into building. Some of the staff will return next spring, but not everyone, so a summer can never be replicated. This, they’ve found, is both good and bad. Last Night is a time of bacchanalian revelry for the staff. Lizbet and JJ throw down an excellent party, opening tins of beluga caviar and bottle after bottle of Laurent-Perrier rosé.
One of the traditions is the staff photograph that Lizbet takes of them all leaning up against the railing with the Monomoy creeks behind them. She frames these photographs and hangs them in the hallway that leads to the restrooms. It’s a record of sorts, an album, a history.
Tonight’s picture will be the fifteenth. She can hardly believe it.
Lizbet calls for everyone to gather, and they configure themselves into a creative and cozy pose. Shorties up front! Goose, the sommelier, and Wavy, the head server, pick up Peyton, who is everyone’s favorite (and quite petite besides), and hold her lengthwise. Christopher and Marcus reach for each other’s hands, their first public acknowledgment that they’ve become a couple this summer. Ekash and Ibo and all the prep chefs, dishwashers, and food runners fill in, finding their places.
Lizbet uses JJ’s phone to take the picture because it’s sitting right there on table 10 in front of her. She punches in JJ’s passcode—0311, her birthday—and his text messages pop up, all of them in an amusingly large font (JJ won’t admit that he needs readers). Lizbet is about to click out of the texts when something catches her eye: I want you so badly. This is followed by Tell me what you want me to do to you. Lizbet freezes, but then she thinks, Wait, this isn’t JJ’s phone after all. It must be someone else’s iPhone 13 Pro Max with an electric-blue cover and a photo of Anthony Bourdain on the back and her birthday as its passcode. A split second later—it’s incredible how fast the brain processes even counterintuitive information—she understands that this is JJ’s phone. These texts—she scrolls back until she finds pictures of a woman’s breasts and what she knows to be JJ’s erect penis—are being sent to and received from Christina Cross, their wine rep.
Goose calls out, “Take the picture already, Libby. This bitch is getting heavy!”
Lizbet’s hands are shaking. What has she found? Is it real? Is this happening? Somehow she manages to play through (later, she will consider this a show of superhuman strength). She takes the pictures. They’re good. They’re the best ever. Then Lizbet takes JJ’s phone and hurries to the ladies’ room, where, sitting in a stall, she reads through the pornographic text messages—187 by Lizbet’s count—that JJ and Christina have sent each other over the past three months, the most recent of which was earlier that night. Lizbet wants to flush the phone but she doesn’t; she has the wherewithal to take screenshots of the messages and text them to herself.
Then Lizbet returns to the party. It’s in full swing—Polo G is singing “Martin and Gina” at top volume, and Christopher, Marcus, and Peyton are dancing. Lizbet finds JJ in the corner at table number 1, the most sought-after in the restaurant, drinking a beer with a couple of guys from the kitchen.
“There’s my queen,” JJ says when he sees her. He places a hand on Lizbet’s waist and tries to draw her in for a kiss, but she stiff-arms him, pushing his phone into his chest.
“I’m going home,” she says.
“What?” JJ says. He takes his phone, and the texts from Christina brighten on the screen. “Oh God, no. Wait, Libby—”
Lizbet doesn’t wait. She walks away, pushing past Wavy, who senses something is wrong and tries to stop her.
“It’s not what it looks like!” JJ says.
Oh, but it is what it looks like, Lizbet thinks once she gets back to the Bear Street cottage she owns with JJ and reads through the texts one by one. It’s exactly what it looks like.
The Hotel Nantucket is perhaps the only place on the island where Lizbet doesn’t have any history or memories with Jonathan James O’Malley, so when Lizbet hears that Xavier Darling has bought the hotel and is looking to hire a general manager, she drives straight to Bayberry Properties to see Fast Eddie.
“What can I do for you, Lizbet?” Eddie asks as she sits down across from him. She has caught him during a rare moment in the office. Eddie prefers to be out buzzing around the island in his Porsche Cayenne, wearing his panama hat, doing deals. “I hope you’re not here to list your cottage? Though if you are, I can get you an excellent price—”
“What?” Lizbet says. “No!” She tilts her head. “Why? What have you heard?”
Eddie clears his throat and seems uncharacteristically reserved. “I heard that you and JJ parted ways…”
“And that you’re eager to put him in your rearview mirror,” Eddie says. “For good. So I thought maybe you were leaving island.”
“Absolutely not.” If anyone should leave island, Lizbet thinks, it’s JJ! But she won’t drag Eddie into their drama; anything she says will be mangled by the Cobblestone Telegraph. “I’m here because I’d like Xavier Darling’s contact information.” She sits up straighter and flips her braids behind her. “I want to apply for the general-manager position at the new Hotel Nantucket.”
“You must have heard about the salary,” Eddie says.
“No. I haven’t even thought about the salary.”
“It’s a hundred and twenty-five thousand a year,” Eddie says. “Plus full benefits.”
Lizbet pulls back a few inches. Her mind lands fancifully on a trip to the dentist when she wouldn’t have to worry when Janice, the hygienist, tells her it’s time for a full set of X-rays. “Wow.”
“I’m happy to give you Xavier’s e-mail.” Eddie snaps his fingers. “Didn’t you tell me your father owns a hotel in Wisconsin?”
Lizbet’s father manages a retirement community in Minnetonka, Minnesota. As a teenager, Lizbet used to pull numbers for the bingo games and escort the residents to their hair appointments at the salon. One year, she judged the butter-sculpture contest.
“Something like that,” Lizbet says.
Eddie nods slowly. “Xavier wants someone with a background in luxury hotels.”
Lizbet blinks. There is no way she can make the Rising Sun Retirement Community sound like the Four Seasons.
“But he also wants someone who has dealt with the Historic District Commission and the Nantucket selectmen.”
“Me,” Lizbet says.
“And who can charm the chamber of commerce.”
“Also me,” Lizbet says.
“The hotel has quite a tattered reputation to repair.”
“Agreed,” Lizbet says. “I assume you’ve heard the rumors about the ghost?”
“I don’t believe in ghosts,” Eddie says. “And I never listen to rumors.”
Ha-ha-ha! Lizbet thinks. At least one of those statements is a flat-out lie.
“Xavier has his work cut out for him,” Eddie says. “There’s a lot of competition at the high end—the Beach Club, the White Elephant, the Wauwinet. I told him I wasn’t sure there was another seat at the table, but he was adamant, and he does have deep pockets. The hotel will open in June, and according to Xavier, it’s going to be the finest lodging this island has ever seen. But he needs the right person at the helm.”
Lizbet nearly leaps out of her chair, she wants this job so much. “I’ll send Mr. Darling my résumé tonight. Do you think you might…put in a good word for me?”
Eddie presses his fingers together in a way that seems contemplative, and Lizbet hopes he’s remembering all the times he called the Deck at the last minute and Lizbet found him a table, even when they were crazy full with a wait list. Eddie always requested table number 1 and Lizbet granted that wish when she could (that David Ortiz was sitting there one night and Ina Garten another wasn’t Lizbet’s fault!).
“I won’t put in a good word,” Eddie says. “I’ll put in a great word.”
The next week, Lizbet interviews with Xavier Darling over Zoom. Although she thought she crushed it—dropping the name of the chairman of the zoning board to underscore her local connections—Xavier’s demeanor gave nothing away. Lizbet figured someone like Xavier Darling would have a short list for the position that included people like the GMs from Wynn Las Vegas and the XV Beacon Hotel in Boston. However, only two days later, Xavier Zoom-called Lizbet and offered her the job. She was calm and composed as she accepted, but the instant she pressed the Leave Meeting button, she jumped up and down, victorious fists raised over her head. Then she collapsed in her chair and wept tears of gratitude.
The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
Lizbet had a proverbial clean slate.
She visualized a Hollywood production assistant snapping shut the clapper board as the director shouted: Take two!
On the morning of April 12, Lizbet is, unfortunately, back to fighting the old—specifically, she’s remembering how it was Christina who called her to explain away the sexting (Those texts are nothing, Libby, JJ and I were only kidding around)—when she gets a message from Xavier Darling; he’s requesting a meeting. It’s six thirty a.m.—Xavier, in England, is oblivious to the time difference—and Lizbet sighs. She was planning to get on the Peloton. But she has agreed to be at Xavier’s beck and call, so she pulls a blouse on over her workout tank, drapes her braids over her shoulders, and fluffs her bangs.
Join meeting with video.
“Good morning, Elizabeth.” (Xavier refuses to call her Lizbet, even though she has asked him to twice, telling him that the only person who called her Elizabeth was her late grandmother.) Behind Xavier, Lizbet sees Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, a view so iconically London, it might as well be a Zoom background.
“Good morning, sir.” Lizbet tries not to worry about his stern tone of voice, though she briefly wonders if today is the day the hammer drops and the hopes she has invested in the hotel will collapse, the whole thing a belated April Fools’ joke.
“I’m calling to shed some light on things that might have been unclear.”
Lizbet steels herself. What is Xavier going to tell her?
“You’ve never asked me—in fact, no one has asked me—why I bought this hotel. After all, I live in London and I’ve never visited Nantucket.” He pauses. “Have you wondered about this?”
Lizbet has, in fact, wondered, but she chalked it up to her understanding of the very wealthy: They buy things because they can.
“I bought this particular hotel,” Xavier says, “because I’m trying to impress two women.”
Whoa! Lizbet pinches her thigh to keep from gasping. This is probably the only answer worth sacrificing her thirty-minute hip-hop ride with Alex Toussaint for.
“Two women?” Lizbet says. She checks her image on her laptop screen; she’s maintaining a sort of straight face. Lizbet has, naturally, googled Xavier Darling. According to an article in the Times (London), he never married and has no children. The internet showed pictures of him at the Royal Ascot and the Cartier Queen’s Cup with young, combatively beautiful women on his arm, but never the same one twice. Who are the lucky two, and will they both be coming to Nantucket? Because that will get the island talking! She would love to remark that buying each woman a private plane or a minor van Gogh might have been cheaper.
“Yes,” Xavier says. “I’m going to share with you now who one of the women is.”
“One of the women I’m trying to impress is Shelly Carpenter.”
Shelly Carpenter, Lizbet thinks. Of course.
“Do you know who Shelly Carpenter is?” Xavier asks.
“‘Stay well, friends,’” Lizbet quotes. “‘And do good.’”
“Precisely,” Xavier says. “Elizabeth, I want a five-key review from Hotel Confidential.”
Again, Lizbet checks her image. Does she look incredulous? Yes—yes, she does. Along with eighteen million other people, Lizbet follows Shelly Carpenter on Instagram. Her account @hotelconfidentialbySC has become a national obsession. Shelly Carpenter posts at noon eastern time on the last Friday of every month—a ten-picture carousel of each property (she’s rumored to take these photos with her iPhone)—and the link in her bio takes you to her blog Hotel Confidential, where she awards properties anywhere from one to five keys. The secret to her success is her witty, brilliant writing, her razor-sharp intelligence, and her refined sense of what works and what doesn’t where hotels are concerned—but there’s also mystery involved. Nobody knows who she is. The internet agrees on only one thing: Shelly Carpenter is a pseudonym.
Whatever her real name is, she travels the globe, reviewing the Hampton Inn in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, with the same critical eye that she does the Belmond Cap Juluca in Anguilla. (Both received four keys out of five.) It’s well known that Shelly has never given a five-key review. She claims to be on a quest for that elusive five-key property, but Lizbet thinks this is a feint. Shelly will never give a five-key review; withholding it is her currency.
“Well, sir, we’ll try our best,” Lizbet says.
“That’s not going to cut it, Elizabeth,” Xavier says. “We are going to do what it takes to be the only hotel in the world that woman deems worthy of the fifth key. We are going to leave no doubt in her mind. Am I understood?”
“Yes, sir, you’re understood.”
“So we will get five keys from Hotel Confidential by summer’s end?”
A competitive spirit that Lizbet hasn’t felt since she raced her brothers swimming across Serpent Lake in Crosby, Minnesota, surfaces.
Building the new! she thinks. In that moment, Lizbet believes she can achieve the (highly) improbable—no matter what obstacles she encounters.
“We will get the fifth key,” she says.
For one hundred years, Grace has been trying to set the record straight: She was murdered!
In August 1922, the Nantucket Standard reported that nineteen-year-old chambermaid Grace Hadley had perished in the fire that consumed the third floor and attic of the grand Hotel Nantucket—a fire that had been started by an “errant cigarette of unknown origin.” Technically, this was true, but the article left out secret, salacious details that only Grace knew. The hotel’s owner, Jackson Benedict, had set up a cot for Grace in the attic’s storage closet, directly above his quarters, so that he could sneak up and “visit” her whenever he was in residence. In addition to her job as a chambermaid, Grace served as lady’s maid to Jack’s wife, Dahlia, who called Grace “homely” (not at all true) and “a smart aleck” (occasionally—okay, often—true). On Grace’s very first day of work, Dahlia spewed bathtub gin in Grace’s face, temporarily blinding her. (After that, Grace always
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