Gather under the mistletoe for one last round of caroling with the Quinn family in this heartwarming conclusion to Elin Hilderbrand's bestselling Winter Street Trilogy.
Some of the stormy weather of the past few seasons seems to have finally lifted for the Quinns. After a year apart, and an ill-fated affair with the Winter Street Inn's old Santa Claus, Mitzi has returned to rule the roost; Patrick is about to be released from prison; Kevin has a successful new business and is finally ready to tie the knot with Isabelle; and best of all, there's hopeful news about Bart, who has been captured by enemy forces in Afghanistan.
That doesn't mean there aren't a few dark clouds on the horizon. Kelley has recently survived a health scare; Jennifer can't quite shake her addiction to the drugs she used as a crutch while Patrick was in jail; and Ava still can't decide between the two lovers that she's been juggling with limited success. However, if there's one holiday that brings the Quinn family together to give thanks for the good times, it's Christmas. And this year promises to be a celebration unlike any other as the Quinns prepare to host Kevin and Isabelle's wedding at the inn. But as the special day approaches, a historic once-in-a-century blizzard bears down on Nantucket, threatening to keep the Quinns away from the place--and the people--they love most. Before the snow clears, the Quinns will have to survive enough upheavals to send anyone running for the spiked eggnog, in this touching novel that proves that when the holidays roll around, you can always go home again.
Release date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Print pages: 256
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Margaret’s favorite kind of news story is—would anyone believe this?—the weather. The dull, the prosaic, the default I-have-nothing-else-to-talk-about-so-let’s-talk-about-the-weather topic is, to Margaret’s mind, a stunning daily phenomenon, overlooked and taken for granted. Margaret loves it all: hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, lightning storms, and—the ultimate bonanza—an earthquake followed by a tsunami. This may seem sadistic, but even as she mourns any loss of life, she is intrigued by the science of it. Weather is a physical manifestation of the earth’s power. Margaret also likes that weather defies prediction. Meteorologists can get close, but there are no guarantees.
The world, Margaret thinks, is full of surprises.
Margaret’s ex-husband, Kelley Quinn, has prostate cancer. He was diagnosed just before Christmas, which made for another muted, maudlin holiday. Margaret was tempted to take a leave of absence from the network in order to manage Kelley’s care, but Kelley’s estranged wife, Mitzi, returned to the fold and is now very much in charge. After twenty years of barely concealed animosity, Margaret and Mitzi have come to a place of peace, bordering on friendship, and Margaret would like to keep it that way—so she’s backed off. She gets updates every day or two from her daughter, Ava. Kelley’s cancer is contained; it hasn’t metastasized. He has been traveling back and forth to the Cape five days a week for his radiation treatments. Mitzi goes with him most days, although she’s made no secret of the fact that she finds the radiation aggressive. She would prefer Kelley to treat his cancer holistically with herbs, kale smoothies, massage, energy work, and sleep.
Margaret bites her tongue.
One thing that Margaret knows will make both Kelley and Mitzi feel better is getting definitive news about their son, Bart, who has been missing in Afghanistan since December of 2014. Margaret checks her computer first thing each morning for briefs from the DoD. One soldier from Bart’s platoon, William Burke, escaped to safety, but he remains at Walter Reed in Bethesda. He sustained life-threatening head trauma and, hence, the DoD has no new intelligence about where the rest of the troops are, or even if they’re alive.
But they might soon, Margaret guesses. Assuming the kid makes it.
The winter months are mild, a welcome change from the year before, and spring arrives right on time in the second half of March. It’s not a false spring either, but a real, true spring, the kind portrayed in picture books—with bunny rabbits, budding trees, children on swing sets. Margaret’s apartment overlooks Central Park and by the first of April, the park is a lush green carpet accented by bursts of color—beds of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, iris. Model yachts skim across Conservatory Pond. There are soaking rain showers at night so that in the morning when Margaret steps out of her apartment building and into the waiting car, driven by Raoul, the city looks shellacked and the air feels scrubbed clean.
It’s a good spring. Kelley will be fine, Margaret tells herself. Their son Patrick is set to be released from jail on the first of June. He already has a handful of investors and he plans to open his own boutique investment firm. How he managed this from inside the lockup, Margaret isn’t sure. She made him promise her that, from here on out, everything he does will be legal.
Margaret’s granddaughter, Genevieve, is growing and changing each day. She can now sit up, and technology is so advanced that when Margaret and Kevin connect on FaceTime, Margaret can wave and coo and watch Genevieve laugh. Kevin and Isabelle are busy with the inn, which, thanks to the clement weather, has been filled to capacity since the middle of March.
But what is really painting Margaret’s world pink is that she’s in love. Dr. Drake Carroll has changed from a sometime lover to her constant companion, best friend, and fiancé. They’d both vowed to make time for the relationship to grow. Margaret had wondered if she would be able to keep her promise, and then she’d wondered if Drake would be able to keep his—but she has been pleasantly surprised at how organic and natural it is to be part of a couple again. Weeknights, they stay at Margaret’s apartment, and weekends, they’re at Drake’s. They go out to dinner downtown at places picked by Margaret’s assistant, Darcy, who is a wizard at finding the most fun and delicious spots in the city—the Lion, Saxon and Parole, Jeffrey’s Grocery, Uncle Boons. They’ve been to the theater three times, and they work out side by side at the gym; on Sundays, they order in Vietnamese food and watch old movies. Drake sends Margaret flowers at the studio; he writes I love you in soap on the bathroom mirror. Margaret is besotted. When you’re in love, every day is like a present you get to open.
Margaret’s daughter, Ava, wants to take a trip, just the two of them, before Margaret gets married. It will be a bachelorette trip to celebrate the end of Margaret’s freedom! Ava says.
Margaret is lukewarm on the idea. The last thing she needs at her age is a bachelorette celebration. She harks back to a very drunken night nearly forty years earlier that found her roaming the West Village with her six bridesmaids. Alison, the leader of Margaret’s bachelorette foray, had insisted they stop at a bar to hear acoustic guitar music and then further insisted that Margaret join the singer—a very cute guy with shoulder-length hair and a naughty gleam in his eye—onstage to sing “American Pie.” Margaret impressed the crowd and the band so much with her voice and her knowledge of the lyrics that she got a standing ovation, and the lead singer asked if he could take her home.
No, Margaret had said. She had been genuinely confused. I’m the one getting married.
Obviously any trip with Ava would be a far cry from that, but at her age, even the word bachelorette makes Margaret cringe.
But one day, as she’s kicking it up a notch on the treadmill, Margaret is struck by a realization. This trip Ava is suggesting isn’t for Margaret—it’s for Ava.
Her daughter needs her.
Using her mother’s credit card and her mother’s assistant, Darcy—who has an inexplicably deep reservoir of general knowledge, considering her young age—Ava books five nights in adjoining ocean-view suites at the Malliouhana resort in Anguilla over her spring break.
She needs to get off the island of Nantucket.
Her love life is in a state of emergency.
Through the winter and into the spring, she has been unable to choose between Nathaniel and Scott and so she dates them both. Has anyone on God’s green planet ever successfully dated two men at once? Oh yeah? Well, how about on an island that is thirteen miles long and four miles wide? One night, when Ava was out with Scott at a romantic dinner at Company of the Cauldron, Nathaniel walked by outside, saw Ava, and started waving like a madman. He then proceeded to take a lengthy phone call right outside the window, directly in Ava’s line of sight. Ava wanted Nathaniel to leave so she could finish her dinner with Scott in peace, but she also wanted to know who Nathaniel was on the phone with. He seemed to be laughing pretty hard. Another time, when Ava was with Nathaniel at Cisco Brewers having a Winter Shredder and listening to the Four Easy Payments, Scott walked in with Roxanne Oliveria, aka Mz. Ohhhhhh, who still had a slight limp from breaking her ankle in December.
Scott said, “Hi, Ava.”
Roxanne said, “Oh, hello, Ava.”
Ava sipped her Shredder and said nothing. Nathaniel raised a hand to Scott and said, “Hey there, Scotty boy,” in a tone of voice that announced his victory. Roxanne smiled at Ava in a way that announced her victory, and then she requested “Brown-Eyed Girl,” a choice Ava found overplayed and obvious. Ava bumped knees with Nathaniel under the table, and although he certainly wanted to stay and make Scott uncomfortable, he asked for the check.
Ava has told Nathaniel and Scott that she is dating both of them, and she makes it clear they are free to date other people. Nathaniel says he has no interest in anyone but Ava. This is an effective strategy, especially since Ava has had trust issues with Nathaniel in the past and has, on occasion, questioned his devotion. On nights when Ava goes out with Scott, Nathaniel either stops in at the Bar with his crew or stays home and reads Harlan Coben novels; he always texts her when he’s hitting the hay. When Ava is out with Nathaniel, Scott goes out with Roxanne. This is also an effective strategy. Ava suspected that Roxanne was making a play for Scott, but she’d never believed Scott would fall for it. When Ava is at school, she will sometimes see Roxanne emerging from the main office wearing one of her low-cut blouses and a tight pencil skirt and absurd wedge heels. Roxanne teaches English at the high school—two buildings away—and there is no reason why she should be at the elementary school except to lean over Scott’s desk and let her long hair fall into her cleavage. Ava can’t believe the superintendent hasn’t spoken to Roxanne about the provocative way she dresses, and Ava can’t believe Roxanne still insists on wearing heels even after she’s broken her ankle on the cobblestones of Federal Street. Ava’s real problem, however, is jealousy. She is insanely jealous of Roxanne. Roxanne is beautiful and alluring; the wedge heels make her calves look amazing. Roxanne has also, apparently, revealed her vulnerable side to Scott, something he is unable to resist. Roxanne has been through three broken engagements—Fiancé One was gay, Fiancé Two was a cheater, and Fiancé Three died in a surfing accident while on vacation in San Diego. Roxanne’s loss of the third fiancé leaves Ava unable to hate her. Scott confided to her that Roxanne still sees a therapist to cope with Gunner’s death, and she bursts into tears over strange things—orange sunsets, the smell of lily of the valley, the song “Last Nite” by the Strokes.
Both Nathaniel and Scott have been available and supportive for Ava throughout Bart’s continued absence and Kelley’s illness. Nathaniel is better at doing things—he is the one who picks up Kelley and Mitzi from the boat or the airport after radiation; he is the one who wakes up early every day to check the DoD website to see if William Burke has made any medical progress or if any other troops from Bart’s platoon have escaped. Scott is better at talking—he asks Ava how she feels about Kelley’s illness (although outwardly optimistic, inwardly she’s terrified); how she feels about Bart’s disappearance (although outwardly optimistic, especially in front of Kelley and Mitzi, inwardly she’s terrified).
Together, Nathaniel and Scott are the perfect partner. Ava would like to live with them both forever or be married to each of them on alternating weeks. But since that practice isn’t acceptable in Western cultures, Ava will have to choose, and she can’t choose.
She needs time away with the wisest woman she knows.
Are there any woes that a five-star hotel in the Caribbean can’t fix? The Malliouhana resort is set amid lush, impeccably manicured gardens that are silent but for the sound of a gurgling waterfall and birdsong. The spa is down one winding brick path, the fitness center down another. The lobby is Moroccan inspired, with marble floors and rattan ceiling fans and gracious arches that frame the expansive view of the turquoise sea. Ava is further charmed by their connecting suites—pencil-post beds with crisp linens and piles of fluffy white pillows, enormous soaking tubs, French champagne in the minibar, and a bright orange hammock chair on the balcony.
Who needs Nathaniel? Who needs Scott? Here, Ava has to decide only between her Jane Green novel and her Anita Shreve; between the hotel’s infinity pool and one of three secluded beach coves; between rum punch and a glass of chilled rosé.
The first morning, Ava runs down the mile-long white crescent of sand that is Meads Bay, then, at the Viceroy hotel, she cuts in and runs another mile down the road. She passes a man, her age or a little older, who is wearing a Nantucket T-shirt and a hat from Cisco Brewers. Ava scowls—she can’t get away! Nantucket is everywhere, even here on Anguilla! She gives the man a lame wave, then picks up her pace.
Margaret has gone to the fitness center and they meet for breakfast at ten o’clock in the open-air restaurant, both of them still in their workout clothes. At the buffet, Ava piles her plate with pineapple, papaya, and mango, whereas Margaret dives into the French cheeses, the ham, salami, and pâté, and the warm croissants. The woman can eat whatever she wants and never gain an ounce.
Ava sees the man in the Nantucket T-shirt sitting in the restaurant with a much-older gentleman, probably his father or his uncle or his boss. Margaret notices the Nantucket T-shirt and says to him, “Oh, my daughter lives on Nantucket!”
“No, Mom,” Ava says, but it’s too late, of course. The man whips off his hat and stands up.
He says, “You’re Margaret Quinn.”
Ava closes her eyes. She loves how her mother rolls through life like she’s a normal person, seemingly unaware that every single soul in America—in the world, practically—recognizes her as the anchor of the CBS Evening News.
Margaret doesn’t respond. Instead, she nudges Ava forward. “This is Ava,” Margaret says. “She teaches music at the Nantucket Elementary School. Her father—my ex-husband—owns and operates the Winter Street Inn.”
“Mom, he doesn’t care,” Ava says.
“No, I do care,” the man says. “I’m Potter Lyons, and this is my grandfather, whose name is also Potter Lyons, but everyone calls him Gibby.” Potter smiles at Ava. “I love Nantucket better than any place on earth. I go every August for Race Week. Do you sail?”
“We put her in sailing camp when she was seven years old,” Margaret says. “There was a bully on her boat and she refused to go back. She hasn’t sailed since.” Margaret puts a thoughtful finger to her lips and turns to Ava. “Except that one summer when you sailed in the Opera House Cup.”
Mom, he doesn’t care! Ava thinks. He’s only appearing interested because it’s Margaret Quinn talking and she has a talent for making the mundane details of . . .
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