Monday, July 06, 2009

A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand

A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand
Copyright 2008
Back Bay Books - Fiction/Women's
408 pages

She turned on Claire with all the fire she could muster. "I'm not like you."'

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"I am not a cheat like you. I am not a Madame Bovary in love with someone else!"

"I only asked if you were friends!" Claire said. "I didn't say anything about--"

"You insinuated."

"I did not! I just thought it was strange. You have to admit, it was strange, you and Edward here alone . . . "

"Adultery is a sin, Claire. It's evil. You want to know what I think? There it is. You are committing an evil sin. Against Jason and against your children and against yourself. You are betraying yourself. You are a good person, a person who remembers the mailman's birthday, a person who picks other people's rubbish up off the beach. But now you're different. Look at you--dismembering the crustaceans!"

"You asked me to! You said this was what you needed done . . . "

"It's like all of a sudden you don't care about your soul," Siobhan said.

Claire has a lovely house, a handsome husband, four beautiful children and an au pair. She's a successful artist whose blown glass is displayed in museums. But, she has trouble setting limits. After working too hard during her last pregnancy caused her to collapse and nearly resulted in the baby's death, she gave up her work at her husband's insistence. Claire's certain something is wrong with her baby and she feels guilty about his premature birth but she really wants to resume her glass blowing.

When she's asked to co-chair the committee that puts together Nantucket's annual Summer Gala, she can't say no. And, when the wealthy Lock Dixon insists that the only thing that will possibly do for the auction to benefit the island's poor children is a work of art by Claire, she agrees. Claire even promises to secure her ex-boyfriend, now a world-famous rock star, to sing at the gala.

Claire quickly finds herself in over her head. Yet, she's happier than she's been in a long time. Her work is exhausting but thrilling. And, when she finds herself drawn into an affair with the magnetic Lock, she doesn't know how to stop. Will Claire's marriage and friendships survive her summer affair?

A Summer Affair was my first Elin Hilderbrand book and, boy, it is one juicy summer novel. In a previous post, I referred to A Summer Affair as "a soap opera of adultery" and that's still what stands out, to me. Claire is a weak person in many ways, but adultery is not something anyone who knows her would expect of her. She's nice--almost too nice. She also carries a lot of guilt. Claire and her friends shouldn't have let Daphne Dixon get in her car, the night of her accident. Claire shouldn't have worked in the hot house when she was pregnant. She carries her guilt with her everywhere and in everything she does.

Claire's a little afraid of Lock Dixon, at first. Surely he blames her for the head injury that caused his wife's personality to change. But, when he invites her to sip his favorite wine and talk, what Claire discovers is that Lock actually admires her work. Sparks fly between them and pretty soon they're involved in a torrid affair. Meanwhile, Claire is practically killing herself in her zeal to create the perfect work of blown glass for the gala auction. And, she's deceiving the people she loves. Her co-chair is a snob, the man in charge of incoming funds is skimming, and the thought of her former boyfriend and all they went through reminds her of simpler times.

I don't know what I expected to find in an Elin Hilderbrand novel. Maybe a little less angst? It's hard to remember, now that I've actually read one novel and I'm in the midst of another, but I don't think I expected the kind of character you want to shake. All the way through the book, I kept thinking, "Claire! You've got to stop! Think of your family!" I think half the reason I kept turning the pages was to find out if she'd ever come to her senses.

The scene I quoted made me chuckle and I always love it when there's some witty, smile-inducing moment (that scene also happens to be a pretty revealing and is important to the plot). I'd have liked a few more laughs, but in general I liked the tone of the book.

3.5/5 - Very good, brain-light summer decadence with excellent characterization. I enjoyed this read. Women's fiction is definitely not my favorite genre, but I found the book was well-written, with a lot going on at once. Hilderbrand creates plenty of questions to keep you reading. This one has a touch of graphic sex and some language, as well as talk of drug and alcohol use so I'm giving it a Not Family Friendly warning, although it's no worse than a lot of young adult fiction I've read.

Since aqua seems to be the color of the day and I can finally load photos, it must be time for a polar bear photo from the Memphis Zoo. Doesn't he look like he's having fun?


  1. Thanks for the sounds like a scandalous and carefree novel...just the right order for summer! lol

  2. I just finished The Castaways and thoroughly enjoyed it so I'm really looking forward to this one.

  3. Jo-Jo,

    Exactly. I loved the way you put it -- "scandalous and carefree". Perfect for summer, for sure!


    I'm just now reading The Castaways and enjoying it! Funny1

  4. I am reading the Castaways right now. My first book by the author.

  5. Mari,

    I'm enjoying The Castaways, so far, but I probably ought to quit running errands and playing on the computer, so I can really get into it! :)

  6. I just got turned onto Elin Hilderbrand when I read The Castaways and I loved it. Looking forward to reading this one at some point. Glad that you enjoyed it.

  7. Well it definitely sounds like it'll be a good book club read which is good since I'll be reading it with my book club in August. Thanks for the review!

  8. I love the random polar bear. lol This is an author that I have heard of before, but never really had a strong desire to read. Good review, though!

  9. Nicole,

    I'm reading The Castaways, right now. There are moments that I just love her (like that bit when Siobhan notes that Claire is enjoying pulling the claws off the lobsters in the quote from A Summer Affair) and her characterization has an amazing depth. I don't think she'll ever be a favorite, but I'm enjoying her books. They're quite different from my usual fare.


    I wouldn't have thought of this book as a club/discussion type of book, but now that you mention it . . . I can imagine a lot of fun topics from the book that are worth discussing. Hope you enjoy it!


    Thank you. My random polar bear would undoubtedly love you (at least enough to give you a good splash) if you met him. Or her. Not sure which. LOL

    I've been wanting to read Elin Hilderbrand for years, since the gals in my book group are so enamored with her books. I think I'm lukewarm. Her characterization is awesome, but I prefer a more plot-driven novel so I don't think she'll ever be a favorite. But, I'm enjoying the change of pace.

  10. Lovely Review! Love to read it!

    And Yes that bear is having FUN! Lovely color!

  11. Veens,

    Thank you!

    Doesn't that bear look like it's grinning? I would have been, too. It was hot, hot, hot in Memphis!

  12. Sounds like a fun summer read! Nice to know that there's a bit of humor tossed in with the soap opera plot. :)

  13. Despite the fact that you describe the book as "a soap opera of adultery", you've also made me want to read it just a little. Sounds like it might be a little deeper than I was thinking--just don't know if I can get past the adultery part. I do have it sitting on the shelf, so maybe I'll take it to the lake with me one weekend. So, will you be reading more of her stuff?

  14. Trish,

    The adultery part is what it's all about, so maybe you'd be better off reading a different Hilderbrand. I did read a second, though, and it had adultery in it -- The Castaways. Maybe it's her favorite "complication". You'll find you just want to shake her characters and tell them to stop, you idiot, before you lose everything. I've got one more Hilderbrand book, here, and I think it's going to be a while before I read it.


Thank you for visiting my blog! I use comment moderation because apparently my blog is a spam magnet. Don't worry. If you're not a robot, your comment will eventually show up and I will respond, with a few exceptions. If a comment smacks of advertising, contains a dubious link or is offensive, it will be deleted. I love to hear from real people! I'm a really chatty gal and I love your comments!