Elin Hilderbrand’s newest novel compels readers to create a five-star weekend of their own.
As evidenced by Taylor Swift fans across the country, if you like a singer, you’ll be inclined to pay top dollar for a ticket and wait in a line that stretches around the venue for “merch.” And if you align yourself with the millions of devotees of author Elin Hilderbrand, chances are you’ll perhaps travel hundreds of miles to Cape Cod’s neighboring island of Nantucket to experience all of her favorite haunts (read CCL editor Julie Wagner’s piece recounting the author’s “Bucket List Weekend” in 2023 CCL Annual). Chances are even higher you’ll pre-order her latest book so that the author herself will pen her name inside your crisp, clean copy.
The latter is precisely what over 5,000 people did recently in anticipation of Hilderbrand’s newest publication, The Five-Star Weekend, which was released on June 13th. Per usual, however, her most loyal fans couldn’t wait to get the current blockbuster in their hands. Thankfully for the Hilderbabes, as her fans have been dubbed, Nantucket Book Partners Marketing and Events Director Tim Ehrenberg and Wendy Hudson, owner of Nantucket Book Partners, who launch Hilderbrand releases like a well-oiled machine, offered fans the opportunity to pre-order. And pre-order they did.
Ehrenberg enlisted the help of some extra hands, and the books—which had been personally signed by Hilderbrand—were hand wrapped in tissue and packaged along with a special gift of an Elin coozie and bookmark. Invoices were created, labels were printed and matched to each recipient, and thousands of books were bagged up and placed on to the cobblestoned street for seven USPS and one UPS truck to retrieve and deliver to the ferry, where they crossed the ocean and began their journeys to all 50 states—as well as several Canadian provinces and United States military bases worldwide—and into awaiting hands.
A project of such magnitude on a small island such as Nantucket, doesn’t come without its fair share of panic on the marketing director’s end. “We’re an island and obviously everyone knows that, especially people who read Elin’s books, but there’s always some extra worry to get so many books onto this island. They come by freight and as May is the start of the busy season, there’s an amount of stress that goes into getting them here. We are a small independent bookstore on a very historic old Main Street, and trying to store those books, personalize them, print the labels and invoices—it all has to be very organized. Which is why I don’t sleep!” But despite the intricacies involved, he wouldn’t have it any other way. “There was a sea of priority mail envelopes and it’s all just such a testament to Elin’s fans. It’s so much fun to be a part of—everyone reading the same book and I love being a part of giving readers something they can’t get anywhere else. It’s really the reason I think independent bookstores are still around, because we are offering something so unique. You can’t get this anywhere else—Elin lives right here and drove her Jeep from her home and sat in the basement and signed these books for hours.”
In any of Hilderbrand’s 28 prior novels that feature Nantucket, you will find unique differences, however, the similar thread depicting life on the enchanting island is woven throughout, and her latest work, Five-Star Weekend, is no different. Hilderbrand hits it out of the park (again) with this story of love, loss, and friendship and the strains that occur in each. While you’ll want to get your own copy and turn the pages for yourself—preferably curled up in your favorite reading chair or with your toes in the sand while the waves roll rhythmically in the background—the premise of the book is that main character Hollis Shaw, a popular internet food blogger with a life that seems pretty picture-perfect, is left reeling and re-examining after a tragedy strikes. After hearing of the concept of a Five-Star Weekend, where one woman organizes a getaway that includes one friend from each phase of her life (teen years, twenties, thirties and midlife), Shaw decides to host her own, on Nantucket of course. But despite her good intentions, the weekend is fraught with more drama and complications than Shaw had anticipated.
Literary admirers from all over plan to make the trek across the sea, 30 miles to Nantucket, to fully experience the island and familiarize themselves with all the venues and vistas that Hildebrand references in her novel—what better place to recreate, or create your own Five-Star Weekend? Hilderbrand’s self-proclaimed work husband, Ehrenberg, created a brochure that was included exclusively for the novel’s pre-order package back in June. He says, “Elin always talks about recipes in her book, so I included three recipes in it as well as an itinerary that echoes what Hollis made in the book—and it’s in even more detail as I included not just what they’re doing, but what they’re wearing, where they shop and where they’re going throughout the weekend. I know Elin’s readers, and I know they want to recreate these things!”
Hildebrand loves eating and cooking, and despite her self-deprecating Instagram posts which she calls “Cringe Cooking,” Ehrenberg says it’s hardly true, “Elin is an excellent cook—it’s a hobby of hers. In a recent interview on CBS This Morning, host Gayle King even said to Elin how her mouth is always watering when she reads her books because of the recipes!” Certainly, a common remark among online reviews of the book echo King’s sentiments: This book will make you hungry.
Five-Star Weekend enthusiasts will find no shortage of local suggestions in the book to help recreate their own celebrations of friendship. Arrive on island and settle in with cocktails and snacks like bacon and rosemary pecans that would be featured on charcuterie boards that famed food blogger Hollis creates on her page, “Hungry With Hollis.” Ideas for trips to neighborhood favorites include Wicked Island Bakery for their famously delicious morning buns, or noon nosh for lunch at the popular sandwich shop and bakery, Something Natural. ACK aficionados will need reservations at the premier beachfront restaurant, Galley Beach, where main character Shaw takes her unlikely group of friends to dine at the see-and-be-seen spot for lunch. For those looking to include a sail around the magical island in their Nantucket pilgrimage, a cruise aboard The Endeavor, the island’s oldest sailing charter, appears on Shaw’s weekend to-do list. Sue Genthner of Endeavor Sailing Excursions has noted an uptick in groups of girlfriends sailing with them. “I chat with people when they are making reservations, and many have mentioned that they’ve never been to Nantucket but after reading Elin’s novels they just needed to make a trip happen!” Genthner’s son and crewmember, James, is even mentioned in Five-Star Weekend. She remarks that visitors often ask questions about Tuckernuck Island, which has been mentioned frequently in Hilderbrand novels. “When we are out sailing, people will ask Captain Jim to point it out. He has never read any of her books, but he can tell you all about the plots and some of the characters just by listening to our guests chat about her books while onboard!” she says.
Keryn Wojciechowski and her group of longtime friends have been taking an annual girls’ trip for years; the women have known each other for the better part of two decades—neighbors, who have raised their children alongside one another (eleven in all) and have weathered life’s storms and celebrated its successes together, holding each other up with equal parts strength and laughter and even hoisting a cocktail or two along the way. For this year’s outing, they thought it would be fun to add the Elin element, so they packed a few color coordinating outfits and headed off to The Grey Lady. Wojciechowski says, “When we first arrived, we made our way to Cisco Brewers for cocktails and cards—which is a time-honored tradition in our group—and then checked into The Cottages at Nantucket Boat Basin to enjoy charcuterie a la Hollis Shaw, before heading off to The Gazebo and CRU for more snacks and drinks.” Sprinkled in between shopping, long walks and more snacks and drinks, the women made sure to end one of their nights dancing and singing at a Hilderbrand fave, The Chicken Box, an oft mentioned local bar in the author’s novels. “At Galley Beach Restaurant we tried to get a reservation for table 20, which is the specific table mentioned, and the host commented, ‘You read that book didn’t you?’” Wojciechowski recounts with a laugh. Additional Five-Star inspired stops included a trip to Jetties Beach and Wicked Island Bakery. Wojciechowski and her tribe, Maria Michaud, Shana Murray, Jean Teague and Ilana Weiss, culminated their trip with mimosas at Slip 14 before heading back to the mainland—a successful girls weekend celebrating friends who have become family.
Another Five-Star Weekend inspired event is in August, when the Nantucket Book Foundation hosts an event called “Five Star Evening with Elin Hilderbrand” in celebration of the book. The event will include a “Read the Runway Fashion Show,” live auction, and a conversation with Elin and Ehrenberg—all to benefit the Nantucket Book Foundation, whose mission is to build a community of readers and writers that extends beyond the shorelines of Nantucket.
Perhaps a Five-Star Weekend recreation isn’t in the cards right now, but you love to talk about all things book related—there’s the newest venture for Hilderbrand and Ehrenberg: the Books, Beach, and Beyond podcast. As the title suggests, the pair talk, and laugh and dish with guests that range from popular authors like Kristin Hannah to publishing industry insiders and well-known personalities such as Jenna Bush-Hager. Ehrenberg says of a recent episode with author Taylor Jenkins Reid, whose book Daisy Jones and the Six is a favorite of Hilderbrand, “It was just so much fun. Taylor is so real and funny and it’s honestly like they were talking while out at coffee or at their workplace, and then I add a reader’s or a fan’s point of view as far as asking questions, so that mix has been really fun.” There are 10 episodes planned to date, and listeners can join in on the fun, which feels a lot like talking with friends at the kitchen table or sharing insights at book club. Find booksbeachandbeyond.com online and wherever podcasts are found, on platforms such as Spotify or Apple.
Like so many of Hilderbrand’s books, Ehrenberg says Five-Star Weekend, “just makes people happy.” He adds, “And isn’t that something we’re all rejoicing about? There’s such a happiness and excitement to get a book and yet there are so many other things that people could be doing and to know I’m able to, and that Elin is able to, give them something that gives them joy— it’s just such a connection between author, reader, and bookseller.”
Five-Star Weekend can be purchased online at nantucketbookpartners.com and book lovers would do well to follow Tim Ehrenberg at his site timtalksbooks.com and @timtalksbooks and @nantucketbooks on Instagram in order to keep up with his reading recommendations as well as information on Elin Hilderbrand summer signing events.
Plan your own Nantucket Five-Star Weekend with these details from the novel!
4PM – 6PM: Arrive on Nantucket Island
6PM: Cocktails/Hors d’oeuvres (Charcuterie Board with Rosemary Pecans)
7PM: Dinner (Lime Cilantro Swordfish, Summer Squash Tart, Green Salad, Homemade Baguettes, Peach Cobbler)
8AM: Private Yoga
9AM: Continental Breakfast (Homemade Granola, Fruit Salad, Morning Buns from Wicked Island Bakery)
12PM – 5PM: Beach Day/Lunch (Something Natural Sandwiches, Asian Noodle Salad, Sliced Watermelon, and Paloma Sugar Cookies)
5PM – 7PM: Getting ready for Dinner/Snack (Sour Cream and Roasted Onion Dip with Chips)
7:30PM: Reservation at The Nautilus (suggested colors: black or white)
10PM: The Chicken Box
Leslie Hatton is the assistant editor at Cape Cod Life Publications.