In bestseller Elin Hilderbrand's first Christmas novel, a family gathers on Nantucket for a holiday filled with surprises.
Kelley Quinn is the owner of Nantucket's Winter Street Inn and the proud father of four, all of them grown and living in varying states of disarray. Patrick, the eldest, is a hedge fund manager with a guilty conscience. Kevin, a bartender, is secretly sleeping with a French housekeeper named Isabelle. Ava, a school teacher, is finally dating the perfect guy but can't get him to commit. And Bart, the youngest and only child of Kelley's second marriage to Mitzi, has recently shocked everyone by joining the Marines.
As Christmas approaches, Kelley is looking forward to getting the family together for some quality time at the inn. But when he walks in on Mitzi kissing Santa Claus (or the guy who's playing Santa at the inn's annual party), utter chaos descends. With the three older children each reeling in their own dramas and Bart unreachable in Afghanistan, it might be up to Kelley's ex-wife, nightly news anchor Margaret Quinn, to save Christmas at the Winter Street Inn.
Before the mulled cider is gone, the delightfully dysfunctional Quinn family will survive a love triangle, an unplanned pregnancy, a federal crime, a small house fire, many shots of whiskey, and endless rounds of Christmas caroling, in this heart-warming novel about coming home for the holidays.
Basics and Initial Excitement
I decided to make this my first Elin Hilderbrand novel, as well as my first holiday book of this season. The synopsis grabbed me right from the beginning… and it helps that it takes place on Nantucket, one of my favorite places to read about. (It’s a couple of hours from me and I’ve never been there, but it’s similar to Cape Cod – one of my actual favorite places.) The book came in quickly at the library and I set off on my first seasonal read.
Characters and Story
The story is set over the Christmas holiday and begins on December 23rd. The Quinn family is used to gathering for the holidays at the Winter Street Inn that their father owns (and some of them still live at). This year, a wrench is thrown into the works when their stepmom is found kissing Santa Claus and leaves their father. The family has to move through the holiday parties and Christmas morning without one of the main caretakers of the inn.
I liked that the story alternated between all of the main characters so you could get into their heads a little bit. Some of them were harder to connect to or get a read on (because of all the POV switching) but I’m glad that format was chosen for this book regardless. The children include Patrick, who is having a breakdown over some things happening at work; Ava, a schoolteacher that lives at the inn and can’t get her boyfriend to commit; Kevin, a bartender who also lives at the end and is dating the inn’s maid; and Bart, who is currently unreachable as he’s deployed in Afghanistan. Bart’s mother is Mitzi, the one who was kissing Santa and left her husband. Margaret is Kelley’s ex-wife and the mother to the other children. She works as a famous newscaster. And then finally there’s Kelley, the patriarch of the family and current owner of the Winter Street Inn.
The winter-in-Nantucket setting was absolutely perfect for this story. I know most people think of summertime and the beach for places like this, but I’m a New England girl – I know that those quaint beach towns and villages look adorable in the snow. Small towns do Christmas right! I was a huge fan of reading about the island during the winter and thinking of all the tourists and locals coming together to celebrate at the inn.
Speaking of the inn, the main setting within Nantucket – what a perfect place to have a holiday book! I’ve always loved reading about bed and breakfast places, hotels, and inns for some reason. They’re the coziest places around the holiday season too. I would totally stay at the Winter Street Inn, especially at Christmas.
The story took place right in the middle of the holidays, which is my favorite. I love feeling the coziness of Christmastime… even when a family is in the middle of a million different crises. Some of their personal drama took away from the holiday feels a little bit, except that this was a story about “coming home for Christmas.” I did always get those wintery, holiday vibes while reading, but they took a backseat during certain family conversations or arguments. Nonetheless, this scores high on the cheer-o-meter.
You know you read a great/addicting book when you immediately request the rest of the series from the library. I’m not sure if I’ll actually acquire them and read them in time for the holidays, but it was worth a shot this year. I loved the Quinn family and definitely need to know what happens next for them! I’d recommend this books if you’re a fan of holiday fiction with the “coming home for Christmas” plotline, with a good amount of drama mixed in – but not too much! I thought the balance between each person’s personal life and the holiday stuff was perfect. I could have used a little more Christmas but that’s because I LOVE IT.