There’s going to be a wedding on Nantucket. There’s certainly nothing unusual about that during the summer season. But the wedding of Celeste Otis to Benji Winbury will be a lavish affair hosted by Benji’s parents at the Winbury estate. Celeste’s parents, in contrast, come from modest means. Karen, her mother, thought she had beaten breast cancer, but it has metastasized in her bones and she has been advised by her physician that she has only a few months to live. Thus, Benji’s mother, Greer, a best-selling mystery novelist, has orchestrated the whole event to her own demanding specifications.
But on the morning of the wedding, the body of Merritt Monaco, the Maid of Honor, is found floating in Nantucket Harbor by the wedding planner. The wedding cannot proceed as planned, of course. Chief of Police Ed Kapenash, assisted by state police department detective Nicholas Diamantopulos, aka “the Greek,” begins the investigation into what happened the prior evening following the wedding rehearsal and dinner.
Nearly everyone is a suspect, including Celeste, Benji, and Greer. Also on the list of suspects are the groom’s father, brother, and even the Chief’s own teenage niece, Chloe, who is employed by the caterer and was one of the servers during the rehearsal dinner.
Perhaps most interestingly, the Best Man, Shooter Uxley, is missing.
As the investigation proceeds, one thing becomes clear: No couple is perfect.
The Perfect Couple is an engrossing and entertaining mystery. Celeste was swept off her feet by the charming Benji who comes from a wealthy, well-connected family. Celeste is the Assistant Director of the Bronx Zoo, the only child of parents she adores. Her father, Bruce, works in the suit department at Neiman-Marcus. Karen’s medical state has gutted Celeste — and she doesn’t even know that the cancer has spread to Karen’s stomach and liver. In response to Karen’s condition, the wedding was moved up to ensure Karen’s attendance. However, since becoming engaged to Benji, Celeste has developed a troubling stutter that causes her mother to worry about whether Celeste’s decision to marry Benji has been motivated more by a desire to be secure than the dream of being loved and happy. Karen is torn — about to marry the wealthy Benji, her daughter is in a “situation any other young woman would kill to find herself in. Celeste and Benji don’t have to be a perfect couple. Really, there is no such thing.” But is the Winbury family money worth a lifetime of settling?
The Winbury family, despite their wealth and power, have their own issues. Greer’s latest novel has been rejected by her publisher who demands an immediate and complete re-write. Benji’s brother, Thomas, has a troubled marriage. Their father, Tag, has a long history of infidelity which Greer has chosen to overlook.
Throughout what was supposed to be Celeste and Benji’s wedding day, Chief Kapanesh’s investigation focuses on how Merritt came to be in the water where she drowned with a cut on her foot, bruise on her wrist, and a barbiturate in her bloodstream. As he interviews those gathered for the nuptials, details are revealed about the relationships of the suspects. Information comes to light about what happened during and, more critically, after the rehearsal dinner.
Hilderbrand imbues the eclectic cast of characters with secret motivations for their conduct. Overheard conversations and Merritt’s visible distress that night demonstrate who may have had a motive to kill Merritt. The deceased had a not-so-innocent past herself, including an affair with her married former employer.
Into the Otis family, Hilderbrand infuses the humanity and compassion that set the book apart. Bruce and Karen are devoted to each other, despite one large secret that Karen discovers as the day wears on. Karen conceals her intent to deal with her cancer in the way she deems most loving and best for her beloved husband and daughter. She “hasn’t talked to Bruce about life after she’s gone because he refuses to acknowledge the inevitable — which, she supposes, is better than him accepting it too readily.”
In contrast, the scheming, entitled Winbury clan have their own secrets and, as to a couple of them, reasons to want Merritt eliminated.
Through it all the question of whether Celeste really loves Benji enough to marry him lingers. She struggles with her guilt about her true feelings, convinced that if she doesn’t marry Benji, her actions will bring about her mother’s demise. It’s a question to which Shooter, who has achieved success solely through his own charm, intelligence, and perseverance, would very much like the answer.
Hilderbrand keeps the action moving forward, revealing titillating details that pique reader curiosity. In The Perfect Couple, as noted, nearly every character is a suspect but when the killer is finally revealed, most readers will have guessed incorrectly. The characters are diverse and entertaining, and the story, especially concerning Karen and Bruce, is surprisingly moving. Hilderbrand provides readers with the satisfying ending they have come to expect from her.
Hilderbrand is known for her engrossing “beach reads” and The Perfect Couple, her twenty-first novel, is the first mystery she has penned, although it certainly bears the hallmarks for which she is known and characters from some of her prior novels, including The Castaways, Beautiful Day, and A Summer Affair. The Perfect Couple does not disappoint. It is a perfect beach mystery.
Excerpt from The Perfect Couple
Saturday, July 7, 2018, 5:53 a.m.
A phone call before six on a Saturday morning is never a good thing, although it’s not unheard of on a holiday weekend. Too many times to count, Chief Ed Kapenash of the Nantucket Police Department has seen the Fourth of July go sideways. The most common accident is a person blowing off a finger while lighting fireworks. Sometimes things are more serious. One year, they lost a swimmer to the riptide; another year, a man drank ten shots of Patrón Añejo and then did a backflip off the roof of the Allserve building and hit the water in such a way that his neck snapped. There are generally enough drunk-and-disorderlies to fill a sightseeing bus, as well as dozens of fistfights, a handful of which are so serious that the police have to get involved.
When the call comes in, Andrea and the kids are fast asleep. Chloe and Finn are sixteen, an age the Chief escaped easily with his own children, he now realizes. Chloe and Finn—who are properly the children of Andrea’s cousin Tess and Tess’s husband, Greg, who died in a boating accident nine years ago—are proving to be more of a challenge. Finn has a girlfriend named Lola Budd, and their young love is turning the household upside down. Finn’s twin sister, Chloe, has a summer job working for Siobhan Crispin at Island Fare, Nantucket’s busiest catering company.
The Chief and Andrea have divided their concerns about the twins neatly down the middle. Andrea worries about Finn getting Lola Budd pregnant (though the Chief, awkwardly, presented Finn with a giant box of condoms and a rather stern directive: Use these. Every single time). The Chief worries about Chloe getting into drugs and alcohol. The Chief has seen again and again the way the food-and-beverage industry leads its unsuspecting employees into temptation. The island of Nantucket has over a hundred liquor licenses; other, similar-size towns in Massachusetts have an average of twelve. As a summertime resort, the island has a culture of celebration, frivolity, excess. It’s the Chief’s job to give the annual substance-abuse talk the week before the high-school prom; this year, both Finn and Chloe had been in attendance, and afterward, neither of them would so much as look at him.
He often feels he’s too old for the enormous responsibility of raising teenagers. And impressing them is most certainly beyond him.
The Chief takes his phone out onto the back deck, which looks west over protected wetlands; his conversations here are private, overheard only by the redwing blackbirds and the field mice. The house has a great view of sunsets but not, unfortunately, of the water.
The call is from Sergeant Dickson, one of the best in the department.
“Ed,” he says. “We have a floater.”
The Chief closes his eyes. Dickson had been the one to tell the Chief that Tess and Greg were dead. Sergeant Dickson has no problem delivering disturbing news; in fact, he seems to relish it.
“Go ahead,” the Chief says.
“Caucasian female by the name of Merritt Monaco. Twenty-nine years old, from New York City, here on Nantucket for a wedding. She was found floating facedown just off the shore in front of three-three-three Monomoy Road, where the wedding is being held. The cause of death appears to be drowning. Roger Pelton called it in. You know Roger, the guy who does the expensive weddings?”
“I do,” the Chief says. The Chief is in Rotary Club with Roger Pelton.
“Roger told me it’s his MO to check on each wedding site first thing in the morning,” Dickson says. “When he got here, he said he heard screaming. Turns out, the bride had just pulled the body out of the water. Roger tried CPR but the girl was dead, he said. He seemed to think she’d been dead for a few hours.”
“That’s for the ME to determine,” the Chief says. “Three-three-three Monomoy Road, you said?”
“It’s a compound,” Dickson says. “Main house, two guest cottages, and a pool house. The name of the property is Summerland.”
Summerland. The Chief has seen the sign, though he has never been to the house. That stretch of Monomoy Road is the stratospherically high-rent district. The people who live on that road generally don’t have problems that require the police. The houses have sophisticated security systems, and the residents use discretion to keep any issues under wraps.
“Has everyone else been notified?” the Chief asks. “The state police? The ME?”
“Affirmative,” Dickson says. “The Greek is on his way to the address now. He was here on island last night, lucky for us. But both Cash and Elsonhurst are on vacay until Monday and I’m at the end of a double, so I don’t know who else you want to call in. The other guys are kind of green—”
“I’ll worry about that in a minute,” the Chief says. “Does the girl have family to notify?”
“I’m not sure,” Dickson says. “The bride was so upset that I told the EMTs to take her to the hospital. She needed a Xanax, and badly. She could barely breathe, much less speak.”
“The paper will have to leave this alone until we notify next of kin,” the Chief says. Which is one small piece of good news; the last thing the Chief wants is Jordan Randolph from the Nantucket Standard sniffing around his crime scene. The Chief can’t believe he missed the 911 call on the scanner. Over the years he has developed an uncanny filter where the scanner is concerned; he knows, even in his sleep, what deserves his attention and what he can let pass. But now he has a dead body.
They have to assume foul play by law, although here on Nantucket, violent crime is rare. The Chief has been working on this island for nearly thirty years and in all that time, he has seen only three homicides. One per decade.
Roger Pelton called it in. The Chief has heard Roger’s name recently. Really recently, at some point in the past couple of days. And a compound in Monomoy—that rings a bell too. But why?
He hears a light tap on the window, and through the glass slider, he sees Andrea in her nightshirt, holding up a cup of coffee. Chloe is moving around the kitchen behind her, dressed in her catering uniform of white shirt and black pants.
Chloe is awake already? the Chief thinks. At six o’clock in the morning? Or did she get home so late last night that she fell asleep in her clothes?
Yes, he thinks. She worked a rehearsal dinner the night before. Then it clicks: Chloe told the Chief that the rehearsal dinner and the wedding were being held in Monomoy and that Roger was the wedding coordinator. It’s the same wedding. The Chief shakes his head, even though he knows better than anyone that this is a small island.
“Was the woman you found staying at the compound where the wedding is taking place today?” the Chief asks.
“Affirmative,” Dickson says. “She was the maid of honor, Chief. I don’t think there’s going to be any wedding.”
Andrea, possibly recognizing the expression on the Chief’s face, steps out to the deck, hands Ed his coffee, and disappears inside. Chloe has vanished. She has probably headed upstairs to shower for work, which will now be canceled. News like this travels fast; the Chief expects that Siobhan Crispin will be calling at any moment.
What else did Chloe say about that wedding? One of the families is British, the mother famous somehow—an actress? A theater actress? A playwright? Something.
The Chief takes the first sip of his coffee. “You’re still on-site, correct, Dickson? Have you talked to anyone other than the bride and Roger?”
“Yeah, I talked to the groom,” Dickson says. “He wanted to go with the bride to the hospital. But first he went inside one of the guest cottages to grab his wallet and his phone and he came right back out to tell me the best man is missing.”
“Missing?” the Chief says. “Is it possible we have two people dead?”
“I checked the water, down the beach, and out a few hundred yards in both directions with my field glasses,” Dickson says. “It was all clear. But at this point, I’d say anything is possible.”
“Tell the Greek to wait for me, please,” the Chief says. “I’m on my way.”
Friday, July 6, 2018, 9:15 a.m.
Greer Garrison Winbury thrives on tradition, protocol, and decorum but on the occasion of her younger son’s wedding, she is happy to toss all three out the window. It’s customary for the bride’s parents to host and pay for their daughter’s nuptials, but if that were the case with Benji and Celeste, the wedding would be taking place in a church at the mall with a reception following at TGI Fridays.
You’re a terrific snob, Greer, her husband, Tag, is fond of saying. Greer fears that this is true. But where Benji’s wedding was concerned, she had to intervene. Look what she’d endured when Thomas married Abigail Freeman: a Texas wedding, with all of Mr. Freeman’s oil money on grand, grotesque display. There had been three hundred people at the “welcome party” at the Salt Lick BBQ—Greer had hoped to live her whole life without ever patronizing a place called the Salt Lick BBQ—where the suggested dress code was “hill-country casual,” and when Greer asked Thomas what that could possibly mean, he’d said, Wear jeans, Mom.
Wear jeans to her elder son’s wedding celebration? Greer had opted for wide-legged ivory trousers and stacked Ferragamo heels. Ivory had turned out to be a poor choice, as the guests of this welcome party had all been expected to eat pork ribs with their fingers. Shrieks of joy had gone up when there had been a surprise appearance by a country singer named George Strait, whom everyone called “the King of Country.” Greer still can’t imagine how much it must have cost Mr. Freeman to hire the King of Country—and for an event that wasn’t even part of the usual nuptial schedule.
As Greer drives the Defender 90 (Tag had it rebuilt and shipped over from England) down to the Hy-Line ferry to pick up Celeste’s parents, Bruce and Karen Otis, she sings along to the radio. It’s B. J. Thomas’s “Hooked on a Feeling.”
This weekend, Greer is effectively the bride’s mother as well as the groom’s, for she is 100 percent in charge. She hasn’t encountered one iota of resistance from anyone, including Celeste herself; the girl responds to all of Greer’s suggestions with the exact same text: Sounds good. (Greer despises texting, but if one wants to communicate with Millennials, one must abandon old-fashioned notions like expecting to speak on the phone.) Greer has to admit, it has been far easier to get her way with the color scheme, the invitations, the flowers, and the caterer than she ever anticipated. It’s as if this were her own wedding, thirty-two years later… minus her overbearing mother and grandmother, who insisted on an afternoon reception in the sweltering garden of Swallowcroft, and minus a fiancé who insisted on a stag party the night before the wedding. Tag had gotten home at seven o’clock in the morning smelling of Bushmills and Chanel No. 9. When Greer had started weeping and demanding to know if he’d actually had the gall to sleep with another woman the night before his wedding, Greer’s mother took her aside and told her that the most important skill required in marriage was picking one’s battles.
Make sure they’re ones you can win, her mother had said.
Greer has tried to remain vigilant where Tag’s fidelity is concerned, although it has been exhausting with a man as charismatic as her husband. Greer has never found hard evidence of any indiscretions, but she has certainly had her suspicions. She has them right up to this very minute about a woman named Featherleigh Dale, who will be arriving on Nantucket from London in a few short hours. If Featherleigh is silly and careless enough to wear the silver-lace ring with the pink, yellow, and blue sapphires—Greer knows exactly what the ring looks like because Jessica Hicks, the jeweler, showed her a picture!—then Greer’s hunch will be confirmed.
Greer encounters traffic on Union Street. She should have left more time; she cannot be late for the Otises. Greer has yet to meet either of Celeste’s parents in person and she would like to make a good impression and not leave them to wander forlornly around Straight Wharf on this, their first trip to the island. Greer had worried about hosting a wedding so close to the Fourth of July, but it was the only weekend that worked over the course of the entire summer and they couldn’t put it off until autumn because Karen, Celeste’s mother, has stage 4 breast cancer. No one knows how much time she has left.
The song ends, traffic comes to a dead stop, and the sense of foreboding that Greer has successfully held at bay until now fills the car like a foul smell. Usually, Greer feels unsettled about only two things: her husband and her writing, and the writing always sorts itself out in the end (declining book sales aside, although, really, it’s Greer’s job to write the mysteries, not sell them). But now she worries about… well, if she has to pinpoint the exact locus of her dismay she would say it is Celeste. The ease with which Greer has been able to take control of this wedding suddenly seems suspect. As Greer’s mother used to say, Things that seem too good to be true usually are.
It’s as if Celeste doesn’t care about the wedding. At all. How had Greer ignored this possibility for four months? She had reasoned that Celeste was (wisely) deferring to—or placing extreme confidence in—Greer’s impeccable taste. Or that Celeste’s only agenda was getting the wedding planned as expediently as possible because of her mother’s illness.
But now, other factors come into focus, such as the stutter Celeste developed shortly after the date was set. The stutter began with Celeste repeating certain words or short phrases, but it has become something more serious, even debilitating—Celeste trips over her r’s and m’s and p’s until she grows pink in the face.
Greer asked Benji if the stutter was creating problems for Celeste at work. Celeste is the assistant director at the Bronx Zoo and she is occasionally called upon to give lectures to the zoo’s visitors—mostly schoolchildren during the week and foreigners on the weekends—so Celeste has to speak slowly and clearly. Benji replied that Celeste rarely stuttered at work. Mostly just at home and when she was out socially.
This gave Greer pause. Developing a stutter at twenty-eight could be attributed to… what? It was a tell of some kind. Greer had immediately used the detail in the novel she was writing: the murderer develops a stutter as a result of his guilt, which grabs the attention of Miss Dolly Hardaway, the spinster detective who is the protagonist of all twenty-one of Greer’s murder mysteries. This is well and fine for Greer, who tends to mine every new encounter and experience in her fiction, but what about in real life, for Celeste? What is going on? Greer has the feeling that the stutter is somehow connected to Celeste’s imminent marriage to Benji.
There’s no time to think any further because suddenly traffic surges forward and not only does Greer move swiftly into town, she also finds a parking spot right in front of the ferry dock. She still has two minutes to spare. What magnificent luck! Her doubts fade. This wedding, this union of two families on the most festive of summer weekends, is clearly something that’s meant to be.
Viewed from a distance, Nantucket Island is everything Karen Otis dreamed it would be: tasteful, charming, nautical, classic. The ferry passes inside a stone jetty, and Karen squeezes Bruce’s hand to let him know she would like to stand and walk the few feet to the railing now. Bruce places an arm across Karen’s back and eases her up out of her seat. He’s not a big man but he’s strong. He was the Pennsylvania state champion wrestler at 142 pounds in 1984. Karen first set eyes on him sitting in the Easton Area High School pool balcony. She was swimming the butterfly leg for the varsity relay team, which routinely practiced during lunch, and when she climbed out of the water, she spied Bruce, dressed in sweatpants and a hooded sweatshirt, staring at an orange he held in his hands.
“What is that guy doing?” Karen had wondered aloud.
“That’s Bruce Otis,” Tracy, the backstroker, had said. “He’s captain of the wrestling team. They have a meet this afternoon and he’s trying to make weight.”
Karen had wrapped a towel around her waist and marched up the stairs to introduce herself. She had been well endowed even as a high-school sophomore and was pretty sure the sight of her in her tank suit would take Bruce Otis’s mind off the orange and his weight and anything else.
Bruce holds Karen steady and together they approach the railing. People see them coming, take note of the scarf wrapped around Karen’s head—she can’t bring herself to do wigs—and back up a few steps to make a respectful space.
Karen grips the railing with both hands. Even that is an effort but she wants a good view for their approach. The houses that line the water are all enormous, ten times the size of Karen and Bruce’s ranch on Derhammer Street in Forks Township, Pennsylvania, and these houses all have gray cedar shingles and crisp white trim. Some of the homes have curved decks; some have stacked decks at nifty angles like a Jenga game. Some have lush green lawns that roll right up to stone walls before a thin strip of beach. Every home flies the American flag, and all are impeccably maintained; there isn’t a dumpy or disheveled renegade in the bunch.
Money, Karen thinks. Where does all the money come from? She is seasoned enough to know that money can’t buy happiness—and it certainly can’t buy health—but it’s still intriguing to contemplate just how much money the people who own these houses must have. First off, these are second homes, so one must account for the first home—a brownstone in Manhattan or a brick mansion in Georgetown, an estate on the Main Line or a horse farm in Virginia—and then factor in the price of waterfront property here on this prestigious island. Next, Karen considers all of the furnishings such houses must contain: the rugs, the sofas, the tables and chairs, the lamps, the pencil-post beds, the nine-thousand-thread-count Belgian sheets, the decorative pillows, the Jacuzzi bathtubs, the scented candles next to the Jacuzzi bathtubs. (Celeste has educated Karen beyond the world of Yankee Candle; there are apparently candles that sell for over four hundred dollars. Celeste’s future sister-in-law, Abby, gave Celeste such a candle as an engagement present, and when Celeste told Karen that a Jo Malone pine-and-eucalyptus candle sold for $470, Karen hooted. That was nearly as much as Bruce had paid for his first car, a 1969 Chevy Nova!)
Then, of course, there’s the staff to pay: landscapers, house cleaners, caretakers, nannies for the children. There are the cars—Range Rovers, Jaguars, BMWs. There must be sailing and tennis lessons, monogrammed seersucker dresses, grosgrain ribbons for the hair, a new pair of Topsiders each season. And what about the food such houses must contain? Bowls of peaches and plums, cartons of strawberries and blueberries, freshly baked bread, quinoa salad, ripe avocados, organic eggs, fat-marbled steaks, and steaming, scarlet lobsters. And butter. Lots and lots of butter.
Karen also factors in all of the dull stuff that no one likes to think about: insurance, taxes, electricity, cable TV, attorneys.
These families must have fifty million dollars each, Karen decides. At least. And how does someone, anyone, make that much money? She would ask Bruce but she doesn’t want to make him feel self-conscious. Meaning she doesn’t want to make him feel any more self-conscious; she knows he’s already sensitive about money—because they don’t have any. Despite this, Bruce will be the best-dressed man at the wedding, Karen is certain. Bruce works in the suit department at Neiman Marcus in the King of Prussia Mall. He gets a 30 percent discount on clothes plus free alterations. He has managed to keep his wrestler’s physique—strong shoulders, tapered waist (no beer belly for him!)—and so he cuts an impressive silhouette. If he were two inches taller, a store vice president once told him, he could work as a model.
Bruce is almost like a woman in the way he loves fine clothes. When he brings home something new (which is fairly often, a fact that used to confuse Karen, as they don’t really have the money for new clothes or the money to go anywhere he might wear them), he likes to give Karen a fashion show. She sits on the edge of the bed—lately, she lies in the bed—while Bruce gets dressed in the bathroom and then emerges, one hand on hip, and sashays around the room like it’s a fashion runway. It cracks Karen up every time. She has come to understand that this is why he buys new suits, shirts, ties, trousers, and socks—to give Karen joy.
And because he likes to look good. Today, for their arrival, he’s wearing a pair of pressed black G-Star jeans and a black-and-turquoise paisley Robert Graham shirt with contrasting grasshopper-green cuffs, a pair of zebra-striped socks, and black suede Gucci loafers. It’s hot in the sun. Even Karen, who is always cold now thanks to the chemo, is warm. Bruce must be roasting.
A lighthouse swathed in an American flag comes into view, and then Karen sees two church steeples, one a white spire, one a clock tower with a gold dome. The harbor is filled with sailboats of all sizes, power yachts with tiered tuna towers, cigarette boats, cabin cruisers.
“It’s like a movie set,” Karen says, but her words get carried away on the sea breeze and Bruce doesn’t hear her. She can see from the expression on his face that he’s as mesmerized as she is. He’s probably thinking that they haven’t been anywhere this enchanting since their honeymoon thirty-two years earlier. She was eighteen years old then, just out of high school, and after the cost of the wedding clothes and a ceremony at the courthouse, they had $280 left for a weeklong getaway. They bought a case of wine coolers (they’re out of fashion now but, oh, how Karen had loved a cold raspberry Bartles and Jaymes back then) and a bunch of snack food—Bugles, Cool Ranch Doritos, Funyuns—and they’d climbed into Bruce’s Chevy Nova, popped in his Bat Out of Hell eight-track, and taken off for the coast, both of them singing at the top of their lungs.
They had reached the Jersey Shore points early on but neither of them had felt compelled to stop. The shore had been the beach of their youth—class trips, a family vacation to Wildwood every summer—and so they had continued going north to New England.
New England, Karen remembers now, had sounded very exotic.
They ran low on gas in a town called Madison, Connecticut, exit 61 off I-95, that had a leafy main street lined with shops, like something out of a 1950s sitcom. When Karen got out of the car to stretch her legs at the filling station, she had smelled salt in the air.
She said, “I think we’re near the water.”
They had asked the gas-station attendant what there was to see in Madison, Connecticut, and he directed them to a restaurant called the Lobster Deck, which had an uninterrupted view of the Long Island Sound. Down the street from the Lobster Deck, across from a state park with a beach, was the Sandbar Motel and Lodge; a room cost $105 for the week.
Karen knows she’s not worldly. She has never been to Paris, Bermuda, or even the West Coast. She and Bruce used to take Celeste to the Pocono Mountains on vacation. They skied at Camelback in the winter and went to the Great Wolf Lodge water park in the summer. The rest of their money they saved for Celeste to go to college. She had shown an interest in animals at an early age, and both Bruce and Karen had hoped she would become a veterinarian. When Celeste’s interests had instead run toward zoology, that had been fine too. She had been offered a partial scholarship at Miami University of Ohio, which had the best zoology department in the country. “Partial scholarship” still left a lot to pay for—some tuition, room, board, books, spending money, bus tickets home—and so there had been precious little left over for travel.
Hence, that one trip to New England remained sacred to both Karen and Bruce. They are even further in the hole now—nearly a hundred thousand dollars in debt, thanks to Karen’s medical bills—but there was no way they were going to miss making the trip to Nantucket. On their way home, once Celeste and Benji are safely on their honeymoon in Greece, they will stop in Madison, Connecticut, for what Karen is privately calling the Grand Finale. The Sandbar Motel and Lodge is long gone, so instead, Bruce has booked an oceanfront suite at the Madison Beach Hotel. It’s a Hilton property. Bruce told Karen he got it for free by accepting Hilton Honors points offered to him by the store’s general manager, Mr. Allen. Karen knows that all of Bruce’s co-workers have wondered how to help out their favorite sales associate, Bruce in Suits, whose wife has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and while this is slightly mortifying, she does appreciate the concern and, especially, Mr. Allen’s generous offer to pay for their hotel. Madison, Connecticut, has taken on the paradisiacal qualities of a Shangri-la. Karen wants to eat lobster—with butter, lots and lots of butter—and she wants to watch the honey lozenge of the sun drop into the Long Island Sound. She wants to fall asleep in Bruce’s arms as she listens to waves lap the shore, their daughter successfully married.
The Grand Finale.
Excerpted from The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand. Copyright © 2018. All rights reserved.