Title: Santorini Sunsets by Anita Hughes
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Brigit Palmer is thrilled to be on the Greek Island of Santorini. She’s here for her wedding to Hollywood heart-throb Blake Crawford, one of America’s most eligible bachelors. Brigit’s parents have rented a villa, and soon guests will arrive from all over the world for the intimate ceremony.
Brigit is a New York socialite, and she’s just given up her position at a Manhattan law firm to run her father’s philanthropic foundation. Things are finally falling into place. Love, career, family. Everything is going so well…until she steps into the garden and sees her ex-husband Nathaniel hiding in the rose bushes.
Nathaniel, a failed novelist, announces that Blake sold the rights to the wedding to HELLO! Magazine for two million dollars (donated to charity), and he is the reporter assigned to write the story. Everyone expects Brigit to have her happily ever after, her mother who taught her how to lead the perfect lifestyle, her younger sister Daisy who impatiently wishes for her own love story, and of course her fiancée. Things are supposed to work out for them. But when Brigit discovers an unsettling secret about Blake, she questions everything she’s ever believed about love, and wonders if she’s not better off alone.
Told in Anita Hughes’ spectacularly descriptive prose, Santorini Sunsets is a story about family bonds, first loves, and the question of when to let go and when to hang on as tight as you can.
In Santorini Sunsets, Anita Hughes whisks readers away to a spectacular island for the IT marriage of the year. The Greek Island of Santorini is the perfect setting for socialite Brigit Palmer’s lavish destination wedding to Hollywood heartthrob Blake Crawford and their guest list reads like a Who’s Who of Hollywood celebrities and wealthy New York families.
Brigit, Blake, her family and their assorted guests arrive in Santorini for fun adventures and sumptuous feasts a few days prior to the wedding. In the midst of last preparations and all of the fun, Brigit is shocked by the arrival of her ex-husband Nathaniel Cabot and even more stunning is the reason WHY he is there. It seems her dreamy husband-to-be neglected to tell her he signed a contract with HELLO! magazine that gives them an exclusive story of their wedding. The reporter covering their upcoming nuptials is, you guessed it, Nathaniel! Their marriage might have ended two years earlier, but Brigit is still seething over her ex-husband’s failures that, in her opinion, led to their divorce. And when he begins telling her a few of her fiancé’s secrets, Brigit rushes to Blake’s defense, but doubts are beginning to creep in. Will these uncertainties derail her upcoming wedding?
Brigit is an interesting blend of irritating and likable. She is genuinely concerned about bettering the plight of those less fortunate which is quite admirable. However, she views the world as black and white and she is convinced her way is the only way to do things. Brigit was less than understanding when things went wrong for Nathaniel and this lack of patience and sympathy is difficult to overlook. With Blake, she is pretty wowed by his celebrity status and despite their altruistic plans to aid impoverished countries, Brigit is rather self-absorbed. Her current interactions with Nathaniel are somewhat hostile on her part which on the one hand is understandable since who really wants their ex at their current wedding? However, on the other hand, she comes across as haughty and unyielding as she continues to rehash old grievances and these discussions do not paint her in a flattering light. Brigit is definitely an interesting character, but one that is hard to feel much sympathy for.
Nathaniel’s motives for covering his ex-wife impending wedding are most assuredly suspect. Is he there to ruin things for Brigit? Or is he just doing his job? Again, a difficult decision as he continues to reveal Blake’s secrets to Brigit. Are these revelations for his own gain? Or is he ensuring she has the pertinent facts about her husband-to-be? Despite not being sure of his reasons for divulging suspicious information to Brigit, Nathaniel is a genuinely likable man and he is quite charming and personable. Whether or not his reasons are self-serving or selfless, Nathaniel is a refreshing breath of fresh air since he is much more down to earth and relatable than most of the characters.
Brigit’s sister Daisy is another person that is difficult to read. She is nowhere near as successful as Brigit and while Daisy keeps saying she is not jealous of her sister, some of her inner musings make it appear that she is, in actuality, rather envious of her sister’s accomplishments. Like Nathaniel, Daisy has more depth than the other characters and despite her conflicting feelings for Brigit, she is a genuinely kind-hearted young woman who always has her sister’s back.
Brigit’s parents, Sydney and Francis also take center stage as they prepare for their daughter’s wedding. Wealthy and privileged, they have weathered a few storms during their long marriage and this vacation seems to be helping them recover from a recent rough patch. Both are keeping secrets from one another and they are eventually forced to make a few long overdue confessions. Their quick recovery is a trifle unrealistic and readers will most likely be a little annoyed over the way this part of the storyline is handled.
While Santorini Sunsets is an enjoyable, light-hearted read, there are few things that readers might become impatient with over the course of the novel. Some of the sentences are a little perfunctory and there is an overuse of certain words. Many of the characters lack depth and seem rather superficial due to the excessive label and celebrity name-dropping. Yes, they are über wealthy but the constant reminders of the lavish meals, extravagant purchases and exclusive clothing/jewelry labels soon become grating. The numerous flashbacks provide insight into events occurring in the present, but this telling vs. showing becomes tedious (which is fairly heavy-handed since this is something I do not typically notice).
However, the underlying themes of Santorini Sunsets are universal and will resonate with readers. The various storylines aptly demonstrate how secrets and lack of communication can undermine even the best relationships. And of course, the absolute best aspect of reading a novel by Anita Hughes is the exotic foreign setting. Santorini is an absolutely breathtaking location that springs vividly to life through the richly detailed descriptions of the scenery and sunsets.
Despite a few flaws, Santorini Sunsets is overall entertaining read that offers a pleasant diversion from ordinary, everyday life. Anita Hughes does a wonderful job keeping readers guessing how the story is going to end and the resolution of the various story arcs is quite satisfying.