Lily pressed her face against the glass and saw the white sand beach and azure Mediterranean, and La Maddalena Archi- pelago in the distance. The Porto Cervo marina was lined with gleaming yachts, and above her, Sardinia’s green hills were dotted with myrtle bushes and juniper trees.
The taxi pulled up in front of Hotel Cervo, and Lily poked her head out the window. It was like an impossibly glamorous movie set, with men wearing dark sunglasses and pastel colored shirts and women draped in caftans and gold jewelry. She half expected James Bond to appear and ask her to climb into his sports car or take a ride on his Jet Ski.
The driver pointed to the fare box, and Lily opened her purse. She rummaged through her lipsticks and had a sinking feeling. She couldn’t have misplaced her credit cards. They must be buried under the paperback book she bought for the plane or the extra pair of stockings rolled up in the side compartment.
The driver tapped impatiently on the dashboard, and Lily’s stomach turned. Perhaps she’d left the credit cards on the metal counter when she went through customs. The customs officer had been so intimidating, tossing her underwear in the air. Lily had been tempted to leave her ivory slip behind and rush to the exit.
She picked up the phone to call Oliver and then put it down. Oliver had moved out of their restored Connecticut farmhouse six months ago. She could hardly ask his advice as if she were won- dering if he could refill the espresso maker or see if they were out of chocolate croissants.
Anyway, she was a successful thirty-two-year-old business- woman with home furnishing stores on three continents. She didn’t need her ex-husband to help her pay the taxi driver. She fiddled with her leather pump, the way she did when she was ner- vous. The sole was lumpy, and she peeled it back curiously. She felt a sharp edge, and a smile crossed her face. A Visa card was taped inside!
She hadn’t worn the pumps in months; Oliver must have taped it inside her shoe. She was notoriously absentminded when she traveled. Oliver insisted the only way to guarantee she didn’t get stranded at Heathrow Airport or the train station in Paris was to hide a credit card where she couldn’t forget it.
Now she peered at the hotel’s stucco walls and Moorish patio and wondered if she should be in Sardinia at all. She had only signed the divorce papers a week ago. All the magazines said she should be tucked under a down comforter with a stack of novels and a box of tissues.
And how could she leave Louisa? Louisa was six years old; surely she needed her mother. But Louisa was used to Lily being away. Lily often went on buying trips to discover a set of Chinese end tables or one perfect French armoire.
Lily’s parents were staying on the farm for a week, and Louisa adored being with her grandparents. Lily pictured them picking apples and baking sugar cookies and had to smile. Louisa was in heaven and wouldn’t miss her at all.
And she had been looking forward to this trip for months! In six days, her newest store, Lily Bristol Sardinia, was having its grand opening, and she had to be there. A silver cocktail dress was carefully folded in her suitcase, and she’d bought a new sequined evening bag.
The valet opened the car door, and Lily stepped onto the pave- ment. The breeze lifted her skirt, and a man whistled. Lily opened her mouth and then closed it. Why shouldn’t a man whistle? She had to start thinking differently; she was a young divorcée on one of the sexiest coastlines in the world. She shot him a brilliant smile and strode into the lobby.
“Oh, it is gorgeous,” Lily breathed, setting her purse on the ground.
The white marble floors were scattered with blue love seats. Floor-to-ceiling windows looked out on the harbor, and it was as if she had entered an underwater cave. The wood shutters were blue, and the tiles behind the concierge desk were blue, and the abstract paintings on the walls were splashed with turquoise and gold. And the people! Women with metallic sandals and dan- gling earrings, and arms and legs the color of pennies. The men had cheekbones you only saw in magazines, and skin like honey.
“Hello, I’m Lily Bristol.” Lily approached the front desk. “I have a reservation.”
“Of course, Mrs. Bristol,” a man in a gold uniform greeted her. “Welcome to Sardinia’s Emerald Coast. I trust you had a pleasant trip?”
Lily flashed on her credit cards that were probably sitting in a bin at Olbia Airport and reminded herself to cancel them and order new ones.
“Yes, thank you. It was an eleven-hour flight, and I’m terribly thirsty.” She nodded. “I would do anything for a bath and a glass of orange juice.”
“Enzo, your butler, will escort you to your suite. He just started his shift, he’ll be here in a minute.” He consulted his computer. “You have the finest accommodation, with a private terrace and a view of the marina.”
“I don’t need a butler.” Lily shook her head. “I have a daughter and I’m used to putting things away. All I want is a soft bed and perhaps a piece of fruit.”
“Enzo will only do what you ask.” The man rang a silver bell and smiled. “You are our guest. We want everything about your stay to be perfect.”
Enzo opened the door of the suite and Lily walked straight to the terrace. The lush grounds were filled with lime trees and beds of daisies. Fishing boats bobbed in the harbor, and speedboats scud- ded over the waves. And the air! It was balmy and sweet and smelled like the most exotic perfume.
She turned back inside and glanced at the rounded walls and sea foam sofa and window seat scattered with silk cushions. There was a coffee table set with a ceramic fruit bowl and a pitcher of iced water.
“My daughter would love this suite. She would line all her dolls on that sofa and serve them lemonade and cookies,” she said to Enzo. “Do you have children?”
This is the first story I've read where the main characters are already divorced. I went into the novel a bit hesitant because I like to watch a relationship unfold as I read. Well, I was presently surprised.
While the story bounced back and forth between past and present, I felt I was experiencing Lily and Oliver's relationship from the beginning rather than focusing on the fact they were divorced. I was rooting for the relationship even though I knew divorce was coming.
Having them both show up on the vacation they had both planned prior to the divorce, with Oliver bringing his new fling, was pure
genius. I immediately felt animosity towards him and didn't fathom I could ever want them to be together. Hughes' vivid character descriptions, however, create an emotional investment for the reader. I couldn't wait to see what happened next.