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The mysterious and attractive Peter Coleridge shows up in Palm Beach… and nothing is ever the same again.
Peter Coleridge is definitely a ladies' man, as is made clear when he shows up in Palm Beach and starts flirting shamelessly with Evie. He's movie star handsome, apparently rich, and really good at delivering smooth lines. Just look at him in action:
I understood the word swoon. It felt that way, like sweep and moon and woo, all those words smashed together in one word that stood for that feeling right then.
"I shouldn't have done that," he said. "It's just that you looked so adorable." (15.37-38)
Okay… maybe that's not the best line, but Evie falls for him immediately, unaware that his charms are also working on her mom, Bev. In the end, Peter wins the affections of both of the Spooner women. To say the least, it's pretty scandalous.
Peter isn't all that he seems, though. First of all, he arrives in Palm Beach because he is trying to track down Joe Spooner; he wants Joe to give him his cut of the gold that they stole over in Europe. And even though he's carrying on a semi-public flirtation with Evie, he's definitely carrying on a secret affair with Bev—one that only gets revealed after his untimely death.
And other secrets come out once he dies too. It turns out that Peter lied about his whole background. He was never rich, and the car he drove and the house he stayed in weren't his at all—he was just pretending, living out this fantasy of a rich, attractive, successful young man. The newspapers are all over his ruse:
It was all in the next day's morning edition. Peter wasn't loaded. They found that out pretty fast. He'd never been to college, let alone Yale. He was an only child. All through high school he'd worked summers at a country club in Oyster Bay. That's where he'd borrowed his manners from. And the blue convertible. The friend he'd borrowed it from had reported it stolen when Peter had taken it and hadn't returned. (28.11)
The moral of the story, Shmoopsters, is that looks can be deceiving, especially when it comes to Peter Coleridge. It's too bad that Evie's first love turned out to be such a player, but it definitely opens her eyes a bit to the world, and helps her come into her own.