Review: Summer at Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs
SUMMER AT WILLOW LAKE by Susan Wiggs is perfect for those who have fond memories of summer camp or camping. The setting is especially appreciated during an Ohio winter, when we’re dreaming of campfire stories, fishing, boating, and hiking to revisit in summer. I loved the characters and the wilderness setting.
Why was this book in Dorine’s TBR? Susan Wiggs’ themes sound like the perfect beach read to me. That means I end up collecting them, with the good intention of reading them on vacation. Of course, that never happens. SUMMER AT WILLOW LAKE begged to be read because I was dreaming about camping. It resonated with me as I was making our summer reservations for our own wilderness getaway.
I’m thankful for the Backlist Glom theme this month for the TBR Challenge organized by Wendy the Super Librarian. I love finding books that are buried so deep in my TBR that I don’t remember buying them. This novel was hidden on the 2011 paperweight, aka the Nook Tablet, which has outlasted my Kindles (total of three so far). I wasn’t sure the Nook still worked. With 434 books, plus my favorite Plants Vs. Zombies game, I needed to charge it and check. Yes, it’s still ticking! That didn’t stop me from drooling over the new Nooks at the bookstore this week. SMH.
I avoided reading SUMMER AT WILLOW LAKE because I “thought” it was over 500 pages. The page counts on GoodReads vary wildly. My digital copy is 344 pages – not as overwhelming as the 534 pages listed for the 2006 print publication. Anyone else notice that with the larger Harlequin books? Do they really lengthen, or are they playing with the typeface sizes? Note to self – look at the page counts closely so you don’t miss more great books!
I used to read what I call “tomes”. Any book 500 to over 1000 pages got my attention, especially historical. Most of these are print books, and I still gravitate toward them to purchase in print, but rarely read them because they’re too big for my lifestyle now.
I should start calling my library room “the tome tomb,” as it’s becoming a mausoleum of the unread!
The beginning plot…
Olivia Lolly Bellamy takes on the remodel of the century by accepting her grandmother’s challenge. Her grandparents want to celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary by renewing their vows at Camp Kioga where they met and married. The Bellamys owned and operated the camp until about nine years ago when they closed it. Its rundown condition doesn’t scare Olivia, until she realizes she needs help beyond what she and her cousins can do. And the only assistance available is contractor Connor Davis, the crush from her youth she’d rather forget.
Of course, Grandma has ulterior motives. Olivia has just ended her third engagement. Grandma feels Olivia has unfinished business in Avalon, New York, the Catskills home of Camp Kioga. It’s also the source of her fears – those memories of childhood anxieties. Connor Davis was her best friend and first love at camp, but why did he move to Avalon? It’s not like it was his hometown, or matched his lifelong ambitions as far as Olivia remembers.
The wilderness setting is what drew me to this book and kept me reading. I grew to love the characters and was intrigued by Olivia and Connor’s secrets. Dual timelines were helpful in metering out the details of this couple’s past. As with most books like this, the family secrets and drama add to the main characters’ unease.
I don’t always enjoy a dual timeline. It depends on whether I’m interested in what’s happening, so I don’t get frustrated when one plotline drops to go back to another. The switching back and forth in this novel was enjoyable because I adore stories about kids at camp, as much as I gravitate toward remodeling stories with adults. Throw in a wilderness setting, where everyone is forced to enjoy the old-fashioned things like fishing without the aid of a fish finder, and I’m completely enthralled.
Some details seemed skimmed over where I wanted more. But, that would have made the book longer, and then I might not have read it. I think it has first-book-in-a-series-itis. There are a lot of characters to introduce, and intrigue to build, to keep us coming back for more. With all that going on, plus the backstory, there isn’t room for more detail without making the book a tome. So, I did notice the skimming which made the book feel choppy or rushed in a couple places, but it didn’t bug me enough to dislike the style or the story.
This book made me smile, especially the last few pages. There is the big misunderstanding that made me want to shake the main couple for not talking about it right away. That’s not my favorite plot device, but that didn’t dissuade me from loving this book.
SUMMER AT WILLOW LAKE made me happy I chose it for this month’s challenge. The setting won out as my favorite part, and now I wonder what will happen at the lake next. I’ve already had a sneak peek when I read and reviewed book nine, RETURN TO WILLOW LAKE, in 2012. I’m speculating about Jenny Majesky in book two and Daisy in book eight. I may just have to jump ahead to find out Daisy’s story because of Julian, the wild child. He’s a great character in book one, and I’m super curious about the man he grows up to be.
Review by Dorine, courtesy of The Zest Quest. Digital copy purchased. Amazon Affiliate links are used to offset the cost of maintaining this blog. Thanks in advance for using them!
Summer At Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs
Category: Contemporary Romance
Series: Lakeshore Chronicles, Book 1
Publisher: Mira; Reissue edition read (July 27, 2010)
Rated 4.5 out of 5