Source- Review copy courtesy of DMCPRmedia
Publisher- Harlequin (MIRA)
Publication date- republished July 2012
Synopsis- Real estate expert Olivia Bellamy reluctantly trades a trendy Manhattan summer for her family’s old resort camp in the Catskills, where her primary task will be renovating the bungalow colongy for her grandparents, who want one last summer together filled with fun, friends and family. A posh resort in its heyday, the camp is now in disarray and Olivia is forced to hire contractor Connor Davis a still-smoldering flame from her own summers at camp.
But as the days grow warm, not even the inviting blue waters of Willow Lake can cool the passions flaring or keep shocking secrets at bay. The nostalgic joy of summers past breathes new promise into a special place and people a promise meant to last long after the season ends.
Review- Summer at Willow Lake is a character-driven and relationship-focused contemporary romance by well-established romance author, Susan Wiggs. This is the first instalment of the Lakeshore Chronicles that was originally published in 2006 and has been re-released under MIRA with a funky, modern cover.
Olivia “Lolly” Bellamy is a Manhattan Real Estate “fluffer” who turns dreary homes up for sale into welcoming paradises to potential owners. But after a series of relationship entanglements, Olivia accepts her grandmother’s offer of restoring the Bellamy resort camp in Catskills over the summer so it is ready in time for their fiftieth anniversary.
Olivia has both fond and painful memories of the camp which she habitually visited each summer following her parent’s divorce and forever felt like an overweight, awkward, loner that no one wanted to hang out with. Until Connor Davis came along with his brooding, tough exterior and kind-hearted centre and she made herself her first true friend at age 12. Over the years their friendship developed until their final summer in camp when their bond develops into a romantic fling. But for poor Olivia, their last evening ends badly and she enters adulthood feeling just as embarrassed, self-conscious and insecure as she did during her childhood.
As an adult, Olivia eradicated every ounce of her disconcerting childhood by becoming a completely different person- on the outside. In her late 20’s, Olivia is a successful entrepreneur, thin, blonde and attractive- but still doesn’t have much luck with men.
When Connor Davis turns up at the camp as the hired help, all of Olivia’s childhood insecurities resurface in the face of the man who broke her heart all those years ago at summer camp. Connor is fighting some of his own inner demons from a dysfunctional childhood to his alcoholic father and the secret that kept him from pursuing Olivia that fateful evening nine years ago. Olivia and Connor have some great chemistry and as they work closely together, it seems their childhood bond revives as though they never spent a year apart- the only difference being both are protective of their hearts and uncertain about their future.
Olivia is a likeable heroine, she’s tough on the outside, but vulnerable and insecure on the inside, she wears her heart on her sleeve- even when she doesn’t want to. Connor too is tough; both in his physical appearance but also in the way he approaches life. But Connor is a caregiver at heart, he is loyal and for the most part, selfless. I really enjoyed Olivia and Connor’s emotional connection that develops throughout the story. This is explored through snippets of their time together in the past as well as their work together in the present.
Wiggs provides a well-rounded story with various characters such as Connor’s younger brother Julian and Olivia’s young cousin Daisy who are on the brink of adulthood and seemingly enjoy a bond that parallels Olivia and Connor’s long ago friendship. There’s also insight into Olivia’s best mate Freddy who gets romantic with Olivia’s cousin Davy. A sub-plot emerges about a past family secret that Olivia uncovers involving her father and a mysterious dark-haired woman from his final year at summer camp in Catskills.
Summer at Willow Lake is a beautiful, multi-dimensional story about friendship, family, love and the importance of a solid foundation to promote longevity in intimate relationships. I picked this book up intending to just read a couple of chapters as a break from reading another book and ended up reading all 400+ pages in just one day! I will definitely seek out more work from this author and I look forward to reading more from the Lakeshore Chronicles. Romance fans and readers who enjoy well fleshed out characters and a heart-warming read will enjoy Summer at Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs.
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