Starlight on Willow Lake (Susan Wiggs)

August 12, 2015 Book Reviews 6 ★★★★

Starlight on Willow Lake (Susan Wiggs)Starlight on Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs
Series: Lakeshore Chronicles #11
Published by Harlequin MIRA on September 1st 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: the publisher through NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars
Also in this series: Return To Willow Lake
Also by this author: Return To Willow Lake, The Apple Orchard, The Beekeeper's Ball, Family Tree

#1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs sweeps readers away to a sun-drenched summer on the shores of Willow Lake in a stunning tale of the delicate ties that bind a family together…and the secrets that tear them apart.

When caregiver Faith McCallum arrives at the enchanted lakeside estate of Avalon's renowned Bellamy family, she's intent on rebuilding her shattered life and giving her two daughters a chance at a better future. But she faces a formidable challenge in the form of her stubborn and difficult new employer, Alice Bellamy. While Faith proves a worthy match for her sharp-tongued client, she often finds herself at a loss for words in the presence of Mason Bellamy—Alice's charismatic son, who clearly longs to escape the family mansion and return to his fast-paced, exciting life in Manhattan…and his beautiful, jet-setting fiancée.

The last place Mason wants to be is a remote town in the Catskills, far from his life in the city, and Faith McCallum is supposed to be the key to his escape. Hiring the gentle-hearted yet strong-willed caregiver as a live-in nurse gives his mother companionship and Mason the freedom to return to his no-attachments routine. For Faith, it means stability for her daughters and a much-needed new home. When Faith makes a chilling discovery about Alice's accident, Mason is forced to reconsider his desire to keep everyone, including his mother, at a distance. Now he finds himself wondering if the supercharged life he's created for himself is what he truly wants…and whether exploring his past might lead to a new life—and lasting love—on the tranquil shores of Willow Lake.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Review

Starlight on Willow Lake is one of my favorite Lakeshore Chronicles books so far, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that it isn’t really a romance. It’s primarily a story of two families, with a romantic relationship at its apex. It’s about courage and perseverance, the nature of family, optimism in the face of adversity, and pushing past your fears for the things that really matter.

Two thirds of the way in, I began to wonder if the two main characters would ever get together. Although there are hints of attraction between Faith and Max from the start, there’s no romantic relationship until almost nine-tenths of the way through the book. But Wiggs’s writing is so good that I didn’t care. Or rather, I did care, a lot, about all the characters, not just the main characters… so I was happy to wait for Max and Faith to set aside or be freed from the various obstacles (external and internal) that kept them from acknowledging the attraction between them.

Faith is a lovely person, if a bit too perfect: a young widow in dire financial straits, fiercely protective of and loving toward her children. She’s an excellent caregiver, both by training and from practice. Frankly, she needs a flaw – well, other than her refusal to accept help from anyone, which is probably a failing, though it’s easy to see where it comes from as you find out more about her. So I was relieved when she finally admits to a very understandable fear.

Max’s emotional distance from his parents was well-handled, as was his thawing toward his mother and his eventual opening up about what had happened to him as a teen. I had my doubts about him as a hero initially, but they melted away as I got to know him better. Several chapters of the book are flashbacks to Max’s past; they give him both depth and motivation, and make his contradictions much easier to understand.

I was a little worried that the book was heading in a bad direction, since Max has a girlfriend/fiance when he and Faith meet. I hate cheating, and that would pretty much have killed the book for me. But fortunately, Max is both too honorable and too opposed to cheating to betray someone like that, and Faith views him as off-limits. Wiggs deals with the situation very sensitively; there is attraction on both sides, but nothing that gave me any qualms.

For the most part, I enjoyed the other characters as much as I did Faith and Max – and it’s a good thing, because some of them are nearly as important as the two main characters. Alice starts out as a bitter, grouchy sourpuss – it’s understandable, given her recent disability and the blows she has suffered. But she slowly improves in attitude, though she never loses her sharpness entirely. She really grew on me, and I came to like and admire her and even, by the end of the book, to love her. Even in a wheelchair, she’s a formidable woman.

Faith’s daughters, Cara and Ruby, are both well-drawn. Cara is a good kid and very bright, but she has a certain amount of teenage attitude – not surprising given the stress of their difficult financial circumstances. Wiggs shows excellent understanding of how teenagers (and people general) think, and how a smart kid reacts to tough family circumstances. Ruby is adorable, a mix of matter-of-fact acceptance and maturity regarding her diabetes, and fears and anxieties about the rest of life, but with a loving, cheerful, optimistic nature when she’s not afraid.

Starlight at Willow Lake would make great vacation reading, but it’s not mindless entertainment. It has too much heart for that. If you’ve never read any of the other Lakeshore Chronicles, you’ll have no trouble jumping in; a few characters from previous books show up here and there, but anything you need to know is right there in this book.

So grab a tall glass of iced tea, put your feet up, and take a few hours to visit Willow Lake. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Challenges: COYER #43: A book that takes place in summer. (Well, a lot of it does.)

four-stars

About Susan Wiggs

Susan Wiggs self-published her first book when she was eight years old. Since then, she has acquired degrees at SFA and Harvard, taught math, and published over 35 books, including contemporary fiction, historical and contemporary romance, a children’s book and a book on planning your wedding.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • COYER Scavenger Hunt - Summer 2015

6 Responses to “Starlight on Willow Lake (Susan Wiggs)”

  1. Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library

    I’m glad you enjoyed this! I have it but haven’t gotten to it yet. I love Wiggs and while I’m disappointed this book isn’t the latest in the Apple Orchard series (Bella Vista I think) I think I can get past it. I’m glad you mentioned the whole Max having a girlfriend and that it works out. Cheating is a deal breaker for me too so I won’t be worrying as I’m reading! I don’t mind this not being much of a romance. Like you, I enjoy Wigg’s writing and character development enough that I’m good with the romance being low key.
    Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library recently posted…The Collector – Blog Tour Review + GiveawayMy Profile

  2. Elizabeth the Evil Overlord

    I’m reviewing this tomorrow. I agree that it’s not really a romance, it’s about families. You put it perfectly. With that said, I can’t say it was one of my fav Lakeshore Chronicles. Not because of the lack of romance but because I couldn’t find any conflict and of course we all know where it’s going to end. I definitely wanted to live there, and being handicapped myself I found Alice’s accommodations interesting.
    Elizabeth the Evil Overlord recently posted…Avoidance? Or Housekeeping?My Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I found myself thinking as I read it that many people in Alice’s position don’t have her financial resources – to be able to install an elevator, for instance. And you’re right about the lack of conflict; I think that’s partly a function of the backseat that the romance took to the rest of the story. Also, the most compelling “conflict” was really Alice’s struggle to rebuild a life and come to terms with what happened to her, and we weren’t actually privy to a lot of that.