Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Summer At Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs

Spoilers Alert!

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 colony 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.

This was a touching, gentle and subtly humourous family saga, with a hint of The Ugly Duckling story line. The story relied on the study of characters and human relationships to propel it forward.

The story went back and forth between past and present, but it was well done and never confusing.

The lead characters, Olivia/Lolly and Connor, first met when they were children at summer camp. Lolly was chubby and plain – she was as much an outcast and loner as Connor, the son of a drunken camp caretaker, was. Against all odds, they became fast friends. When they grew older and decided to take their relationship a step further, a gross misunderstanding drove them apart. Nine years later, they met again when Lolly went back to renovate the camp.

Apart from Lolly and Connor, the story also encompassed her father’s own summer encounter (which yielded a present day surprise) and his relationship with her mother, her grandparents’ love story, her uncle and cousins’ stories, as well as Connor’s father and brother. So yes…this story was dense and richly intricate with human relationships.

Lolly and Connor were likeable and believable characters. Their feelings for each other, from friendship to love, was a natural progression and I could believe in their happily-ever-after. Their story was told in vivid detail and it was poignant.

I also liked that every few chapters began with a snippet of Camp Kioga information – rules, codes of conduct, traditions, recipe, etc. I thought this evoked the spirit of the camp perfectly and reinforced it throughout the book.

Conclusion: This was, for me, a gentle and expansive read. It felt more of a family saga than a romance, although Lolly and Connor’s romance was very well done. It was satisfying, albeit a tad leisurely, for me. And “Hallmark” kept popping up in my head – indeed, it did seem like those touching, human relationship type movies.

My rating4
Sensuality ratingWarm

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