Romance is not my go-to genre, but there are times when I want to escape headlong into a sexy contemporary romance. Summer is usually one of those times, and nothing screams summer like a good Carley Fortune novel. Her debut, Every Summer After, was one of my favorite reads of 2021, so I had high hopes her sophomore novel, Meet Me at the Lake, would be equally as good. Well, I'm here with the good, the bad, and the less-than-pretty to help you decide if this one is for you!
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- contemporary romance (door ajar)
- soulmate trope/instant love
- grief/loss subplot
- Dirty Dancing-style resort setting
- redemption story
- spice level: 🌶️🌶️/5
Pub date: May 2, 2023
Thank you @BerkleyPub for the advanced copy!
Fern Brookbanks has wasted far too much of her adult life thinking about Will Baxter. She spent just twenty-four hours in her early twenties with the aggravatingly attractive, idealistic artist, a chance encounter that spiraled into a daylong adventure in Toronto. The timing was wrong, but their connection was undeniable: they shared every secret, every dream, and made a pact to meet one year later. Fern showed up. Will didn't.
At thirty-two, Fern's life doesn't look at all how she once imagined it would. Instead of living in the city, Fern's back home, running her mother's Muskoka lakeside resort--something she vowed never to do. The place is in disarray, her ex-boyfriend's the manager, and Fern doesn't know where to begin.
She needs a plan--a lifeline. To her surprise, it comes in the form of Will, who arrives nine years too late, with a suitcase in tow and an offer to help on his lips. Will may be the only person who understands what Fern's going through. But how could she possibly trust this expensive-suit wearing mirage who seems nothing like the young man she met all those years ago. Will is hiding something, and Fern's not sure she wants to know what it is.
But ten years ago, Will Baxter rescued Fern. Can she do the same for him?
Wow! Meet Me at the Lake ruffled a lot of feathers when it was released, but thankfully not mine. Fans of her first novel found fault with her use of instant love in this book. Fern and Will fall hard for each other after spending only one day together; years later they reunite unexpectedly and sparks fly. Most folks couldn’t get passed the fact they'd only known each other one day. While I agree the premise is far-fetched, I've experienced something like instant love, so I know it's possible. Beyond the instant love, there isn't much to find fault with in this juicy second-chance romance. Filled with sexual tension, spicy encounters, and lots of pining, Meet Me at the Lake has all the elements of a terrific romance novel.
But more than anything, I loved the story of Fern and her mother, especially her grief experience. It felt very authentic and raw, and extremely well-written in my opinion. Fern's grief forced her to face her demons, which then forced her to make changes to her life choices and actions. Without her mother, she had to show up as her authentic self, which is never easy to do.
My chief complaint was with Will’s excuse for bailing on Fern all those years ago. I wish Fortune would have explored that more, and given more detail to make it seem more believable. Her Author’s Note describes in great detail why she added that to the story, but without the context it likely falls short for readers. This is one time where the author's note actually added star value to the book, bumping it from a 3.5 to a 4-star read for me.
While it's not as good as Every Summer After, Meet Me at the Lake has a lot of great elements that most romance readers will enjoy. These two characters are authentic and approachable, making it hard to not connect with them and want to know what happens next. There are aspects that could have been better explained in the novel, but the author's note adds valuable context that most readers will appreciate. If you're looking for a second-chance romance in a Dirty Dancing setting then don't miss Meet Me at the Lake!