Book review – Summer at Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs

26 Jun

Olivia Bellamy has traded her trendy Manhattan life for a summer renovating her family’s crumbling holiday resort. Tempted by the hazy, nostalgic memories of summers past – childhood innocence and the romance and rivalries of her teens – it’s the perfect place to flee after her broken engagement. But what began as an escape, may just be a new beginning… As Olivia uncovers secrets buried thick with dust, one by one her family return, their lives as frayed at the edges as the resort. Her father and the mystery woman in the tatty black and white photograph. Uncle John, who’s trying to be a father again to his teenage kids. Connor Davis, the first love she never forgot. Laughter is ringing around Willow Lake once more. This could be Olivia’s summer of a lifetime!

Summer at Willow Lake is the first book in The Lakeshore Chronicles series and a really relaxing and enjoyable summer read. Originally published in 2006, Summer at Willow Lake has been given a fresh new look for summer 2011 and was re-released earlier this month. The story focuses on Olivia Bellamy as she returns to ‘Camp Kioga’ the summer camp her great-grandfather created in the 1940’s to try to restore it to its former glory in order to celebrate her grandparents 50th wedding anniversary. I liked Olivia immediately; both grown up Olivia who runs her own successful business in Manhattan and the young Olivia depicted in flashback trying to find her place in the world.

As Olivia finds her feet she encounters an old flame from her childhood, Connor Davis which instantly adds a ‘will they/won’t they’ frisson to the story. The book begins in the present but chapters flash back and forth to reveal detail of Camp Kioga and its occupants through the years. From Olivia’s own difficult childhood and teenage years in the late 1980’s and early 90’s and her fledgling romance with Connor, to her fathers summer of love in 1977 and the story of her grandparents who defied opposition to marry at the camp they loved in the 1950’s; the history of the Bellamy family and in particular of Olivia’s childhood, drew me in and kept me gripped for all of Summer at Willow Lake’s 535 pages and I’m so glad this is only the first in a series of stories about the Bellamys and the community in Avalon.

There are a lot of different threads to the story, involving various members of the Bellamy family, residents of Avalon the town where Willow Lake is set and their own families. As well as plenty of drama and romance, there are elements of mystery and plenty of surprises from the residents of Willow Lake. I love family sagas/community dramas and the strong element of community entwined with the life of the Bellamy family in this story reminded me of one of my favourite television series – the Gilmore Girls. The stories of early camp life and the romance element of the plot also reminded me of Dirty Dancing which is another of my favourites so you can see why this book appealed to me so much!

I’d highly recommend Summer at Willow Lake to anyone looking for a summer read that is a little bit different from the usual beach reads. With a perfect mix of nostalgia, romance and drama this is a well written book with characters that will draw you in and have you coming back for more – I’m already looking forward to the next installment!


Summer at Willow Lake is out now and I’d like to thank Christabel at Midas for sending me a copy to review.

You can find out more about Susan Wiggs and her books at:

5 Responses to “Book review – Summer at Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs”

  1. Sharon Goodwin 27th June 2011 at 6:55 pm #

    I love the sound of Summer at Willow Lake – on my wish list :)

    • Amanda 27th June 2011 at 9:55 pm #

      Thanks Sharon – I think you’ll really enjoy it!

  2. Vicki 27th June 2011 at 8:17 pm #

    I have this one coming up to read very soon and I’m looking forward to it even more now! Great review!

    • Amanda 27th June 2011 at 9:55 pm #

      Thanks Vicki – I’ll look forward to hearing what you think!

  3. Dot 29th June 2011 at 11:28 am #

    Just about to start this, looking forward to it even more after reading your review!

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