Return to Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs (Part of Lakeshore Chronicles series)
Publication Date: August 28, 2012
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: romance, single parents, fathers/daughters, mothers/daughters
Format read: ARC from NetGalley. (Thanks!)
Summary: On the cusp of an exciting opportunity at her job and growing closer to her successful boyfriend, Sonnet finds herself leaving New York City and returning to her small town of Avalon to care for her mom, who is facing a difficult pregnancy. After an unexpected encounter the last time she was home with her best friend, Zach, and the pressure of her father’s political campaign, Sonnet finds herself under a lot of pressure and struggling to come to terms with how she really wants her life to be.
After a childhood of wishing her parents would get together and form the perfect family, Sonnet has the next best thing — an awesome mother, Nina, who is married to a man who loves her unconditionally, and after many years, a stable relationship with her uber-successful father, General Lawrence Jeffries, who is heavy-duty campaigning to be senator.
In Return to Willow Lake, Sonnet is pulled in separate directions due to her relationships with both parents. She puts great pressure on herself to be the ideal daughter for her father when it comes to dating and her job, yet when she finds out her mom is pregnant and facing high risk complications, her initial reaction is to drop the job and move back home to care for her.
Now embracing a very different job and the simple joys of her hometown, Sonnet faces a new conflict – what if the person she has been building herself up to be is not really her at all?
Enter Zach, her attractive best male best friend and budding filmmaker. After an interesting shared moment or two or three a few months ago, their dynamic has changed. For so long Zach has been the person she has leaned on and called for good news, but all of a sudden – she’s not so sure what to make of their complicated friendship.
Sonnet’s not the only one figuring things out… from Zach’s chapters we see that he has focused on leaving Avalon and pursuing film in New York or California but can’t seem to escape the place he grew up. For years Zach has been paying for the mistakes of his dad and he’s set to finally do something for himself… but with Sonnet back in town, a request from Nina, and a great job that forces him to stay in Avalon… he’s not sure what to make of his future.
Unfortunately, Zach and Sonnet’s chemistry is mostly buried in the storyline focusing on Nina’s medical challenges (with a few unnecessary chapters from Nina’s POV as well) and the reader doesn’t get pent up, fiery passion from the pair. (A shame!) Though there are some entertaining moments between the two and a celebrity reality star (who I pictured as Macy Gray) who bestows some worthwhile wisdom and stars in some unexpected sweet moments throughout the book.
While the novel features some unbalanced plotlines and a few inconsistencies, it was Sonnet’s search for happiness that hit home the most — what’s right for someone else might not necessarily be the right thing for you. It took Sonnet a lot of pain and discovery to reach that understanding and make the right moves in her life. While I wish the romance had a bit more sizzle and the story jam-packed a lot of drama, Wiggs has succeeded in writing a fast-paced novel (that does not feel formulaic in the least) with many relatable emotional ups and downs at its core.
Oh, for those of you worried about jumping into the Lakeshore Chronicles with book 9, don’t! Return to Willow Lake is perfect as a standalone, or your introduction to the series in general.