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Summer at Willow Lake (Lakeshore Chronicles, Book 1) Mass Market Paperback – August 1, 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 459 customer reviews
Book 1 of 11 in the Lakeshore Chronicles Series

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The Underground Railroad
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The latest contemporary from Wiggs (Table for Five) is a quiet, character-based romance set at the Catskills camp that Olivia Bellamy is renovating for her grandparents' 50th anniversary. Helping out is contractor Connor Davis, who initially doesn't recognize Olivia as the girl whose heart he broke a decade before at the very same camp. Now, both hold grudges against the other that hide their insecurities; although he's become successful and sophisticated, Connor believes Olivia's social status puts her out of his league, while Olivia remains buried in her awkward-little-fat-girl memories. The narrative switches off between present-day action and the summers Olivia and Connor spent at Camp Kioga, filling in the spaces of their relationship with each other and with their dysfunctional families. Wiggs's storytelling is heartwarming, but avoids schmaltz, and her chick-lit–ready leads seem older than their 20-some years, adding weight to their stories. Happily clutter free—no subplots to take attention away from the intelligent, appealing couple—this book, first in a series, should appeal to romance and women's fiction readers of any age. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Camp Kioga means many things to many people. For Olivia Bellamy, whose family operated the camp in the Catskills, it's all about bad memories. Although she was just as rich as the other attendees, she was never as pretty or thin or self-assured. The only thing that kept her from being completely miserable was the arrival each summer of Connor Davis. For Connor, the camp took him away from a life far different than Olivia's and showed him how life could be. Connor and Olivia finally have a relationship, which seems to scar her heart. Years later, a slimmed-down, professional Olivia is asked by her grandmother to prepare the camp for her fiftieth wedding anniversary. Connor is still in the area, and as soon as she hires him to help with the project, feelings arise on both sides. How good is perennially popular Wiggs in her new romance? Superb. Wonderfully evoked characters, a spellbinding story line, and insights into the human condition will appeal to every reader. Maria Hatton
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Mira (August 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0778323250
  • ISBN-13: 978-0778323259
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.4 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (459 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,017,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Prince on August 1, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Olivia Bellamy decides to spend her summer renovating Camp Kioga, the resort camp that has been in the family for over 3 generations. Her grandparents plan to celebrate their 50th anniversary by "renewing their vows" at the camp where they had first met, but since the camp has been closed for the last nine years it needs an "extreme makeover" before it can host such a huge family event. Olivia is reluctant to accept the job at first, because she spent all of her summers growing up there, and they were not happy memories. But after being dumped by her third fiance, she is overwhelmed with the need to get out of Manhattan, and away from her disappointed parents. Returning to Camp Kioga brings back many uncomfortable memories of her childhood growing up an overweight "smart mouthed" kid, with thick glasses and no friends ... no friends except for her older cousins, and one very handsome boy who was as unhappy and lonely as she was. His name was Connor Davis, and on Olivia's very first day back at the old camp, she finds out that he is the only building contractor available in town. Even though she loved Connor growing up, Olivia is not anxious to see him again, because he broke her heart when she was eighteen, the summer before she started college. When Connor arrives at camp to give a renovation estimate, he sees a beautiful, slender blonde, hanging from a flag pole. He doesn't realize that she is his childhood friend "Lolly", because Olivia Bellamy has changed quite a lot in the last several years...

This story goes back and forth between "present day" camp renovation, and Olivia's childhood memories of camp, (and a few memories from her parents' generation), but it does not distract from the story at all. It's a really good story, and the book was a joy to read from beginning to end. This is one of Susan Wiggs' best written books, and I find it very similar in style to many of family sagas written by Nora Roberts.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
First, this is more like a 2.5 than a 3 star book for me.

When I first started this story about a woman who is trying to get her life on track after her third serious relationship falls apart through no reason she can understand, I was interested. I liked the flashbacks to the camp, I liked her best friend, I liked her. I was willing to believe that this book deserved its RITA nomination. It was solidly entertaining, which is all I ever look for in my romance novels.

Somewhere along the way, I lost interest. Was it when I realized that her best friend was too awesome for her? That was a little early in the book. Was it when I began to think that her first boyfriend and new love interest was not so much a bad boy as a kind of lame man? Again, that was a little early. Was it when I realized I was following multiple love stories, solving a mystery about the main character's father, and watching a set up for future books? YEP. That's exactly where I lost interest in this whole thing.

This was my introduction to Susan Wiggs, and I found it both lackluster and slightly overwhelming. Was I supposed to care about all of the Bellamys? I know why romance novelists set up their series nowadays, and feel the need to revisit old characters from previous novels, but some days, I just want to read a standalone. I don't care about the future books or the past books. It's as hard to find a standalone romance as it is to find a single book in a fantasy series. WHY, authors, WHY? I know the answer is money, but, consider your readers.

If you like series, and you're ready to dive into them, and you love the idea of fake 'bad boys', perhaps you'll like this book. I just kept wondering why the main character didn't get together with her best friend who seemed like a way more awesome choice.
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I liked the idea of this book--that the heroine would return to the family's summer camp to renovate it, and at the same time face and overcome her painful memories as a camper and counselor there. But somewhere along the way, the story bogged down for me. I think the author tried to incorporate too many story lines and too many characters, which made it difficult to keep them all straight or even care about them. (The book's afterword invites the reader to look for more books in the "Lakeshore Chronicles" series, which explains why the author included so many extra characters but doesn't make it any more acceptable.) I thought the author's characterizations were all over the map and--maybe because she was juggling so many story lines--I never felt like I saw the characters' relationships changing and growing. Instead, the author told us that weeks had passed, that work had been done, and that relationships had changed and deepened. And even when the author did try to show us meaningful moments in the characters' lives, their reactions did not ring true to me--maybe because they all seemed to be walking-talking incarnations of Sociology 101 case studies: kids of divorce, biracial children, children of alcoholics, etc. It didn't help that the dialog was often stilted and somtimes descended into Oprah-speak: "You and Max are just beginning this journey. I wish I could spare you the pain and confusion you're bound to feel, but that isn't how divorce works." People don't talk that way. Ultimately, the book had some moving moments and I did finish it, but I sure won't be looking for the next book in this series.
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