This is Carley Fortune’s second book and comes after her hugely popular debut, Every Summer After, which I enjoyed. In Meet Me at the Lake, our leads are Will and Fern. Ten years ago, the two spent one incredible day together in Toronto full of adventure. They promised to meet each other one year later, only Will doesn’t show.
Fern and Will first met when Will was painting a mural in the coffee shop where Fern worked. They had just graduated from college and are dating other people. Fern tells Will that she had been wanting to explore Toronto before she returns home to work at Brookbanks Resort in Muskoka, Ontario, which her family owns and Will offers to show her his favorite places. (Will only has one day before he has to go back to Vancouver to paint another mural.)
Their day together is magical. They walk through Graffiti Alley, eat lunch at a Vietnamese Sandwich shop, visit the Art Gallery of Ontario, go to a record store, a concert and more--the book does a lovely job of showcasing Toronto. They tell each other their hopes and dreams and Fern shares with Will that she really doesn’t want to go back to work at the resort. Will tells her he is going to be in her area in a year for his dad’s wedding and asks if he can come see her at the resort to see where she grew up and go canoeing together. They both feel such a strong connection between them that they promise to meet on the dock at Brookbanks Resort one year later.
Ten years later, in the present, Fern has returned to the resort in Muskoka, Ontario after her mother’s death from a sudden accident. She is grieving the loss of her mother and feels overwhelmed as she tries to decide whether to stay and run the resort or sell it to open her dream coffee shop in Toronto. She is surprised when she sees Will check into the Brookbanks Resort and shocked to find out he has been working as a business consultant for her mother. Fern is terribly hurt and upset with him for missing their rendezvous ten years earlier.
Fern thinks Will is incredibly handsome when she sees him dressed up in a suit. He tells her about his firm in Toronto that specializes in marketing and rebranding and that he has a soft spot for turning around struggling businesses, like the resort. It’s sweet when Will helps Fern when she’s babysitting her best friend’s fussy baby. Fern was getting desperate when Will shows up and helps her calm the baby down. He tells her that his sister had a baby so he’s had some practice with them. When he grew up, his parents were absent a lot. His mother was a gifted artist that suffered from depression and his father was busy with his new wife. Will’s sister and niece are his only real family. It’s wonderful to see Will and Fern become close again as Will helps her with the resort. Soon they are having dinners together in their cabin and things get spicy.
I was drawn into the story as layers were peeled back and secrets were revealed. I had so many questions I anxiously turned the pages. Why is Will a business advisor and no longer an artist, which had been his dream? Does Fern ever get to see Will’s tattoos? Will they find their way to happiness, both together and as individuals?
One of the things I loved was the beautiful setting of The Brookbanks lake resort. It’s similar to the hotel in Dirty Dancing, and it’s funny when Fern’s friends teasingly call her Baby. My favorite parts are when Fern and Will enjoy time at the lake getting to know each other again, especially when they go canoeing.
I didn’t like how upset Fern got about Will not meeting her at the lake. It just didn’t ring true to me how hurt she was because she really only knew him for one day, however I really wanted to know what happened to Will and why he didn’t come to the lake to meet her like he promised. I thought the drama and angst was a little over the top, including the third act breakup, when Will leaves without saying a word. However, I did appreciate how mental health issues were presented.
This is a quick enjoyable read at just over 300 pages and I recommend it to readers who like second chance romance with lots of drama. I read that Archewell (Megan and Harry) are planning to bring this story to Netflix.
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