Published: August 28, 2012 (Harlequin MIRA)
Format: Egalley from publisher via NetGalley (Thank you!)
Summary: Sonnet Romano's life is almost perfect. She has the ideal career, the ideal boyfriend, and has just been offered a prestigious fellowship. There's nothing more a woman wants - except maybe a baby sister? When Sonnet finds out her mother is unexpectedly expecting, and that the pregnancy is high-risk, she puts everything on hold - the job, the fellowship, the boyfriend - and heads home to Avalon. Once her mom is out of danger, Sonnet intends to pick up her life where she left off. But when her mother receives a devastating diagnosis, Sonnet must decide what really matters in life, even of that means staying in Avalon and taking a job that forces her to work alongside her biggest, and maybe her sweetest, mistake - award-winning filmmaker Zach Alger. So Sonnet embarks on a summer of laughter and tears, of old dreams and new possibilities, and of finding the home of her heart.
My Review: I went into Return to Willow Lake with a bit of hesitation. I had never read anything by Susan Wiggs before, and this book had a cover that made me think of those books that are cheesy in a way that is only acceptable if accompanied by lots of Christmas carols and mistletoe. I am very glad I gave Return to Willow Lake a chance, though, because it was so much better than I was expecting.
For starters, one thing I loved about this book was that the main two characters were not your typical leads. Sonnet was biracial - half African American, half Italian - and Zach was very pale with long, blond hair nearly as light as his skin. They had been very close friends throughout childhood and high school, and although they'd lived in separate cities for years, they were still share-the-big-news-first, visit-whenever-I'm-in-town friends. Until Sonnet's step-sister, Daisy's wedding at the beginning of the book. They had not seen each other for quite a while, and a romantic encounter caused Sonnet to freak and cut Zach out of her life for the next few months.
Then Sonnet received the news about her mother and moved home. As Zach was nearly a part of the family and her new job involved working with him (filming a reality show featuring Jezebel, a teenage hip-hop star), Sonnet and Zach's friendship began to recover. Except now there were feelings Sonnet did not know how to deal with.
One great thing about this book was how wonderfully the love story fit with the whole story. The romance moved at a great pace and never felt secondary, but it also did not overshadow Sonnet's relationship with her mother, which, as that was Sonnet's reason for turning away some amazing opportunities and moving back home, was rather important. I loved watching them interact. Nina was very wise and kind, and it broke my heart to watch her go through her struggles. Because Zach was so close to the family as well as working with Sonnet, the three plots - the family life, the job, the romance - all coalesced into one beautiful story.
There was some drama, which obviously had to happen. However, nothing was blown out of proportion or stretched to melodramatic lengths just to draw the book out longer, which would have been very easy to do with some of the conflict. I very much appreciate Wiggs and her ability to write a sweet, touching story without making me overdose on cheese. I will definitely be looking up more of her books, and I recommend this one, which is officially out today!
His kisses tasted of champagne and chocolate cake and memories so old she couldn’t tell if they were memories or dreams.
She’d always been good at school. Good at work. Good at being a trophy daughter. Sometimes, though, she wasn’t sure she was good at life.
If she’d become the person she’d dreamed of being at fifteen, she would be a prima ballerina with six kids and a horse farm.
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