All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Return To Willow Lake – Susan Wiggs and Author Q&A

on September 1, 2012

Return To Willow Lake
Susan Wiggs
Harlequin MIRA
2012, 320p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Sonnet Romano has always been an achiever. The best way to get her father’s attention was to work hard, get good marks in high school and college, to make something of herself. Sonnet was conceived when her mother was just a teenager and her father, then a promising young army recruit wasn’t around much as the two of them didn’t stay together. It wasn’t until Sonnet was an adult, making her own way in the world that they really connected. And Sonnet craves his approval so now she lives in New York, working for UNESCO and she’s just met Orlando, a young man who is going to managing her father’s (now a General) campaign to run for Senator. Orlando is perfect for her – he’s driven, successful and he’s from a good family.

However Sonnet’s carefully organised life is about to change when she receives some very unexpected news from her mother. Now married again, Sonnet’s mother is still young and the news is equal parts joy and sorrow. Sonnet knows she must do the right thing and be there for the woman who sacrificed so much to give her what she needed so she takes leave from her job and moves back to the small town of Avalon, where she grew up, to help her mother. Unfortunately for Sonnet, that move has some consequences – she has to face Zach Alger, who has been her best friend since primary school although they have drifted apart a little since Sonnet’s college days. When Sonnet was last in Avalon she had an impulsive one night stand with Zach and hasn’t spoken to him since – now they’re going to be in close proximity every day.

Once her mother is out of danger, Sonnet intends to return to the city and take up her old life – her job, her cordial relationship with her father, her relationship with Orlando. However the summer she spends in that small town by the lake with her family, working a different job, supporting her mother and in seeing Zach has the potential to change everything, if only she will let it.

Return To Willow Lake is the 9th installment in Susan Wigg’s Lakeshore Chronicles series but it’s the first one that I have read. I was assured that you can read them as stand alone novels and this does mostly work – there are recurring characters and links, but each book seems to be a new story about a new couple and it is possible to read them and lose relatively little in terms of story. The novel opens with the wedding of the couple from the previous book, after which Sonnet has a rather surprising one night stand with Zach, her childhood best friend and the wedding photographer. Then she goes back to New York and it seems that they don’t speak for a while until Sonnet is urgently recalled to her hometown  after some equally joyous and distressing news from her mother.

I admired Sonnet’s decision to give up her job, something important to her and her life in New York and move herself back to a place that she seemed to never really have intentions of returning to for anything other than a visit. Her and her mother have a lovely relationship, they’re very close (I think there’s only about 16 years between them) and that is really lovingly established by Wiggs. Also equally well established is the somewhat distant relationship she has with her father that seems to rely on her being what he wants her to be, what suits his image. In running for Senator, it is stressed that the opposition will search out any skeletons in the General’s closet, the implied thing being that Sonnet herself is such a skeleton. I feel as though Wiggs did quite well in building Sonnet as a character who strives to be something in order to please a person who doesn’t play a huge role in her life, seemingly ignoring that the job she did, while worthwhile, was not the one she loved passionately, or she was not working for that organisation in the capacity that she she wished to be and it was the same with her “relationship” (and I use the term loosely) with Orlando. She didn’t even see that she wasn’t really in a relationship, it was just an arrangement. Orlando had zero personality and there was nothing even remotely resembling any sort of feeling ever between the two of them at any stage throughout the book.

Unfortunately for me, I feel as though this book dragged at the beginning – I feel as though the book really began at the point where Sonnet’s mother confessed her bittersweet news and Sonnet made the decision to move back ‘home’ to help her and be there for her and support her. I feel as though there were some big moments during this time that weren’t explored as well as they could have been and I’d liked to have read more about the treatment and that experience, although I know that may have ended up being too dark for a book of this type.

Likewise the romance between Zach and Sonnet was disappointing to me. Their interactions were few and far between and after the seemingly out of no where one night stand, it seemed as though there was little else in the way of physical affection or ‘moments’ between the pair, and this is where my lack of reading the earlier books may come into play here, because although I felt their childhood relationship was well mapped out through the book, the adult one did not seem to receive the same treatment. I wanted to feel their attraction, their connection and ultimately, I just didn’t.


Book #167 of 2012

I was given an opportunity to do an interview with Susan Wiggs about her writing!

1. Hi Susan and thank you so much for answering my questions. I see from your website that you wrote your first novel at a very young age! How did it go from that to being published?

SW: I lived my life and learned my craft. So from that first funny little booklet I put together at the age of eight, to selling my first novel at the age of 27, I stayed busy reading, writing and learning.

2. This is the 9th novel in the Lakeshore Chronicles series. When you began this series, did you intend it to contain so many volumes or has it just totally taken on a life of its own and the ideas just kept coming?

SW: The latter, for sure. I give total credit to my readers. Their interest and energy keeps the storyline going, book after book. Avalon has become a real place in my mind, thanks to readers who want to know more about the lives and loves of the Bellamys and all their friends and families.

3. I’m assuming with so many novels under your belt that you write full time – could you take us through an average day in your life? How long do you spend writing out of the day and what is your routine? Do you have a specific place where you like to write your novels, be it an office in your house, on the couch or maybe at a local coffee shop?

SW: I do write full time. Sometimes that means a 60-hour work week, others just 20 or so, depending on how the book is going. I write anywhere I can drag a notebook and pen. RETURN TO WILLOW LAKE was begun on magical Ross Lake in the Cascades (the photo on my web site was taken there) and continued at Lake MacKenzie, a totally different magical lake on Fraser Island in Australia. I guess I have a thing for lakes. When I’m home, I write on the patio or on the sofa by a roaring fire, depending on what the weather is doing.

4. Are you an extensive plotter or do you sit down and just allow the story to develop as you write?

SW: Both. I spend a lot of time plotting out a book, and then sometimes it goes off in an unplanned direction. RETURN TO WILLOW LAKE had a big plan behind it, but then Sonnet threw me a few surprises with some of the decisions she made. She is a fascinating character to me.

5. What hobbies do you like to indulge in when you’re in between books or taking a break from the writing process?

SW: Everything! Reading, travel, photography, boating, hiking, biking, skiing, dog walking…I want to do it all. First and foremost, I love hanging out with my family and friends, love interacting with readers online.

6. Lastly, describe yourself and your novels in 3 words.

SW: Dreamy. Emotional. Irreverent. 🙂

2 responses to “Return To Willow Lake – Susan Wiggs and Author Q&A

  1. Great review and interview Bree, i find it amazing how many books these authors get under their belt!
    I actually read the first book in the series- Summer at Willow Lake recently- i think the covers have received a bit of a makeover and that’s why i got a review copy. I quite liked it!

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