Lisa Kleypas returns to Friday Harbor for the second-to-last time. The penultimate Friday Harbor novel brings together Zoë Hoffman and the youngest Nolan brother, Alex. His older brothers have escaped the shadow of their alcoholic parents, but Alex is beginning to self-medicate with alcohol after his divorce. A haunting and a romance may be exactly what he needs to escape the bottle.
New readers need not fear because Dream Lake summarizes the important bits of the first two Friday Harbor novels. In fact, the events of Rainshadow Road and Dream Lake mostly happen concurrently, making it easy to read either one first. And like most romance series, there’s little to link the books aside from setting and character connections. Alex is a Nolan; Zoë is Lucy’s best friend. (Lucy being the heroine of Rainshadow Road.)
Zoë is an absolute bombshell. Blonde hair, big boobs, small waist, generous hips, the works. She matured early and people judged her based on her appearance. The majority of her experience is restricted to guys who wanted in her pants and couldn’t care less about her mind. Her ex-husband was different but left a new black mark on her romantic record when he turned out to be gay. But she doesn’t have much time to worry about her romantic woes: her beloved grandmother has dementia and needs constant care. She needs to renovate her property on Dream Lake to stay with her grandmother until she needs to be institutionalized.
Enter Alex the carpenter. Alex married a woman who he knew he would never love and who he knew would leave him for a richer man eventually. In the aftermath of his divorce, he regrets that decision, especially since his ex-wife took him to the cleaners. He’s beginning to repeat his parents’ mistakes, but Zoë (and her cousin Justine) offer him a job and he’s still functional enough to show up on time and get the job done. He’s instantly attracted to Zoë but tries not to get involved since she doesn’t want sex without love. And for a magical Friday Harbor twist, he’s being haunted by a ghost that used to haunt his brother Sam’s house on Rainshadow Road. And this ghost may have ties to Zoë’s grandmother.
Dream Lake adds a touch of spice to the Friday Harbor series. Alex is pretty forward and he and Zoë start sleeping together earlier than the preceding two couples. There’s still less steam than most of Kleypas’s books. I think it may be because this series straddles contemporary romance and women’s fiction. Dream Lake does incorporate the paranormal elements more fully than Rainshadow Road did. The journey of his ghost helps Alex be less afraid of seizing love. The ghost is also a great character, snarking away when Alex does something particularly stupid.
Characters with an addiction are tough, so I wasn’t sure I was going to like Dream Lake. But Kleypas does a good job with it, particularly the moment when Alex realizes he is dependent on the alcohol and shaking without it. I think the romance built well, with Zoë and Alex spending time together in the cabin and Zoë knowing that Alex is overcoming his demons. I like that their relationship stays pretty equal, as Zoë has a past to overcome too. Hers might be less dramatic, but it’s still character growth.
I look forward to reading Crystal Cove, the last book in the Friday Harbor series, in February 2013. Kleypas has written better series, but there’s a nice, comforting quality to the Friday Harbor books.
Dream Lake takes readers once again to the exquisite setting of Friday Harbor, and tells the story of Zoe Hoffman, an innkeeper who has all but given up on love. She’s a gentle, romantic soul, but has been so hurt in the past that she dare not trust her heart with anyone. Especially not Alex Nolan. Alex is the most haunted of all the Nolan brothers. He drinks to keep his demons at bay and not only has he given up on love, he has never, ever believed in it. Zoe and Alex are oil and water, fire and ice, sunshine and shadow. But sometimes, it takes only a glimmer of light to chase away the dark. Dream Lake is classic Lisa Kleypas: romantic, powerful, emotional, and magical.
Read an excerpt here.