Fern Brookbanks has wasted far too much of her adult life thinking about Will Baxter. She spent just twenty-four hours in her early twenties with the aggravatingly attractive, idealistic artist, a chance encounter that spiraled into a daylong adventure in Toronto. The timing was wrong, but their connection was undeniable: they shared every secret, every dream, and made a pact to meet one year later. Fern showed up. Will didn’t.
At thirty-two, Fern’s life doesn’t look at all how she once imagined it would. Instead of living in the city, Fern’s back home, running her mother’s Muskoka lakeside resort–something she vowed never to do. The place is in disarray, her ex-boyfriend’s the manager, and Fern doesn’t know where to begin.
She needs a plan–a lifeline. To her surprise, it comes in the form of Will, who arrives nine years too late, with a suitcase in tow and an offer to help on his lips. Will may be the only person who understands what Fern’s going through. But how could she possibly trust this expensive-suit wearing mirage who seems nothing like the young man she met all those years ago. Will is hiding something, and Fern’s not sure she wants to know what it is.
But ten years ago, Will Baxter rescued Fern. Can she do the same for him?
Do you ever feel bad for the author when writing a less than perfect review? Because that’s how I feel right now especially after having read the author’s notes in which Carley explains that she really struggled to write this one.
But I swore to always be honest in my reviews so here we go, no matter what.
Is that book bad?
There are plenty of things that I loved like:
–The set of side characters. From Fern’s best friend looking like an overenthusiastic puppy to the Roses, the old eccentric guests making cocktails, to Peter’s solid and discreet presence, they all helped me see that world, make it real.
–The setting. A resort alongside a Canadian lake. I could see myself swimming or hiring a canoe. I heard the birds in the trees, saw the dining room with guests etc. It felt like being on holiday.
–The pacing. It was just right for the story. We switch between past, when Fern met Will and now, ten years later. It was steady, not too fast nor too slow and fitting to have the story unfurl slowly, recounting past events and present traumas.
–The meet cute. Fern and Will’s day in the city ten years ago was the perfect romantic meet. It felt like a bubble in time where everything is ripe with possibilities. Will was the promising and handsome artist, Fern was prickly and undecided yet about her future. Both on the brink of a new life.
–Fern. I think Carley Fortune wrote Fern very realistically. She is full of doubts, is looking for her path in life. Past Fern had her demons, understandably so and went through a wild phase. New Fern is more mature but still struggling after her mother’s death. She will grow a lot in the story.
–The ending. Thank god we had these last 10 percent! That helped explain a lot about Will’s decision and had me feeling a smidge better.
I am a reader and reviewer very much driven by my emotions and feelings.
And what I felt very often was extremely frustrated!
I was angry with Will. He never showed up nine years ago and now that he is back, he gives no explanation, no excuses. And Fern chooses to go with it???
Sorry but if you don’t show up and you screw up, you GROVEL!
You explain and hope it’s a fantastic explanation to beg for forgiveness.
Not knowing what happened had me keeping Will at arm’s length. I didn’t trust him and didn’t warm up to him, even if he was kind of a baby whisperer. And I didn’t understand Fern in her decision to take a risk, knowing that her heart could be crushed again. Even if at the same time I admired her bravery.
As a character driven reader, not liking Will really dampened my enjoyment and is the main reason for my low rating alongside the lack of groveling.
What I would have liked to see more of was grief.
Fern just lost her mom. We get passing mentions that she misses her mom and see her reading her diary but I think the story would have gained even more depth if we focused more on the grief stages. I don’t mean to make it a sob story or the core of the book but it was nearly brushed under the rug. Or at least, that’s how I experienced it.
As you can see, that book has a lot of assets but also missed the mark for me.
Does that mean that Carley Fortune is a “one book” author like she feared? Certainly not as she has proven that she can write. I just hope for her that her next story will “spill out” of her like Every Summer After did.
Also, I haven’t looked at any review yet so I might be in the minority here. So go check other opinions (like I’ll do now 😉 ).
Thanks for reading.