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Erica’s Pick of the Week: Meet Me at the Lake

The phrase “beach read” is a deeply subjective one. For some, it means a breezy romance set on a literal oceanside beach. For others, it’s an action-packed twisty thriller – the literary equivalent of a summer popcorn flick. For other people it’s a behemoth of a book – a biography, or a classic work – that they haven’t been able to make the time for during the hustle and bustle of the regular year.

Carley Fortune’s Meet Me at the Lake is a quintessential beach read – an emotional summertime romance with a protagonist at a crossroads, a second-chance romance, family secrets, and the kind of dreamy, sun-dappled setting that makes you crave a tall glass of lemonade and a gently swaying hammock. It’s also a story about grief and growing up that deftly avoids cliches and pat answers.

Fern Brookbanks fled her family’s lakeside resort in Ontario more than a decade ago, but after her mother’s unexpected death, she returns home to decide if she’ll take over the business or sell it so she can go back to Toronto and finally open her dream coffee shop. It’s a big, complicated decision for grief-stricken Fern, made even more complicated when she meets Will Baxter, the consultant her mother hired shortly before she died – the same man who broke Fern’s heart ten years ago. There’s still plenty of chemistry between the two, but there’s also a lot of lingering hurt and unanswered questions. They pair reconnects over the course of the summer, but before Fern can truly chart a new path, she must come to terms with all she has lost, recognize what she still has, and face her fears about the future – with or without Will. 

The story unfolds across two timelines: the present summer, and the single day ten years ago that Fern and Will spent together. It’s a clever device that lets us see how the characters have – and haven’t – grown, and it quickly becomes clear that both Will and Fern have some hard lessons to learn before they can earn a happy ending. The secondary characters, including Fern’s college boyfriend and her best friend, also evolve, resulting in an exasperating, engaging found family that supports Fern as she adjusts to life without her mother. 

Brookbanks Resort feels like Dirty Dancing brought to life – timeless and a little rustic but still comfortable – there’s even an end-of-summer dance and delicious meals. Fortune has a knack for creating a vivid, believable world that still feels like an escape. The writing flows easily, with dialogue that’s genuinely funny without relying too hard on sarcasm or snark. 

For all its summery vibe, however, Meet Me at the Lake doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff – it’s a moving portrait of grief and forgiveness, of lost opportunities and hard-won connection. Not every storyline is neatly wrapped up, not every problem is magically solved, and the result is a story that combines sunny charm with nuance, depth, and heart – the perfect choice for a beach read with staying power.

Categories: Books and More

Tags: Books and More

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