They say that opposites attract. But what happens when one of them has been devastated by betrayal and the other is so damaged and jaded that his heart is made of stone? In New York Times bestselling author Lisa Kleypas's Dream Lake, readers well enter the world of Friday Harbor, an enchanting town in the Pacific Northwest where things are not quite as they seem and where true love might just have a ghost of a chance. . . .
Alex Nolan is about as bitter and cynical as they come. One of three Nolan brothers who call Friday Harbor home, he's nothing like Sam or Mark. They actually believe in love; they think the risk of pain is worth the chance of happiness. But Alex battles his demons with the help of a whiskey bottle, and he lives in his own private hell. And then, a ghost shows up. Only Alex can see him. Has Alex finally crossed over the threshold to insanity?
Zoë Hoffman is as gentle and romantic as they come. When she meets the startlingly gorgeous Alex Nolan, all her instincts tell her to run. Even Alex tells her to run. But something in him calls to Zoë, and she forces him to take a look at his life with a clear eye and to open his mind to the possibility that love isn't for the foolish.
The ghost has been existing in the half-light of this world for decades. He doesn't know who he is, or why he is stuck in the Nolans' Victorian house. All he knows is that he loved a girl once. And Alex and Zoë hold the key to unlocking a mystery that keeps him trapped here.
Zoë 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, and sometimes love can reach beyond time, space, and reason to take hold of hearts that yearn for it. . . .
About the Author
Lisa Kleypas is the award-winning author of more than thirty novels, including A Wallflower Christmas, Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor, and Love in the Afternoon. Her books have been published in sixteen languages and are bestsellers all over the world. She lives in Washington State with her husband and two children.
Read an Excerpt
The ghost had tried many times to leave the house, but it was impossible. Whenever he approached the front threshold or leaned through a window, he disappeared, the sum of him dispersing like mist in the air. He worried that one day he might not be able to take shape again. He wondered if being trapped here was a punishment for the past he couldn't remember ... and if so, how long would it last?
The Victorian house stood at the end of Rainshadow Road, overlooking the circular shoreline of False Bay like a wallflower waiting alone at a dance. Its painted clapboard siding had been corroded from sea air, its interior ruined by a succession of careless tenants. Original hardwood floors had been covered with shag carpeting, rooms divided by thin chipboard walls, wood trim coated with a dozen layers of cheap paint.
From the windows, the ghost had watched shorebirds: sandpipers, yellowlegs, plovers, whimbrels, plucking at the abundant food in tidepools on straw-colored mornings. At night he stared at stars and comets and the cloud-hazed moon, and sometimes he saw northern lights dance across the horizon.
The ghost wasn't certain how long he had been at the house. Without a heartbeat to measure the passing seconds, time was timeless. He had found himself there one day with no name, no physical appearance, and no certainty of who he was. He didn't know how he'd died, or where, or why. But a few memories danced at the edge of his awareness. He felt sure that he had lived on San Juan Island for part of his life. He thought he might have been a boatman or a fisherman. When he looked out at False Bay, he remembered things about the water beyond it ... the channels between the San Juan Islands, the narrow straits around Vancouver. He knew the splintered shape of Puget Sound, the way its dragon-teeth inlets cut across Olympia.
The ghost also knew many songs, all the verses and lyrics, even the preludes. When the silence was too much to stand, he sang to himself as he moved through the empty rooms.
He craved interaction with any kind of creature. He went unnoticed even by the insects that scuttled across the floor. He hungered to know anything about anyone, to remember people he had once known. But those memories had been locked away until the mysterious day when his fate would finally be revealed.
One morning, visitors came to the house.
Electrified, the ghost watched a car approach, its wheels ironing flat channels in the heavy growth of weeds along the unpaved drive. The car stopped and two people emerged, a young man with dark hair, and an older woman dressed in jeans and flat shoes and a pink jacket.
"... couldn't believe it was left to me," she was saying. "My cousin bought it back in the seventies with the idea of fixing it up and selling it, but he never got around to it. The value of this property is in the land — you'd have to tear the house down, no question."
"Have you gotten an estimate?" the man asked.
"On the lot?"
"No, on restoring the house."
"Heavens, no. There's structural damage — everything would have to be redone."
He stared at the house with open fascination. "I'd like to have a look inside."
A frown pulled the woman's forehead into crinkles, like a lettuce leaf. "Oh, Sam, I'm sure it's not safe."
"I'll be careful."
"I wouldn't want to be responsible for you getting hurt. You could fall right through the floor, or a beam could drop on you. And there's no telling what kind of vermin —"
"Nothing's going to happen." His tone was coaxing. "Give me five minutes. I just want a quick look."
"I really shouldn't let you do this."
Sam flashed her a grin of renegade charm. "But you will. Because you just can't resist me."
She tried to look stern, but a reluctant smile emerged.
I used to be like that, the ghost thought with surprise. Elusive memories flickered, of past flirtations and long-ago evenings spent on front porches. He had known how to charm women young and old, how to make them laugh. He had kissed girls with sweet tea on their breaths, their necks and shoulders dusted with scented powder.
The big-framed young man bounded to the front porch and shouldered the door open when it stuck. As he stepped into the entrance hall, he turned wary, as if he expected something to jump out at him. Each footstep broke through a scurf of dust, raising ashy plumes from the floor and making him sneeze.
Such a human sound. The ghost had forgotten about sneezing.
Sam's gaze moved across the dilapidated walls. His eyes were blue even in the shadows, whisks of laugh lines at the outer corners. He wasn't handsome, but he was good-looking, his features strong and blunt-edged. He'd been out in the sun a lot, the tan going several layers deep. Looking at him, the ghost could almost remember the feel of sunlight, the hot slight weight of it on his skin.
The woman had crept to the front doorway, her hair surrounding her head in a silver nimbus as she peered inside the entranceway. She gripped one side of the door frame as if it were a support pole on a lurching subway train. "It's so dark in there. I really don't think —"
"I'm going to need more than five minutes," Sam said, pulling a small flashlight from his key chain and clicking it on. "You might want to go out for coffee and come back in, say ... half an hour?"
"And leave you here all alone?"
"I won't cause any damage."
The woman snorted. "I'm not worried about the house, Sam."
"I've got my cell phone," he said, patting his back pocket. "I'll call if there's a problem." The smile lines at the corners of his eyes deepened. "You can come rescue me."
She let out a dramatic sigh. "What exactly do you think you're going to find in this wreckage?"
His gaze had already left hers, his attention recaptured by his surroundings. "A home, maybe."
"This place was a home once," she said. "But I can't imagine it could ever be one again."
The ghost was relieved when the woman left.
Directing the flashlight in slow arcs, Sam began to explore in earnest, while the ghost followed him room by room. Dust lay over fireplace mantels and broken furniture like gauze veils.
Seeing a torn section of shag carpeting, Sam lowered to his heels, pulled at the rug, and shone the light on the hardwood flooring beneath. "Mahogany?" he murmured, examining the dark, gluey surface. "Oak?"
Black walnut, the ghost thought, looking over his shoulder. Another discovery ... he knew about flooring, how to sand and hand-scrape and tack-clean it, how to apply stain with a wad of wool fleece.
They went to the kitchen, with its alcove designed for a cast-iron stove, a few scales of broken tiles still clinging to the walls. Sam directed the beam of light to the high trussed ceilings, the cabinets hanging askew. He focused on an abandoned bird's nest, let his gaze fall to the ancient splatters of droppings beneath, and shook his head. "I must be crazy," he muttered.
Sam left the kitchen and went to the staircase, pausing to rub his thumb over the balustrade. A streak of scarred wood shone ruddily through the grime. Placing his feet carefully to avoid perforations of rot on the steps, he made his way to the second floor. At intervals he made a face and let out a puff of breath, as if at some noxious odor. "She's right," he said ruefully, as he reached the second-floor landing. "This place is nothing but a teardown."
That sent a jolt of worry through the ghost. What would happen to him if someone razed the house to the ground? It might extinguish him for good. The ghost couldn't conceive that he had been trapped alone here only to be snuffed out for no apparent reason. He circled around Sam, studying him, wanting to communicate but afraid it might send the man screaming from the place.
Sam walked right through him and stopped at the window overlooking the front drive. Ancient grime coated the glass, blunting the daylight in soft gloom. A sigh escaped him. "You've been waiting a long time, haven't you?" Sam asked quietly.
The question startled the ghost. But as Sam continued, the ghost realized he was talking to the house. "I bet you were something to see, a hundred years ago. It would be a shame not to give you a chance. But damn, you're going to take some serious cash. And it's going to take just about everything I've got to get the vineyard going. Hell, I don't know ..."
As the ghost accompanied Sam through the dusty rooms, he sensed the man's growing attachment to the ramshackle house, his desire to make it whole and beautiful again. Only an idealist or a fool, Sam figured aloud, would take on such a project. The ghost agreed.
Eventually Sam heard the woman's car horn, and he went outside. The ghost tried to accompany him, but he felt the same dizzying, shattering, flying-apart sensation that always happened when he tried to leave. He went to watch from a broken window as Sam opened the car's passenger door.
Pausing for a last glance, Sam contemplated the house slumped in the meadow, its rickety lines softened by swaths of arrowgrass and clustered pickleweed, and the bristled tangles of chairmaker's rush. The flat blue of False Bay retreated in the distance, shimmers of tidepools beginning at the edge of fecund brown silt.
Sam gave a short nod, as if he'd decided on his course.
And the ghost made yet another discovery ... he was capable of hope.
* * *
Before Sam made an offer for the property, he brought someone else to look at it — a man who looked to be about his age, thirty or thereabouts. Maybe a little younger. His gaze was cold with a cynicism that should have taken lifetimes to acquire.
They had to be brothers — they had the same heavy brown-black hair and wide mouth, the same strapping build. But whereas Sam's eyes were tropical blue, his brother's were the color of glacial ice. His face was expressionless, except for the bitter set of his mouth within deeply carved brackets. And in contrast to Sam's roughcast good looks, the other man possessed a near prodigal handsomeness, his features bladelike and perfect. This was a man who liked to dress well and live well, who shelled out for expensive haircuts and foreign-made shoes.
The incongruous note in all that impeccable grooming was the fact that the man's hands were work-roughened and capable. The ghost had seen hands like that before ... maybe his own? ... He looked down at his invisible self, wishing for a shape, a form. A voice. Why was he here with these two men, able only to observe, never to speak or interact? What was he supposed to learn?
In fewer than ten minutes, the ghost perceived that Alex, as Sam called him, knew a hell of a lot about construction. He started by circling the exterior, noting cracks in the substrate, gaps in the trim, the sagging front porch with its decaying joists and beams. Once inside, Alex went to the exact places that the ghost would have shown him to demonstrate the house's condition — uneven sections of flooring, doors that wouldn't close properly, blooms of mold where faulty plumbing had leaked.
"The inspector said the structural damage was repairable," Sam commented.
"Who'd you get to do it?" Alex lowered to his haunches to examine the collapsed parlor fireplace, the fractures in the exposed chimney.
"Ben Rawley." Sam looked defensive as he saw Alex's expression. "Yeah, I know he's a little old —"
"He's a fossil."
"— but he still knows his stuff. And he did it for free, as a favor."
"I wouldn't take his word. You need to get an engineer in here for a realistic assessment." Alex had a distinctive way of talking, every syllable as measured and flat as unspooling contractor's tape, with the hint of a rasp. "The only plus in this whole scenario is that with a structurally unsound house on the property, it's worth less than vacant land. So you might be able to argue for a break on the price, considering the expense of demolition and haul-off."
The ghost was wrenched with anxiety. Destroying the house might be the end of him. It might send him to oblivion.
"I'm not going to tear it down," Sam said. "I'm going to save it."
"I know." Sam dragged a hand through his hair with a scrubbing motion, causing the short, dark strands to stand up in wild dishevelment. He let out a heavy sigh. "The land is perfect for the vineyard — I know I should settle for that and count myself lucky. But this house ... there's something I just ..." He shook his head, looking baffled and concerned and determined all at once.
Both the ghost and Sam expected Alex to mock him. Instead, Alex stood and wandered across the parlor, going to a boarded-up window. He pulled at the ancient sheet of plywood. It came off easily, offering only a creak of protest. Light flooded the room along with a rush of clean air, knee-high eddies of dust motes glinting in the newly admitted sun.
"I have a thing about lost causes, too." A faint, wry note edged Alex's voice. "Not to mention Victorian houses."
"Of course. High-maintenance, energy-inefficient design, toxic materials ... what's not to love?"
Sam smiled. "So if you were me, how would you go about this?"
"I'd run as fast as possible in the opposite direction. But since you're obviously going to buy the place ... don't waste your time with a regulated lender. You're going to need a hard-money guy. And the rates are going to suck."
"Do you know anyone?"
"I might. Before we start talking about that, though, you need to face reality. You're looking at 250K of repairs, minimum. And don't expect to lean on me for free supplies and labor — I'm going ahead with the Dream Lake site, so I'll be as busy as a cat burying shit."
"Believe me, Al, I never expect to lean on you for anything." Sam's voice turned arid. "I know better."
Tension laced the air, a mingling of affection and hostility that could only have come from a troubled family history. The ghost was perplexed by an unfamiliar sensation, a raw chill that would have caused him to shiver if he'd had a human form. It was a depth of despair that even the ghost, in his bleak solitude, had never experienced — and it radiated from Alex Nolan.
The ghost moved away instinctively, but there was no escaping the feeling. "Is that how it feels to be you?" he asked, pitying the man. He was startled to see Alex cast a glance over his shoulder in his direction. "Can you hear me?" the ghost continued in wonder, circling around him. "Did you just hear my voice?"
Alex made no response, only gave a brief shake of his head as if to clear away a daydream. "I'll send an engineer over here," he eventually said. "No charge. You're going to be spending more than enough on this place. I don't think you have a clue about what you're getting into."
* * *
Almost two years passed before the ghost saw Alex Nolan again. During that time, Sam had become the lens through which the ghost could view the outside world. Although he still couldn't leave the house, there were visitors: Sam's friends, his vineyard crew, subcontractors who worked on the electricity and plumbing.
Sam's older brother, Mark, appeared about once a month to help with smaller weekend projects. One day they leveled a section of flooring, and another they sandblasted and reglazed an antique clawfoot bathtub. All the while, they talked and exchanged good-natured insults. The ghost enjoyed those visits immensely.
More and more, he was recalling things about his former life, gathering memories like scattered beads from the floor. He came to remember that he liked big band jazz and comic book heroes and airplanes. He had liked listening to radio shows: Jack Benny, George and Gracie, Edgar Bergen. He hadn't yet recovered enough of his past to have any sense of the whole, but he thought he would in time. Like those paintings in which points of color, when viewed from a distance, would form a complete image.
Mark Nolan was easygoing and dependable, the kind of man the ghost would have liked to have as a friend. Since he owned a coffee-roasting business, Mark always brought bags of whole beans and began each visit by brewing coffee — he drank it by the potful. As Mark meticulously ground the beans and measured them out, the ghost remembered coffee, its bittersweet, earthy scent, the way a spoonful of cane sugar and a dollop of cream turned it into liquid velvet.
The ghost gleaned from the Nolans' conversations that their parents had both been alcoholics. The scars they had left on their children — three sons and a daughter named Victoria — were invisible but bone-deep. Now, even though their parents were long gone, the Nolans had little to do with each other. They were survivors of a family that no one wanted to remember.
Excerpted from "Dream Lake"
Copyright © 2012 Lisa Kleypas.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Reading Group Guide
1. Do you believe in ghosts? If so, why? If not, why not? Have you had any experience with supernatural events in your life?
2. What factors do you think have brought Alex Nolan to the bad state he is in when the novel opens? And in what ways do you see Alex's story mirrored in the ghost's?
3. Zoë and Alex are opposites in every way. Do you believe this made their attraction more compelling?
4. Of the three Nolan brothers, why do you think Alex is the most damaged, even though they all come from the same family background?
5. What was the turning point for you in Alex and Zoë's relationship? When did you truly believe that these two belonged together? Was there any moment in the book when you felt that they should not be together?
6. How realistically do you think the author handled Alzheimer's disease in this novel?
7. In the context of the novel, do you believe that the childlike aspects of Alzheimer's make one more open to the possibilities of the supernatural?
8. What elements of Friday Harbor itself make it come alive to you? Is Friday Harbor a place you'd like to visit? To live? Why or why not?
9. Why do you think the ghost could not cross over and what do you believe occurred to make it possible?
10. What is the author trying to say about true love and the power of love?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This latest book about the youngest of the Nolan brothers was sweet, endearing, romantic, and whimsical. This storyline actually runs during the same time as Rainshadow Road, which I thouht gave it an interesting perspective.
Luv it. Can't put it down.
There are only few books with a great storyline. This was one of them. A great summer read.
I loved this book. Could not put it down. Can not wait for the next one.
I read all the books in this series and I wasn't disappointed in any of them. Great author!
I couldn't put it down! A great read from a truly great writer! Have a box of Kleenex handy!
Must read for Lisa Kleypas fans...must read for anyone who loves a good romance and happily ever after. And you get two stories. Happy reading!
I enjoyed this book. Was worth the wait.
I have become jaded lately after reading so many books that disappoint me a bit, this one has renewed my enthuiasm for the romance genre. Thank you, Lisa! I can honestly say this is the best book I have read in years.
WOW! LOVED IT! Okay, I LOVE Lisa Kleypas! And, I have read every novel I can get my hands on. I don't even really have to read what they are before buying because, I know I will love it. I loved all the previous Friday Harbor books. And, although I did not really like Alex in the other 2 books. I had to give it a try. Reading the back & realizing it was with a ghost was a little weird. Not, that I don't like books with that… I just wasn't use to it with her. The previous one had a little intro to magic & I found it sooo sweet. But, a ghost… Once I started reading, I fell in love with it. And, finally getting into the deep pain that Alex had, makes you love him. What great characters! Wonderful Story! Can't wait to read the next one!
I really loved this 3rd book in the Friday Harbor series. It is filled with so much magic. It has a great love story, even more than first expected. There are some bittersweet moments that Lisa Kleypas handles so beautifully. Definitely a must read.
Best book ever
"I will thank you Scorchstar." He dipped his head.
Great book expecially for people that like to read romance novels!
((Alright, have fun.))