Return to Willow Lake (Lakeshore Chronicles Series #9)

Return to Willow Lake (Lakeshore Chronicles Series #9)

by Susan Wiggs

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#1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs brings readers home to Avalon, a town nestled on the shores of Willow Lake, in a heartbreaking and uplifting novel that explores the bonds of family and the perils and rewards of love.

Sonnet Romano has the ideal career, the ideal boyfriend, and has just been offered a prestigious fellowship. But when she learns her mother is unexpectedly expecting in a high-risk pregnancy, she puts everything on hold and heads home to Avalon. Once her mom is out of danger, Sonnet intends to pick up her life where she left off.

But when her mother receives a devastating diagnosis, Sonnet must decide what really matters in life, even if that means staying in Avalon and taking a job that forces her to work alongside her biggest, and maybe her sweetest, mistake—award-winning filmmaker Zach Alger.

And in a summer of laughter and tears, of old dreams and new possibilities, Sonnet may find the home of her heart.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780778314998
Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication date: 02/26/2013
Series: Lakeshore Chronicles Series , #9
Edition description: Original
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 136,201
Product dimensions: 4.36(w) x 6.46(h) x 1.04(d)

About the Author

Susan Wiggs is the author of many beloved bestsellers, including the popular Lakeshore Chronicles series. She has won many awards for her work, including a RITA from Romance Writers of America. Visit her website at

Read an Excerpt

Moments before the wedding was to begin, Sonnet Romano shuddered with a wave of nervousness. "Mom," she said, hurrying over to the window, which framed a view of Willow Lake, "what if I screw up?"

Her mother turned from the window. The late afternoon light shrouded Nina Bellamy's slender form, and for a moment she appeared ethereal and as young as Sonnet herself. Nina looked fantastic in her autumn-gold silk sheath, her dark hair swept back into a low chignon. Only someone who knew her the way Sonnet did might notice the subtle lines of fatigue around her eyes and mouth, the vague puffiness of her skin. Just prior to the wedding, she'd attended the funeral, up in Albany, of her favorite aunt, who had died the week before of cancer, and the grief of goodbye lingered in her face.

"You're not going to screw up," Nina said. "You're going to be fabulous. You look amazing in that dress, you've memorized everything you're going to do and say, and it's going to be a wonderful evening."

"Yes, but—"

"Remember what I used to say when you were little—your smile is my sunshine."

"I remember." And the memory did its magic, bringing a smile to her face. Her mom had raised Sonnet alone, but only now that she was grown did she appreciate how hard that had been for Nina. "You gave me lots of memories, Mom."

"Come here, you." Nina opened her arms and Sonnet gratefully slipped into her mother's embrace.

"This feels nice. I wish I had a chance to come back here more often." Sonnet turned her face to the warm breeze blowing in through the window. The sheer beauty of the lake, nestled between the gentle swells of the Catskills, made her heart ache. Though she'd grown up in Avalon, the place felt foreign to Sonnet now, a world she used to inhabit and couldn't wait to leave.

Despite her vivid memories of her childhood here, playing in the woods with her friends or sledding down the hills in winter, she'd never truly appreciated the scenery until she'd left it behind, eager to find her life far away. Now that she lived in Manhattan, crammed into a closet-sized walk-up studio on a noisy East Side street, she finally understood the appeal of her old hometown.

"I wish you could, too," Nina said. "It's time-consuming, isn't it, saving the world?"

Sonnet chuckled. "Is that what I'm doing? Saving the world?"

"As a matter of fact, it is. Sweetie, I'm so proud to tell people you work with UNESCO, that your department saves children's lives all over the world."

"Ah, thanks, Mom. You make me think I do more than write emails and fill out forms." Sonnet often found herself wishing she could actually work with a child every once in a while. Buried in administrative chores, it was easy to forget.

On the smoothly-mown lawn below, guests were beginning to take their seats for the ceremony. Many of the groom's friends were in military dress uniform, adding a note of gravitas to the atmosphere.

"Wow," said Sonnet, "it's really happening, Mom. Finally."

"Yes," Nina agreed. "Finally."

A chorus of squeals came from the adjacent room, where the rest of the bridal party was getting ready.

"Daisy's going to be the prettiest bride ever," Sonnet said, feeling a thrum of emotion in her chest. The bride was Sonnet's best friend as well as her stepsister, and she was about to marry the love of her life. To Sonnet it felt like a dream come true…but also, deep in a hidden corner of her heart, a loss of sorts. Now someone else would be the keeper of Daisy's most private secrets, her soft place to fall, the person on the other end of the phone in the middle of the night.

"Until it's your turn," Nina said. "Then you'll be the prettiest bride ever."

Sonnet gave her mom's hand a squeeze. "Don't hold your breath. I'm busy saving the world, remember?"

"Just don't get so busy you forget to fall in love," Nina said.

Sonnet laughed. "I think you need to embroider that on a pillow. How about—Hello" Her mind drained of everything but the sight of the tallest groomsman in the wedding party, escorting the grandmother of the bride to her seat in the front row.

In a dove-gray swallowtail tux, he moved with long-limbed grace, although his height was not the most striking thing about him. It was his hair, as long and pale as a banner of surrender, giving him the otherworldly look of a mythical creature. She couldn't take her eyes off him.

"Holy cow," she said. "Is that.?"

"Yep," said her mother. "Zach Alger."


"He's finally grown into his looks, hasn't he?" Nina commented. "I'd forgotten how long it's been since you last saw him. The two of you used to be so close."

Zach Alger. Surely not, thought Sonnet, practically leaning out the open window. This couldn't be the Zach Alger she'd grown up with, the whiter-shade-of-pale boy who lived down the street, with his big goofy ears and braces on his teeth. Her best friend in high school, the freakishly skinny kid who worked at the Sky River Bakery. This couldn't be the college geek working his way through school, obsessed with cameras and all things video.

Zach Alger, she thought. Well, well. Since high school, he and Sonnet had gone in different directions, and she hadn't seen him in ages. Now she couldn't take her eyes off him.

After helping Daisy's grandmother to her seat, he pulled a flask from his tux pocket and took a swig. All right, thought Sonnet. That was the Zach she knew—a guy with more talent than ambition, a guy with a troubled background he couldn't seem to shake, a guy who was part of her past, but had no possible place in her future.

Movement in the next room reminded her she had an important job to do today. She peered through the doorway at Daisy, who was surrounded by the hairstylist, makeup artist, wedding planner, her mom Sophie, the photographer and several people Sonnet didn't recognize. "What do you say?" she asked her mother. "Shall we go help Daisy get married?'

Nina grinned. "She wouldn't dare make a move without you."

"Or you. Honestly, when you married Daisy's dad, she hit the stepmom jackpot."

Nina's grin turned to a soft smile, and her dark eyes took on an expression that pulled Sonnet into days gone by, when it had just been the two of them, making their way in the world. Nina had turned a teenage pregnancy into a small but lovely life for herself and Sonnet. Yes, she was married now—unexpectedly, in the middle of her life—but their two-against-the-world time together belonged solely to Nina and Sonnet.

"You're going all mushy on me, aren't you?" Sonnet said.

"Yeah, baby. I am. Just wait until you're the bride. I'll need CPR." The shadows in the room were just starting to deepen; evening was coming on.

"No, you won't, Mom," Sonnet assured her. "You'll rise to the occasion. You always do."

Nina took her hand again, and together they stepped through the door.

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Return to Willow Lake 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 56 reviews.
SmittenWithReading More than 1 year ago
My Review: This is the first Susan Wiggs book that I've ever read. I know, right? She was a huge romance writer when I was working in the bookstore 20 years ago. I can't believe it's taken me this long to pick up one of her books. But this book is so much more than just a romance novel. This is a book about family and what's really important in life. Just to put it in perspective, the book starts and ends with scenes of Sonnet talking to her mom...not scenes with Zach, although he definitely still plays a big part in the book. For Sonnet, she doesn't realize it, but her life is at a crossroads. She's had an interesting life that has shaped her into an overachiever. Raised by her single mother and an absent, overachieving father, she has always shaped her life for his approval. She works in NYC at a worldwide agency that helps under-priviledged children. Children are her passion and although the job doesn't put her in direct contact with the children as much she's still convinced herself that she's doing good for them and that's good enough. She has an amazing boyfriend who is her father's senate campaign manager. They met through her father and although they don't have passion, she feels that they are a good match. When she goes home to attend her step-sister's wedding, she sees her childhood best friend, Zach. They've been best friends since kindergarten although they haven't seen each other in years. In an after-wedding tryst, everything between them changes and not for the least not for the first few months afterwards. Honestly, I would probably classify this book as women's fiction rather than romance. Yes, there is a romantic element to it and it's a beautiful romantic story, but I did't feel like it was the main bulk of the story. For that, I think it was Sonnet's relationship with both her parents. Her mother who is battling cancer through an unexpected pregnancy and her father who is focusing on winning a senate office and trying to force Sonnet into making all the right moves for HIS career. You definitely start to see a lot of the contrast in Sonnet's life as she begins to realize what's really important. It was an interesting book and is a nice read to while away a quiet Sunday afternoon. This is the 9th book in this series and while you definitely don't need to have read the other books to enjoy this one, I'm intrigued by some of the other stories (you get glimpses of them throughout this book) and may just pick up a few of them. I received a complementary copy of this book in return for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its like coming home. Grab a blanket and snuggle down to read this delight!
jbarr5 More than 1 year ago
Return to Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs ISBN: 9780778313847 Daisy Bellamy's wedding at Camp Kioga, finally. Love how Susan brings you up to date on who the person was and what they did in younger years-that's what made the bell ring for me :} Sonnet Romano is her best friend and everything went off without a hitch. She doesn't want to get married anytime soon and works at UNESCO. Zachery Alger is there also, a videographer but just a guest at this party. Their renew their friendship after many swigs of champagne. He is saving money to pay off his fathers debt to the community. Sonnet has to leave her boyfriend that her father set her up with, as they continue the campaign for government office, and she goes back to Avalon to be with her mom who's having a medical crises. Zach has news from a west coast film production company that they want him for their next 16 week reality show. He informs her of her mothers cancer and she changes all her plans to stay in Avalon to help her along with the treatments and the pregnancy. They both end up working for the same company. Throw in the reality show and you have mayhem. Have they made the right choices???? With some hot steamy sex this is a good read. Love the refresher on the surgeries and all the tests-been there done that, it's horrid. But good comes out of it in the end...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a beautiful book, inside and out. You will want this for your collection. It would make a perfect gift for someone special.
cinchase More than 1 year ago
Awesome! This book touched emotions and my heart strings. I loved the characters and the story line. What a great story about family bonds and life in general. We all have to learn to follow our hearts and do what is best for ourselves and not always try to live up to what others “expect” in us.
Beth_R More than 1 year ago
I was happy to return to Willow Lake! Sonnet Romano has always been an overachiever. She steps back from her life on the fast track to stay in Avalon when her mother's unexpected pregnancy has unexpected, life-altering consequences. Her father is running for Congress and her boyfriend/his campaign manager don't understand how she can give up her important position to stay in Avalon. Her oldest friend Zach is still in Avalon. Zach provides comfort, irritation and honestly as Sonnet finds herself changing and coming to terms with her goals, her dreams and her reality. I loved the entire Lakeshore Chronicles series, and I hope this is not the end. I do think a reader would enjoy this book as a stand alone, but I highly recommend the entire series.
IngaKS More than 1 year ago
My review: Return to Willow Lake was a first Susan Wiggs' book I have read and I liked it! It was well written, emotional and heart-warming. Reading Return to Willow Lake was like coming home - it was safe, comforting and created lots of great feelings. The novel is a standalone part of her Lakeshore Chronicles. Plot: Sonnet is a young woman whose life is filled with possibilities- her UNESCO career has just rocketed with the opportunity of lifetime of getting a world known fellowship, she has a boyfriend who is responsible and supportive, she has established a relationship with her dad. Everything seems so nice and safe. When Sonnet is visiting her home town Avalon for her best friend's wedding, she reconnects with her best friend from her childhood and school time - Zach. Zach has grown into a gorgeous young man who lives in Avalon and making living of filming and making videos. Zach is quite successful at what he is doing and has no intentions of leaving Avalon - until the day he meets Sonnet again during the wedding. After an amazing adventure together during the wedding night, Sonnet flees back to her life in New York and tries to forget the night with Zach by convincing herself, that they can't be friends again. She pushes Zach out of her life again to concentrate to her career and tighten the contacts with her dad. Sonnet's dad is a man with military background who is running for the Senate and is preparing for the elections. During the same time Sonnet get the approval for fellowship to travel abroad, she gets bad news regarding her mother back home in Avalon. Everything changes and what seemed comfortable, nice and safe is not valid anymore. Big parts of Sonnet's life is turned upside town and suddenly Sonnet finds herself back in Avalon supporting her mother and with the job which is very far from her career in New York. I truly liked the plot: It was not too complicated, but had interesting story lines which made the reading into a enjoyable experience. The story flowed very smoothly and it grabbed me. The relationships between the characters were well-formed and believable and the plot was heavily character driven which was fun. Characters: As said, the story was character driven and had an important role to carry. Return to Willow Lake was rich of characters and both the main characters and supportive characters were lively and easy to relate to and understand. I liked Sonnet. I did not understand why she kept telling herself that it was not possible to be a friend with Zach, but enjoyed all her other characteristics. She was kind, loyal, smart and it was easy for me to relate to her. I adored her for being so loyal and loving to her mother, I think that was wonderfully written by the author. I adored Sonnet's mother, her being so brave, caring and loving. I think the relationship between Sonnet and her mom what the most important relationship in this book for me. author did an excellent job with this! Sonnet's dad was also intriguing. I have to admit, that he was little predictable for my taste, but I found it interesting how his mind was operating and how he acted to get rid of his own daughter. Sonnet's boyfriend was similar to him. He would do absolutely anything to achieve what he wanted not hesitating the means to get it. I despise that in a human being. Another character who I would like to mention is Jezebel. She was so cool! I would love to have a friend like her, I think everybody would! Generally: Return to Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs is a wonderful book about family, relationships, loyalty and finding love. I highly recommend it!
Pure_Jonel More than 1 year ago
Soft, mellow, heartbreaking, hope-making. Wiggs definitely puts it all on the line with this one. She writes emotion that jumps from the page. Although sad at times, this story is also empowering, and just plain fun. This is such an intimately told tale. It is also a vivid one. Each and every aspect comes to life as Wiggs paints the scene around her compelling characters. I like the little recaps on characters from earlier in the series as they become important again. Wiggs’ emphasis on what makes them important to the story at hand brings the small town feeling out in a myriad of ways. The main characters in this novel were no exception. The history between them and their denial of the changes in their relationship was priceless. Not to mention the fact that these two were just pain likeable and inspiring on their own. The dynamic between them was so real that I couldn’t help but wish for it for myself. This return to Willow Lake is probably my favourite in the series to this point. It is so intimate & emotional, while still remaining down to earth and utterly real. Wiggs continues to write with feeling and flair, drawing readers deep into the Catskills with every word.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
RtBBlog More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by JoAnne Book provided by the publisher for review Review originally posted at Romancing the Book This is the 9th book in the Lakeshore Chronicle series, but it definitely wasn’t my favorite. Once I got immersed in the book I did get swept away and didn’t want to put it down, but the beginning of the story didn’t reel me in at all. I felt there was a huge piece of the story missing and it was Daisy’s wedding – her husband was not once mentioned in the book – not in the beginning during her wedding nor even when Daisy came home to visit when Nina, her step-mom, was in the hospital having her half-brother. It seemed surreal since the last book in the series was all about Daisy, Logan and Julian and the choices she made and the changes she wanted in her life. Now it’s her wedding and it was background only. Orlando, Sonnet’s boyfriend, was such a control freak along with Sonnet’s dad. Neither one cared about Sonnet even though they were choreographing her life and molding it to what they wanted not for what would be best for Sonnet but best for her father’s campaign for Senator. It was so rewarding when she realized what was going on and decided to live her life her way, making difficult choices but her path to success being her own vision of what she wanted. The love stories between Sonnet and Zack and Nina and Greg were truly amazing along with several other couples in the book. What they had was what each of us should strive for in our lives – unconditional love with the one we love seeing us the way we are – not the way they want us to be. The storyline of the reality show had lots of unexpected feel good moments and really showed how multifaceted many of the people involved in the show were, especially Jezebel. The story once I got pass Daisy’s wedding and her nonexistent groom had love, romance, heartache, challenges, family, friends and a message about how our actions determine the path our lives take. There were great descriptions at the lake and in town that once again I was able see myself there. There was also nice closure although a few more chapters would have been nice. I look forward to reading other books in the series and hope that Wiggs’ doesn’t gloss over character’s stories as if they were unimportant to the reader. I’ve grown to love the characters I have met throughout the books in this series and have a deep connection to each and every one. It’s important that the characters continue to be developed, but stay true to their roots, background and previous story lines giving the readers closure that they are looking for. Favorite Quote:  … “Then what’s wrong:” What’s wrong. Two simple words. No one ever asked her that, because she was usually so vigilant, determined to prove to the world that nothing was wrong, ever. This morning, she felt scared and vulnerable and a little bit lost. And Zach – damn him – could read her like a magazine in a doctor’s waiting room.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was not disappointed. I hope she does one about Max's story.
Sue_JP More than 1 year ago
This book is an outstanding book, but I have never read a Susan Wigg's Lakeshore Chronicles book that was not outstanding. I cannot put her books down and the characters are enjoyable.
spears More than 1 year ago
Love this series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I sincerely hope this is not an end to this series. Sonnet and Zach finally get it together. This is a book about life's choices. Nina having cancer, Sonnett learning who she really is, herself or doing what her father wants. Read, it's about life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
quaintinns More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed Return to Willow Lake. To really grasp the full meaning of the book and its characters – feel you need to read her earlier books first. It was great to catch up with characters from her past books –ones you loved. Nina (her mom) and Greg her step dad –they run Willow Lake Inn in the Catskills Mountain area; Zach (always loved him)– her best friend since childhood (and ultimately the love of her life), and of course mentions of Bo/Kim, and Olivia/Conner, Daisy, and the setting at Camp Kioga--where it all started! Love the twists of Jezebel-reality TV, rock star, and inner city kids, with some nasty political battles with her father and Orlando. Susan is a wonderful writer and have read most of her books – overcoming obstacles from cancer, and knowing how to find true happiness and love when sometimes it is right in front of you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Braveheart. I hope you are as loyal as you discribe. ~Willowleaf
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Lakeshore Chronicles series has been my favorite series. I started reading Susan Wiggs books several years ago. I have enjoyed every single one of her books that I have read!
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