|Susan Wiggs has taken us back to the shores of the Willow Lake and the town of Avalon for the third installment of “The Lakeshore Chronicles.” Dockside is not as good as the first book in this series, but is clearly more memorable than the second installment. There are plenty of characters we have met before and even a few new ones. The story centers on the middle Bellamy child, Greg, his family and his romance with Nina Romano.
Greg grew up in luxury and was always well liked. He was cute and popular, never really knowing hardship. But life was not always as wonderful as onlookers might have thought. He had a romance with his childhood sweetheart, Sophie, that ended - until Sophie showed up on his doorstep with a darling little girl named Daisy, who was obviously his. They got married and went on to have a wonderful son, Max, now 11. But Greg and Sophie were never really meant to be together and they divorced. The divorce was painful for all. In the end, Max and Daisy suffered, with Daisy doing some crazy things that ended up with her pregnant at 17. Max is moody and Greg is never sure what he should do. Sophie is in Europe, fulfilling her dreams and Greg has been left to raise the kids – something he is determined to do right. He decides to give up his architectural career and buy the Inn at Willow Lake. He figures he can run it and be a dad at the same time.
Nina, meanwhile, put her dreams on hold when she became an unwed mother 17 years ago. Her daughter Sonnet is grown now and off to college. She is even developing a relationship with her dad, a wonderful man who is African American and is attached to the diplomatic corps. Nina is at a crossroads. She is ready to do all those things she wanted to do when younger – the biggest of which was to run the Inn at Willow Lake. She is on the verge of signing a management contract with the bank, which includes a right to purchase, when she discovers that it is already sold…to Greg.
As only Wiggs can do, we see the twists and turns life takes in back flashes so that we fully understand the issues and the current day relationship between Greg and Nina. They were not really friends, but they did seem to run into each other at important times of their lives and their interactions influenced them, even if they couldn’t identify the influence at the time. Now they have to figure out how to work together while realizing the attraction that is evident to them both. Greg is looking for stability for he and his family, while Nina is looking for adventure, or at least a life without children.
This is a complicated story on the one hand, as the two try to figure out what their lives mean today as they remember the past. On the other hand, it is a simple story of a second chance at love. It is a view of the many twists and turns that lives can take. It is a story of coming of age, for many of the characters. And it is a love story…one that feels comfortable and yet is full of ups and downs. There is depth and that depth makes the story and the characters come alive.
Daisy and her baby are integral to the story. She has her own doubts, issues and feelings to contend with, while providing a back drop to allow Greg to struggle with his feelings, particularly around the fact that he is still young and has so much of life yet to live despite his age. Nina gets to see herself and recognize that many of the choices she made were right. She also gets to see how many of her choices led her to Greg and where she is today.
There were parts of this tale that kept me engrossed and the pages turning. There were parts, however, where I lamented that the author went towards predictability when I wanted her to be more creative or innovative. It is this predictability that keeps me from giving Dockside the full keeper status. But the story is one that I highly recommend and thoroughly enjoyed.