Dream Lake by Lisa Kleypas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Alex, the youngest of the three Nolan brothers, is an outstanding carpenter and contractor who sinks deeper and deeper into depression and alcoholism with each passing day. His decline is a source of sadness and frustration for the ghost who has been tethered to him since Alex first began helping his brother Sam renovate the Rainshadow Road house. The ghost remembers only bits and pieces of his past and needs Alex's help to figure out who he is and how he came to haunt the Rainshadow Road house in the first place, decades ago, and for that, Alex must be sober and cooperative.
Zoe Hoffman is the chef and co-owner of Artist's Point, a bed-and-breakfast in Friday Harbor, Washington. Her grandmother raised her after her mother took off when she was tiny, and her father abandoned her at his mother's house when Zoe was in the third grade. Now Emma's health is failing, and Zoe hires Alex to renovate the old cottage Emma still owns on Dream Lake so that she can bring her grandmother to live with her there. Zoe and Alex met once several years ago, and it didn't go well: Zoe looks like a blond, vintage pin-up girl, and Alex resorted to rudeness to keep himself from drooling over her. Growing up with abusive, neglectful, alcoholic parents left Alex convinced he is undeserving and incapable of being in a loving relationship, and he recognizes that is exactly what Zoe needs and wants. Still, the two are unwillingly drawn together, and slowly learn that love is worth fighting for.
I absolutely fell in love with these characters and this book. I think my favorite character was the ghost, and I so appreciate that Ms. Kleypas made even a spectral person seem real. I was also grateful that Alex struggled so hard and for so long against both his alcoholism and his phobia of commitment. It drives me crazy when romance novels (or any type of story) make obstacles dissolve once boy meets girl, like somehow the power of attraction alone can overcome addiction or abuse. The closest Kleypas came to doing that was to have Zoe's cooking help Alex cope with the DTs, but that made sense for a book in a series laced with gentle magic.
For readers' advisors: character doorway is definitely primary, but story is strong, too. There are sex scenes and some occasional swearing.
View all my reviews