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Meet Me at the Lake
Cover of Meet Me at the Lake
Meet Me at the Lake
Borrow Borrow
THE INSTANT #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!
A Most Anticipated Book by Today ∙ Oprah Daily ∙ Katie Couric Media ∙ BuzzFeed ∙ SheReads ∙ Zibby Mag ∙ PopSugar ∙ BookRiot ∙ Culturess ∙ Her Campus ∙ The Everygirl ∙ and more!

A random connection sends two strangers on a daylong adventure where they make a promise one keeps and the other breaks, with life-changing effects, in this breathtaking new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Every Summer After.

Fern Brookbanks has wasted far too much of her adult life thinking about Will Baxter. She spent just twenty-four hours in her early twenties with the aggravatingly attractive, idealistic artist, a chance encounter that spiraled into a daylong adventure in the city. The timing was wrong, but their connection was undeniable: they shared every secret, every dream, and made a pact to meet one year later. Fern showed up. Will didn’t.
At thirty-two, Fern’s life doesn’t look at all how she once imagined it would. Instead of living in the city, Fern’s back home, running her mother’s lakeside resort—something she vowed never to do. The place is in disarray, her ex-boyfriend’s the manager, and Fern doesn’t know where to begin.
She needs a plan—a lifeline. To her surprise, it comes in the form of Will, who arrives nine years too late, with a suitcase in tow and an offer to help on his lips. Will may be the only person who understands what Fern’s going through. But how could she possibly trust this expensive-suit wearing mirage who seems nothing like the young man she met all those years ago. Will is hiding something, and Fern’s not sure she wants to know what it is. 
But ten years ago, Will Baxter rescued Fern. Can she do the same for him?
THE INSTANT #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!
A Most Anticipated Book by Today ∙ Oprah Daily ∙ Katie Couric Media ∙ BuzzFeed ∙ SheReads ∙ Zibby Mag ∙ PopSugar ∙ BookRiot ∙ Culturess ∙ Her Campus ∙ The Everygirl ∙ and more!

A random connection sends two strangers on a daylong adventure where they make a promise one keeps and the other breaks, with life-changing effects, in this breathtaking new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Every Summer After.

Fern Brookbanks has wasted far too much of her adult life thinking about Will Baxter. She spent just twenty-four hours in her early twenties with the aggravatingly attractive, idealistic artist, a chance encounter that spiraled into a daylong adventure in the city. The timing was wrong, but their connection was undeniable: they shared every secret, every dream, and made a pact to meet one year later. Fern showed up. Will didn’t.
At thirty-two, Fern’s life doesn’t look at all how she once imagined it would. Instead of living in the city, Fern’s back home, running her mother’s lakeside resort—something she vowed never to do. The place is in disarray, her ex-boyfriend’s the manager, and Fern doesn’t know where to begin.
She needs a plan—a lifeline. To her surprise, it comes in the form of Will, who arrives nine years too late, with a suitcase in tow and an offer to help on his lips. Will may be the only person who understands what Fern’s going through. But how could she possibly trust this expensive-suit wearing mirage who seems nothing like the young man she met all those years ago. Will is hiding something, and Fern’s not sure she wants to know what it is. 
But ten years ago, Will Baxter rescued Fern. Can she do the same for him?
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Excerpts-
  • From the cover 1

    Now

    I make it as far as the front desk without anyone noticing me. It’s a striking piece, carved from a large tree trunk— ­rustic but not shabby, the epitome of Mom’s aesthetic—­and there’s no one behind it. I hurry past, to the office, then shut myself inside and lock the door.

    The room is more fishing hut than work space. Pine walls, two ancient desks, a small window trimmed with a flimsy plaid curtain. I doubt it’s changed much since the lodge was built in the 1800s. There’s nothing to suggest how much time Mom spent here, except for a photo of me as a baby pinned to the timber and a faint whiff of Clinique perfume.

    Dropping into one of the worn leather chairs, I switch on the plastic tabletop fan. I’m already sticky, but it’s stifling in here, one of the few spots in the building without air-­conditioning. I raise my elbows like a scarecrow and swing my hands back and forth. Pit stains are the last thing I need.

    While I wait to cool off before changing into heels, I stare at a stack of our brochures. Brookbanks Resort—­Your Muskoka Getaway Awaits, declares a chipper font above a photo of the beach at sunset, the lodge looming in the background like a country cottage castle. It almost makes me laugh—­it’s Brookbanks Resort I’ve failed to get away from.

    Maybe Jamie will forget I agreed to do this tonight, and I can sneak back to the house, slither into stretchy pants, and douse myself with a bucket of cold white wine.

    The door handle rattles.

    No such luck.

    “Fernie?” Jamie calls. “What’s with the lock? You decent in there?”

    “I need five minutes,” I reply, voice pinched.

    “You’re not gonna bail, right? You swore you’d do this,” he says. But the reminder is unnecessary. I’ve been dreading it all day. All my life maybe.

    “I know, I know. I’m finishing up some paperwork.” I clamp my eyes shut at the mistake. “I’m almost done.”

    “What paperwork? Is it the linen order? We have a system for that.”

    My mom had a system for everything, and Jamie doesn’t want me messing with any of them.

    He’s worried. It’s peak season, but many of the guest rooms are vacant. I’ve been back for six weeks, and Jamie thinks it’s only a matter of time before I shake things up. I’m not sure if he’s right. I’m not even sure if I’m staying.

    “You can’t shut me out of my own office. I have a key.”

    I curse under my breath. Of course he does.

    It’s going to be embarrassing if he has to drag me out of here, and I’m pretty sure he’ll do it. I haven’t made a scene at the resort since my senior year of high school, and I’m not about to start. Being here sometimes makes me feel like I’ve regressed, but I’m not a reckless seventeen-­year-­old anymore.

    Taking a deep breath, I stand and smooth my palms over the front of the dress. It’s too tight, but the ripped jeans I’ve been living in aren’t appropriate for the dining room. I could almost hear Mom when I changed earlier.

    I know you’d rather wear pj’s all day, but we have to set the tone, sweet pea.

    I open the door.

    Jamie’s flaxen curls are cropped short and styled into obedience, but he has the same baby face from when we were young and he thought deodorant was optional.

    “Is it the linen order?” he asks.

    “Absolutely...
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 13, 2023
    Fortune (Every Summer After) shines in this beautiful tale of love, loss, and forgiveness. Fern Brookbanks, 32, reluctantly returns to Muskoka, Canada, from Toronto, to run the family business—Brookbanks Resort, a “Dirty Dancing-style” lakeside retreat—following her mother’s death. The business is in disarray, but unbeknownst to Fern, her mother hired a business consultant before her death: Will Baxter, the mystery man with whom Fern spent one magical day 10 years before the start of the book—and who broke her heart when he stood her up on their planned reunion one year later. Fern is thrown for a loop by Will’s reappearance and much changed behavior, but their chemistry is as strong as ever. They tentatively rekindle their relationship, until an emergency has Will questioning his priorities—including his relationship with Fern. Fortune toggles between Fern and Will’s whirlwind, 24-hour romance and their present day rekindling to showcase her characters’ changing hearts. The emotions are big, messy, and realistic as the protagonists’ path to forgiveness has some unexpected twists. A solid supporting cast—especially Fern’s ex-boyfriend, Jamie; her best friend, Whitney; and her mother’s longtime companion, Peter—underpin the narrative. This searing story of hard-won second chances is not to be missed. Agent: Taylor Haggerty, Root Literary.

  • Kirkus

    March 1, 2023
    A Canadian 30-something gets a second chance at love and career. If Fern Brookbanks ever opened the Toronto espresso shop of her dreams, the first song on the playlist would be "Feeling Good" by Nina Simone. That could be the soundtrack of this upbeat, often very witty Canadian romance novel as well. Unfortunately, though, 32-year-old Fern will not be opening any espresso shops but instead must cope with managing the struggling cottage resort she's suddenly inherited on Lake Muskoka. She grew up on its grounds, and her only significant accomplishment so far in life is getting out of there. But then her mother, a 55-year-old powerhouse who's been running the place single-handedly all her adult life, dies in a car crash. Left to help poor Fern keep things going are her high school boyfriend, Jamie, and her mother's dear friend Peter, the resort's master baker, who helped raise Fern and nurtured her love of great playlists. Then Will Baxter, a handsome hunk her mother hired as a consultant to help save the hotel, turns out to be the very guy Fern had the most amazing night of her life with 10 years ago--only he broke her heart by failing to show up for their second date. Fortune fills her novel with food, music, and clothing descriptions and has some truly great one-liners: "I didn't know an apron could be sexy, but this apron is the lost Hemsworth brother of aprons." The suspense is created by withholding information: What was Fern's outrageous teenage transgression? What was the terrible thing she read in her mother's diary? Why did Will stand her up 10 years ago? While this technique does feel a bit formulaic, it keeps the pages turning. Escape to the lakefront with this entertaining romance.

    COPYRIGHT(2023) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from March 1, 2023

    Ten years ago, Fern and Will met in Toronto and spent 24 life-altering hours together. They promised to meet at her family's resort in exactly one year, but Will never showed up and never even contacted her to say why. Crushed, Fern is determined to move on, but she never truly gets over Will. After her mother's sudden and tragic death, Fern returns home to take over the resort, where she checks in a surprising guest: Will. With both of them staying for the summer in adjoining cabins, they reconnect--their bond and their chemistry as strong as ever. But Will is still keeping secrets about why he stood her up a decade ago, and despite her growing feelings for him, Fern's heart is still guarded from the hurt he caused those many years ago. The story skips back and forth in time, a narrative device that Fortune (Every Summer After) wields skillfully, revealing plotlines and developing the characters slowly and satisfyingly. VERDICT This contemporary romance is an immersive second-chance love story that will transport readers with its dual evocative settings of stunning rural Ontario and thrilling Toronto.--Migdalia Jimenez

    Copyright 2023 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    April 14, 2023
    Fern Brookbanks met Will Baxter one day in Toronto; they only spent a whirlwind 24 hours together, but Fern has spent her life wondering about Will. The two made a pact to meet one year later, but when Will is a no-show, Fern is heartbroken. Nine years later, 32-year-old Fern is lost. Instead of living in the city, she returned to her family-owned resort after her mother's unexpected death. The resort isn't doing well and just as Fern is trying to figure out what she is going to do, Will shows up and confuses her even more. Will and Fern's mother struck a deal; he offered his consultant services to help revamp her resort, but he didn't learn of her death until he arrived. Fern and Will begin to work together, and as the summer passes, their romance grows. They deeply care for one another, but Will is keeping Fern at arm's length because of his family. This sweet and steamy novel will have Lucy Score readers rooting for these two lovers.

    COPYRIGHT(2023) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Meet Me at the Lake
Carley Fortune
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