#1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs sweeps readers away to a sun-drenched summer on the shores of Willow Lake in a stunning tale of the delicate ties that bind a family together…and the secrets that tear them apart
STARLIGHT ON WILLOW LAKE
By Susan Wiggs
Release Date: August 25, 2015
When caregiver Faith McCallum arrives at the enchanted lakeside estate of Avalon’s renowned Bellamy family, she’s intent on rebuilding her shattered life and giving her two daughters a chance at a better future. But she faces a formidable challenge in the form of her stubborn and difficult new employer, Alice Bellamy. While Faith proves a worthy match for her sharp-tongued client, she often finds herself at a loss for words in the presence of Mason Bellamy—Alice’s charismatic son, who clearly longs to escape the family mansion and return to his fast-paced, exciting life in Manhattan…and his beautiful, jet-setting fiancée.
The last place Mason wants to be is a remote town in the Catskills, far from his life in the city, and Faith McCallum is supposed to be the key to his escape. Hiring the gentle-hearted yet strong-willed caregiver as a live-in nurse gives his mother companionship and Mason the freedom to return to his no-attachments routine. For Faith, it means stability for her daughters and a much-needed new home. When Faith makes a chilling discovery about Alice’s accident, Mason is forced to reconsider his desire to keep everyone, including his mother, at a distance. Now he finds himself wondering if the supercharged life he’s created for himself is what he truly wants…and whether exploring his past might lead to a new life—and lasting love—on the tranquil shores of Willow Lake.
Excerpt: Starlight on Willow Lake
Mason had spared no expense. In his position, there was no need to. For the past decade, he had run his own private equities-and-lending firm, and business was good. He had all the money in the world. But of course, wealth had its limits. He couldn’t buy his mother her mobility. He couldn’t buy a way to make her smile again.
He took a deep breath of the morning air. “It’s sweet,” he said.
“I beg your pardon.”
“The air here. It’s sweet.”
“I suppose it is.”
“The landscaping looks great. Are you happy with it?”
“Your cousin Greg sent a crew to take care of the mowing and gardening,” she said, nodding in the direction of a long swath of grass sloping down to the water’s edge. There was a dock and a timber-and-stone boathouse, home to kayaks, a catboat and a 1940s Chris-Craft. When not on duty at the fire station, Adam lived in the upstairs quarters.
A fringe of ancient willow trees dipped their budding branches into the placid, sunlit water. The word that came immediately to mind was unspoiled. Willow Lake was one of the prettiest lakes in a landscape full of pretty lakes. The green-clad hills, with a few puffy clouds riding on their shoulders, rose gently upward from the shore. On the north end of the lake was a grand old summer camp, a hundred years in the making—Camp Kioga.
At the south end was the town called Avalon, as picture-perfect as a storybook setting, with its whistle-stop train station, old-fashioned town square, stone-built Greek revival library and shady shoreline parks. Its outskirts were equally attractive—a mountain road leading to a ski resort, a ball field for the local bush league baseball team, white-steepled churches, their spires seeming to thrust through the new-leafed trees. The cliffs of the Shawangunks attracted climbers from all over the world. Somewhere not so far away, there was probably suburban blight—shotgun shacks and mobile homes, ramshackle farms and big-box stores. But he couldn’t see any of that from here. And more important, neither could his mother.
The place he’d acquired for her was on the western shore of the lake, so it caught the sunrise every morning, something his real-estate agent had pointed out when he had bought the property. The agent had babbled on about the attributes of the historic mansion, not knowing Mason was already sold on getting the place. He was looking for security for his mother, not for a return on investment.
“Why do they keep quitting?” he asked her, paging through the printouts of the candidates for the job of primary caregiver. “Is it the living quarters?”
“Have you seen the living quarters?”
He’d looked at pictures after the remodel was done. The living quarters, located in a private wing of the house, featured a suite of rooms with a view of the lake, new furnishings and luxurious fixtures. “Okay, good point. So?”
“I haven’t been conducting exit interviews. I’m sure Adam gave you an earful. Nobody wants to live with a miserable old woman who can barely change the channel on The Price Is Right.”
Oh, boy. “You’re not old,” he said. “Your parents would freak out if they heard you say that. And being miserable is optional. So is watching The Price Is Right.”
“Thank you, Sigmund Freud. I’ll remember that next time I’m lying in bed, pissing into a plastic tube—”
“Oh, sorry. I don’t mean to trouble you with the reality of my body functions.”
Now he understood why they all quit.
“Where should I put your things, Mr. Bellamy?” asked the housekeeper.
Mason stood glaring out the window at an impossibly serene and beautiful view of Willow Lake. Although he’d arrived late the day before, his luggage had been delayed—some mix-up at an airport between here and New Zealand.
Now Mrs. Armentrout rolled the two large bags into the room. The suitcases wore tags marked Unattended Baggage.
He hadn’t seen the luggage since dashing to the airport in New Zealand after getting the call about his mother’s accident. Now he realized he didn’t need the bags at all, since they were packed with winter clothes.
“Right there is fine, thanks,” he said.
“Would you like some help unpacking?”
“Sure, when you can get to it.”
“I can do that right now.”
The housekeeper worked with brisk efficiency, hanging his bespoke suit in the antique armoire, carefully folding cashmere sweaters away in a cedar-lined drawer. She lifted a dress shirt out of the suitcase and put it on a wooden hanger, her hand moving appreciatively over the fabric.
Philomina Armentrout actually looked more like a supermodel than a housekeeper. A native of South Africa, she was tall and slender, with creamy café au lait skin, wearing chic black slacks and a white blouse, shining dark hair and subtle makeup. Only the closest of inspections would reveal the tiny scars where the jaw wires had been surgically anchored after her husband had assaulted her. Mason had committed himself and all his resources to staffing the household with the best personnel available, and Mrs. Armentrout was definitely the best. That wasn’t the only reason Mason had hired her, though. Broken and battered, she had needed a new start in life, and Mason was taking care of her immigration process. According to Adam, she ran the place like a high-end boutique hotel, supervising every aspect of the household.
His phone in the charging station on the desk murmured insistently, signaling another text message from Regina. She had not taken the news of his change of plans well. She’d peppered him with all the questions he’d already run through with his brother and sister: Why did he need to come here in person? Couldn’t a staffer take care of hiring the new caregiver? Couldn’t Adam or Ivy change their plans and step in?
No, they couldn’t. Both had commitments that couldn’t be broken—Adam’s training in arson investigation, Ivy’s art fellowship at the Institut de Paume. But Mason didn’t feel like getting into a big debate with Regina at the moment, and so he ignored the message.
Last night he’d slept like a corpse in the comfortable guest room. It was so damned quiet here, and the air was sweet and the jet lag had finally caught up with him.
“Is my mother up yet?” he asked.
Are you a water person?
Have you ever lived on a lake?
What did you like best (or least) about it?
Are you reading the books in Susan Wiggs' Lakeshore Chronicles series? Do you have a favorite?
One randomly chosen person leaving a comment on today's post will receive a copy of Starlight on Willow Lake. (US/Canada only) Deadline for comments is Friday, August 14.
Excerpt tour for STARLIGHT ON WILLOW LAKE:
Monday, August 3rd: From the TBR Pile
Tuesday, August 4th: The Sassy Bookster
Wednesday, August 5th: Book Reviews & More by Kathy
Thursday, August 6th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Friday, August 7th: Raven Haired Girl
Monday, August 10th: Mom in Love with Fiction
Tuesday, August 11th: The Romance Dish
Wednesday, August 12th: Written Love Reviews
Thursday, August 13th: Books and Spoons
Friday, August 14th: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, August 17th: Urban Girl Reader
Tuesday, August 18th: Snowdrop Dreams of Books
Wednesday, August 19th: FictionZeal
Thursday, August 20th: Palmer’s Page Turners
Friday, August 21st: The Bookish and The Romantic