#SheReviews: Meet Me At The Lake By Carley Fortune

September 22, 2023

#SheReviews by Anne Gibson

Wise, prolific and much-loved Irish-born scholar and author, C.S. Lewis, wrote insightfully and poignantly in his 1960 book, The Four Loves, that “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken”.

Such searingly illuminating words are true of all love, and do so well apply to romantic love. This heartbreaking fact is expounded and nobly detailed in the latest spectacular romance novel by stellar Canadian writer, Carley Fortune; the soul-enriching Meet Me At The Lake.

Set in the hip and eclectic city of Toronto in Canada, and Brooksbank Resort on Smoke Lake in the tranquil and absorbingly picturesque wilds of Canada, outside the town of Huntsville, the book alternates effortlessly between the present and the 14th of June, ten years ago. Our main protagonist, Fern Brooksbank, is the 32 year old fiercely independent and headstrong (yet inwardly fragile) daughter of Maggie Brooksbank, owner of Brooksbank Resort. Fern is reluctantly back working at the resort in the Canadian summer, after her mother’s demonstrably tragic death in an accident, little more than a month earlier.

Prior to her forced return to the emphatically heavenly surrounds of Brooksbank Resort, where a plethora of Canadian wildlife frequent and abound in number, Fern had been happily managing three coffee shops, aptly named ‘Filtr’ and robustly enjoying life in the buzzing metropolis of Toronto.

When the tall, dark, brooding and aloof Will Baxter checks into Brooksbanks, declaring that Maggie has hired him to do consulting work for the resort, Fern is aghast, rattled and not a little angry. Fern and Will, it soon becomes mortifyingly apparent, share history together, having met ten years prior in Toronto. And Fern has an acidically-bad taste in her mouth where Will is concerned.

Ten years ago, Fern had been working herself ragged at Two Sugars, a busily humming coffee shop. Will, an enigmatic artist who was hired to paint a mural, at the cafe hooked up with Fern, as a friend. Both 22 year olds were in a relationship with other people, and while they didn’t so much as kiss, Fern and Will spent a joy-filled day exploring Toronto including, dancing in a club and crashing back at Fern’s postage stamp sized apartment.

Sparks and fireworks circled between Fern and Will during their time together (Will lived in Vancouver) and they encouraged eachother to write down plans for their lives. Boldly and optimistically, they made a pact to meet up again in one year on the dock, by the lake, at Brooksbank Resort. Problematically for Fern, Will never showed, and she seethed inside for nine years towards him until he appears in Fern’s life in the present, where he is most certainly not welcome, as far as Fern is concerned.

Will Fern ever discover why Will stood her up on that summer’s day all those years ago? Is it possible for Fern and Will to let their guards down around each other?

Can Fern really get to know Will and he get to ‘see’ her for who she really is?
What does Fern discover when she starts to read her mother’s diaries from when she was young? Who is Peter, the man who works as the head patissier at Brooksbanks?
What is the story with Fern’s ex-boyfriend, Jamie, who is the general manager?
Is Fern’s friend, Whitney, a staunch ally or one who impedes her life?
Why does Will, who now lives with his sister, Annabel, and niece, Sofia, in Toronto, so often need to take private calls with his sister?
Will Fern stay and run Brooksbanks, as was Maggie’s wish, or will she sell to the developers and open her own coffee shop, ‘Fern’s’, in Toronto, as is her dream?

Will Will and Fern get their happily ever after, or are there too many obstacles for them to overcome? What is Will hiding? Can Fern ever forgive Will for breaking her heart in the past?

Carley has written such a well constructed and character-driven work of fiction, that had me sympathising, cheering, sad and elated at differing times during my reading of the book.

Wisdom, intelligence and pathos, as well as love and light, shine throughout this thought-provoking novel. Sobering themes of mental health journeys, romantic, family and friendship relationships (and their sometimes rollercoaster ups and downs), insomnia and ambition are forensically examined in this always excellent and captivating read.

Bravo Carley! You have written a novel that will be so enjoyed by many throughout the world. The book is not only a beautiful depiction of romantic love, and other forms of love, it is also a love letter to the sublime wilds of Canada, with is it’s breathtaking flora and fauna, and the wilds and culture of a different kind in the ‘happening’ Toronto.

Worthy of note is the fact that Archewell Productions (run by Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan) are, in a Netflix deal, going to make Meet Me At The Lake into a film. I can’t wait for it! I loved Meet Me At The Lake, and am looking forward to reading whatever Carley writes next.

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