The series follow three brothers that come together to raise their orphaned niece. Actually, that’s not accurate – one brother raises her, the other helps and the third one, Alex, is a mess that drinks and wants nothing to do with his brothers or the kid. Alex also happens to be our hero. You don’t have to be familiar with the previous books to read this one, although the extra background helps a bit even if only to make you emotionally invested in him.
Dream Lake begins with a ghost’s POV. Through him we get to see what a mess Alex is. He is in a path to self-destruction and no one will stand in his way –not that anyone makes a big effort to help him—all he wants to do is get drunk. But the ghost is in some way connected to Alex because for the first time in years he’s able to leave the house, so he follows him around. When Alex finally sees the ghost, he realizes that the only way to get rid of him is to help him remember his past, a past that’s connected to Zoe, a woman he’s been trying to avoid since he first met her.
Zoe is a chef that has her own set of baggage. Abandoned by her mother and soon after by her father, she was raised by a grandmother who now suffers from dementia and needs someone to take care of her. She decides to take her home with her, but first she must fix their house. That’s how she ends up hiring Alex to do the renovations. There’s a lot of attraction there, but also weariness because Alex doesn’t think himself capable of love, and Zoe doesn’t want to risk her heart with someone so unstable. But of course they end up getting involved and falling in love.
The idea of a broken hero on the verge of self-destruction is great. But the idea of a ghost helping the hero is terrible. And because those two premises are incompatible, the result is a story that’s seriously flawed and lacking. Worse, the intimacy Alex and the ghost developed was stronger and deeper than the one Alex and Zoe shared. So the romance also suffered to the point that I thought the ghost and Alex were better suited for each other because the relationship Alex and Zoe had was very superficial.
Alex is a troubled man and I don’t think that talking to a ghost and finding love are going to help him get better. He never talks with his brothers even though his issues come from the abuse he suffered at the hands of their alcoholic parents. The only person he discusses his problems with is the ghost (and this includes his suicidal thoughts). That’s it, he doesn’t even talk with Zoe. How can I believe in their love story when there's no trust or emotional connection between them? It was all one-sided because Zoe was very open about her feelings, something I found refreshing and endearing, but Alex never discusses his past and struggles with her.
Zoe has abandonment and self-image issues product of her husband cheating on her with a man. She’s also blonde, beautiful and stacked, so men make assumptions about her and she’s ashamed of her sex appeal. I found her exasperating, but her role is almost secondary so I didn’t have time to become invested enough to care.
There’s a secondary story involving the ghost and Zoe’s grandma. It was interesting, but the resolution was depressing and sad. The fact Alex never questions his sanity, the ghost’s existence, and the other paranormal things that happen throughout the book, were simply distracting and unbelievable, although this was an issue I also had with the previous book.
I feel disappointed. Lots of wasted potential and a story that not even Lisa Kleypas can save. I didn’t hate it and I was entertained enough to read it all, but it has many flaws. It’s a shame because I enjoyed the previous books. Perhaps someone who likes ghosts will enjoy it more than I did.
Review by Brie
Dream Lake takes readers once again to the exquisite setting of Friday Harbor, and tells the story of Zoe Hoffman, an innkeeper who has all but given up on love. She’s a gentle, romantic soul, but has been so hurt in the past that she dare not trust her heart with anyone. Especially not Alex Nolan. Alex is the most haunted of all the Nolan brothers. He drinks to keep his demons at bay and not only has he given up on love, he has never, ever believed in it. Zoe and Alex are oil and water, fire and ice, sunshine and shadow. But sometimes, it takes only a glimmer of light to chase away the dark. Dream Lake is classic Lisa Kleypas: romantic, powerful, emotional, and magical.
St. Martin’s Griffin. August 7, 2012