Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Mira (August 25, 2015)
Join #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs on a journey to a charming Catskills town that feels like home and where a cast of brilliantly drawn characters awaits in a poignant story of reconciliation and the healing power of love.
Mason Bellamy’s world is fast, loud and decorated with the most extreme risks. Nothing can tempt him to give up his high-rolling Manhattan life and high-maintenance girlfriend—not even family. When he’s called home to upstate Avalon to help his quadriplegic mother in her deepest time of need, he sets his mind on temporary, determined to craft a way to care for her from a distance.
Alice Hayes is supposed to be his best solution. Hiring the gentle-hearted yet struggling caregiver as a live-in nurse gives Alice and her two daughters shelter, his mother companionship and Mason the freedom to escape to his adrenaline-pumped, no-attachments routine. But Alice’s beautiful presence promises to repair Mason’s frayed family ties. And his unstoppable attraction to Alice could lead to the most exhilarating thrill of his life.
“Wiggs’s storytelling is heartwarming… [for] romance and women’s fiction readers of any age.”—Publishers Weekly
“I’d kill the fatted calf for you, but I’m a bit indisposed at the moment,” Alice Bellamy said when Mason arrived at the estate on Willow Lake.
“That’s okay. I’m a vegetarian anyway.” Mason wondered if his mother realized that he had not eaten meat since the age of twelve.
Crossing the elegant room to where she sat near a window, he bent down and brushed his lips against her cheek. Soap and lotion, a freshly laundered blouse, the smells he had always associated with her. Except in the past, she’d been able to offer the briefest of hugs, to reach out with her hand and smooth the hair back from his brow, a gesture that had persisted since his childhood.
Concealing a wrenching sense of sorrow, he took a seat across from her. He studied her face, startled at how little she had changed—from the neck up. Shiny blond hair, lovely skin, cornflower-blue eyes. He’d always been proud to have such a youthful, good-looking mom.
“You broke your collarbone,” he said.
“So I’m told.”
“I thought you’d be in a cast or a sling or something.”
She pursed her lips. “It’s not as if I need to keep my arm immobilized.”
“Uh, yeah.” Since the accident, he didn’t know how to deal with his mother. Who was he kidding? He’d known how to deal with her. “Are you in…does it hurt?”
“Darling boy, I can’t feel anything below my chest. Not pain or pleasure. Nothing.”
He let several seconds tick past while he tried to think of a reply that didn’t sound phony or patronizing or flat-out ignorant. “I’m glad you’re all right. You gave us a scare.”
More silence echoed through the room, an open lounge with a massive river-rock fireplace, fine furnishings and floor-to-ceiling shelves crammed with books. Everything was spaced and arranged to accommodate his mother’s chair. There was a corner study with a big post office writing desk and another corner with a powerful brass telescope set on a tripod. The baby grand piano, which had occupied every house the family had ever lived in, was now a resting place for a collection of photos.
The ever-present view of Willow Lake was framed by French doors, which could be operated by a switch. “So anyway,” he said, “we’ll get you fixed up with a new helper right away. My assistant is working with a couple of agencies already.” He checked his watch. “I’ve got plenty to keep us busy for the day. The lawyer is coming in half an hour. Are you up for that?”
“Lawyer?” She frowned then took a sip through a straw from the coffee mug affixed to the tray on her chair.
“My attorney in the city recommended someone local, from here in Ulster County—”
“To deal with the negligence suit against the caregiver who let you fall down the stairs, and the outfit he works for.”
“Oh, no, you don’t. It was just a stupid accident,” she said. “Nobody’s fault.”
“Mom, you fell down a flight of stairs with a three-hundred-pound motorized chair. It’s a miracle you weren’t crushed. Somebody was negligent—”
“That would be me,” she stated. “I leaned on the control and drove myself off the rails.”
“Then the chair manufacturer is at fault.”
“No lawyers,” she said. “What I—what happened was no one’s fault. There will be no lawsuit. End of story.”
“Mom, you’re entitled to a settlement.” If there was one thing Mason couldn’t stand, it was people failing to take responsibility for their actions.
“Absolutely not,” she said. “I won’t hear another word about it.”
He sent Brenda a text message to cancel the lawyer. “Whatever you say. That gives us more time to meet with potential new caregivers.”
“Adam warned me that you were going to be a sourpuss.”
“I bet he didn’t say sourpuss. He’s a firefighter. I’m sure he has a more colorful term for me, like hell-bitch.”
Adam is a saint, thought Mason. St. Adam. He silently cursed the saint for having left already. Adam and Ivy had stuck around until their mom was discharged, then they both had to leave; Adam to his training and Ivy back to Santa Barbara to prepare for her move to Europe.
“I printed out the résumés of the candidates we’re meeting with,” he said. “You want to go over them now, or—”
“I think I’d like to go out into the garden now.”
He gritted his teeth, looking away so she wouldn’t see his annoyance.
“You’re annoyed,” she said. “You can’t wait to leave. You’ve got one foot out the door.”
Damn. Busted. He schooled his face into a pleasant expression. “Don’t be silly. I’m glad I’m here to spend some time with you.”
“Right.” She nudged a lever on her chair and rolled toward the French doors. “Let’s go inspect the property you bought. You’ve never even seen it in the summer.”
He stood aside, impressed by how nimbly she used her chair to operate the switch plate, which opened the doors. When he stepped out on the deck, the view and the cool clarity of the air stole his breath. “Wow,” he said.
“You did well,” she told him. “I do appreciate everything you’ve done for me—moving me to Avalon, getting this house adapted for my needs, hiring a staff. If I’m going to be a cripple the rest of my life, I might as well do it in style.”
“I thought we weren’t going to say .”
“Not when I’m being polite. I don’t feel terribly polite these days.”
“Let me savor the view for a few minutes, okay?” The last time he’d seen the property, it had been blanketed in snow. The estate had been known as the Webster House, having been built in the 1920s by descendants of Daniel Webster himself. For Mason, the decision to acquire and restore the house had not been based on historical significance, prestige or even investment value. He wanted his mother to have a nice place to live, near Adam—aka her favorite—that could be quickly adapted for her special needs.
During that process, he had come to appreciate the benefit of having a big extended family living in a small town. His cousin Olivia was married to the contractor who had restored the fanciful timber-and-stone mansion to its original gloss as a grand summer residence from days gone by. His cousin Ross was married to a nurse who specialized in adaptive living. Another cousin, Greg, was a landscape architect. Olivia was a talented designer in her own right, so in a matter of months, the place was ready for his mother and Adam, and their staff of live-in help.
About Susan Wiggs
About Susan Wiggs
Susan Wiggs is the author of many beloved bestsellers, including the popular Lakeshore Chronicles series. She has won many awards for her work, including a RITA® Award from the Romance Writers of America.
Connect with the Author
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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
Thanks to TLC for including me
on the excerpt tour.