Review: Butternut Summer by Mary McNear

butternut summer by mary mcnearFormat read: paperback provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook, paperback, audiobook
Genre: women’s fiction
Series: The Butternut Lake Trilogy, #2
Length: 401 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Date Released: August 12, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Summer at Butternut Lake—a season full of surprises . . . and life-changing choices.

Preparing for her final year of college, Daisy is crazy busy now that she’s back at Butternut Lake. She’s helping her mother, Caroline, run their coffee shop and trying to build a relationship with the absentee father who’s suddenly reappeared. She never expected to fall in love with Will, the bad-boy from high school who works at the local garage. With every passing day she and Will grow closer to each other . . . and closer to the day they will have to say goodbye. As summer’s end looms, Will and Daisy face heartbreaking choices that might tear them apart.

Caroline already has her hands full trying to make ends meet at the coffee shop without having her no-good ex suddenly show up. Now that Jack is back, he’s determined to reconnect with the family he walked out on twenty years ago. But with the bank pounding on her door and Jack’s presence reminding her of the passion they once shared, Caroline’s resolve begins to crumble. As Daisy’s departure looms and her financial worries grow, Caroline just may discover the support she needs . . . in the last place she ever imagined.

My Review:

up at butternut lake by mary mcnearAfter having read both Butternut Summer and the first book in the series Up at Butternut Lake, I believe that Butternut Lake should be renamed “Second-Chance Lake”. A lot of people get some marvelous second chances at love in tiny Butternut, Minnesota.

We met Caroline and her daughter Daisy in the absolutely lovely Up at Butternut Lake. Caroline owns the local diner, Pearl’s, and everyone in town comes for breakfast (and lunch) at the place that serves the best blueberry pancakes anywhere.

In the first book, Caroline was just dealing with Daisy’s move to Minneapolis for college, and the empty nest syndrome was hitting her pretty hard. Even though that first book is someone else’s story, Caroline has a pretty big role to play, and we learn a lot about Pearl’s and Caroline’s life in Butternut. Caroline was a divorced single-mother, after Daisy’s boozing, gambling, floozy-chasing father left one morning and never came back.

He’s back. He’s also sober and wants a second chance with Caroline. She, of course, has damn good reasons for never wanting to see Jack Keegan again, but he seems to be back in Butternut to stay. Caroline doesn’t believe him.

While Caroline is trying to keep Jack out of her life, she’s also trying to eject Daisy’s new boyfriend Will from her daughter’s life. Will, one of the bad boys when Daisy went to high school, reminds Caroline much too much of a younger Jack. She wants to make sure that her daughter doesn’t make any of the same mistakes that she did.

But it’s a truth that you can’ t really keep someone from learning their own lessons and making their own mistakes. Gandalf was right, “The burned hand teaches best. After that, advice about fire goes to the heart.”

And while it is also true that you can’t make someone change, they can decide they want to change for themselves. Will in high school was a bad boy, but Will the adult is capable of changing, with the right incentive. And so is Jack. It’s just a question of whether Caroline can see it, before she damages her relationship with her daughter.

Escape Rating B+: Butternut Summer starts out as Daisy’s story (mostly) but becomes Caroline’s story somewhere in the middle, and it works really well. While Daisy’s romance with Will is similar to a pattern of “bad boy reforms with the love of a good girl”, it’s a little more than that.

Not so much that Daisy and Will start out on opposite sides of the tracks, because neither family is wealthy, but that they start out with very different sets of expectations in life. Daisy is focused on studying and making a career for herself. She’s expected to go to college and achieve.

No one seems to have ever given much of a damn about Will, and he’s drifting through life with no goals. He’s not actually bad in any material way, but he’s not exactly good either. But when he meets Daisy again, he starts looking to become something more than he has been, and do something with his life. He wants to be worthy of Daisy, of being her first love, her first everything. He wants to become someone she can build a life with.

Daisy changes from overachiever with only one purpose to a more rounded individual. She still wants her career, but she also wants to have a real life to go with it.

One of the scenes I enjoyed was when Will tells Daisy that her ideas of him following her around were great in Butternut, but that he has to be more and do more for them to be together. They both grow up.

At the same time that Daisy is experiencing first love, her mother Caroline has to deal with the love that never really died. Daisy has been in contact with her runaway father, Jack, and he has changed since he ran. He still loves Caroline, but she is rightly skeptical that he’s any different than he was 20 years ago.

The difference for him is that he’s admitted he’s an alcoholic, and has been participating in AA for two years. His first hurdle is to get Caroline to see that he was an alcoholic when he left, and that his terrific job at covering up created some of the bad behavior she experienced.

And that he was a cowardly ass who needs her forgiveness.

Jack’s struggle is hard, as it should be. It takes a lot for Caroline to forgive him, and she’ll never forget. Nor should she. But his redemption makes their second chance very sweet.

If you love small-town romances, you’ll definitely want to take your own trip to Butternut Lake.

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