New York Times bestselling author Nancy Thayer never fails to imbue her novels with warmth and wisdom. In Summer Breeze, the author of Beachcombers and Heat Wave tells the wonderfully moving story of three women who forge a unique bond one sun-drenched summer on New England’s Dragonfly Lake.
Morgan O’Keefe feels trapped in a gilded cage. True, the thirty-year-old mother agreed to put her science career on hold to raise her young son while her husband pursued his high-powered job. But though Morgan loves many things about staying home with her child, she misses the thrill of working with her colleagues in the lab. She’s restless and in dire need of a change.
Fed up with New York City’s hectic pace, Natalie Reynolds takes up her aunt’s offer to move to the Berkshires and house-sit her fabulous lakeside house for a year. Passionate about applying brush to canvas, Natalie is poised to become the artist she has forever longed to be. But life on Dragonfly Lake is never without surprises, and for a novice swimmer like Natalie, the most welcome surprise proves to be the arms of a handsome neighbor pulling her up from the water for a gulp of air.
When her mother breaks her leg, Bella Barnaby quits her job in Austin and returns home to help out her large, boisterous family. Among her new duties: manning the counter at the family business, Barnaby’s Barn, an outdated shop sorely in need of a makeover. While attractive architect Aaron has designs on her, Bella harbors long held secret dreams of her own.
Summer on Dragonfly Lake is ripe for romance, temptation, and self-discovery as the lives of these three women unexpectedly intertwine. Summer Breeze illustrates how the best of friends can offer comfort, infuriate, or even—sometimes—open one’s eyes to the astonishing possibilities of life lived in a different way. This captivating novel displays a prestigiously gifted writer at the height of her storytelling powers.
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Nancy Thayer is the New York Times bestselling author of Heat Wave, Beachcombers, Summer House, Moon Shell Beach, and The Hot Flash Club. She lives in Nantucket.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
When Aaron’s Volvo pulled up to the curb of the Barnaby house, Bella felt just a bit giddy.
She’d met Aaron Waterhouse in December, right after she’d returned home to Dragonfly Lake to help her mother, and the connection had been instantaneous and electric.
Aaron was handsome, sweet, sexy, and smart. He was the first man she’d ever wanted to marry. While Bella was growing up, her own family had been happy—noisy and messy, but happy—and Bella wanted one like that for herself. Lots of children, toys on the floor, flour on the kitchen counter while she taught her son or daughter to make popovers (so much fun for children), a husband who would come home from work with a smile on his face to toss his children into the air—and who could make her melt at the sight of him, the way she was melting now.
She could have all that with Aaron. He had just gotten his master’s in architecture. He was putting out feelers for jobs and was sure to get a good one. He was so bright, so reliable. He wanted children. He was in love with her. She was in love with him, and the vision of their life together was enticing.
But there was one enormous problem: Aaron had been invited to interview for a job in San Francisco.
San Francisco excited Aaron. Bella didn’t want to leave Massachusetts.
She’d left already, plenty of times. She’d seen foreign places.
She’d traveled to Paris, to Italy, to Amsterdam. She’d lived in Utah and in Texas.
Now she wanted to get started with her own real life. She wanted to live here, near Dragonfly Lake, a world she knew and cherished. It wasn’t just the landscape and the closeness of her family. It was more than that—it was as if she were falling in love with a new vision of herself, as if at twenty-seven a mist were evaporating from a mirror, allowing her true image to show clear.
It was early June. Bella and Aaron had been together for five months, growing closer every day. She was pretty sure Aaron was about to propose to her. And she didn’t know what her answer would be.
“Bell!” Her older brother, Ben, stuck his head into the living room. “I’m driving down to the Hortons’ with our beach chairs and the food.”
“Okay,” Bella answered. “Aaron and I will walk down.”
Ben went out the door and headed to his Jeep Cherokee, with its four-wheel drive, good for the snowy months, and its back hatch, good for carrying lots of stuff. Ben was practical, scientific, and methodical. He had a PhD and a tenured position at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. His life revolved in a precise circle like planets orbiting the sun.
Bella’s life felt more like a Slinky flopping down the stairs.
She grinned at her own joke. At least she still had her sense of humor. You couldn’t live in a family of four Barnaby children, all with a first name that began with the letter B, without developing a sense of humor. And she was happy, and an optimist, glad to be home, full of hope for the future. Her life wasn’t tragic. Just a puzzle.
Bella had spent the last two and a half years teaching third grade
in Austin, Texas, until last Christmas, when her mother, while trying to put the angel on top of the tree, fell off the ladder and broke her leg. Bella’s father taught high school English five days a week. Bella’s older sister, Beatrice, was busy in her house an hour away with her three little children. Ben, of course, had his own apartment in Amherst, his students, and lab. Seventeen-year-old Brady was still in high school. So Bella abbreviated her contract, left Austin after the first semester, and flew home to take over her mother’s shop and help around the house.
She was surprised to discover she didn’t miss teaching. She was exhilarated to be back home, which for her was not just the comfortable house she’d grown up in on a lake surrounded by woodland, but the entire region where forests and farmlands stretched like a vast Eden on either side of the wide Connecticut River. This area boasted five of the best colleges in the world, drawing students and faculty from all over the planet.
As a child, she’d hiked with her family up Mount Hadley and Mount Tom, and canoed on the Connecticut River. She’d visited Emily Dickinson’s house several times, and heard Billy Collins speak when he was the country’s poet laureate. She’d contemplated modern sculpture at the art museums, and she’d witnessed a four-point stag, branched with heavy antlers, step over their lawn and down to the lake to drink in the early-morning light.
She loved this area, her family, their house . . . and that was part of the problem. Perhaps she loved them too much.
Now, as she watched, Aaron stepped out of his Volvo. He waved at Ben as Ben backed the Cherokee out of the drive. Aaron had incredibly muscled arms and thighs, an aftereffect of wrestling in high school and college. She loved the heft of them, the safety she felt in his arms. He had dark, curly hair and wore glasses over his hazel eyes. He was her Superman, looking academic, restraining so much strength and sexuality.
He approached the house, tapped on the front door, and let himself in, as everyone did who knew the Barnabys well.
“Hi, Aaron.” “Hey, Bella.”
Just the sight of him made her short of breath. He pulled her to him and kissed her thoroughly.
She gently pushed him away. “We should go.” “Right. I brought some wine. It’s in the car.”
Together they left the house, picked up the bottles of Pinot, and began walking along the narrow road winding around Dragonfly Lake. The lake was tucked in a hollow snuggled up against a gently rising mountain, or what was called a mountain in New England; in Colorado, it would be downsized to hill. It rose to a ridge running north and south, covered with evergreens, birches, and oaks, home to deer, porcupines, foxes, and numerous other creatures, including the clever raccoons that made human lives miserable if they didn’t use the proper tight-locking trash receptacles. Various styles of houses surrounded the lake: A-frames, modernized log cabins, seventies split-levels like the Barnabys’ house, and a few fabulous minimansions like the ones on either side of the Barnabys’.
All the homes looked out onto the lake, which curved in a capricious blue oval around the hill, its banks thick with grasses, forest, and wildflowers. Much of the shore was dotted with boathouses and docks, because the lake was big enough to sail on. Here and there, man-made beaches of golden sand sloped to the water. Everywhere there were trees, and over the lawns and road, the sweet green leaves of spring were casting the first delicate shadows. Tulips opened their petals to the light; pansies spilled from window boxes.
Aaron inhaled a deep breath of air. “Nice day for a cookout.” Bella nodded. “Mmm. Funny, it usually is. The Hortons have
held the first neighborhood summer cookout for years.” “How many people will be there?”
“Not a real crowd. Lots of these houses are just vacation homes. Like the one to the right of us—”
“That place is just for vacations?” Aaron turned to look back at the house.
“I know. An interior designer from Boston, Eleanor Clark, owns it. She usually comes here in the summer. I heard she loaned it to her niece this year while Eleanor goes around the world with her new boyfriend. She’s an artist—Natalie, not Eleanor—about our age.”
“Have you met Natalie?”
“Not yet. I think she’ll be at the cookout. I hope so. I’d like to meet her.”
“I’d like to see the inside of that house,” Aaron said.
Bella knocked his shoulder with hers. “Ever the architect.”
· · ·
Natalie noticed the man when he stepped out of the Jeep parked in front of the Hortons’ house. He was a hunk, with a stern countenance that gave him an air of intelligence. Judgment. Responsibility.
She thought: Now there is a face I would like to paint.
A wide brow—poets would call it “noble”—over romantically
down-slanting pale blue eyes. A straight, slender nose, neat ears, a long face with a firm jaw. Wrinkles at the corners of the eyes and across the forehead, not, she figured, from laughing but from thinking. Here in the five-college area, lots of people thought for a living. The man was perhaps thirty. His hair was golden brown, like toast; she would have bet he’d been a towheaded child.
“That’s my son,” Louise Barnaby told Natalie. She was sitting next to Natalie, both of them in rockers on the front porch of the Hortons’ house. Louise still had to baby her leg, although she could walk on it without a cane, and Natalie had brought her a glass of chilled white wine.
Louise was Natalie’s first lake friend. She’d visited when Natalie moved into her aunt Eleanor’s house this week, presenting her with a casserole and a vase of fresh flowers. She’d insisted Natalie come to the cookout with Louise and her husband, Dennis, who was out on the front lawn, stabbing croquet wickets into the ground.
“He’s awfully cute,” Natalie said.
Louise smiled. “I know. The great thing is, he doesn’t realize it.” Natalie was grateful for Louise’s company. Louise was older, but
still chic, her blond hair cut in a sexy shag, her trim body clad in chinos and a blue tee that brought out the azure of her eyes. Louise didn’t look like a fifty-five-year-old who’d given birth to four children. For that matter, Dennis was tall, slender, with lots of floppy gray hair. He still looked pretty fine as well.
It was shallow of Natalie to be so judgmental, she knew, but she’d been afraid when she made the de...
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