Cicada Summer

As summer approaches in Geneva Lake, Wis., home renovation expert Alex Proctor takes on her biggest project yet: a beautiful, dilapidated historic house with a million problems (and counting). Buying the house at auction nearly wiped out her savings, but she's determined to restore it to its original glory, especially after befriending Elsie, the elderly widow who lives next door. Alex has her work cut out for her: the house is full of expensive problems to fix, and she's still trying to move on after her divorce while caring for her young daughter, Abby. As Alex digs deeper into the house's history, peeling back layers of wallpaper and secrets, she must decide whether she truly believes in second chances.

In her debut novel, Cicada Summer, Maureen Leurck creates an appealing narrator in Alex: hardworking, self-sufficient but also vulnerable. Alex throws herself into the house's renovation (with the help of her contractor and right-hand man, Eddie), but has a harder time deciding how to handle her complicated feelings for her ex-husband, Matt. Leurck adds a couple of pleasing subplots: Elsie's past and her connection to the family who once owned Alex's house, for instance, and Alex's relationship with her straight-talking cousin Traci, who has a son with autism. While certain plot elements feel a bit predictable, Leurck's characters are engaging, and Alex's passion for her work gives the novel a feeling of peeking behind the scenes on This Old House. An enjoyable restoration project--no hard hat required. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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