Butternut Summer

It seems like things always stay the same in Butternut, Minn.--or so Caroline Keegan used to believe. But this summer will bring a host of changes, not all of them welcome. As Caroline struggles to balance the books at Pearl's, the diner/cafe she owns, she must deal with her ex-husband Jack's sudden return to town and her complicated feelings toward him. Meanwhile, Caroline's daughter, Daisy, is swept up in the heady rush of first love, but is also preparing for her final year of college and building a relationship with a father she's just getting to know.

This second book in Mary McNear's planned Butternut Lake trilogy paints an idyllic picture of small-town American life. (Allie, the main character in McNear's debut, Up at Butternut Lake, makes a cameo as one of Caroline's best friends.) McNear explores the mother-daughter bond between Caroline and Daisy, now tested by Caroline's financial worries, Jack's unsettling presence and Daisy's new boyfriend, Will, of whom Caroline does not approve. Jack, a recovering alcoholic anxious to make amends for his past wrongs, is the novel's most complex character, and McNear portrays his struggles sensitively. Daisy and Will's relationship is a typical story of first love, but their romance does give Will the impetus to make some unexpected choices. And while Caroline's worries resolve themselves neatly, her decisions (both in business and in love) will necessitate some adjustments.

Full of likable, realistic characters, Butternut Summer is a heartwarming (if predictable) read for fans of light women's fiction. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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