Stars Over Clear Lake by Loretta Ellsworth
To be published in 2017 by Thomas Dunne
My copy: Netgalley review copy
*** Thank you to Netgalley, the author and publisher for the chance to read a review copy of this novel ***
For the first time in decades, Lorraine Kindred has returned to the ballroom where she was swept away by the big bands during the 1940s and by a star-crossed romance. As she takes in the magnificent energy and brassy sounds of her youth, the past comes to life, along with the fateful decision all those years ago that forced her to choose between personal conviction and social expectation, between the two men who had captured her heart. It had been a time of great music and love, but also of war and sacrifice, and now, trying to make peace with her memories, Lorraine must find the courage to face buried secrets. In the process, she will rediscover herself, her passion, and her capacity for resilience.
Set during the 1940s and the present and inspired by a real-life ballroom, Loretta Ellsworth’s Stars Over Clear Lake is a moving story of forbidden love, lost love, everlasting love and self love.
I realised as soon as I started reading this novel that it was more of a romance than my usual reads. But despite this not being one of my preferred genres, I did find myself really enjoying it.
We start in the present day as Lorraine, now in her 70s, visits the Surf Club ballroom for a special event. Once there, she is assailed by memories from her past – she met her husband at the original ballroom, which closed when it was burnt down. We get hints that Lorraine knows more about the fire than she is letting on…
We are then transported back in time to World War II as a teenage Lorraine is devastated when her brother Pete goes to war. She is left with her mother, who is cold and uptight, and her kind father – and the tension between her two parents escalates when her father is forced to employ Germans prisoners of war to help out on his farm. Lorraine is nervous of the POWs at first, but soon learns to accept them, and becomes particularly close to one of them…
I really liked the sections set in the 40s, and the descriptions of the clothes and evenings out. The family dynamic was also interesting and Lorraine’s mother was particularly well portrayed. As mentioned, I am not a fan of the romance genre but the more romantic sections were never too soppy or saccharine and I found myself going along with the story and enjoying it overall. I liked the little twist that came late on in the novel, and the ending was also satisfying, with everything tied up nicely.
I would say the book took me out of my comfort zone, but that wouldn’t be quite right as the book itself was quite comforting! It’s an undemanding read in the main, but I did like that it dealt with real issues that POWs – and American citizens – faced during the war years. There were some ghostly elements thrown in as well, which I have to admit didn’t really do it for me, but overall I did enjoy this book and found it a light, easy read. I wouldn’t be in a huge rush to read more romantic novels, but this was for me a nice change.