That Summer Place by Jill Barnett, Debbie Macomber & Susan Wiggs
(Mira, $6.99, PG) ISBN 1-55166-449-6
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Sometimes buying an anthology is a great adventure. The theme attracts you or you like one of the authors. But you're not sure what you're getting because most of the writers are new to you. Well, buying That Summer Place offered no such sense of adventure. When three bestselling, award winning writers join together to put together an anthology, it's a pretty safe bet. Indeed, what we have here are three entertaining stories linked because they are all set in a vacation house on an island in Puget Sound (At least I think that's the right geographical location. Please forgive a dyed-in-the-wool easterner for not knowing where the San Juan islands are.)

Old Things is Jill Barnett's first contemporary story and is proof positive that a gifted story teller can set her tale in any era. This story contained one of my favorite plots the second chance at love. Moreover, its hero and heroine were actually my contemporaries. Barnett demonstrates conclusively that love and romance are not restricted to the young, but only to the young at heart.

Catherine Winslow and Michael Packard first met when she was eleven and he was fourteen. He had just come to the island to live with his grandfather after his parents' death. She and her family rented the old Victorian summerhouse, Rainshadow Lodge for a month each year. For the next four years, Catherine made a nuisance of herself, in Michael's eyes. She was "Squirt" to him, a little girl who wanted to be included in his activities and was a bit of a pain. Then, after a two year absence, a very different Catherine appeared. Now seventeen, she was tall and gorgeous, and Michael was smitten. But Catherine's father, finding the two, shall we say, in the act, separated the young lovers.

Now thirty years later, Catherine returns to the island with her daughters, 15 and 11. Her husband had left her eight years earlier and she had been busy with the problems and rewards of single parenthood. Needing a vacation, she decides to take her daughters to the place where she was happiest. And lo and behold, Michael Packard is there on the island. Catherine assumes that Michael has taken his grandfather's place as the island's handyman, and Michael lets her think this. How the two recapture their love is the gist of the story.

Debbie Macomber's offering, Private Paradise throws two lonely people together at Rainshadow Lodge where they discover (with a little help from their kids) that love is better the second time around. Widowed Beth Graham and her 15 year old son Paul had come to Washington to spend the month of July with her best friend's family when disaster strikes. The friend's husband whose assignment had led to the renting of the lodge breaks his leg and his company has to send someone else to Seattle to do the job. And this someone else will be staying at the house since the company is paying the rent. So Beth finds herself sharing quarters with Dr. John Livingston and his 12 year old daughter Nikki.

Both Beth and John have been wounded in their previous relationships. Beth knew that her husband was cheating on her when he died; John's wife had abandoned him and her daughter to marry a man she met on the Internet. Neither is looking for a relationship, but both find that in the private paradise that is the island, they heal and learn to love and trust again.

In Island Time, Susan Wiggs demonstrates the truth of the old adage that opposites attract. Mitchell Rutherford is a driven businessman who is organized, orderly, and single-minded. He has no time to stop and smell the roses. He has come to the island to build a marina, but before the project can proceed, he needs an environmental impact statement from a marine biologist. And so he hires Dr. R. Galvez.

What he gets is sexy, free-spirited, easy going, slightly irresponsible Rosie Galvez, recently downsized but refusing to worry. Rosie and Mitch are an improbable pair, yet the attraction is there. And Wiggs actually convinces the reader that these two are meant for each other. I call that talent.

All in all, That Summer Place is just what an anthology should be. All three stories are entertaining and well written. And by the time you finish, you too will want to summer in the San Juans or at least visit. Is the Pacific Northwest really this great?

--Jean Mason


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