Dream Lake. by Lisa Kleypas (Friday Harbor) - Lisa Kleypas I liked this one better than the previous two books in the series; of course, me with my bias, I think the fact that Zoe is a chef and there's a fair amount of food descriptions in the book (which has given me a few ideas) helped quite a bit.

This is the book I originally started reading until I realized that it was the third book in a series. I really wanted to see how the author reconciled Alex's alcoholism because frankly, I find that to be a dealbreaker when it comes to a prospective relationship. It was handled as best as I could expect in a book like this because I doubt any romance novel would really get into proper rehabilitation. Although Alex quitting cold turkey is a little unrealistic considering how dangerous that is in real life.

This book was interesting in how it ran parallel to Rainshadow Road. It's almost like an extension because now you get the other side of a few situations that happened in RR. It was done pretty well, so I liked it.

The paranormal aspect wasn't as annoying as in Rainshadow Road. Alex apparently can see dead people and Zoe is kind of like Sarah Michelle Gellar's character in that movie Simply Irresistible with Sean Patrick Flannery. Zoe's magical talent isn't really touched upon that much (you see a bit in Rainshadow Road), until the dinner scene with her father.

Speaking of, it's not really said why Zoe bothers to continue contact with her dad. He essentially abandoned her when she was a child and made false promises for eight years about sending for her after he settles in Arizona. It's when Zoe is fifteen and she calls her father only to find out he has a new girlfriend with a daughter that have moved in that she realizes that her father won't come for her. So after that, why have contact? What's the point? Because we see in the book that not only did James abandon his child because he couldn't handle the heartbreak after his wife, Zoe's mother, abandon them (so yes, Zoe is abandoned by both parents), but he treats Zoe like crap, criticizing her at every opportunity and blaming her divorce on her (turned out Zoe's ex-husband was a gay in denial).

So at the dinner scene, she plans the menu with Alex in mind and pretty much everybody enjoys the meal except for James. He proclaims that Zoe must have doctored his meal because it was bitter and walks out. And that's it. No resolution comes of that and that's the last we hear of Zoe's father. So again, what was the point of having him in her life at all if there's no resolution to their relationship?

Anyhoo, what drives this book is that the ghost Alex sees has no idea of his identity and relies on Alex to help fill the gaps of the ghost's memory. In turn, the ghost tries to deal with Alex's demons (not out of kindness, but because the ghost needs Alex and the ghost has somehow bonded to him so that wherever Alex goes, the ghost has to go). At the same time, Zoe finds herself as the caretaker of her grandmother who raised the girl after her parents proved to be worthless, Emma (or Upsie), who is slowly dying. While it's obvious that the ghost and Emma had romantic ties when he was alive, it's not exactly who we expect, though most of the plot is predictable. One thing that bothered me is that Emma never revealed this love to Zoe, but Alex knows by proxy of the ghost and we as the audience know, but Zoe never really gets to know this much about her grandmother. That kind of sucks for Zoe.

Near the end, Emma wanders off in search of the ghost and Alex helps Zoe search for her. Alex gets hit by a car speeding around a blind curve and essentially dies. The ghost tells Alex's ghost to tell Zoe what he in his living form couldn't tell her. The ghost gets help from the ghostly higher powers to shove Alex's spirit back into his meatsuit and Alex gets up with nary a scratch. I mean, have him live, but it's really weird for him to get up from death perfectly fine.

As one can predict, Emma eventually dies and her spirit in the form of her younger self can finally be with her true love in the hereafter and Alex and Zoe start their happily ever after that the ghost partially reveals. A bit of a trite ending, but that was about the only way to end it.

Alex's character was better fleshed out than Mark and Sam in the previous two books. We get little tidbits of his fucked-up upbringing like his parents giving him alcohol as a kid to keep him quiet and how Alex felt like he was completely alone because his siblings flew the cuckoo's nest when Alex was still quite young. So we get a better idea of his angst, which I like because it doesn't end up giving me a "STFU and get over it" feeling.