If you were on the beach, or by the pool, or at a bookstore, or at a library, or really anywhere this summer there's a good chance you encountered the cover of "Every Summer After" by Carley Fortune. The novel was one of the undeniable books of the summer (and if you haven't read it, get started at TODAY).
And fans of Sam and Percy's love story won't have to wait long for another lakeside romance from Fortune, who previously worked as the executive editor of Refinery29 Canada. Her next novel, "Meet Me at the Lake," will come out on May 2, 2023.
Like "Every Summer After," the action unfolds at a lakeside town outside of Toronto. Rather than far-flung and tiny Barry's Bay, though, "Meet Me at the Lake" takes place in Muskoka, which is a bit closer.
Fortune said she recognizes her novels have a pattern — but it was unintentional, mostly.
"I didn't set out to be 'the lake person,'" Fortune said. She wrote her second novel after her younger son was born and, battling insomnia, was longing for an escape. "I wanted to give myself some comfort and I think that's why I went back to the lake for this book. Just on a personal level, that's where I wanted to be."
Aside from the freshwater vibes, the novel also shares another quality with its predecessor: Time jumps. Fern and Will meet and have a charged 24 hours in Toronto, and make a promise to meet up a year later — a promise that Will breaks. Years later, they reconnect in Fern's hometown, where she has reluctantly taken over the resort her mom owned.
"I like the idea of challenging myself to write a love story about two people who have a very kind of intense history together," Fortune said. "That history being extraordinarily brief, just 24 hours, and it was like, 'Could I pull that off? That was like the initial challenge.' And that was really, really fun."
The aesthetically similar covers are the final connective tissue between the two books (aside from, of course, their author). Whereas the cover for the first book was an existing painting found by the publisher's art department, this one is an original work by Toronto-based artist Elizabeth Lennie — based on a photo that Fortune took at the dock where she stays with her family.
"It has a very personal connection for me. It's just it's so beautiful and I'm just madly in love with it," she said.
If you're planning on falling madly in love with Fortune's next novel, read on below.
Read an excerpt of 'Meet Me at the Lake'
Will and I amble along the gravel walkway, and each cabin we pass has its own soundtrack — the slap of screen doors, the clatter of dinner dishes, a tumble of dice and a cheer of victory. The house and Cabin Twenty are the furthest from the lodge, and as we walk, the woods grow denser. The path is lined with ferns and begonias planted in old logs. It’s hard to tell, but I think Will’s tipsy. I know I am.
“I think my blood is two parts gin,” he says, eyes glimmering in a way they haven’t since he arrived.
“That’s probably a conservative estimate.” I feel buoyant. It’s the booze, absolutely. But it’s more than that. It’s quitting my job and the beautiful summer night and the feeling of taking back some control for the first time since Mom died.
Will and I walk a little further, and I blame the martinis for allowing me to reach out and touch his arm. “Hey, Will?”
He stops walking.
“Thanks for redirecting Mrs. Rose earlier. It’s not my favorite story.”
“I know it’s not.” We watch each other, the lamplight casting Will’s face in shadow.
“Did you mean what you said — about that day being the most exciting thing that happened to you?”
“I did,” he says. “I don’t spend much time in that part of the city, but when I’m downtown, I always think of it.”
I blink. “You live in Toronto?” I don’t know why I hadn’t guessed that before.
“I do,” he says slowly.
“For how long?” I ask, my pulse quickening.
Will’s eyes dart to the trees. He doesn’t want to answer.
“Just tell me.”
“A long time.”
I stare him down. That’s not good enough.
“Almost ten years,” he says quietly.
I nod once, but it’s mostly for the purpose of making sure my head is still attached to my neck. I didn’t think the great ghosting of Fern Brookbanks could get any worse.
“Fern,” he says, and I wave my hands, hurt and disappointment rising up my throat.
“Listen, I gotta go. I’m drunk. And you’re…” I study him, “too tall.”
I leave Will there, on the path, standing among the pines and poplars.
That night, the dream starts the same way. I can smell the pancakes before I go downstairs, but when I get to the kitchen, Will is at the stove instead of my mother. He’s wearing a dark blue suit, his back turned to me. His hair is past his ears, like it was when he was twenty-two, and when he looks over his shoulder, his face breaks into the most gorgeous smile I’ve ever seen. I pull him to the table and peel his jacket off slowly. His grin turns wolfish, his eyes hungry. I reduce my speed as I unbutton his shirt, watching him starve, then press my teeth to the skin over his heart while the pancakes burn.
Excerpted from MEET ME AT THE LAKE by Carley Fortune, published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2023