Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Review The Summer Cottage by Viola Shipman

After reading The Recipe Box by Viola Shipman I was so moved by the story that a special recipe box made its way under the Christmas tree filled with heirloom recipes from family and friends for my daughter's special gift from me. So its a no brainer for me to want to feature Shipman's latest so read my review and learn a bit about the book and the author.

ISBN-13: 9781525834233
Publisher: Graydon House
Release Date: 4-23-2019
Length: 416pp
Source: Publisher(review to come)
Buy It: Amazon/B&N/Kobo/IndieBound/Audible

Add to: Goodreads


From the bestselling author of The Charm Bracelet and The Recipe Boxcomes the perfect summer escape about the restorative power of family tradition, small-town community and the feel of sand between your toes
Adie Lou Kruger’s ex never understood her affection for what her parents called their Cozy Cottage, the charming, ramshackle summer home—complete with its own set of rules for relaxing—that she’s inherited on Lake Michigan. But despite the fact she’s facing a broken marriage and empty nest, and middle age is looming in the distance, memories of happy childhoods on the beach give her reason for hope. She’s determined not to let her husband’s affair with a grad student reduce her to a cliché, or to waste one more minute in a career she doesn’t love, so it becomes clear what Adie Lou must do: rebuild her life and restore her cottage shingle by shingle, on her terms.

But converting the beloved, weather-beaten structure into a bed-and-breakfast isn’t quite the efficient home-reno experience she’s seen on TV. Pushback from Saugatuck’s contentious preservation society, costly surprises and demanding guests were not part of the plan. But as the cottage comes back to life, Adie Lou does, too, finding support in unexpected places and a new love story on the horizon. One cottage rule at a time, Adie Lou reclaims her own strength, history and joy by rediscovering the magic in every sunset and sandcastle.

Read an excerpt:


The Rules of Cozy Cottage

July 2006

“There it is!” I said, rolling down the car window, and sticking my head out.
Even though I was a grown woman – a married mom now in her thirties – there was nothing like seeing my family’s summer cottage again. I smiled as Cozy Cottage came into view. It looked as though it had been lifted from a storybook: an old, shingled cottage sitting on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, an American flag flapping in the breeze. The cool wind coming off the lake whistled, the grass on the dunes swayed, the leaves rustled in the aspen trees and the needles of the tall pines surrounding the cottage quivered.
My heart raced, and all the years fell away. I instantly felt as excited as the little girl who knew she’d be spending her entire summer here. I waved at my parents.
“We’re here!” I called. “We’re here!”
I could hear them whooping and hollering from the screened porch. Their happy voices echoed back, enveloping the car.
“Welcome, campers, to Cozy Cottage!”
Our SUV pulled to a stop at the end of the long, gravel drive leading to the summer cottage. My seven-year-old son Evan bounded out of the SUV before it had even come to a complete stop.
“Grandma! Grampa!” he squealed, leaving his car door open and sprinting up the labyrinth of warped, wooden steps to the porch. My mom and dad were rocking on a barn-red glider, but they leaped off it, faces beaming, waving little American flags, “Yankee Doodle” blaring from a vintage stereo. They pulled Evan into their arms and rained his head with kisses.
I laughed and turned to my husband, Nate, who was rolling his eyes.
“Please,” I said softly. “Don’t.”
“We’re not campers,” he admonished in the professorial tone he used to intimidate college freshman. “It’s so juvenile, Adeleine.”
“You know they’ve done it forever,” I said, reaching over to pat his arm. “Let’s just have fun. It’s summer. It’s July Fourth vacation. It’s our only time away from all the stress of life.”
Nate didn’t agree or nod, but instead walked around to the trunk to retrieve suitcases.
I hated when he didn’t respond to my comments – which had been more frequent of late – but now wasn’t the time to tell him this. We hadn’t seen my folks since Christmas, and I just wanted our visit to be pleasant.
“Adie Lou,” my mom and dad cooed at the same time as I headed toward them. They pulled me into their arms and hugged me tightly. “Our Yankee Doodle Dandy is home!”
“I love you, too,” I said. And I meant it. My parents were more than a little corny, but I loved them more than anything.
Nate caught up, lugging a big suitcase and an oversized cooler up the steps.
“Jonathan,” Nate said formally to my father, extending his hand, before turning to my mother. “Josephine.”
Everything Nate did was formal. It was one of the first things that attracted me to him in college. He opened doors, and wore sweaters with leather patches on the elbows. He took me to the theater and read books to me. He told me I could be and do anything, and treated me as an equal. He was unlike any beer-guzzling fraternity boy my sorority sisters typically dated. And his seriousness and manners gave him an air of authority that made me feel safe, things that now just felt distant and cold.
“Nathaniel,” my dad said just as seriously, before busting into a laugh. “Smile, Nate! This is Cozy Cottage. Not Cranky Cottage.”
“Yeah, Dad!” Evan added, before turning to his grandparents and jumping excitedly. “Are we ready?”
Nate smiled, but it came across as more of a smirk.
“Ready for what?” my dad teased, deciding to ignore Nate’s response and focus on Evan instead.
“Ready to recite the rules!” Evan said, his eyes as blue and wide as the expanse of Lake Michigan behind him.
“It’s the only time I’ve seen you pay attention to rules,” I teased him.
My dad tucked his flag into his shirt pocket, reached into the woven Nantucket basket hanging from the front door and then turned as if he were a magician, his hands behind his back.
Evan giggled.
“Ta-da!” my dad said, producing five sparklers. He handed one to each of us, forcing the last one into Nate’s hand. He then pulled a long fireplace lighter from the basket and lit them. Evan giggled even harder at the shimmering sparks.
“Remember, we have to recite all the rules before our sparklers go out,” my dad said, his voice warbling with excitement. “Go!”
“First rule of the summer cottage?” my mom asked quickly as she held her sparkler high, looking a bit like the Statue of Liberty.
“Leave your troubles at the door!” Evan and I yelled together.
“The second rule of the summer cottage?” my dad asked.
“Soak up the sun!” we said, big smiles on our faces.
“Rule number three?” my mom chimed in.
“Nap often!”
“Wake up smiling!”
“Build a bonfire!”
We recited every rule as quickly as we could –go rock hunting, dinner is a family activity, ice cream is required, be grateful for each day, go jump in the lake, build a sandcastle, boat rides are a shore thing, everyone must be present for sunset – until we got to the last one.
“And what’s the final rule, Nate?” my dad said pointedly, turning to my rigid husband, who’d yet to say a word.
“I don’t remember,” he said. “I want to get this stuff in the fridge before it spoils.”
He opened the door, dragging the cooler and suitcase inside with a loud grunt and then shut the door. Evan’s face drooped as his sparkler sputtered.
“We didn’t do it in time,” he said, his voice sagging.
We did,” my mom said, emphasizing the first word for effect. “Great job, Evan. Want to go for a swim?”
“Yeah!” he yelled, his mood changing. He grabbed his grandma’s hand and pulled her through the front door.
Sorry, I mouthed to my dad.
He winked. “Some people don’t get the beauty of a summer cottage,” he said softly, putting his arm around my shoulder. “But the magical campers do, don’t they, Adie Lou?” He gave me a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll go grab some stuff from your car,” he said, heading down the steps.
For a moment I was alone on the front porch. Lake Michigan was as flat as glass, and the blue water was indistinguishable from the horizon. It all just ran together, and the beauty of it made me catch my breath.
Sailboats dotted the water, boats and Jet Skis zipped by in the distance, and the golden shoreline arced gently as if it were yawning and stretching its sandy back.
Such a contrast from the traffic of Chicago, I thought. Saugatuck, Michigan, is magical.
I’d been coming here my whole life, just as my parents and my dad’s parents had. There wasn’t a moment in my life where Saugatuck and Cozy Cottage hadn’t been a part of it.
How old are you? I wondered, looking at the cottage.
Its shingles were weathered and gray, and those on the roof were a tad mossy in spots. The windowpanes were wavy, and the paint on the trim was peeling. My dad always talked about how much “sweat equity” he put into the cottage, but Nate always said at some point it would cost a small fortune to fix it.
I looked up. A turret topped the house with a window I always believed kept a lookout on the lake like a magical eye. A narrow staircase – so tight you had to crawl up at the top – led to the turret where there was a 360-degree view of the lake. I spent summers at our cottage reading, dreaming, believing that I could be anything I wanted.
I called the cottage “quaint” and “charming,” but Nate referred to it as “old” and “decrepit.”
The cottage creaked, and I smiled.
I loved the sounds our summer cottage made. It creaked in the winds that roared off the lake at night. The attic groaned in the heat, the wood floors moaned as we walked, the screens on the porch exhaled in the breeze. Hummingbirds whirred near the feeders my mom placed in the trees, moths thumped in the outdoor lights at night, bees buzzed in the towering gardens and overflowing window boxes, wild turkeys called to the thunder that boomed over the lake. The cottage actually seemed to sigh when it was filled with people.
I walked inside, and its distinctive smell – woody, watery, a bit moldy – greeted me. I took a step into the foyer.
The cottage was a mix of shiplap, angled, beamed ceilings featuring endless coats of white paint, wide windows, paintings of the lake and gardens, vintage finds that were part shabby chic and part old cabin. Framed photos of my family going back generations lined coffee tables, walls and bookshelves. High-back chairs, a worn leather sofa draped with old camp blankets and a mammoth moose head hanging from a soaring lake-stone fireplace greeted visitors. My grampa – a Chicago grocer who used nearly all of his savings to buy the cottage so my grandma could get away from the store they never left – always called the moose that jutted from the fireplace Darryl, because he said its eyes looked as glassy as his best friend’s after a few manhattans. When I was little, my grampa would tell me that the cottage was built around Darryl, and that his tail still popped out the back of the house. I spent hours searching for Darryl’s tail end.
But the biggest focal point of the cottage was a hole in the wall with a frame around it. Visitors always wondered at first if my family was simply lazy housekeepers or terrible renovators who took pride in our mistakes until they got close enough to read the little plaque under the frame:

Bullet Hole from Al Capone
After Drunken Shootout
Rumor had it Cozy Cottage had once been Al Capone’s hideaway, a place where he ran liquor during Prohibition in collaboration with Detroit’s Purple Gang. The noisy cottage – far away from Chicago and Detroit and difficult for police or other mobsters to sneak up on – was supposedly beloved by Capone.
I never knew if this was true or just another of my grampa’s tall tales.
Evan ran down the stairs dressed in his swimsuit, a towel draped around his neck like Superman’s cape screaming “Wheeee!” My mom followed, yelling, “Wait for me, camper!”
“Rule number ten!” I could hear Evan yell as he raced toward the lake, his voice echoing into the cottage. “Go jump in the lake!”
My mother slowed for just a second when she saw my face. “What’s the first rule, Adie Lou?”
“Leave your troubles at the door,” I said.
She nodded, winked and quickened her pace.
I smiled and the door slammed behind my mom.
July 2018

The slamming of a door jars me back to the present.
“The appraiser is finished,” Nate calls into the cottage. “Inspection is complete, too.”
I am standing in the living room of Cozy Cottage staring at Darryl, his eyes fixed on mine like I’m a traitor.
Nate strides past me, saying, “Boat guy just stopped by and thinks he might have a buyer for the Adie Lou, too. It’s a good day.”
Good day? I think.
He spins in the living room, follows my eyes and says, “That moose always unnerved me. Say your goodbyes. I’ll leave you alone for a few minutes.”
I can’t move, or speak.
“Adeleine,” he says, using the same, sly tone I suspect he used to make his grad student, Fiona – I mean what kind of name is that? – fall under his spell.
A car honks.
“She’s not very patient, is she?” I ask. “You haven’t trained her very well.”
“Adeleine,” he repeats. “Fiona’s doing us a favor.”
“Us?” I ask, my eyes wide.
Against my better judgment, I agreed to let Nate come to the cottage even though the inspection was today to pick up some of his belongings as well as his beloved vintage Porsche convertible that my dad let him store in the garage. I guess I just wanted to rip the Band-Aid off in one fell swoop. I didn’t expect Lolita to tag along.
I peek out the window.
“What time does prom start?” I ask.
“Just follow the course,” Nate continues in his formal detached way. “Play by the rules, just like our attorneys have outlined, and we’ll both get the new start we want. You’ll get a fortune from this place, and we’ll see a nice windfall from the sale of our home in Lake Forest. You’re sitting on a gold mine if you sell now. This place has seen better days. It needs a new roof, new plumbing, new life … “ He stops for emphasis. “New owners.” Nate smiles and continues. “The realtor will find some sucker who falls for its – what do you always call it? – ‘charm’ before it falls apart.”
I look at him, my mouth open.
Though my parents left Cozy Cottage to me, and Nate is entitled to none of its proceeds, I agreed to sell it because he convinced me that the rules were stacked against me.
On your salary, you will go broke maintaining the cottage and paying its taxes, Nate told me over and over. And how often you will you use it anymore? How often will Evan use it?
“I need to smudge this place,” I suddenly say out loud, as much to myself as him. “Get some better energy in here.”
Nate laughs dismissively. “You and your sage, and crystals, and beads and essential oils and new age BS,” he says. “The only thing that will do is make the cottage smell bad for potential buyers.” He turns and looks at me, as if seeing me for the first time. “You’re not the person I married, Adeleine.”
Nate walks away, the floor creaking. The door slams behind him, and the cottage seems to exhale relief with his exit.
Play by the rules, I think. I’ve played by the rules the last 30 years, and where did that get me? I’m not the one who changed. You tried to change me. I’m the same woman you married.
I turn, and that’s when I notice that the “Cottage Rules” sign my parents had hand-painted on old barn wood so long ago hanging askew, just like my life.
Who knew that so much could change in just over a decade?
My son is now in college, my parents are gone, and my husband and I are divorcing. Even my job – an ad executive creating cute slogans for corporations who poison the earth – is killing me. Everything my parents taught me seems to be fading, just like the sparklers they used to hand out when we’d arrive.
I begin to walk out, but stop on the woven rug by the door my grandmother made long ago, the colorful, circular one that has stayed in this same spot for decades, collecting sand. I am unable to leave the sign askew.
I straighten the sign, running my hand over the letters.
This summer cottage was a place whose only rules were to be happy.
I stop on the last rule of the cottage, the one Nate refused to recite so many years ago. My heart races as I read it, tears springing to my eyes, blurring the words.


Part One
Rule #1:
Leave Your Troubles at the Door

February 2018

“I can’t do it.”
“Yes, you can.”
My attorney Trish, who not only happens to be one of the finest divorce lawyers in Chicago but also my best friend from college, stares at me, unblinking in disbelief.
“I can’t.”
“Sign. The. Papers. Adie. Lou.”
She says this slowly, in a tone like the one my dad used when he caught me trying to sneak in the cottage past curfew.
“I can’t,” I repeat. They are the only words I can muster.
“You can,” she says.

My Review:

The Summer Cottage
Viola Shipman
There are very few men authors who can speak to my feminine soul but Wade Rouse aka Viola Shipman is one of them, maybe when he sits down to write a story using his grandmother’s name as his pseudonym a bit of her soul touches him or maybe he’s just one of those men who really get women but whatever it is it works and his latest novel, The Summer Cottage proves it. It’s a tale about love, loss, turning lemons into lemonade and starting over, where the main protagonist Adie Lou finally comes of age in middle age taking a huge leap of faith. The narrative has a laid back-times gone by feel featuring emotional as well as laugh out loud passages with well developed characters and vivid colorful settings that will bring back memories to all of us who waited for the song of the  * “peepers” the first harbinger of Spring and who spent some or all of our summers barefoot, swimsuit clad and full of sand in our own version of Creaky Cottage and the rest of us who wish we had. Fans of Sarah Morgan, Kristin Hannah and Sally Hepworth will eat this read right up.
When Adie Lou Clarke’s cheating husband asked for a divorce she decided it was time to totally chuck her old life including her ad exec job (which she hated) and make a new start by turning her family’s rundown generational Lake Michigan summer cottage into a B&B. And although most people think she’s nuts and she’s constantly fighting remodel nightmares and red tape from the town’s historical committee she’s also gotten some much needed support from family, friends and neighbors. So if she doesn’t run out of money, patience and sanity first she just might be an innkeeper by her Memorial Day goal.

Memorable Quotes:
* “My dad, like so many Michiganders, calls a certain frog that lives in these parts “peepers” for their distinctive call–a single, high-pitched peep…”
“We all doubt ourselves, which ultimately paralyzes us from becoming who we want to be.”
Emotion is strength, not a weakness. It’s ultimately what makes women better survivors than men.”


“Every now and then a new voice in fiction arrives to completely charm, entertain and remind us what matters. Viola Shipman is that voice and The Summer Cottage is that absolutely irresistible and necessary novel.” — New York Times Bestselling Author Dorothea Benton Frank

Other Books by Viola Shipman
                                             Click the book image for my review

About the author:
Viola Shipman is a pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his writing. Rouse divides his time between Michigan and California, writes regularly for People and Coastal Living and is a contributor to All Things Considered. He is the bestselling author of The Charm Bracelet, The Hope Chest and The Recipe Box.


  1. This definitely sounds like my kind of summer read! Great review and I really do think I should grab this one for the upcoming summer months.

  2. I feel the same way about this author. I love his books and have read all of them. He is one of my favorites and last year he was so kind to grant me an interview. What a great review!

    1. That's fabulous. give us a link and we'll check it out.

  3. I have the Recipe Box in my tbr pile and this one just screams summer. Lovely review Debbie!

    1. it was a lovely book Kim. I hope you enjoy The Recipe Box :)

  4. I added the Recipe Box to my list after reading your review. This one sounds fab, too. I've been to Saugatauk and its a lovely community. I don't blame the heroine for saving her family lake-side cottage. :)

    1. Oh Sophia Rose if you've been there then you can really be present in the book too! The Recipe Box was unforgettable to me.

  5. That sounds good. I love little cottages.

    1. this one is not so little I think it had maybe 7 bedrooms, and it was good

  6. That’s so need that the author took his grandmothers name to write under. This sounds like a sweet summer read about starting over and making those lemons in to lemonade! Wonderful Review!

    Lindy@ A Bookish Escape

  7. Great review and recommendation. And doubly happy because I did order this one and it should be on its way to me soon. I love your recipe Christmas gift - I still have to read that book too, but its on my radar.

    1. they really spoke to my heart Kathryn I hope they will to yours too

  8. As soon as it came out,I started reading it,finished it yesterday and again was delightfully pleased.I felt like I was visiting the town. I had a tear or two with the ending, and hated to see the story end.
    Viola always puts so much heart and soul and empathy in his characters. Ive read all of his books and cant wait for the next one Heirloom Garden!

  9. I don't know that I've ever really seen a man write under a woman's name. I know I've seen some women write under men's or just using initials so as to make it hard. Interesting. Glad you enjoyed it.

    Melanie @ Hot Listens & Books of My Heart