Title: Misty Lake
Author: Margaret Standafer
Release Date: June 2015
Length: 308 pages
Series?: Misty Lake #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Suspense
Samantha Taylor has lost all those dearest to her…her parents, her brother, and now the grandfather who raised her. When his will is read and some of his secrets come to light, Sam finds herself back in Misty Lake, Minnesota, a place that holds countless happy memories but, as she quickly discovers, just as many questions.
Jake McCabe, Misty Lake’s sheriff, is as curious as anyone about the town’s newest resident but it isn’t until Sam becomes the victim of a particularly cruel vandal that he meets her and gets a look at the house that has everyone in town talking.
As Jake races to keep Sam safe from the escalating attacks, he also works to break down the wall she has built around herself and to convince her that a life without love isn’t a life at all.
Samantha Taylor arrives in Misty Lake to sell the house she inherited from her grandfather, who was her caretaker growing up after her parents’ death. The house itself is so out of character from how she was raised with her grandfather, but it is clear he built this for her by including a lavish wood shop for her to continue her woodworking. Sam decides to stay in Misty Lake and build a beautiful china hutch for herself, for her late grandmother. It is a personal project.
Since Sam decided to stay, she also sought out Project Strong Star to host a small group of troubled teens to receive hands-on training as part of a summer camp. At the same time, very odd and disturbing things begin occurring on Sam’s property. Broken windows, brutally bloody animals, those kinds of things. Most likely a prank. Sam wants to keep these things to herself and not draw attention to herself. Soon Sheriff McCabe is made aware of the goings on and starts his own investigation. No one is excluded, including some of the Project Strong Star teens. Not long after, two of Sam’s cousins come to visit, and one remains with her in Misty Lake. Despite the sheriff and the new relatives in town, the incidents continue and heighten in severity. It is clear someone wants Sam to leave the house her grandfather left to her.
Sam Taylor – a new resident of Misty Lake; she recently inherited a property and opens a woodworking business
Jake McCabe – the sheriff
Jimmy – a persistent kid in Sam’s group; he has an older sibling who is big trouble
Jackson – a meticulous kid in Sam’s group mixed up with drugs; he doesn’t talk much
Mario – a reluctant kid in Sam’s group
Davis – a smart aleck kid in Sam’s group
Katie – a kid in Sam’s group in and out of foster care; worried about her dad
Zach – a quiet, distracted kid in Sam’s group; she is concerned about his constant texting on a phone he shouldn’t have
Tyler Loomis – a PSS kid Zach hangs around with; he has the most serious of crimes at camp
Blade – Jimmy’s older brother; involved in a gang and pressuring Jimmy to join
“Try to remember that, in the end, the choices they make are their choices. You can teach, guide, encourage, and support but their lives and their decisions are ultimately their own. If one of them makes a mistake, it’s not your fault.”
The Highs and Lows
- Surprise. There is a large element of surprise to the storyline. First in the opening with her grandfather leaving her such a property that once only housed an old cabin. Why didn’t he tell her? Then there are the strange “gifts” being left for Sam, which she tells no one about until someone else alerts the sheriff. Further still, Sam is surprised when two of her cousins mysteriously pop up for a visit. And more surprised when her cousin Susan wants to stay in Misty Lake.
- Alone. Sam finds it strange that everyone in town and the sheriff all makes mention that she lives alone. Following the deaths of her parents, her grandmother, her brother, and now her grandfather, Sam prefers to stay away from people, even other relatives. It makes it easier for her when something happens to them. She doesn’t even have friends – doesn’t even know how to make friends. She is truly a recluse and likes to keep to herself.
- The Investigation. When Sheriff McCabe turns the attention of his investigation to Sam’s PSS students, Sam is outraged. She vehemently defends all of them, despite her own suspicions. It seemed odd to me that she would do so without even knowing these students, but then the story of her brother comes to light and it all makes sense. During the investigation, Sheriff McCabe discovers that two kids from PSS have been disappearing from camp at night with a vehicle. They, of course, become the focus. Throughout the investigation, Sam and Jake are naturally brought close together. Jake’s natural interest in this newcomer and trying to keep her safe leads him to spend more time with her and get to know her better. The slow development of their relationship opening up over the course of the investigation only made Jake more protective and concerned about Sam – the one thing she didn’t want for a long time.
- Suspense. Every so often narrative from the perspective of the person stalking and scaring Sam appears throughout the book. As the story goes on, the events that happen become more severe and egregious, and the narrative becomes more unstable and scary. Things amped up each time, and twice I thought I knew who was responsible, only to be debunked by further investigation. I finally figured it out who it was at the last moment, and the battery of information about this individual went far beyond some simple pranks.
- Twist. There is a major twist toward the end of the book when the plot goes into overtime. Everything about one of Sam’s students all fell into place from the beginning and made sense: stealing items alone (unusual for teens), constantly checking his phone, disappearing, and being antsy.
The writing was well-crafted and the dialogue had a natural flow to it. Jake’s investigation and dealings with people added authenticity to his role. The description of this small Minnesota lake town was beautiful and charming, a town you’d want to live in. It was a sweet and thrilling read that kept me turning pages to find out just who it was so determined to run Sam out of town. The characters are an interesting and fun cast, each adding their own little sliver to the story.
I was born, raised, and still reside in the suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Being surrounded by ten thousand some lakes means a love of all things water-related…and a deep hatred of mosquitos. After years spent in perpetual motion juggling a family and a career and loving every minute of it, some pesky health issues led to mandated down time and eventually resulted in me finally grabbing the laptop and putting some of the stories that had been alive and well—but relegated to a small spot in the recesses of my mind—down on paper. The outcome is my first published novel, Misty Lake. It is my sincere hope that you enjoy the story.
After completing one novel, the writing bug took a firm hold. With the support of my amazing and understanding husband, as well as my amazing and somewhat understanding kids, and in spite of the lack of support from my ever-demanding Golden Retriever, I have completed the second and third books in the Misty Lake series, The Inn at Misty Lake and Misty Lake in Focus. I am currently hard at work on book four.