I’m a Maine-summer girl. Some of my earliest memories are from visiting my dad’s sister’s place on Lake Sebago or my mom’s father’s cooperage in Portland. Then my mother died, and I was sent away to camp. If that sounds cruel, listen up.
I was eight when my mother died. And back then, believe it or not, I was the only child in my school class who didn’t have two parents in the home. Cut to summer camp six months later. We’re talking eight weeks away from home, on the shores of Crystal Lake in Harrison, Maine. Suddenly, I was in a new place with non-stop activities from Reveille, blown on a real live bugle at seven in the morning, to Taps, blown at nine at night. More to the point, I was in a bunk with seven other girls, in a row of eleven other bunks, each with eight girls, none of whom had mothers there either. I was no different from anyone else.
We were all homesick. We bonded over that, I’m sure – though it could have been the hospital corners we couldn’t quite get right on our cots, or the swims on frigid mornings, or the trek to the shower house for mandatory twice-weekly showers. I don’t think of those things now, though, when I remember those summers. I think of the girls, my bunkmates and teammates, friends I desperately missed when summer ended, and some of whom I am still in touch with. And I think of the setting.
Picture grassy fields, clay tennis courts, and a pine path leading down to the lake. Smell the pines bordering that path and the fire in the main bunk hearth each morning. Taste s’mores at weekly cookouts. Hear the sound of the lake at night, lapping oh-so-gently against the shore.
Those summers were formative ones for me. I thrived there in the woods by the lake. Years later, when my husband and I were shopping for a lake place, my litmus test was whether I could close my eyes and hear that oh-so-gentle lapping of water on rocks. But Maine didn’t wait for my house. For years before we found it, we were day-tripping to the southern Maine coast and weekending in places like Boothbay and Bar Harbor, Ogunquit, Kennebunkport, and Portland.
Maine has inspired many of my books, dating back to romances like Sweet Ember, Jasmine Sorcery, and Surrender by Moonlight, and moving on to full-lengthers, like Facets, Within Reach, and For My Daughters. And now we have Sweet Salt Air and The Summer I Dared. Both are set in Maine, both newly released in my favorite trade paperback format, both the perfect summer read guaranteed to take you up and away.
These are sensual books, as in dealing with every sense we possess. As are my memories of Maine summers, they are rich in the sights and smells and tastes of Maine. They also hold a whole lot of my heart and soul. Remember that as you read them. I’ll never write a memoir, but these books come pretty close.
Do you have a special place like my Maine?