To be honest, I didn't enjoy Lake in the Clouds by Sara Donati as much as I enjoyed Into the Wilderness and Dawn on a Distant Shore, the first two books in the series. Don't get me wrong, I still thought it was an enjoyable read. I liked it a lot, in fact. Ultimately, though, Donati experiences some growing pains writing this series. Lake in the Clouds is very much a transitional novel, switching from Elizabeth and Nathaniel's primary POV to Hannah and Lilly's POV. From what I can tell, this is because these two characters play a more important role in the later series.
Despite the growing pains, I found a grown up Hannah quite refreshing. Her time in New York was utterly fascinating. Hannah is very much in her own head. She pays attention to the world around her, but not with the kind of detail that I thought she should have. Her diary entries, though fascinating, seemed a bit like a cop-out so Donati could move the plot along. Like I said before, transitional novel. A lot has to happen in this book and it's already about 700 pages long.
Once Hannah returns to Lake in the Clouds, the most fascinating thing happens: the pace slows down for the characters yet the narrative is rushed. She works with Dr. Richard Todd to vaccinate the town against smallpox. She helps fight a scarlet fever epidemic. She has to handle Jemima Southern (who I absolutely hate). During this time, Lilly starts to come into her own. Donati gives her more time than I think she should have. Lilly doesn't really DO anything to advance the plot other than learn to draw and predict who Hannah marries. This might irk me, but Lilly is such an interesting character. I can see why Donati chose to give her more page time. Apparently she's a big character in the next novel.
In any case, I still gave this book 4 stars because, according to my rating system, I "really liked it." I did really like it despite its growing pains. I think it's an exceedingly hard job to write an epic family series. Transitioning from one generation to the next can be quite difficult. Though Donati doesn't do it as well as some that I've read, she does do a good enough job to keep a reader interested.