The Charm School

The Drifter

Enchanted Afternoon

The Firebrand

Halfway to Heaven

The Horsemaster's Daughter

The Hostage

Husband for Hire

The Mistress

Passing Through Paradise

A Summer Affair

Summer at Willow Lake

Table for Five

The You I Never Knew

The Winter Lodge
by Susan Wiggs
(Mira, $7.99, G) ISBN 07783-2414-1
“The Lakeshore Chronicles” is a series about the town of Avalon in Upstate New York which started in Summer at Willow Lake, a five heart story that introduced many of the characters and families. One of those was Philip Bellamy, who fell in love with a local girl Mariska Majesky, the daughter of the baker. They had a child that Mariska hid from Philip until he discovered his grown daughter just last summer. The Winter Lodge is her story.

Jenny Majesky has always felt a little lost. She grew up knowing her father was not in the picture, and her mother who disappeared one day when she was just four. She was lovingly raised by her grandparents, who operated their own little bakery. Jenny had always helped at the bakery and now that both of them are dead, she is the sole owner and operator. But the rest of her life is in disarray. First, she has always wanted to be a writer and the best she could do is a food column for the local paper – her articles are strewn throughout the tale, giving the reader glimpses of the traditions her grandmother passed down to her. Second, she has always wanted to leave Avalon for New York City, but circumstances have never let her go. And her love life is less than nothing. As the story unfolds, we move from the present day to the past as Jenny’s life is slowly revealed. In the present day, she is dealing with a fire that has destroyed her family’s home and all her possessions. This brings her into contact with the chief of police, an old friend and man she has loved for years from afar…Rourke McKnight.

Rourke was a silver spoon kid. His father was and is a powerful senator and Rourke was always expected to be a mover and shaker. But Rourke’s father was also abusive behind closed doors and Rourke swore he would never be like his father. He earned a college degree in law enforcement and has been working in Avalon ever since. He fell in love with the town and with Jenny when he was a teenager, first attending and then working at Camp Kioga. Jenny and Rourke met when Jenny was delivering baked goods for the camp and was being attacked by three of the campers. Rourke’s best friend Joey Santini also met Jenny that same day. He fell instantly in love with Jenny and Rourke backed off. Eventually, Joey and Jenny got engaged. But Jenny secretly loved Rourke, who never gave her a clue as to his feelings. Joey just bulldozed her and she ended up engaged. Joey ended up dying and there was plenty of guilt on both Rourke’s and Jenny’s part – even though neither had anything to do with his death.

It is ten years later and Jenny still wants to go to New York, Rourke still wants to stay in Avalon and the two have not resolved their feelings for each other or for what happened with Joey.

While I enjoyed this story, there were places where the tale dragged, being very slow in revealing the important details. There were many references to the details about Jenny’s mother and father that were in the previous story. If you have not read that one, some of this one may be confusing to you. On the other hand, Rourke is almost a secondary character. We don’t really discover much depth to him, except to know he is tortured, using women to gain temporary relief, and he still has a torch for Jenny.

There are some side tales; one involving Jenny’s newly discovered cousin, Daisy, who at seventeen finds herself pregnant. She and her friends are part of this subplot, with a hint at a future romance for her divorced dad and one of her friend’s mothers.

On the back cover, there is a note that Jenny and Rourke are stranded by a blizzard and that helps them discover their love. The only problem is that this doesn’t take place until Chapter 30 of 33. The romance is really tepid and they spend so much time avoiding each other, it is difficult to truly get engaged in its ultimate resolution. Needless to say, it took forever to get there and then the ending felt rushed.

Wiggs has written an involved story of one lady coming to grips with her life while she figures out what is important. The Winter Lodge is a decent story, and is interesting in its own way; however, having read the Summer tale, this one pales in comparison.

--Shirley Lyons

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