|This is one of those books that a 4.5 rating would be appropriate for, but since we at TRR don’t do halves, I decided to push the scale and give Snowfall at Willow Lake the full recommendation of keeper status.
Having read the other three books and given them mixed reviews, I went into this fourth of the Lakeshore Chronicles with few expectations, especially when discovering the subject was the rather witchy ex-wife of Greg Bellamy. Sophie has not been seen as a loving person in any of the other three stories and in fact, was often the villain. I doubted Wiggs could turn this around.
How wrong I was.
Sophie is a lawyer and one who specializes in international law. She was assigned to The Hague in Holland and has been working on a case for the International Court, trying to put some very bad men away so that a tiny little country in Africa can become independent and free. It is very important work, and work that she had always rationalized as being so important she could give up raising her kids for this. The kids, Daisy and Max, never really understood. Daisy rebelled and ended up an unwed pregnant teen whojust had a little boy and is now trying to go back to school to become a photographer. Max is just twelve, trying to adjust to his dad’s new wife and figure out where his mother fits in, too.
We meet Sophie at The Hague as she goes through a terrorist attack, kidnapping and encounter with death. She is returning to Avalon, to be with her children and to try to recover from the horrifying experience. On her first night there, she drives through a major snowstorm and is stranded just outside the property she is using. She meets her neighbor, Noah Shepherd, a veterinarian who is single and yet, wishing he could find a woman and raise a family. Noah is about ten years Sophie’s junior, but this doesn’t stop him from feeling an attraction.
This is a story filled with depth. The characters are well developed and Wiggs does a great job of helping the reader understand Sophie’s psyche, even if we would never have made the same choices. She changes, as only a traumatic experience could make one change and that change is believable. Yet, she is leery of a new relationship, is insecure around her ex and his wife and wants to be accepted for who she is now. She forges a relationship with her daughter and revels in the enjoyment of being a babysitter to her grandson. This is an experience that she didn’t get to have with her children and she is determined to do it right this time.
The romance between Noah and Sophie is sweet, warm, and at the same time, strong and filled with finding the equality that neither could say they had ever experienced before. Yes there is a slight misunderstanding that is a little frustrating to the reader, but overall Wiggs resolves it quickly and keeps the tone as just part of the growth inherent in any new relationship. The ending was a tad “heartwarming” but the strength of the characters, the story and the often complex look at the lives led by people who are not fresh from the schoolroom made the little niggles seem unimportant.
Noah is a strong hero and I loved his many sides. There was humor and an ability to laugh at himself that made him endearing. Yet, there was strength in his knowledge of his goals and what he wanted, even when that wanting was changing as he grew to love Sophie.
Snowfall at Willow Lake is both a fitting end to the series (although there are hints more stories may follow) and a standalone novel about love when you least expect it. Don’t miss it.