The Winter Lodge by Susan Wiggs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Jenny Majesky has secretly always wanted to be a writer, but instead she's been running the family's bakery since her grandfather died and her grandmother had a stroke. Lately she has also been writing a popular food column for the local newspaper based on her grandmother's old recipes from Poland, and she dreams of turning her columns into a book, but her dreams go up in smoke one night when the family home burns to the ground only a few weeks after her grandmother passes away. Shell-shocked by her series of staggering losses, Jenny teeters on the brink of despair, rescued by the estranged love of her life, police chief Rourke McKnight, her newly discovered half sister Olivia, and the wider Bellamy clan.
When Rourke heard the address of the house fire, he broke all kinds of speed records racing to the scene, heart in his throat, bargaining with God the entire way. He vowed to never again be so stupid as to let Jenny go if only she could please survive the conflagration. And when he discovered her alive and well at the bakery, puzzled by his unexpected arrival, his relief confused her even further, for it had been years since the pair had allowed themselves to so much as be in the same room together. Then Jenny learned she was homeless, and Rourke leapt at the chance to make good on his promise and insisted she stay with him until she could get back on her feet...or forever. But first it will take a lot of work to overcome the years of pain and guilt that have kept them apart.
I absolutely LOVED this book. The characters felt so real, even when they made bad choices I could sympathize. The love triangle between Rourke, Jenny, and Joey was heart-breaking because each of them truly loved the other two and wanted what was best for them, despite disagreeing what that might be.
Wiggs continues her pattern of setting up future books in the series, most particularly with the Daisy sub-plot (see Marrying Daisy Bellamy). And I thought the structure of flipping back and forth between past events and present-day worked better in this book than in the first book in the series (which I admittedly accidentally read after this one). I am tagging this book "mystery" as well as "romance" because Jenny finally uncovers the truth about her mother's disappearance all those years ago, and it has repercussions--and dangers--for her life today.
For readers' advisors: character and story doorways are both strong, and setting (bucolic Avalon, NY) seems to be a big draw for some readers as well. There is a little swearing and some sex, but not terribly explicit. I had a very hard time putting this book down.
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