Review: The Winter Lodge by Susan Wiggs (2007)

The Lakeshore Chronicles, Book #2

Heat Factor: A few smooches, and then the door is firmly closed

Character Chemistry: I didn’t always buy it

Plot: Jenny’s house burns down, so Rourke gives her a place to stay, but really there are a million secondary characters and like three subplots. And, of course, family secrets. 

Overall: This is not my usual romance fare, and frankly, the romance part didn’t do much for me, but it was still pretty engaging.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t really connect with this book. Didn’t love the characters, didn’t think that there was much interesting about it, and found a few things extremely frustrating. On the other hand, I read it in a day, so there must be something there. 

Here’s what you will find in this book:

  • Small town shenanigans. Everyone knows everyone’s business, and people love and take care of each other. However, it doesn’t veer into twee territory, since Rourke, as chief of police, deals with drug abuse and domestic violence and petty crime, so the fact that small-town life isn’t perfect is woven into the backdrop of his story. 
  • A slow-burn romance, emphasis on the slow. Even though Jenny and Rourke start living in the same house almost immediately, we don’t see many of their domestic interactions (actually, almost none). A lot of the development of their love story unfolds slowly as backstory, in chapters that take place in the past. The hurdle in the “now” is them getting over their guilt over the death of his best friend / her fiancé, which they mostly do separately. 
  • A lot of subplots. There’s the mystery of where Jenny’s mom went. There’s Jenny rethinking her life now that everything she owns has been destroyed. There’s a pregnant teen or three. There’s Jenny slowly getting to know her father and the rest of the family she only recently learned about. There’s stuff at the bakery Jenny owns. There’s Jenny’s grief about the recent death of her beloved grandmother. If you want a focused romance novel, it’s a lot, but if you’re more interested in a journey of self-discovery / charming small-town story, you might enjoy it. It took some getting used to, but I eventually did settle in to the meandery plot and had fun wondering where things were going. 
  • Recipes.

What you will not find:

  • A tropetastic snowed-in story, despite the back cover copy (this blurb LIES, I tell you!). Jenny doesn’t even move to the titular lodge until page 300! 
  • A believable romance in the present. Jenny and Rourke haven’t spoken in years (since the death of the best friend/fiancé, but when Jenny wakes up in his bed, they immediately start teasing each other? But being around Rourke magically cures Jenny’s anxiety (yiiiiiikes), so I guess that’s something?
  • Any of the many pregnant teens in this story opting to have an abortion rather than embracing single motherhood. 
  • An ethical cop hero. Despite first appearances (he rescues dogs! so cute!), Rourke is shady AF, as evidenced by the fact that all of the men Jenny has dated since her fiancé died *mysteriously* got a lot of traffic tickets for ridiculous minor infractions and then moved away. (Rourke, of course, has banged every hot woman in a 300-mile radius, a fact which Jenny brings up for the reader at least once a chapter.) Jenny never connects the dots on this one. If you check the above list, I never said you’d get a smart heroine.

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

Looking for something similar?

Small Town Romances

Cop Heroes (ethics not guaranteed)

Going on a journey of self discovery

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