A January Chill
There are some books you just should not read if you’re feeling depressed or gloomy and A January Chill is definitely one of them. Right up to the last few pages the characters are so depressed, unhappy, and angry that by the time I was done reading the book, so was I.
Twelve years ago Karen Matlock snuck out for a date with Hardy Wingate. A drunk driver came at their car head on, killing Karen. Karen’s father Witt has never forgiven Hardy and his hatred has forced his niece Joni, one of Hardy’s best friends, to avoid him.
When Witt announces he’s won the lottery and wants to build a hotel to attract tourists to the Colorado mountain town, Joni sees it as the perfect opportunity to mend fences. She secretly gives information to Hardy, encouraging him to submit a bid for designing and building the hotel Hardy is wary at first: he’s spent twelve years avoiding Witt’s anger, but he wants a chance to get know Joni again so he submits a bid. Witt likes the design until he realizes who the architect is. Witt goes ballistic, disowns Joni for giving info to Hardy, and has a heart attack. Joni feels so guilty about the mess she decides to leave town. Her mother, worried about the alienation between Witt and Joni decides it’s time to drop a little bombshell of her own: she announces that Witt isn’t Joni’s uncle, he’s her father.
This story was one emotional roller coaster after another. There are fights, car accidents, heart attacks, and page after page of people discussing how guilty and angry they are about Karen’s death. You can see why Joni finally pushed buttons to bring the argument to a boil. These people have been walking around with this cloud over their heads for twelve years and it was time to face up to it and move on.
I liked Hardy well enough. Its reasonable that he’d still feel guilty over Karen’s death, because he was driving and because he survived when Karen did not. But then we learn another reason for his guilt, which adds another layer of believability to his feelings and actions. Hardy also has enough sense not to purposely go out and rile Witt. He does submit a bid for the hotel, but only because Joni asked and he doesn’t expect to get picked, yet wants a chance to show what he could do. He is patient with Joni, never demanding, always there when she needs him.
Joni is a whole other matter. She acts without thinking things through. She knows that Witt hates Hardy, but thinks he’ll just shrug off her giving out private information to the person he considers a murderer. Then she’s actually shocked at how angry he becomes. She decides that leaving town will fix everything and tries to without telling anyone. Does she think about worrying her mother? Her job? Nope. She just wants to leave. She also has a habit of wandering around for hours outside even though the reader is told continually how cold it is out. Apparently Joni doesn’t think about hypothermia either.
My biggest problem is that a lot of the characters’ problems could be solved with simply talking to one another. Witt just yells and won’t listen to anyone. Joni tries to leave instead of hearing anyone out. Hannah starts to talk and then clams up so no one knows what she’s thinking. And Hardy crosses the street to avoid conversations. It really is their own fault they spend twelve years being miserable.
A January Chill is the second book in a trilogy, but you do not have to read Snow in September to know what’s going on. Though the book was well written and well paced, I just could not get past the overwhelming sense of despair to enjoy reading it.