Desert Isle Keeper
The Last Snowfall
At twenty-nine, Nate Forrest’s snowboarding career is over; the next injury will likely leave him paralyzed. While visiting his childhood friend Pete in Forrest, West Virginia, both men are caught up in a late spring blizzard and take shelter with Dr. Lacey Berryman. Lacey came to West Virginia on a federal loan forgiveness program which reduces her student debt if she serves in an area with a shortage of veterinarians, and she’ll be leaving in six months for more lucrative suburban pastures. Just as Nate reconnects with the town of Forrest, Lacey starts trying to disentangle in preparation for moving on.
The most distinctive feature of Seidel novels are their – I hate to say ‘ordinariness’, because that may give you the wrong impression, but their daily-life-ness, which is all the more striking because she tends to write about celebrities or extraordinary circumstances. She showcases that the wealthy are, after all, regular people with regular problems. Nate is looking for a second career, a way to ‘adult’, and has a mixed relationship to his celebrity – he hates the thought of spending the rest of his life as the guy who ‘used to’ be a snowboarder. His daily compulsion for physical activity is realistic for a professional athlete. It’s truthful and complex. Lacey loves the feeling of having settled down and the range of veterinary practice she can do in a town that services both pets and farm animals, but she also is ruthlessly realistic and practical about money.
Even the supporting characters are many-sided. Nate’s friend Pete is married, but definitely attracted to Lacey. Pete’s wife Chloe is friendly to Lacey but clearly has an edge, and there is more going on in that marriage than first meets the eye. The owner of the small town’s paper drove Nate’s family out of town with petty hostility towards Nate’s sister (never adequately explained), but he also drove off an opioid pill mill doctor, sparing Forrest the ravages of the drug crisis. The gentle, low-key nature of the story means that the climax (which I won’t spoil) feels high-stakes in a way it might not in a story with more suspense or drama.Also, if you’ve ever owned a husky (or even if you haven’t), you’re going to love Lacey’s joyously disloyal, boneheadedly exuberant dog Tank.
I know this makes me a confusing reader, but while I like and celebrate the story for its gentle tone, I couldn’t help wanting, at least at some point, a little more intensity, especially in Lacey and Nate’s relationship. There is chemistry there, but it’s muted. Lacey and Nate both admire each other in physical ways that build tension, but the sex scenes themselves are written so discreetly that I found myself flipping backwards because I hadn’t noticed that the characters had, well, finished. The climax of the book is terrific, but it is more oriented on Lacey and the town (and Tank) than on Lacey and Nate.
On the whole, however, Seidel continues to be a reliably enjoyable author for me. She develops contemporary people and settings so effectively that it’s like reading a well-researched historical set in parts of the present day. This is a comfortable, cozy book that will leave you wanting a snowboarder (and a husky) of your own.