Review: The Secret of Snow by Viola Shipman

Review: The Secret of Snow by Viola ShipmanThe Secret of Snow by Viola Shipman
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: holiday fiction, holiday romance, women's fiction
Pages: 320
Published by Graydon House on October 26, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
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As comforting and familiar as a favorite sweater, Viola Shipman's first holiday novel is a promise of heartfelt family traditions, humorously real experience, and the enduring power of love and friendship.
Sonny Dunes, a SoCal meteorologist who knows only sunshine and seventy-two-degree days, is being replaced by an AI meteorologist, which the youthful station manager reasons "will never age, gain weight or renegotiate its contract." The only station willing to give the fifty-year-old another shot is one in a famously nontropical place—her northern Michigan hometown.
Unearthing her carefully laid California roots, Sonny returns home and reacclimates to the painfully long, dark winters dominated by a Michigan phenomenon known as lake-effect snow. But beyond the complete physical shock to her system, she's also forced to confront her past: her new boss, a former journalism classmate and mortal frenemy; more keenly, the death of a younger sister who loved the snow; and the mother who caused Sonny to leave.
To distract herself from the unwelcome memories, Sonny decides to throw herself headfirst into all things winter to woo viewers and reclaim her success. From sledding and ice fishing to skiing and winter festivals, the merrymaking culminates with the town’s famed Winter Ice Sculpture Contest. Running the events is a widowed father and chamber of commerce director, whose genuine love of Michigan, winter and Sonny just might thaw her heart and restart her life in a way she never could have predicted.

My Review:

The Secret of Snow is an “all the feels” kind of story. As in, you will feel all the feels while you are reading it. A handy box of tissues might not be a bad idea, especially at the end.

But before you reach the slightly weepy, sadly fluffy ending, there’s a charming story about the holiday season, second chances, and finally recognizing that you’re going to get rain whether you want the rainbow or not, so you might as well reach for that rainbow since you’re already putting up with the rain.

Even if that rainbow is an icebow arching over a foot – or two or three – of snow.

As the story opens, Palm Beach meteorologist Sonny Dunes seems to have it all. Or at least have all that she wants. She’s at the peak of her career, she lives in beautiful Palm Beach California where the sun always shines, she’s content with her life and her work, has no interest in a romantic relationship – and is far, far away from the dark, frozen, snowy cold of Traverse City Michigan where she grew up.

There may not be any snow in Palm Beach, but into each life a little rain must fall. And Sonny Dunes is about to get deluged.

In what seems like a New York minute, Sonny finds herself out of work, having what appears to be a drunken breakdown on camera, as she’s replaced by an A.I. weatherbabe and she seems to have nowhere to go.

Until she’s rescued. Or tortured. Or both. By the frenemy she left behind in college, who is now the manager of a struggling TV station back home in Traverse City.

A frenemy who can’t wait to bring Sonny back to the brutal winters she left behind, just so that she can get a little payback and maybe rescue her job and her station in the process.

So Sonny finds herself back where she once belonged, facing all the bitter winter memories she left behind. And facing her mother who has been waiting, somewhat impatiently, for her remaining daughter to finally move forward from the loss that froze both their hearts.

Escape Rating B+: I picked this up because I loved the author’s previous book, Clover Girls. I was hoping for more of the same second chances, sad fluff, and utter charm. But I loved that book really hard, and this one didn’t quite reach that same height.

Could have something to do with my own escape from the frozen Midwest to Atlanta. I don’t like winter either, don’t want to live in it again, and wasn’t able to get into Sonny’s eventual paeans to the season of ice and snow.

Although I certainly liked the story of her finally unthawing her heart after living with so much trauma and loss for so very long.

Sonny’s whole adulthood has been about running from and burying her emotions to protect herself from being hurt, while not recognizing the collateral damage she’s inflicting on everyone around her. It made for a bit of a hard read, both in that Sonny’s is resistant to everything for a very long time, and possibly a bit of “pot, meet kettle”.

But I enjoyed the story of Sonny’s second chance, and all the more for her mentoring of Icicle. One of the best parts of the story was the way that Sonny finally embracing her own personal renaissance gives him the inspiration and the confidence to reinvent himself as the person he’s almost ready to be and not as the sad sack we first met.

Although a romance does occur in this story, it’s a bit understated, and that worked. The most important relationship in the story is Sonny’s relationship with her mother. They’ve both loved and lost – and the same people at that. Sonny’s younger sister died in a unfortunate accident when she was just starting her teens. Her father died relatively young of cancer. Sonny was never able to move on from those frozen moments in her life, while her mother became a hospice nurse in order to help others through the grief and loss that she herself experienced.

Sonny has kept life and love at a distance, trying to protect herself. Her mother has embraced life, all too aware that none of us get out of this life alive and that joy and purpose can be found in every moment.

Sonny’s forced reinvention of herself, yet again, lets them finally have the relationship that they’ve been hoping for all along. And that’s the part that had me reaching for the tissues.

You will too.

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