Cover image for A January chill
A January chill
Lee, Rachel.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Don Mills, Ontario, Canada : Mira, [2001]

Physical Description:
376 pages ; 18 cm
Format :


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Material Type
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Item Holds
X Adult Mass Market Paperback Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Anger, deceit, resentment, and hatred threaten to destroy a family, and widow Hannah Matlock realizes that she must realize that she must reveal her daughter Joni's true parentage before it is too late. Original.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Set in a small, mountain mining town, Lee's second installment of her Whisper Creek series (following Snow in September) explores the pain and destructiveness of excessive grief. Though 17-year-old Karen Matlock died in a car crash caused by a drunk driver, her father, Witt ,blames Hardy Wingate, Karen's boyfriend. Twelve years have passed, but Witt's hatred for Hardy has dimmed little. Unbeknownst to Witt, his niece, Joni, is in love with Hardy, and she hopes to bring him and her uncle together by encouraging Hardy, who has since become an architect, to design the hotel Witt wants to build with his recently won lottery prize money. Predictably, this well-meaning plan backfires, and Joni and her mother, Hannah, bear the brunt of Witt's fierce anger and resentment. A subplot involving Joni's true parentage further disrupts this rocky romance, and Hannah's intimate relationship with Witt, though a touching side story, seems contrived. Lee's primary mistake here, however, is allowing Witt, a thoroughly unlovable and unpleasant character, to dominate the story. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One The November evening was frigid and blowing dry snow so hard it stung. Joni Matlock came through the back door of the house, taking care to stomp the snow off her boots, then removed them and set them by the wall on the rag rug. Her feet instantly felt cold, because the mudroom wasn't heated. Shivering a little, she shook out of her jacket, tugged off her knit cap and hung both on a peg next to her mother's.     Then she darted into the kitchen and gave thanks for the heat that made her face sting. Her mother was sitting at the table in the dining room, visible through the open doorway, apparently busy with her needlework.     "Mom," Joni said, "you put too much wood in the stove again."     Hannah Matlock looked up with a smile. "I get cold, honey. You know that."     "It must be eighty in here." But Joni wasn't complaining too seriously. It felt good after the bitter chill of the dark evening outside. On the trip home from the hospital where she worked as a pharmacist, her car heater didn't even have time to start working. She felt like an ice cube.     "There's fresh coffee," Hannah said, bowing her head over her stitchery. "And I thought I'd just heat the leftover pot roast for dinner."     "That sounds good."     Joni poured herself a mug of coffee and whitened it with a few drops of cream. Real cream. She couldn't stand the nondairy creamers. Then she stood in the doorway between the kitchen and dining room, sipping the hot brew and watching her mother stitch.     At fifty, Hannah's hair was still as black as a starless night, a gift from her Ute ancestors. Her face, too, held a hint of the exotic in high cheekbones, and was still nearly as seamless as her daughter's. Her eyes were dark brown, almost as dark as her hair, and Joni had always envied them because they seemed to hold mystery.     Joni, for her part, had bright blue eyes. Hannah always said Joni's eyes had captured the sky. Joni felt differently about them. Blue eyes were a lot more sensitive to the light, and all winter long she had to hide them behind sunglasses.     The women were alike enough, however, to be sisters.     Joni joined her mother at the table, cradling her mug in her cold hands. "How was your day?"     "Delightful," Hannah said. She rarely said anything else. "Well, there was one bad spot. I had to help put down Angle Beluk's dog." Hannah worked as a veterinary assistant four mornings a week.     "I'm sorry," Joni said, feeling a pang. "What was wrong?"     "Cancer." Hannah sighed and snipped her thread. Then she put her hoop to one side. "Poor Angie. She had Brownie for sixteen years."     "That's so sad."     "Well, it happens, unfortunately. On the brighter side, we delivered a litter of pups. What about you? How was your day?"     Joni sipped her coffee, feeling the heat all the way down to her stomach. "Oh, the usual. I rolled pills, mixed elixirs, chatted with a dozen people...."     Hannah laughed. "You make it sound so boring!"     Joni smiled back at her. "It's not. But it sure isn't the height of adventure."     Something in Hannah's face softened. "Is that what you really want, Joni? Adventure?"     After a moment, Joni shook her head. "Not really. Remember the curse, `May you live in interesting times'? I'll settle for ho-hum, thank you very much. Want me to put the pot roast on to heat before I go change?"     "No, honey, I'll do it. You just go on up."     "Okay." Taking her mug with her, Joni rose and disappeared into the living room, in the direction of the stairs.     Hannah stared after her, a faint crease between her eyebrows. Maybe, she thought for the hundredth time, she had made a mistake in moving them fifteen years ago to Whisper Creek after Lewis died.     She had told herself at the time that it was for Joni that she had brought them here, but now, in retrospect, she wondered if she hadn't really done it because she was afraid herself. After all, staying in Denver had meant finding reminders of Lewis around every corner and in every familiar face. She had tried to go back to work but had found being in the hospital again was just impossible for her. Every sound, every smell, reminded her of Lewis and the fifteen years they had shared.     So maybe she hadn't really done it for Joni. Maybe she had been lying to herself when she justified the move by assuring herself she was taking the child away from all the bad influences to a quiet community where kids didn't hang around in gangs and kill innocent doctors who were crossing a parking lot on the way to save lives.     Maybe she had been lying to herself when she argued that Joni would be better off near the only family either of them had, Lewis's brother, Witt.     Maybe those had all been excuses because she was unwilling to face her own fears and her own pain--and her shame.     But she hadn't really wondered about it until lately. Not until three years ago, when Joni had finished her schooling and moved back into her old bedroom while taking a job at the little mountain hospital just outside town. For the first time it had seriously occurred to Hannah that she might have crippled Joni in some way.     Because what could a twenty-six-year-old woman possibly want in this town? There was no adventure, few single men of her age, nowhere to go on Friday night other than a movie theater and a couple of bars. Why hadn't Joni taken a job somewhere else? Her pharmacy degree and her grades surely would have given her her pick.     But Joni had chosen to come here and live with her mother. Not that Hannah minded. It just made her feel terribly guilty.     As did her secret, the one she had never whispered to a soul. Over the years she had almost convinced herself it wasn't true, but lately ... lately every time she wondered if she had gone wrong somehow with Joni, the thought came back to haunt her.     Maybe she had made it worse by keeping it so long. Maybe she had deprived Joni of something essential. Every time the thoughts rose in her mind, she shied away from them, telling herself that the truth would have made no essential difference, that all she had done was protect herself and her child from shame. (Continues...) Copyright © 2001 Susan Civil-Brown. All rights reserved.