REVIEW: One Snowy Night by Jill Shalvis
Trigger Warning: sexual assault – not detailed, no description, not by hero
Dear Jill Shalvis,
I was excited to read One Snowy Night – two adults trapped in a snowstorm is classic romance novel fodder after all and I like your books. However, it was very short – on my reader it was only about 60 pages and it ended so abruptly I wondered if there was a problem with my book file for a little while.
There are some serious issues canvassed in the story but they weren’t developed at all. Rory Andrews ran away from home to San Francisco when she was 17. She was found in a park, apparently the victim of a sexual assault (at least I guess that’s what happened – it wasn’t spelled out). Rory was roofied and doesn’t remember anything about it. Willa, the lady who found Rory in the park, took Rory in, gave her a home and a job and she’s been there for seven years. Rory is going home for Christmas for the first time since she left. She’s told her family she’s coming home before but backed out before actually doing it, so her stepdad is dubious about Rory’s commitment this year. Rory has tried to reassure her stepfather that she’s really coming this time, by agreeing to deliver his Christmas gift to her mother, by dawn on Christmas day, when the family traditionally open their gifts.
Rory plans to catch the bus home but is offered a lift by Max Stranton, a private investigator who works in the building near to where Rory works as a dog groomer. Max has a dog, a doberman named Carl, and Max takes him in to be groomed by Rory at the South Bark Mutt Shop perhaps a bit more regularly than Carl actually needs. Carl adores Rory and the feeling is entirely mutual.
As for Max, he and Rory grew up in the same small town near Lake Tahoe and something happened around the time Rory left which had serious repercussions for Max. To say he harbors some resentment is an understatement. He is nevertheless attracted to Rory and annoyed at himself for it.
Rory and Max expect to be stuck in the car together for a few hours at least, but the weather worsens and they end up having to spend the night on the road instead of at home in their respective, and separate, beds. Over the course of the night, they resolve all of their issues and Christmas day brings happy surprises for Rory in other areas too.
The thing is, Rory has serious family issues and they aren’t really unpacked here. More importantly, even though she doesn’t remember what happened to her in the park seven years earlier, whatever it was, was serious and I’d have expected it to have lasting effects. But, other than a reluctance for Max to know about it, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I could have bought it perhaps, it it had been given a context but it wasn’t.
Frankly, it would have been a better story if it had kept a tight focus only on the issues between Max and Rory themselves. In only 60 (ish) pages, the other matters were just given too short a shrift. However, even if the story had stuck only to the romance, I expect it would still have been too much for me to believe the couple were at the point they were by the end of the story. Those who don’t mind instalove will probably be okay with it though.
Maybe I’m being unfair. Perhaps Rory and Max have featured in other Heartbreaker Bay novels as secondary characters and those who have read the earlier books may find that what is in the novella is enhanced by that – but I read this as a stand-alone and didn’t have the benefit of any previous backstory there may have been.
The story was entertaining when I was reading it and there were some funny, trademark Shalvis lines which made me chuckle.
“Anyone ever tell you that you’re more fun when you’re not talking?” she muttered, muffled by the pillow.
He laughed again, telling her that he was a morning person, which meant she might have to kill him.
(As a definitely-not-morning person, my sympathies were all for Rory here.) I liked the chemistry between Max and Rory and Carl was awesome. Even if I didn’t already know you have a dog it would have been obvious from the way he was portrayed in the book. It was only when the story abruptly ended and then when I thought about it later that I felt it was underdone. If it had been the 110 page novella I was expecting I think I’ve had enjoyed it more. Grade: C