Widow Hannah Matlock has kept the truth about her daughter Joni's birth hidden for twenty-seven years. Only she knows that Witt is Joni's father, and not her uncle. She and Witt have never spoken of the night she tried to get even with her philandering husband by seducing his brother. But with Hardy coming between Witt and Joni, Hannah knows she must let go of her secret…whatever the consequences.
Anger, resentment and deceit threaten to destroy a family that teeters on the verge of collapse, until four damaged souls can learn to forgive…and allow themselves to love.
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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.
Atfifty,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 painand 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.
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
a book can see good in others,and can bring people together.
Boring, repetitive and utterly predictable. I could have told you the ending just by reading page one. If you need a book to cure insomnia, this is the one.
I thought that this book was slow moving and repetitive. The inner turmoil that the characters were experiencing seemed rather rediculous at times. Also, the writing style was that of an amateur. The sentences were short and brief, and the diction was boring. I read about half of this book and the author gave me no incentive to continue. It wasn't completely terrible, just needed more spice!
This book is about joni and Hardy who have let their friendship drift apart because of the death of Joni's cousin(Hardy's girlfiend)Karen. Joni's uncle Witt blames Hardy for the accident in which Karen was killed. Joni decides enough is enough and sets out to heal the riff between her and Hardy and Hardy and Witt. The romantic elements focus on Joni & Hardy with a subplot between Witt and Joni's mother Hannah. I found the book started quite well but found Joni's reaction to events immature and more on par with a teenager than a twenty-five year old woman. I got tired of her whining and self centered attitude. A lot of that, in my opionion, went a little too far.
Twelve years may have passed since Karen Matlock died at the hands of a drunken driver, but the hatred her father Witt feels for Hardy Wingate has grown with time. Witt believes his daughter Karen still would be alive if it were not for Hardy, her boyfriend at the time, though the lad was not the DUI driver. Hardy now an architect has returned to Whisper Creek. He wants to design Witt¿s hotel, but knows Karen¿s father loathes him so his chances are slim to none. Hardy¿s prime purpose for returning home is to complete what he feels is unfinished business. However, his secret agenda has nothing to do with closure over Karen or reconciliation with Witt. Instead he comes home to see Witt¿s niece Joni, who when he left Whisper Creek he loved her and believes he still does. Now he must overcome obstacles placed in his path by Witt and a secret involving Joni¿s biological parents. A JANUARY CHILL is an entertaining romantic suspense that stars two wonderful lead characters. However, Witt owns the story line as the plot is loaded with his actions and other cast members reactions. Though his acrimonious acerbic personality is fueled by his despising Hardy, readers will find Rachel Lee¿s well-written tale to taste a bit acidly. Harriet Klausner