Do you really have any idea of what you are truly capable of doing?  Do any of us?  There can be little doubt that we all have our own unique comfort zones and loathe the idea of stepping outside of them.  However, what if we are not given a choice?  Will we step up to the challenge…or sink back into the familiar shadows?  In her short story, Winter Arrives: Secrets in the Snow, Roz Marshall presents just such a conundrum.  If you are a fan of the underdog, then this book may be a great fit for you!

Essentially, the story begins by introducing the main character, Jude, whose husband has left her home alone in Scotland as he pursues work in New Zealand.  The real problem however is that he has seemed to disappear and has not been depositing money into their bank account.  The bills are mounting and the debt collectors are starting to gather.  To make things worse, the ski season is set to begin and without her husband to run their family ski school, Jude is faced with a huge predicament.  She is a graphic artist and knows nothing about managing and operating a ski school!  Further, she lacks the confidence and self-esteem to believe that she could ever be capable of performing such a task.  However, with the bill collectors at the door, her back is literally against the wall.  Will she rise to the occasion and discover an inner strength which she did not know existed?  Or will this all end in complete folly and disaster?

Winter Arrives is an episodic series, so be forewarned if this is not your type of reading preference.  The author certainly does have a great command of the written language and the story has a very nice flow to it.  The plot is well laid out and believable for the most part.  Although some parts do tend to be a bit on the predictable side.  The theme of overcoming one’s own fears and self-doubt is a powerful motif however and runs throughout the novella.

It is often said that a story is only as good as its characters.  Whether that is actually true or not is debateable.  However, Roz Marshall does present an interesting crew of characters.  The main character, Jude is quite believable as the underappreciated and underestimated housewife.  Also, the stranger Mike who comes in to literally save the day, begins to develop as an empathetic and strong secondary player.  There are distinct sparks between the two which become all that more obvious when a glimpse into the true personality of Jude’s husband is presented.  A call from out of the blue shows him to be unsympathetic, selfish and patronizing all at the same time!  The other host of characters come in the form of the new ski instructors.  Although many of them seem interesting and have potential, not enough time is devoted to their development to truly engage the reader.

Winter Arrives has all the main elements of a top-notch story.  Descriptive writing which flows, an interesting plot, and intriguing characters.  However, it was all a bit too abrupt for me personally.  I did not find myself fully able to engage…particularly with the characters.  I also found bits of the plot (such as the disappearance of Jude’s husband and paycheque without even a call to the authorities) to be unrealistic and predictable.  More time developing the plot and characters would have greatly enhanced the book considering all the elements of a solid story exist.  This can be one of the downfalls of episodic stories.  They can build up for the next story but leave the reader feeling somehow left out in the current one.  Overall, the novella is quite suitable for any age group.  It would seem to fit particularly well with the Young Adult range of reader and up.

3 Snowy Stars for this one!