The Wilderness Retreat Review | Jennifer Moore

Plot: As Bella drops her son off at university, she’s devastated. It’s been the two of them ever since Asher was born. The only thing helping her through is the upcoming week-long wilderness retreat in Sweden. It’ll be her chance to reconnect and recharge.

At the retreat, Bella basks in the beauty of the modern lodge, with its luxury rooms and picture-perfect views, the glistening lake and lush forest. For the full detox effect, everyone must surrender their phones.

The holiday seems idyllic until the person who ruined Bella’s life years ago arrives, threatening everything she’s worked hard for and will do anything to protect. Suddenly, a terrified Bella is trapped in the wild, knowing someone wants her dead…

Publisher: HQ Digital | Date: 2023 | Genre: Thriller

I received The Wilderness Retreat from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Wilderness Retreat Review

I really wanted to enjoy The Wilderness Retreat. Having done my first retreat last year and loved every second, the setting appealed and I hoped throwing in a thriller-style-mystery would make it a fun read.

The book does have some strong elements. The final quarter was fast-paced and gripping, complete with wanting to know how the characters are going to get out of the predicaments they found themselves in. This last section was a classic case of staying up late because I needed to find the answers. Any book that can have that effect has done something right.

Unfortunately, however, it took until that last quarter for it to feel anything truly happens.

Characters

We follow Bella as she comes to terms with her son moving out, visiting the retreat in an attempt to spend some time focusing on herself. Bella was an incredibly difficult protagonist to like. From the start, she’s suspicious and paranoid of everyone. It didn’t work to add to the mystery element; it just made Bella unlikeable due to the way she treats everyone around her.

Bella’s narration is full of repetition: her bond with her son, her work, and her suspicions about what’s going on at the retreat. While there were a few incidents, there was very little to be suspicious about. It didn’t build tension because every small incident was over-analysed so many times that I was bored of hearing about it before any answers are found.

Due to Bella’s attitude, it’s hard to connect to any of the characters. You aren’t suspicious of anyone; you also don’t care about anyone: they’re all there to fight their demons but it doesn’t mean anything.

Setting

It would have been nice for the setting to be explored more than just lots of trees and a cold lake giving off a creepy vibe. The contrast between a wellness retreat and the events unfolding were a great juxtaposition but it felt like it was underplayed. Also, from the start, Bella refuses to do any of the ‘wellness’ events, making it feel the setting wasn’t utilised at all other than a convenient place to be.

Pacing

The pacing is incredibly slow. Very little happens given the extent of Bella’s reactions and you go in circles a few times before the plot takes the next stop forward, only to repeat. It wasn’t the gripping thriller I was hoping for.

Final Thoughts

If you want something to pass the time, then I’m certain this book would do the trick. It wasn’t poor, it just could have done with a tight edit and being made a third shorter to up the tension. The entire novel is set over the span of a week, but I think that week dragged as much for the reader as it did for Bella.

I’d potentially look out for more from the author, but just without high expectations. There was something there, it just lacked the spark needed to really hold my attention. Often the case for me and thrillers these days.

Have you read anything by this author? What are your feelings on thrillers?

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