Joint Review – Winter’s Tale (Hidden #3.5) by Emma Holly

Winter's Tale cover image
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: Out now
How we got this book: ARC from the author

Something sexy is afoot at Rackham’s School for Young Ladies
Half-faerie, half-elf Hans Winter broke the heart of the wrong princess. Cursed to live as a statue at a school for human girls, only true love—and true bravery—can free him.

December Worth never met a rule she didn’t want to break, as the numerous institutions that have expelled her can attest. Bravery she can handle. Love she’s less sure about, especially if it involves believing in fairytales.

A kiss seems like the last thing these lonely souls would share, until one night in the cemetery where Hans stands trapped, Fate brings stone and flesh together . . .
This blurb came from the author’s website.

Has: I am a fan of Emma Holly’s books, because she can sure write erotic romance which are hot and very sexy. But I have to say I am really drawn to her fantasy erotic romances, because she combines imagination and heat in a delectable way. Winter’s Tale is set in her Hidden world, where the fae and other magical beings exist albeit hidden in the modern world. Winter’s Tale is a bit of a departure though because like the title suggests, it is more of a fairy-talesque take which has elements of other fairy-tales which I enjoyed. December Worth, is a young girl who is sent to live in a variety of boarding schools, because she rejects to be conventional from her more restrictive parents, And in the latest school she is sent to – she encounters a mysterious statue of a man who is be-spelled in a curse and he holds a promise of true love which she holds the key to unlocking.

I found this was a cute and sexy read and I loved the fairy tale tone and feel of the story. I also liked December’s character, who was rebellious, snarky and fun and I wished this story was longer because I would have liked to see more of her in action. Winter’s Tale was also slightly different from Emma Holly’s other books, because it had a dreamy like quality and although I enjoyed the tone because it did fit the story really well. Although I wished there was a lot more expanding the plot, especially in developing the romance which was rushed for me.

E: Like Has I have also been a huge fan of Holly for a very long time. She has the ability to provide a high heat level while developing her characters, their world, and carrying forward a plot. The combination of those things is what has kept her on my autobuy list. Holly does not shy away from including paranormal aspects or characters in her stories. Even when they are melded into a more familiar earth-like world she ensures that they are noticeably not human. The distinction makes her worlds even more solid to my imagination. Winter’s Tale is set in a different part of Holly’s Hidden series world and gave me a different perspective than that of the shapeshifters.

While I enjoyed Winter’s Tale, I also wished it was longer. December’s character was so much fun. Watching her transform from spoiled, bored, too smart for her own good to someone who took fairy-tales so seriously that she risked her life was a lot of fun. I just wish it was more gradual. I really enjoyed December’s inner monologue because it provided a lot of insight into her character and why she could possibly be the one to break Hans’ curse. I also wanted to know what happened to some of the students and instructors, their pasts and futures because they seemed stuck at the school for a particular reason. I was really intrigued with this particular setting and saw the potential for some branches or just some fleshing out in the supporting cast I wanted a longer story.

Has: I agree! I think there was huge potential for exploring that aspect. I liked the New Adult feel because it was very much about coming of age and exploring sexuality especially with December because she basically grew up and matured over the course of the book. But I was disappointed that this was glossed over because the back-story was interesting and even though fairy-tales have insta-love – I found it hard to believe that Hans and December had true love especially when it tied in with breaking of the curse, because of the story’s length which was so short. I would have also liked to see more of Han’s back story especially on how he got cursed and would have loved to see more of the fae world because it would have added more depth to the story.

E: Yes I was more able to by December’s love because Hans was the first person who actually saw her value but I wasn’t as sold on Hans’ love. During his story to December while I understood that he had been wronged I wasn’t sure that his time as a statue taught him how to love. Hans was not in a very good position throughout most of the book but I did enjoy how he was able to use his mind to work with December to prove to her that he was real not just a dream. I also liked the fact that he valued December as more than a chance at freedom. He was also pretty intent on ensuring she enjoyed herself **grin** despite his years of frustration. Hans had some real potential as a character that I hope we get to see in a later book.

Has: Yes! I found this was my main gripe about the story, because we never really got to see how he felt about her and when they were together, it was either facing danger or making love, and I would loved more of the emotional aspect being developed. And unlike December’s character which really stood out for me, I found Hans a tad undeveloped because I never got a real sense of his characterisation. But I think this was due to the short length of the story, and their scenes together was sizzling and I liked the underlying sweetness in the tone as well when he was with her. I think because there was so much promise and potential if this was expanded this would have been a stellar story.

Overall, despite the short length and some undeveloped factors, I did enjoy Winter’s Tale, because it was a sweet romance with erotically charged scenes which added to the dreamy and fairy-talesque feel and tone. Which added a lush sexiness to the romance – I really hope we get to revisit those characters, because December stood out for me because she was such a fun heroine!

I give Winter’s Tale a C+

E: Winter’s Tale provided a very entertaining glimpse into how capricious both humans and fae can be. It showcased December who was the poster child for difficult and let her shine. It had magic, conspiracy, hot smexytimes, the power of love, and a seriously creepy boarding school. I enjoyed reading Winter’s Tale even though I wish it was longer so I could have enjoyed the journey they characters took as they matured. Holly remains on my auto-buy list because she consistently delivers a story I can lose myself in regardless of the length. I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next in her Hidden world.

I give Winter’s Tale a B-

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