Publisher: Self published
Release Date: Out now
Where did you get the book: E-arc offered by author/purchased
As the snows fall and hearths burn, four stories of Midwinter beginnings prove that love can fight its way through the chillest night…
THE DARKEST MIDNIGHT, by Grace Draven
The mark Jahna Ulfrida was born with has made her a target of the cruel and idle all her life. During the long, crowded festivities of Deyalda, there’s nowhere to escape. Until a handsome stranger promises to teach her to save herself…
THE CHOSEN, by Thea Harrison
In her visions, Lily sees two men fighting for her tiny country’s allegiance: the wolf and the tiger, each deadly, each cunning. One will bring Ys chaos and death, one a gentler path—but she’s destined to love whichever she chooses. The midwinter Masque is upon them, and the wolf is at her door…
THE STORM, by Elizabeth Hunter
When her soul mate died in a massacre of the half-angelic Irin people, Renata thought she’d never feel happiness again. She’s retreated to the snowy Dolomites to remember her hurts—until determined, irrepressible Maxim arrives to insist on joy, too. And before she can throw him out, they discover a secret the Irin have to know…
THE SNOWS OF WINDROVEN, by Jeffe Kennedy
As a blizzard threatens their mountain keep, the new Queen Amelia of the Twelve Kingdoms and her unofficial consort Ash face their own storm. Ash knows a scarred, jumpy ex-convict isn’t the companion his queen needs. But when a surprise attack confines them together in their isolated sanctuary, the feast of midwinter might tempt even Ash into childlike hope…
Blurb taken from Goodreads.
Has: When I first heard that this anthology with a wintery theme was in the works which consists of my all time favourite fantasy romance authors, I have been intrigued and curious about these stories. And now after finishing this anthology, I have to say that it was well worth the wait! I loved the theme and how each story uncovered a different insight and aspects to each of the fantasy worlds that these authors have written with their previous books.
E: I was super excited when I heard about this release because I have read and enjoyed all four authors. I knew I could expect a quality read I just wasn’t sure which direction they were going to go until I read the blurbs. I was able to place three of the stories and their respective worlds by the blurbs but Harrison’s left me wondering. Somehow I managed to restrain my curiosity and actually read the anthology in order.
In the Darkest Midnight by Grace Draven
Has: The first novella of the anthology is written by Grace Draven and is set in the world of the Wraith Kings. The story is set in another country and focuses on an apprentice archivist called Jahna who has a large purple birthmark on one side of her face and is regarded as an outcast in her noble class and court. She also becomes the target for bullying and disdain from other girls in the court which the opening scene has them chasing after her for tormenting. The hero, Radimar is a master swordsman who helps rescues Jahna from the ire of the nasty mean girls brigade. With their first meeting, Radimar is unconcerned about her appearance and is charmed by their introduction and Jahna realises that he is to help tutor her brother with sword lessons. She also has the opportunity to study the ways of Irinfan swordmanship and this instigates a wonderful slow burn romance that unfolds over a period of years.
This is a classic tale from Grace Draven which is driven with a fantastic buildup of chemistry that plays out wonderfully over the course of the story. I was charmed and swept into their romance and it was also great to see more details and insights in this world. I also loved the little cameo from one of the characters from the previous books in the Wraith King series which hints more information for the future. Although this was a novella length, I really felt this was a fleshed out and sweet and tender story that had a heartfelt romance about acceptance and coming of age and the growth that comes with it. There were some marvelous scenes and the imagery that evoked was memorable. When I clicked to the last page I had a deep sigh of satisfaction.
I give In the Darkest Midnight a B+
E: I really enjoyed the character growth over the passage of time in this story. Watching the heroine go from someone whose major skill was avoidance to a confident individual sure of herself and her abilities was heartwarming. I really appreciated the passage of time and how Draven deftly handled age differences and roles. In addition to loving the main storyline, I thought the changes in supporting characters really made this novelly seem well-rounded and left me with the feeling f having read a complete story. I also want to go back and read or reread all of Draven’s Wraith King stories.
I give In the Darkest Midnight an A-
The Chosen By Thea Harrison
Has: The Chosen by Thea Harrison has a slightly different feel to the previous Elder Races books as its primarily set in the parallel fantasy worlds and is based in the kingdoms of the Y’s. Lily is a priestess that is touched with the hand of a goddess and she and the other abbey priestesses as well as the surrounding villages are facing increasing tensions between two powerful men from neighbouring kingdoms who are vying for control in the kingdoms of Y’s. Weather mages producing a harsh winter and rumours of wars has placed the abbey and its surrounding territory in a predicament that affects their neutral stance with the rising tensions between the two neighbouring kingdoms.
One of the men, Wulfgar of Braugne who is the leader of one of the neighbouring kingdom, is on the mission to conquer and gain allies in the kingdoms of Y’s has a frightening reputation. Lily who the power of sight knows that either man will have the power to save the Y’s or destroy the kingdoms altogether. She has to decide which is the saviour and her abilities given to her from the Goddess will help find out who is the right man.
I really enjoyed this novella, the tone and feel was definitely different to the previous books in the series and it felt like an epic fantasy being set up. The romance between Lily and the Wolf was intriguing, fun and sexy. I loved their banter and how their preconceptions of each other became a battle of wits that evolved into a sweet romance. However I wished there was more time spent on expanding the story and their relationship because I felt it was a bit rushed especially towards the end of the novella because I was engrossed with their story, I was a bit disappointed that it ended when the story just felt like it got started.
I also liked that we got another facet in the world of the Elder Races, and I was left wanting to have more time to explore this world because the romance was so promising and the people inhabiting this setting. I do have to state that this novella felt much more like a prequel to a bigger and epic book because there are definitely open threads and this was set up for a larger story. But I really hope we get to see more of Lily and Wulf and to see what they embark on next especially on their quest together. Overall this was an enjoyable, seductive and amusing entry to the Elder Races world!
I give The Chosen a B!
E: As I mentioned earlier when I read the blurb I was left wondering what world Harrison’s story was going to be set in. Discovering it was a different facet of the Elder Races world made me really wish for a map so I could properly place its association with the rest. I continued to wish for this map as the story progressed and it felt like the geographic area covered was quite large. This complaint aside I enjoyed the thought of the Island and its lands, remaining neutral as much as possible. I found the reveal of secrets intriguing but overall I was left wanting. I wanted to see the relationship between Lily and Wulf develop more and I thought there was a lot of “what happens next” left unfinished. Yes, a particular conflict was resolved but it was expressed in such a way as to leave me wanting closure. I hope Harrison fleshes out this aspect more.
I give The Chosen a B-/C+
The Storm by Elizabeth Hunter
Has: The Storm is a novella taken from the Irin Chronicles world. I have several of her books in my TBR pile which includes the first book in this series but I have never gotten around to picking it up yet. However, after reading this story, I will certainly be pushing those books up in that pile.
Max is an Irin scribe warrior, who is a human magical being of angelic descent and is on the hunt to find his wayward on and off lover Renata of the past two decades who has secluded herself in a mountain retreat. She is an Irina but unlike Max whose body is covered with tattoos that consists of spells she is a singer and is a keeper and teacher of knowledge of her race. But several centuries ago a tragic past which caused her to flee from a race called the Grigori who feed upon human souls and are not like their peaceful cousins like the Irin and are descended from fallen angels. The Grigori go on a rampage that has killed many from her race including her parents and her soul-mate. Unlike most of the women of her race she embarks on a quest to destroy any Grigori that she comes across and because of this tragic history she has always held back with her relationship with Max who wanted a deeper and permanent relationship with Renata.
I was intrigued by this world and I really like the world-building of the Irin and Grigori and the different type of angels as well as the magical system of the singers and scribes. The depth of detail really made me wished I picked this series up sooner. The romance between Renata and Max also plays out beautifully and I liked how flashbacks laid out their evolution of their relationship from their first meeting to the present day of Max’s confrontation to Renata. But I did wish they were longer because they were more like little slices of life. While I am not fan of dead exes especially with the soul mates/mate trope, how Renata faces up to her grief and acceptance to move on and heal worked for me. There is a subplot at the second half that really touches on this and helps her to move on from the past. It also helped to really solidify their romance with a bittersweet but hopeful overtone at the end of the story. Overall, Max and Renata’s story was poignant and rich, while I would have liked more detail with their past interactions, this has definitely whetted my appetite for more of this world.
I give The Storm a B-
E: I really enjoyed Hunter’s novella. It was heart-wrenching and touching at the same time. I thought being able to see a different side of the Irin which broke traditional gender roles was great. So much was reversed I really got much more of a feel for the world and its complexity and I now want to go back and catch up with her latest release. One of the secondary plots furthered the message developments which were emerging in the last Irin Chronicles I read so I am even more curious to see where Hunter takes it.
I give The Storm a B
The Snows of Windroven by Jeffe Kennedy
The Snows of Windroven is a sequel novella to Ami and Ash’s story from The Tears of the Rose. While their book had a HEA, there are still doubts and insecurities between Ami and Ash despite their intense feelings for each other and that clouds their judgement about their relationship. Ami decides to spend a winter festival at Windroven although there are dangers that still surround the kingdom whilst Ash is deciding on a harsh decision that would affect their relationship permanently.
While this story can be read stand alone, you would miss a lot if you haven’t read the previous books in the main series. Yet, it was great to see how the characters fared since and this story really felt like an extended epilogue that cemented some open threads in their relationship while giving us some more elements about this world and the romance between Ash and Ami. They are a great couple and it was satisfying that how they worked on their issues as well as entertaining again to see their interactions. They are really fun to read about and I am glad we got to see them again. While I found the subplot at the end a bit underdeveloped, the romance for me was the real highlight and I am glad the themes of healing and hope with the wintery theme added a nuanced layer to the story.
I give The Snows of Windroven a B-
E: This is the one novella I do not think can stand on its own. It furthers a relationship between two characters and as such refers often to earlier events in both their primary story and in others set in the same series. While I did finish this story feeling like the couple were in a better place than the beginning, I still think it was unfinished. I enjoyed the interaction of some of the supporting characters more, and found myself still struggling to empathize with the heroine. I had the same struggle in her primary story but I think (hope) if I go back and reread the novel followed by this novella I will have a different opinion.
I give The Snows of Windroven a C
Has: This collection of stories for me is an excellent take on winter themed romances, with hope, healing and reconciliation as its major themes and I highly recommend that this is a entertaining and heart-warming anthology to while away a winter’s day with a nice hot cuppa!
E: Overall I thought this was one of the stronger anthologies I have read in quite some time. I was invigorated to continue reading these authors and even to go back for some rereading. As Has said, perfect with a soft blanket and a nice hot cuppa!