If you happen to be looking for an amazing holiday-themed fantasy romance anthology, look no further. This is the one.
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…
Grace Draven is probably my favorite fantasy romance author, just seeing her name on an anthology immediately puts that book on my must read list. THE DARKEST MIDNIGHT is set in the same world as her Wraith Kings series (Radiance and Eidolon), and even has a small scene with a fan favorite, someone who I think is set to be a hero in an upcoming release. I’m not going to mention who it is, you’ll see.
This addition to the anthology felt the most complete to me. Readers are immediately introduced to Jahna, who wears a rather large birthmark on her face and has been tormented by bullies because of it for the whole of her life. In fact, she meets our hero, Radimar Velus, an Ilinfan swordsman hired to instruct her brother, while hiding from her abusers. Their affinity for each other is immediately apparent and Ms. Draven tells their story by jumping through the years as that affinity grows to friendship and then romantic love.
Once again I am in awe of this author’s gift for storytelling.
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…
I really loved this one. Really, really loved. But, then again I’ve always been a huge Thea Harrison fan.
Lily is The Chosen to her people, the woman who communicates directly with their goddess. Over the years she has had visions of two men, from different lands. She must choose one and her choice will affect her kingdom. When one of the men she’s had visions of shows up quite literally on her doorstep, she takes the opportunity to get to know him, even though the stories about him tell of a bloodthirsty beast of a man. The man Lily gets to know is protective, and honest, and a true leader in all ways. Together they must defeat some weather mages and join together to go after the other guy that Lily only knows from letters, but soon realizes is the villain.
I wish this story could have gone on for another 200 pages. I feel like readers are just getting to know Lily and Wulfe. Their adventures together moving across the land and defeating their enemies would make an awesome series.
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…
I’ve only read the first book in the Irin Chronicle series, but I think that helped me understand this story a bit more than I would have if I had been just dropped in with no idea what was going on. It’s quite apparent from the first time this couple appear on page together that they have a long and winding history. Eighteen years in fact. Don’t worry, Ms. Hunter tells their story with flashback scenes before jumping back to current day to have them hash out their issues.
I think what I enjoyed about this one the most was that in a world where soul mates (reshon) is an actual thing, they had to choose to be together. Renata lost her reshon many years before meeting Max and fears falling for him for many reasons. One of which is that he will eventually leave her when he meets his own mate. There were so many touching moments to their reunion, which ended with a very lovely mating ceremony.
I feel like I need to move this series up my TBR list.
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…
Jeffe Kennedy is an author I’ve seen many times and who’s books I’ve had recommended to me on occasion, but haven’t yet read. I’m not familiar with this couple or the series they appear in. I kind of felt like I was dropped right into the middle of a love story, with a huge backstory that I had no knowledge of. Nevertheless, I did enjoy Ash and Ami’s story.
The main conflict between them is that Ash, as a lowly swordsman/former monk/ex-convict feels like he isn’t good enough for Ami, the beautiful Queen. They have been lovers for awhile, and from what I gather their sex life is pretty steamy. Their story begins in this anthology as they are traveling to Ami’s home. Ash objects to the trip, mainly due to the dangers he feels await them there. Ami disregards his fears and is adamant that they continue on. Even though they are together, Ash feels like they shouldn’t be together, together.
Because the reader only gets Ash’s POV, there is some understanding of why he feels like Ami deserves so much more than what he has to offer. But she is stubborn and finally gets him to understand what she really feels like she deserves. Which is him. Permanently.
This is one of those anthologies that can be enjoyed from beginning to end. Each story is unique and wonderful in their own ways. Fans of fantasy romance need to make sure this is on their TRB lists. Final Grade-A