Friday, December 1, 2017

Amid the Winter Snow: A Holiday Anthology by Thea Harrison, Grace Draven, Elizabeth Hunter, and Jeffe Kennedy (spotlight and partial review)

Amid the Winter Snow: A Holiday Anthology


Thea Harrison, Grace Draven, Elizabeth Hunter, and Jeffe Kennedy


As the snows fall and hearths burn, four stories of Midwinter beginnings prove that love can fight its way through the chillest night…

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…

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…

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My review:

Thus far, I have only read two of the four stories, but I enjoyed them both!

4.5 out of 5 stars

The Chosen by Thea Harrison is a fantasy novella featuring the Chosen of Camael, goddess of the Hearth, and the Wolf of Braugne, as they jockey with each other in a delicate dance that will affect the balance of power in the land of Ys. The Chosen has had multiple visions that show her choice between the two men vying for control is pivotal, now she has to figure out which is the monster...the Wolf she has met, or the Tiger who has only interacted with her through correspondence. The wrong choice could result in the death and destruction of all she holds dear.

I am always fascinated by the way this author integrates stories of vastly different beings into her well-built universe and balances familiar aspects with new situations. The goddess featured has been mentioned in other stories but I don’t remember reading about any of her devotees, so I was intrigued by her presence in this story.

Despite the unseasonably warm weather I was enjoying, I was tempted to shiver when immersed in the tale, especially given the treacherous journeys the main characters seemed determine to undertake. I love the twists and turns that provide texture and orient one with respect to the environs of other stories, even as the mystery of the Wolf’s true character is explored and the Chosen’s powers are gradually revealed. This story serves as an introduction to a power struggle that will undoubtedly provide fodder for other tales, and ends with a happy for now resolution that whets one’s appetite for further adventures featuring these charismatic folks.

4.25 out of 5 stars

In the Darkest Midnight by Grace Draven follows Jahna Ulfrida, whose birthmark has shaped her personality and made her the target of unkind assailants. When her brother’s renowned fighting instructor, Radimar Velus, becomes part of their household, she begins to absorb lessons that will change her life and shape her future.

This fantasy novella gives insight into the machinations of the upper echelons of a society that values social status and fighting prowess. I was entertained by the story but am unfamiliar with the lands that are briefly described and would have liked to know more about the bigger picture since tantalizing glimpses were provided through the stories Jahna recorded or the information relayed by others. This is a new author for me, so I don’t know whether this story connects to an established series or if groundwork is being laid, but it would be nice to have more background. I enjoyed getting to know these main characters in a story that is reminiscent of a historical romance but it would be nice to get a closer look at the fantasy elements that are evidently part of this world. I definitely will be on the lookout for other works by this author and hope to see other stories featuring these characters.

I was provided a copy of this anthology for review

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