Review: A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney Milan

Filed in 4 Stars , Courtney Milan , featured , Review , The Needy Lover Posted on September 5, 2013 @ 7:00 am 0 comments

Format read: e-book
Series: Brothers Sinister, #1.5
Release Date: 18 December 2012
Publisher: Courtney Milan
Length: 121 pages
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & NobleAuthor’s Site, Kobo, Smashwords

Book Description:

Sometimes love is an accident.

This time, it’s a strategy.

Miss Lydia Charingford is always cheerful, and never more so than at Christmas time. But no matter how hard she smiles, she can’t forget the youthful mistake that could have ruined her reputation. Even though the worst of her indiscretion was kept secret, one other person knows the truth of those dark days: the sarcastic Doctor Jonas Grantham. She wants nothing to do with him…or the butterflies that take flight in her stomach every time he looks her way.

Jonas Grantham has a secret, too: He’s been in love with Lydia for more than a year. This winter, he’s determined to conquer her dislike and win her for his own. It all starts with a wager and a kiss…

A Kiss for Midwinter is a novella (38,000 words) in the Brothers Sinister series. It follows The Duchess War. Each book stands on its own, but those who prefer to read in order might want to read that book first.

My Thoughts:

Well, dang. My thoughts on this book were mighty tough to gather (and I apologize if it shows ^_^). Why? Well, as I read A Kiss for Midwinter, I was able to both identify the fantastic, surefire tropes and techniques employed in the novella, and also recognize that they didn’t do it for me this time.

“This time” is number three: the Brothers Sinister series produced the novella The Governess Affair and the novel The Duchess War prior to A Kiss for Midwinter. As with the two that preceded it, Midwinter starts with an absolutely fantastic and fast setup to hook the reader into an intractable romantic conflict. The hero and heroine are placed at opposite sides of an impossible situation–how will they ever cross the divide to reconcile the fundamental challenges between them? That’s what Courtney Milan establishes masterfully.

Once again, Milan’s characters are extremely witty and quick on their toes in dialogue, making for interactions full of great lines and memorable moments. One can’t help but mark some of those great conversational beats to revisit later. Though main characters Lydia and Jonas are adversarial, one can easily see how they would make a great team (and heck, they make for great adversaries). The flirty banter is truly magnetic.

Now, that all being said, it was partly character portrayal and partly situational setup where I personally got lost and couldn’t stay as engaged with the story. Given this book’s novella length (roughly 40,000 words), it’s unsurprising that the plot will need to establish the characters and conflict as quickly as possible, and later resolve them quickly but organically. For me, the “conflict” that props much of the rest of the plot didn’t strike me as natural or as long-lasting before it felt to me like seemingly synthetic barriers were being erected to keep the main characters apart a bit longer. (At least, compared to the first two installments of the series, which also involve “conflict” devices.)

The crazy part is that I both understood it and didn’t. From Lydia’s misinterpreting Jonas’s every move, to a back and forth between her being attracted and repelled by him. I could see the reasoning behind Lydia’s character development and oft contradictory actions, see the logical causes and understand the intended effect for the reader. It’s even brought up specifically:

Lydia knew she lied to herself as assiduously as Grantham told the bare truth.

She wanted to turn away and bury her head in her skirts.

[Jonas] “It’s easier for you to set me up as a whipping boy for all your agressions–“

But I felt the willful ignorance bit went on a bit too long, or perhaps too adamantly, for me to continue to buy into it (especially for such an otherwise intelligent character). Were it the Salem Witch Trials, she’d be seeing witches everywhere; she literally twists everything, even the most obvious, into a negative light when it comes to Jonas, sometimes to the point of my own exasperation. I know it’s also somewhat the point, for her traumatic past experience to make her distrust deeply the person connected to that time (and for that person’s own firm commitment to me made all the more powerful and commendable). But after a while, Lydia’s dogged mistrust wore on me and felt a bit overmuch. Then there is the wager mentioned in the book description, which allowed for numerous scenes featuring the two leads. For my taste, it didn’t feel like a terribly strong device for pushing the plot along, especially the longer it was maintained to give the characters reason to interact.

But I digress, in any case–an easy enough thing to do since this book is still full of heart-meltingly romantic and quietly profound moments. There’s also good pacing and satisfying story length. As the cover and title will suggest, this is a Christmastime story, with just enough of the holiday influence to lend a sense of magic to the storyline, but not so much as to make this an full-on Christmas story.

I myself will perhaps not reread this particular installment any time soon–not when there’s books #0.5 and 1 to revisit first–but this tale still shows clearly that Courtney Milan writes intelligent, clever, deeply affecting historical romance.

. . .

Verdict: I know this story will be a winner with historical romance fans all over; it has many of the hallmarks that author Courtney Milan has become known for, including great dramatic setup and delightfully witty character interactions. My own personal expectations at times detracted from my enjoyment in the book, but even then, it’s clear this is a solid HR and a worthy continuation of a fantastic series.

I give A Kiss for Midwinter 4 stars!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

About Alisha

Alisha, the bespectacled and ever nerdy California girl, simply won't leave home without a book in hand. She loves language learnin' and is working toward becoming a bonafide grammar ninja. On any given day you'll find her haunting local libraries or baking scores of cupcakes and sweet treats.

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