by Courtney Milan, historical (2012)
Courtney Milan, $0.99, ISBN N/A
A Kiss For Midwinter is the second entry in Courtney Milan's Brothers Sinister series, but this is the first story in the series for me as I'm still waiting for the previous book to arrive at my doorstep. Since I can understand this story just fine, I believe you will do just fine as well if you haven't read the previous book. This is a novella, by the way.
I'm going to keep the synopsis very brief because it will be too easy to give everything about the plot away. Basically, Dr Jonas Grantham is a 26-year old doctor in 1862 who is looking for a wife, and while he does have a list of acceptable candidates for matrimony, he only has eyes for Lydia Charingford. Unfortunately, they met five years ago under... less favorable circumstances, to put it mildly, and he has some work to do in order to get her to trust him enough to spend the rest of her life with him.
The story is set in a time when modern medicine is starting to make inroads - slowly, yes, but surely - into the current medical establishment, and the old guard is putting up some resistance. It's an interesting time, a time that has always intrigued me, and this story offers several glimpses into the challenges faced by doctors such as Jonas in getting both their colleagues and patients to change their ways. Unfortunately, I'm far less interested in the romance.
Oh, Jonas is a fine hero. He reminds me a lot of those good guys that star in Carla Kelly's novels - Jonas always tries to do the right thing, and there is an air of self-depreciating good nature to the way he goes about in his daily life. His relationship with his father, who is slowly losing touch with reality, is pretty moving, amazingly so for a story of this length.
While I do understand what the author is trying to do with Lydia, and I understand what the poor darling is going through, but it gets old quickly when Lynda starts jumping to all kinds of bizarre unfavorable conclusions about Jonas and his reasons to court him, culminating in a my-forehead-hitting-the-table "He must be in love with someone else!" drama that is just plain stupid considering just how much he has been sticking to her. I mean, it's like he is glued to her side. Sure, sometimes the woman is always the last to know, but when Lydia's insecurities give rise to a series of domino piece-like obstacle course to keep the story going, it is too easy to lose my patience with her and just wish that she'd get her head out of her rear end for once.
Because of Lydia's incessant back-and-forth about Jonas, this otherwise short novella actually feels tad too long for its own good. The later parts, which are all about Lydia letting her insecurities run wild, are especially tedious to read. Really, I understand why Lydia feels the way she does, but Lydia's behavior only highlights the vast disparity in maturity between her and Jonas. Seriously, Jonas is going to be her father as well as her husband at the end of the day, because Lydia really comes off like the type who can only flail around helplessly when confronted with unexpected situations in her life. On one hand, Jonas is good for her as he's more than happy to lecture to an adoring audience, but on the other hand, I can only wonder how long it will be before he wakes up one day and realizes that his wife can be a bit on the not-very-bright side. And then I think of William Somerset Maughn's short story The Colonel's Lady.
At any rate, this is a well-written tale with the heart and soul in the right places. I can't shake off the feeling that Lydia and Jonas may not be as well-suited for each other as they may think, however. It's a pretty good story, especially well worth the $0.99 spent, but I wish the author had sold me the romance a bit better.
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