Samhain Publishing, $0.99, ISBN 978-1-60928-882-2
Historical Romance, 2011
Despite being published by Samhain Publishing, Once Upon a Winter’s Eve is part of Tessa Dare’s Spindle Cove series published by Avon. Isn’t such inter-publisher cooperation beautiful to behold? This one can be read as a standalone novella, but do be aware that there are several references to characters and events from previous books in the series.
Okay, let’s meet Violet Winterbottom. She is nursing a Disappointment with a capital D, mostly because a wretch broke her heart and caused her to seek solace in Spindle Cove. Her parents have had enough of her moping away in that place, however, and they want her to go back to London for a Season. Just when Violet is about to depart, a wounded fellow falls literally at her feet while she is introducing me to past and future sequel baits. He claims to be some farmer, but she knows in her heart of hearts that he is her Disappointment, Christian Pierce. Is he a spy? An amnesiac? Or just an asshole with a creative excuse to explain his past Disappointing actions?
Here’s the thing: the story is very entertaining, the characters have some decent chemistry, and the hero is a fine example of a fellow who has fallen very hard for the heroine. For a novella, especially one that costs $0.99, this one is worth every cent for these reasons.
I just don’t buy the romance on the heroine’s side.
Sure, I can believe that Christian is in love with Violet. It takes some time for him to realize that, and in the meantime he’s been a pretty bad boy, but the intensity of his emotions is quite arresting to read. At the very least, that guy knows how to melodramatic without becoming too ridiculous. The guy did some things to her that would completely ruin her life if word gets out, and Violet had no idea whether this time around he is true, or he is staying for good, but like every sensible heroine, she just can’t wait to throw off her cautions and do that naked milk maid giving away her goods for free thing with Christian. I like how she takes a knife to the hero in that nice scene late in the story, but she’s doing it for the wrong reason, if you ask me. Regardless of his motives this time around, she should be more wary of him this time around. It is reasonable to assume that he may not stick around for long, so how on earth is asking him to boink her a good idea?
Oh, I forgot, this is a romance story. Oh, carry on.
Because this story happens in a very short time frame, I can’t help feeling that the best ending would be one where the heroine lets the hero go again, without any boinking, and he vows to win her back. Christian deserves to stew a little bit more, and the way he so easily gets back into the heroine’s bloomers is ridiculous. At any rate, this one is a pleasant read, but I am unconvinced that this romance will have a happily ever after. The novella format doesn’t allow the author much room to sell me the romance.