Winter’s Tale by Emma Holly


Winter’s Tale by Emma Holly
Publisher: Smashwords
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (118 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Something sexy is afoot at Rackham’s School for Young Ladies.

Half faerie, half elf Hans Winter broke the heart of the wrong princess. Cursed to live as a statue at a school for human girls, only true love—and true bravery—can free him.

December Worth never met a rule she didn’t want to break, as the numerous institutions that expelled her can attest. Bravery she can handle. Love she’s less sure about, especially if it involves believing in fairytales.

A kiss seems like the last thing these lonely souls would share, until one night in the cemetery where Hans stands trapped, Fate brings stone and flesh together . . .

There’s something about a man cursed for unjust reasons that makes a romance reader stand up and notice. Add in a mystery, a plea in the night and delicious naughty dreams that may or may not be real and it sweetens the pot. How could I resist? Plus, the fact that the illustrious Ms. Holly has a way with sexual encounters pretty much insured that this would be an entertaining read. I was right.

The first thing the author did was introduce me to the heroine, December. Her parents have pretty much given up on her and in fact are a nonevent in her life save the money they spend in lieu of their attentions.

They came across as rather cold fish who substitute public opinion for genuine emotions or affections. It’s a sad, lonely picture that is drawn and it helped make the case that December is a woman who doesn’t trust easy and has no belief in the word ‘love’. Someone so young with a whole future in front of her should have hope, but what will inspire it?

A mystery discovered on a daring walk in the night attracts more attention to December than she ever dreamed. Her mind, her intellect and her drive to action are all engaged as the heroine realized that something wasn’t right, wasn’t normal and it demanded of her more than she thought possible of giving. It’s her character growth that I found appealing.

Hans is not an ordinary man, in any form. The author was effective in portraying the hero’s desperation, his yearning and his despair. Even better was his lusty thoughts and creative ways of interacting with December. A reader is treated to some very steamy scenes – well written and detailed.

This novella is definitely erotic due to the nature of some of December’s antics with Hans. I’ve read a couple of erotic stories about women and statues before and they came across as thinly veiled plots for the sole purpose of exploring kinky sex with statuary – sort of silly and uninspiring. Ms. Holly has taken a ho-hum idea and turned it into a polished gem that inspires the libido instead of putting it to sleep. She introduced a battery of feelings that ranged from disbelief, sadness, anger, desire, hopelessness, worry, elation and the all-important one, love. Hans isn’t a statue at all, but a man trapped. His connection to December is what sets this apart from what I’ve read before. There is a reason she does what she does. Of course she enjoys it – that’s what makes it so hot. But the purpose is deeper and more profound than merely sex and because the author can make an effective emotional connection between her characters and readers, it makes this book worth taking the time to read.

As for the overall conflict, man turned to stone notwithstanding, there are a few nasty surprises in store for both protagonists. Ms. Holly effectively diverted my attention with a red herring. I never dreamed that the bad were good, in an oddball sort of way, and the good were really insane. There are also some elements in the book with very strong resemblances to other fairy tales. I liked them then and I enjoyed how the author incorporated facets of them here. In fact, December is a smart fairy tale heroine, unlike the wishy-washy lambkins of old. This heroine is sassy, questions until she is satisfied with the answers and at times knows when to listen instead of smart-mouth. It comes in handy.

There is a good chunk of action and drama that made this story stand out from all that panting and detailed naughty hijinks. It’s the testing of their mettle in crisis that had me appreciating the main characters and because the writing was vivid, clear and tight, the whole scene progression was a real page-flipper.

I’m not a fan of dream sequences but in this tale, the author took the time to make a reader believe in their logic. It worked.

Winter’s Tale generates enough heat to make a reader melt. It’s a terrific fantasy made all the better by interesting characters that I enjoyed reading about. I got an extra thrill from a cameo appearance by a couple of people from a previous book I’d read, Move Me, written in the same world as this one. In fact, after seeing them again, I have an itch to read their story all over again. This is such a fun world that Ms. Holly has created; I can never seem to get enough. Try Winter’s Tale for a taste and see for yourself.

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