A Kiss for Midwinter
I definitely enjoyed A Kiss for Midwinter. Courtney Milan definitely seems to have adopted the trend of publishing e-novellas between full-length novels, and I appreciate the bite-sized stories that are coming out.
Early in his medical training, Jonas Grantham remained silent, and has regretted it ever since. The doctor he was observing prescribed poison to a pregnant fifteen-year-old girl, and essentially told her she would die of “moral decay.” But Jonas was hesitant to question his superior, and remained quiet. Five years later, he’s the doctor in that small town, and he still wonders about that girl, and if she survived.
Jonas is also ready to marry, and imagine his surprise when his stroll with the “eleventh prettiest girl” in town reveals that Miss Lydia Charingford is that same girl that Jonas still worries about. Lydia is furious at him, not only for remaining silent in her time of need, but also because he holds the key to her reputation. After miscarrying, she was able to emerge from the incident without society’s notice. Besides her parents, Jonas is the only person who knows her secret. In order to woo her, Jonas proposes a wager to challenge her eternal optimism: he will take her on three house calls to try to show her the worst things one can encounter. If she can still find some positive spin, he must never speak to her again. If she can’t, then he gets a kiss.
Wagers are a pretty contrived plot line, and this one had me question Jonas’s logic. Does he want to depress her and make her jaded? Does he want to lose? It’s back and forth, and neither option endeared me to this set-up.
Aside from that, though, the story was wonderful. Jonas is a very literal person, and has a dark and dry sense of humor. He’s not one for social niceties, and believes strongly in always telling the truth. This leads to a number of miscommunications, some of which were believable and some of which were a bit of a stretch. He may be speaking honestly, but he masks it with a sarcastic tone. I liked him, and found him to be a refreshing change from all of the smooth-talking or ironic heroes.
Lydia, meanwhile, is notoriously cheerful and optimistic, in contrast to Jonas’s cynicism. She always sees the best in people — except for Jonas. She has to let go of a lot of assumptions about him in order for them to move forward, and the development of their relationship is well-paced and believable. If I were to be nitpicky, I could say that too much of that development happened at the end of the story; however, that would ignore the much more subtle changes and growth that occurred throughout the novella.
A Kiss for Midwinter makes some references to the protagonists in The Duchess Wars, a previous novel by Ms. Milan in her Brothers Sinister series, but reading that is not necessary to enjoy this one. And enjoy it I did. It may be shorter than a full-length novel, but it doesn’t scrimp on characterization and development.