Lady of Winter
Lady of Winter is a road romance involving a Druid priestess, a Viking warrior, and a quest for golden apples akin to the search for the holy grail. This is Emma Merritt’s last book, published posthumously. It is the fourth book in a quartet set at the dawn of the Middle Ages. The dedication is from the publisher, and infers that the book was completed by another author, Mona Sizer aka Deana James (whom the author has worked with before).
Perhaps that is why this story doesn’t quite work. Because many exciting elements are there, starting with Kolby, a fiercely handsome Viking warrior who is drawn to a mysterious dark- haired beauty. There is Raven, a Druid priestess who hasn’t been touched in a decade – not by the warmth of a friend, a man, or the sun. There is a band of renegades (whom unfortunately in their rituals often read as though they are Hell’s Angels or some other biker bandits), a mystical forest concealing a magical tree of golden apples, and a group of murderous thieves intent on exacting revenge.
Kolby and Raven want and need each other, only to be held back by their histories and their honor, he to his liege and she to her cloister. The feelings they have for one another are shown by the author in a new light. She allows them to comfort each other in instances where other authors would simply have them groping. This duo doesn’t bicker endless ; they talk, they help each other, and in the tradition of the road romance, they do.
It’s a good thing they do so much, because as caring as Kolby and Raven are, their lack of bickering and falling into bed dilutes the intensity of their relationship. While it was a nice change to have a hero and heroine set aside lust for comfort, the novelty soon wore off, leaving this reviewer frustrated that the initial chemistry and sexual tension between them disappeared. Perhaps purposely, things were muted in the mid-section of Lady of Winter. And while that made a nice fit with the mystical forest setting, it made Kolby and Raven’s getting together too much a fait accompli to fully savor. But while the author doesn’t take full advantage of Kolby and Raven’s passion, there is enough action and questing going on to satisfy lovers of adventure. Raven really comes alive in this tale and that is joyful to read. Just as a bird is freed from a gilded cage, Raven comes into her own, throwing off the binding robes of the cloister and letting loose the strong and passionate woman within.
Raven’s new nature transforms the last chapters of the book – they are vibrant, intense, and emotional. All that Kolby and she have worked toward reaches fruition and each realizes honoring themselves and their love is as important as honoring their histories. The powerful beginning and intense conclusion of Lady of Winter really deserved a better middle. So does the reader.