Michelle Willingham, Michelle Willingham and Michelle Willingham
November 2012, European Historical Romance
Harlequin Historical, $6.50, 282 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373297181
As a reader I know the joy of discovering that an author has given me a further peek into the charactersí lives, or even their childrenís lives. However, in Michelle Willingham's latest anthology the short length of the stories, and the obvious fact that this is a continuation of previous world building, left me feeling mostly unaffected by the characters.
European Historical Romance (1192 Ireland)
First up is In the Bleak Midwinter which showcases the healing of two wounded souls as they discover a second chance at love. Arturo de Manzano has travelled with his sister Adriana to her future husbandís home in order to reassure their parents and himself that his future brother-in-law has the means to take care of his beloved sister, and that his family will welcome her. Entering the castle keep, Arturo attention is drawn to a young woman holding herself apart from the festivities. When he is caught staring at her again, the woman Brianna confronts him, and asserts that she is not interested in any man, especially since she is still grieving for her decreased husband. But Arturo knows the sorrow of losing a beloved spouse, and the compulsion for revenge. This insight undermines Briannaís prickly edges and soon she is allowing Arturo to teach her how to fight. If the opportunity arises when she can avenge her husbandís death, she just might take it.
I admit I have pre-conceived ideas of how women from this time period acted and learning to fight is not one of them. After reading the story I did some further research and found plenty of examples of women who were not afraid to pick up the sword, proving my conceptions wrong. But the biggest stumbling block to me liking the story is that while I can easily imagine myself hoping and praying that something horrible happens to an individual, I just canít imagine feeling compelled to do the killing myself.
The second story The Holly and the Viking is during the same time period but from the viewpoint of a different character. Rhiannon MacEgan only wants to find love. But that is an impossible task since her father has decreed that no one from their tribe can look at her, much less marry her. Willing to try anything, she dubiously accepted her twelve-year-old cousinís offer to cast a Druid love spell for her. However, on the way back to the castle she is lost in a blizzard and loses her way. After a near attack by a lone wolf, she is saved by stranger, who in defending her is bitten by the wolf. Taking shelter with him, she is horrified to discover he is a murderer Ė in fact he killed her cousinís husband.
Kaall Hardrata has lost everything Ė his wealth, and what he holds most dear, his daughter - all because of his accidental killing of the MacEgan man and his blindness. He is in no mood to share his cave with another MacEgan- especially a pampered princess. Still he canít deny that he is attracted to her.
The combination of the heroís isolation and then blindness really pushed my ability to suspend belief. Learning that he had a mentor or supporter that helped him hone his abilities would have gone a long way toward making the plot more believable. Or, if the author had elaborated on his struggles for autonomy I might have been more apt to believe in his abilities. But Kaall changes from clumsy because of his affliction to competent at the drop of the hat. Rhiannon also seems surprisingly modern in her dealings with a strange man.
A Season to Forgive is the last story in the anthology and the one that has a heroine who most closely aligns with my perception of womenís way of influencing events in during medieval times.
When Adriana is faced with the death of her betrothed, she bargains with her only asset. Now that they are both finally safe, she canít help worrying that she will lose the only person she has ever loved, if he discovers the truth. Her nightmares and guilt keep her from accepting the comfort he so earnestly wants to give.
Liam left for the Crusade because he never wanted to be his fatherís heir. Now he is back, and arguing with his father about the same issue again. He father created a legacy of uniting the Normans with the Irish that makes taking his place an impossible feat.
When a ship arrives on their shores both Liam and Adriana must face their greatest fears.
The antagonist is a little over the top but there is no rhyme or reason to what men will do to possess a certain woman, so his actions could be based on a kernel of truth. While there are no big surprises in the story, overall it is sweet story of love and forgiveness.
Ms. Willingham does an excellent job of integrating the stories and shifting the point of view from one storyline to another. Plus I felt like this last story acted as more of conclusion to the other two, tying up loose ends and questions.
I donít feel that this book is the best introduction to the MacEgan clan, so I canít really recommend it as a new introduction to this series. However, if you followed the six books in this series, then revisiting the characters might feel like coming home. And for many of you that may be enough reason to buy Michelle Willinghamís Warriors in Winter.
-- Leigh Davis
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