Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Review: A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney Milan (e-novella)


Lydia Charrington is the daughter of the magistrate in Leicester Square. She is, perhaps, the most popular girl in Leicester -- and one of the most sought-after. She's vivacious, bright, outgoing and friendly -- the perfect girl with the perfect life.

But, nearly seven years ago, Lydia found herself in a most delicate situation. She nearly died from the experience and, according to the doctor who treated her, she was as good as dead anyway because of her ruination. But, no, she and her family refused to accept their fate meekly and were able to change the course of Lydia's future.

Outside of her family, only three people knew of her secret: the doctor, her best friend, Minnie (read: The Duchess War) -- and the new doctor, Jonas Grantham.

Jonas was a student on his way to medical school when he first encountered Lydia. He knew the old doctor's prescription and treatment of Lydia was outdated and would likely kill her, but he kept his silence -- in exchange for the practice and the bright future it promised him. But that moment and his silence has haunted Jonas ever since -- he could never forget the look in the young girl's eyes and the desperation and sadness he had seen in her face.

Only when he returned, five years later, did Jonas discover that young girl's name when he decided to introduce himself to the "eleventh prettiest young lady in Leicester"*, Lydia Charrington.

Lydia could not imagine the gall of Doctor Grantham to approach her. Did he think she was an easy target because he knew her shameful secret?

Jonas was stunned when "number eleven" responded to him with such venom, such anger. Then when she started talking of their past did he remember -- and understand her indignation and her wrath.

But, now that he had met her, how could Jonas leave her alone? How could he walk away and never have her in his life? In his life as a doctor, in his world of disease and death, Lydia's vibrance is exactly what he needs.

I loved Lydia in Minnie's story and was so glad when Courtney Milan published her story shortly after she released The Duchess War. At first glance, Lydia may seem happy-go-lucky and carefree -- but Lydia has backbone and she showed it when she stood up for her friend Minnie and again in this book.

While she was hapless when it happened all those years ago, Lydia learned from her experience and grew from it. You could feel her strength emanate from within her as she interacts with the people around her. (I don't know how Courtney Milan did it -- but I really could feel the brightness shining through in Lydia.)

I love Lydia's family even more. They are such wonderful, supportive, understanding parents -- who saw past Lydia's problem and saw their daughter who needed their strength. Together, they withstood the calamity and came out almost unscathed. And their love for their daughter is so ... enormous. (The only word that seemed to fit.)

Silence plays an important role in this novella. Lydia's parents refused to stay silent and to quietly accept their future as the old doctor described it. No, said Lydia's father. No.**

He stood up for Lydia and helped her through her darkest moment.

Jonas didn't speak up when Lydia needed him to and it damned him. Now he finds himself an a similar predicament: will he keep his love for her secret?

Jonas and Lydia represent the two extremes: death and life. Jonas's world is a world of disease, decay and death. And Lydia has filled her world with all that is bright, happy and beautiful. And, yet, they live in the same world and walk the same streets and breathe the same air.

The word counter is very interesting and both meanings of the word seem to apply to Jonas and Lydia. In one sense, they stand opposite each other. It is a retaliatory relationship. But, in another sense, counter might mean complementary. And that is the relationship Jonas seeks to have with Lydia.

He saw so little hope in the world, and she saw far too much. There were days he wanted to sit and watch her, to figure out where all that good cheer came from.

He knew he tended toward gloom. It made him consider blood poisoning and heart attacks when someone else might see a touch of indigestion. Those carefully considered worst-case scenarios made him a good doctor, but they also made him feel like a dark little raincloud.

When Lydia Charringford was around, though, he felt like a smiling dark little raincloud.
- loc 371

I'd love to write more about this novella -- to talk about the fathers in this story, the role of fastenings and of the cold winter season -- but, this review is overlong, as it is. And this is part of the wonder of Courtney Milan's writing. A Kiss for Midwinter is an e-novella -- a story in a relatively short form -- and, yet, it contains a very rich, very layered world within it. It is a world that contains big things and small things -- a palpable world with bleakness, harshness but also love and joy.

A Kiss for Midwinter is part of Courtney Milan's ongoing The Brothers Sinister series. The next book, The Heiress Effect will be released first part of 2013. To find out more about Courtney Milan and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.

*loc 150
**Three times, loc 48


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