Reviewed by May
Favorite Quote: “I, Violet Mary, take you, Christian James.” She touched his cheek. “To be my husband. To have, to hold. To love and honor. All that sickness-health, richer-poorer business too. Forsaking all others, so long as we both shall live.”
His hand found hers. “You didn’t promise to obey.”
“No, I didn’t.” She kissed his jaw. “What if I substitute, ‘To make wild, passionate love to at every possible opportunity’ instead?”
Once Upon a Winter’s Eve is a novella set in the town of Tessa Dare’s latest series. Spindle Cove is a place where young ladies can come to be their best selves, recover, and generally escape the pressures of society. Embroidery is only done if you really want to – academic pursuits, learning to use a pistol, or other "not so ladylike" activities are far more the norm in this town. Our heroine Violet moved here nearly a year ago after “The Disappointment” [she can not say his name, for it is too painful] broke her heart. The night before she is to return to London and be with her family once again, someone life changing stumbles into her life. At the Spindle Cove ball [just before Christmas] a mysterious stranger who reminds her so much of “The Disappointment” stumbles in and falls down at her feet. Bloody and starving, she doesn’t quite know what to think – and the citizens of Spindle Cove don’t find it at all amusing that a French speaking farmer has landed on their shores.
“He’s from France,” Rycliff explained, as if it should be obvious. “He could be a soldier or a spy, scouting possible invasion sites.” He lowered his voice. “He could be listening to us right now.”
Was he listening? Violet looked down at the man in her lap, wondering if he truly were insensible. To test, she gave his earlobe a surreptitious pinch.
Well, that was reassuring.
Or was it suspicious?
Violet couldn’t honestly say. She’d never pinched an unconscious man’s earlobe, and she had no idea what reaction to expect. Neither did she know the expected reaction of a man who was merely pretending to be unconscious. And if he were any good at pretending, he would do the exact opposite of the expected reaction. Whatever that was.
Lord, she was a ninny. An earlobe-pinching ninny. So much for her deductive powers on that score.
Who this stranger really is, if he really is a stranger, how he came to Spindle cove this night, and what it all means for Violet are all unraveled as the night goes on. The entire novella takes place during one night, with the exception of the very end which takes place in the spring.
I found it hard to believe that our hero Christian could have been both trained and changed so much in just a year. Though I suppose his gifts for language and quick thinking helped with that, I felt like it would have been more believable had more time passed. I also disliked how badly he tries to seduce Violet right away, especially after causing her such pain and suffering a year ago. I never did warm to him, though I did love the smart and fantastic Violet. Always thinking quickly, her ability to speak and understand so many languages, and her genuine warm nature all had me rooting for her and hoping for her happily ever after.
This story manages to be both tender and funny, sweet and steamy, and a very quick page-turner. The ending was both satisfying and left me wondering about this pair’s next adventures. One other great thing about this novella – while characters from the first book in the series make an appearance, it is in no way necessary to read that story before this one.