First thing you need to know, in case you’ve missed it–or if you are new here, in which case, Hi, there! welcome to my little, often profane corner of the internet!-: I’m a fan of Meljean Brook.
I absolutely adore her Iron Seas stories–she has created an amazing, complex and fully developed world that I wish I could spend more and more time in. Because I suck, I’ve only reviewed the first novella in the series, “Here There Be Monsters,” so far but I aim to correct that horrible, terrible, no good oversight this year.
Something else you may not know is that I am absolutely not a fan of serials, or even of those trilogies/series where you have the unresolved romance, with cliffhangers, for a number of books.¹ I need to know there is an end before I get hooked, as I’ve been burned a few times too many with dangling plot lines and orphaned characters.
So, as a rule, I just don’t do serials.
However, when Ms Brook said she would be posting “Frozen” as a serial on her blog–back in August 2014–I faithfully stalked the place until the last delicious line came out.
(And that, even though I had signed on to get an ARC well before this.)
Of course, I did get the ARC later on, and then promptly bought my very own copy once it came out, ’cause I like it just that much.
And here, just a teenie tiny little bit late *cough* is my review.
The blurb, from the author’s site:
For a year and a half, Olivia Martin has tried to forget Erik Gulbrandr, the glacial man who’d scorched her mouth with a single kiss. But when Olivia finds herself snowbound with Erik on the winter solstice, she discovers that the man who set her body aflame is cursed by abominable needs — and a desire that might destroy them both…
Now, this is not Ms Brook’s usual fare, at all. First, the world building is very sparse and simple. The story is set in a contemporary world where there is magic and creatures of myth actually exist, and that’s basically it for world building.
Second, this is a story that explores consent in a way that, for some readers, may hit some triggers–you may want to read the story’s FAQ and trigger warning page, in fact.
And third, it’s written in first person, from the heroine’s point of view. I’m usually leery about first person narrative. There are very few authors who write it that I truly enjoy, and I know I’m not alone in this.
Of course, this is quite short, so it’s not a huge risk for those who are not sure about it.
But that’s enough of warnings and caveats, let’s get on with the review itself.
When the story starts, Olivia and Erik have known each other for about eighteen months, and they have worked for the same company for a good year of that.
At one point very early in their acquaintance, Olivia thought they would have some sort of romantic relationship–the heat was there, and one kiss hot enough for the record books–and she was pretty steamed (and hurt) when Erik pretty much dismissed both the kiss and the attraction out of hand.
We learn pretty soon that Erik has a pretty good reason to keep his distance from Olivia, attraction be damned: he just happens to be a frost giant, and his family has been cursed for millennia. The curse? Some of the family’s male descendants suffer from uncontrollable lust during the winter solstice, so powerful and violent that, given their size and strength, they could (have?) conceivably kill whomever they slake it on.
Up to the moment he met Olivia, Erik thought he would be one of the lucky ones for whom the curse would not be triggered. Now he knows better and has done his damnedest to keep away from her–the mere possibility that he could hurt her this way horrifies him.
And now, his very own father has served her to him in the middle of nowhere, two freaking days before the solstice.
It’s enough to upset the most pragmatic of men, let alone one who is so deeply attracted to the woman in question.
And let’s not even mention the Hounds, descendants of Fenrir, who have hunted Gulbrandr’s for as long as the family has been cursed, to avenge what will happen during the battle at the end of the world. (Yes, it’s that complicated, just go with it.)
Things, as you may well imagine, get wacky from this point on.
Olivia does want Erik, though she’s not thrilled at the current circumstances. She is attracted to him both physically and emotionally, and she is not immune to either his desire for her nor his certainty that he will hurt her, if they are anywhere near each other when the curse overpowers his conscious will.
For his part, Erik is perfectly willing to die–at Olivia’s hand even–if that will spare her. Unfortunately, the timing for his demise would be quite tricky. After all, there are those pesky Hounds around, and there is no guarantee they would leave Olivia alone just because Erik wasn’t around.
This being a romance, all these obstacles are overcome, of course.
There are many things I like about this story. I like the exploration of forced consent. I like having a heroine who is shown to be good at what she does, and actually strong as a person. I really liked Olivia as a civil engineer who is constantly around construction guys who may be oh, just a tad sexist, and yet she holds her own ground.
She is resourceful–she doesn’t drive around in the middle of winter through the mountains in Colorado without being thoroughly prepared. She has a gun and ammunition, and keeps with her a bag with anything and everything she might need in an emergency situation.
She is self-reliant. Yes, she’s grateful that Erik wants to protect her, from himself and from anyone else who may harm her, but she’s not simply sitting somewhere waiting for things to happen–or not happen–to her.
I like Erik, as seen from Olivia’s point of view, because he is both strong and vulnerable.
There is one thing that actually bothered me about the story–and no, it wasn’t the “fuck or die” trope (hat tip to Kaetrin). I couldn’t buy that it took Olivia that long to work out what the curse actually was about, for one thing. For another, it seemed like she was holding out to her preconceptions just to stretch out the narrative. A few pointed questions would have taken care of a large percentage of the angst between them, without diminishing the issue of consent or Erik’s concerns about Olivia’s physical and emotional safety.
Still, I really like the story and the characters, and I like how even this oh so deceptively simple world is internally consistent. Plus, lest we forget, Ms Brook can write really good sex scenes.
“Frozen” gets a 7.75 out of 10
¹ The exception to this rule would be Sam’s and Alyssa’s, and to a lesser extent Jules’ and Robin’s, romances in Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series, but those were extenuating circumstances. (Don’t ask me what circumstances, I don’t know, I just know I was okay with these in a way I haven’t been okay with others.)