“A Kiss for Midwinter” by Courtney Milan

22 Aug
On a field of yellow gold, a dark haired young white woman wearing an off-the-shoulder white gown with a wide skirt, and white lace fingerless gloves. She's wearing a couple of poinsettia flowers on her updo, and looking to the side, with a knowing/flirty half-smile on her lips.

I have often talked about my love of Ms Milan’s novellas; for my money, she consistently writes some of the best in genre romance. Inevitably, I immediately realize I have reviewed so few of them (see footnote 1 for links). So for a change, here’s a re-read and a review.

Reader beware: teenage pregnancy, forced abortion/miscarriage; elderly parent stroke-induced dementia; loss of a parent in childhood.

“A Kiss for Midwinter” by Courtney Milan

This novella is part of the Brothers Sinister series, and it starts with a prologue that’s brutal in all that it implies more than what it spells out; it also sets up the main conflict between Jonas and Lydia, as well as building their characters beautifully–all while neither of them actually says a word.

Here’s the burb:

Miss Lydia Charingford is always cheerful, and never more so than at Christmas time. But no matter how hard she smiles, she can’t forget the youthful mistake that could have ruine her reputation. Even though the worst of her indiscretion was kept secret, one other person knows the truth of those dark days: the sarcastic Doctor Jonas Grantham. She wants nothing to do with him…or the butterflies that take flight in her stomach every time he looks her way.

Jonas Grantham has a secret, too he’s been in love with Lydia for more than a year. This winter, he’s determined to conquer her dislike and win her for his own. It all starts with a wager and a kiss..

There is a wealth of backstory in the first couple of chapters, that lets us see how deeply Jonas has fallen for Lydia, the core decency and, well, purity, of his character. Where he loves, he loves fully, and if it hurts him, so be it. At one point, he tells Lydia, “I believe that there is a special place in hell for those who steal truth.” (page 34, kindle edition)

As for Lydia…

“When Lydia Charingford was around, though, he felt like a smiling dark little raincloud. He liked the way she saw things, even as she baffled him. He liked the way she saw all the world…except the portion of it that contained him.” (page 21, kindle edition; italics in text)

Lydia decided to be happy, because being miserable would make too much of the man who had seduced her when she was but a child–and Lydia will be damned if she’ll let that asshole be important to her, be important in her life at all.

Except, of course, she is angry, forever and always, so angry, without an outlet for her rage.

Until Jonas presents himself at the perfect, and most appropriate, target. Not only was he present at the beginning, that also means he’s the only one outside her family who knows. Jonas is, in a word, the perfect man to hate.

Then he manages to convince her to spend time with him, and oh, those conversations, as they go to and from visiting patients. Jonas’ raw honesty–with his patients, with himself, with Lydia–and Lydia’s protective self-deception make every word between them mean more than it would otherwise.

There is a lot of heartbreak packed in lets than 90 pages, but there’s also so much love. There’s familial love, the kind that supports you no matter how you stumble, and the anguish of losing a parent who still breathes. There’s friendship, and community and compassion, and medical history, discussions of anatomy and prophylactics, and oh, so much more!

Ms Milan builds a city around these two characters, and populates it with people of all sorts of backgrounds, with their own lives and their own stories, at the same time that she shows us how these two specific people find their way to each other. And it’s lovely.

“A Kiss For Midwinter” gets 9.25 out of 10

(Every time I read this novella, I cry, good tears. Because truth is a gift, yet sometimes, love means lying.)

* * * *

1 Courtney Milan novellas reviewed so far: “This Wicked Gift” (part of The Heart of Christmas anthology), “Unlocked”, “The Lady Always Wins”

2 Responses to ““A Kiss for Midwinter” by Courtney Milan”

  1. Lori 22/08/2022 at 1:49 PM #

    Have to see if that’s in the library. It sounds lovely.

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