Yultide Treasure is an homage to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol featuring an alternate universe with a pagan pantheon overlooking Yule and their own favored mortals.
Eben Sypeman’s antisocial business partner, John Marney, was killed two days before Yule, leaving Eben a wine merchancy with inexplicably empty bank accounts. Eben is sure there should have been plenty of money—his own contracts brought in tidy sums—but right now the only money to his name are the few crowns he gave to get his shiftless nephew to leave his office in peace. Eben doesn’t know how he’s going to tell Bob Pratchett, his clerk, that he doesn’t have the money to pay him. Pratchett has been a loyal employee for many years.
Tired of Eben’s dithering and inability to stand up for himself, his patron goddess, Althyone, decides to make an appearance. She’s not able to solve his money troubles, but her magic certainly loosens Eben’s tongue, unleashing all the uncharitable thoughts he keeps under tight rein as Eben is rendered incapable of lying. This is extremely inconvenient when Bob’s grown son, Tim, a war veteran recovering from a serious leg wound, arrives to fill his father’s duties. Bob is too sick to leave home and the family is too poor to allow his wages not to be paid.
The great attraction Eben feels for Tim is reciprocated. Both men are of an age and taste that they are well-suited. In fact, Althyone gets an eyeful of Tim relieving some of Eben’s stress on his very own desk. Eben feels all the more worse over his financial distress, but confiding in Tim sheds light on a new opportunity: Bob had originally clerked for Marney for years and knows secrets about his personal estate that could prove valuable. Tim and Eben set off on an adventure on Yule-eve to see if the missing funds might be recovered before any further damage is done.
This was a witty and sexy love story, though it’s more “inspired by” the Dickens’ classic than a reimagining of the story. Eben isn’t the cruel master, pinching every penny. He’s a bit of a hen-pecked man needing to stand on his own feet and resolve the conflicts in his life. There are no ghosts, or threats of eternal torment. Just the very real torment of a half-life of awkwardness and unfulfilled desire. Tim is a great foil to Eben: jolly, charismatic, and determined. His own insecurities over people seeing him as incapable since his injury fuel his determination to assist Eben in uncovering his stolen funds—with the bonus that doing so will also help his father stay employed.
I really enjoyed the book throughout. The pacing is appropriate and the adventure lasts only a tense few days–just long enough to bring Eben and Tim together. It seems they experience their first of many joyous Yules–and Althyone eventually lets Eben choose to tell truth in his own fashion. Now that he’s learned how, that is.