Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novella

 

Edmund’s father has always loomed large in his life. There was never a need to fear the boogeyman with his father in the house; no shadowy figure under the bed could inspire the fear his father’s footsteps in the hall could cause. A childhood of beatings, a lifetime of never being good enough, never being clever enough, never being anything enough have worn Edmund into a nervous, tightly wound man. His need for his father’s approval alienated him from his brother, much as his need to be the dutiful heir has kept him from having much of a life of his own. Edmund has only one friend who brings him any relief, Sebastian.

Sebastian’s humor matches his own, his kindness and warmth make Edmund feel welcome and wanted, and his friendship is a shelter and protection against the world. But when Edmund’s father summons him, not even Sebastian’s smile can ward off the chill and fear. His father’s summons are never a good thing.

This time, though, his father claims to be dying and demands Edmund marry by Midwinter. If he finds a woman, heirs will be expected. If he marries a man, the estate will be entailed upon a cousin on Edmund’s death — though he’ll allow Edmund to continue his hard work and stewardship of the family fortunes. With only six days to make a decision, Edmund can only turn to Sebastian for advice.

If Edmund thought his father’s demand was enough to unsettle him, Sebastian’s offer has him thrown completely. Sebastian, his friend, his confidant, his strength and sanity … has proposed to him!

K.L. Noone is one of those authors whose works I will always turn to when I need a warm, soft hug of a book. Their characters are beautifully drawn, achingly human, and such sympathetic people. Edmund is so afraid of making the wrong choice — not because he’s afraid of falling in love, but because he doesn’t want to hurt Sebastian. It’s clear from the first sentence to the last how much in love he is:

He was taller and larger, though Sebastian was prettier and more charismatic and more ready to, yes, smile; Edmund put both arms around Sebastian, and held him close, and Sebastian made a little sound like a broken emerald or a glint of water over gold or a sob, and settled into him, and Edmund rested his cheek in soft waves of hair and thought that this, this, was who he was: the person who wanted to be right here, always.

Sebastian is devoted, attentive, and far more aware of his feelings. He wears his concern for Edmund on his sleeves and knows how to handle … everything. Because Edmund needs routine and familiarity to keep him calm, Sebastian takes over the planning, bringing in people and situations that are known. He’s patient, willing to accept what boundaries Edmund has drawn and to be flexible around Edmund’s needs.

He’s also endlessly amused by Edmund’s practicality in the face of the whimsical:

“Ice elementals exist, but they are simply creatures, and they’re certainly not ruled by any sort of monarch, and even if they were, that monarch would be something quite otherworldly and likely not attracted to a human suitor…”

“This,” Sebastian said. “This is why I’m marrying you.”

“Because… I… object to childish winter operettas?”

This is a lovely romance, with strong characters and evocative writing. The humor is on point and it’s a lightning quick read. I highly recommend it if you’re into fairy tale romances with happily ever afters.