TBR Challenge: Short Shorts – The Witching Hour and Winter Rose by Nora Roberts

by Elizabeth on January 15, 2014 · 1 comment

in books, reviews, TBR Challenge

It’s that time again!  Time for the 2014 TBR (to-be-read) Challenge!

January is all about short books – short stories, novellas, category romances, and the like.  Last year I read a novella that had been sitting on my ereader for almost a year.  This year I tackled a print book that had been on my shelf for who knows how long.

I did pretty well in the challenge last year, completing 10 out of the 12 “assignments” so this year I thought I’d step it up a bit.  Instead of choosing from my ever-growing TBR list, I have to choose something I already own.  It can be print or digital, but I have to have bought it prior to the start of 2014.  I’ve already selected my books for this year; it was way easier than I thought which just goes to show how many unread books I have scattered around my house.

the witching hourFor January’s challenge I picked Nora Robert’s anthology, A Little Fate, which is made up of three fantasy novellas: The Witching Hour, Winter Rose, and A World Apart.  I decided to forgo the last one as it didn’t sound like something I’d particularly enjoy.

So onto the review.  Up first is The Witching Hour.

The blurb:

A kingdom is plagued by tragedy until a wizard-god’s spell brings forth a courageous and beautiful young woman who must follow her heart in love and follow her destiny in battle.

Clearly this is fantasy, more along the lines of her Circle Trilogy.  World building in novellas is challenging, but I thought she did a pretty good job.  It felt very medieval and if you’ve read any fantasy set in an imaginary land that bears a striking resemblance to medieval England, then you’ll be fine with this.  I thought it was a little silly, mostly because of the chanting and the spells, and the ending wasn’t nearly as satisfying as I wanted it to be.  But it’s hard to write a world-saving battle in a novella.

Still, it’s Nora Roberts so the characters are well drawn, the heroine in particular, and you definitely root for her to kick some ass and save the world.  There is a form of insta-love which is annoying but it did save an awful lot of time since the couple had already “met” and fell in love.  The downside to that is that I didn’t get a good feel for the hero or his feelings.  This is a very heroine-centric book so I can overlook that, for the most part.

This is a big story that’s a very quick read.  If you like NRs paranormals/fantasies, you’ll enjoy this novella.

Final Grade: C+

And now on to Winter Rose.

The blurb:

On a remote island cursed with eternal winter, a young queen heals a wounded soldier, and warms her heart with the joys of true love.

I liked this one better.  It was an even quicker read.  I started and finished it on a flight from Miami, so I would say it took me about an hour, give or take 15 minutes.  This novella is also fantasy, but there is no world saving and no battles.  The heroine is the queen of a castle (I was confused as to how much, if any, land she ruled) that is stuck in permanent winter due to a curse that was cast when two sisters fought over a man.  Our hero is attacked on his way home from battle and ends up lost in the frozen woods.  Naturally he collapses in front of the castle and the heroine uses her healing skills to save him.

The world building here was much better than the first book.  Because the setting was so small and the story more focused on the characters than saving anything, there was time for a solid back story and real character development.  While the ending was slightly contrived and a little cheesy, the emotions and the “happily ever after” between the hero and heroine weren’t.  I still didn’t get a good feel for why they fell in love, but due to the story’s length, I think it was as good as it was going to get.

Another very quick read, and I enjoyed it enough to wish it was a little longer so I could spend more time with the characters.  This is a much better example of Nora Roberts’s skill with fantasy romance.

Final grade: B

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