four stars · reviews

Book Review: A Taste of Winter

This author never ceases to amaze me with her novels! I reviewed the first book of this trilogy and interviewed her a while back, so I had forgotten how much I loved the world she created. Anywho, without further ado, here is the second book of the Lakeside series!

A Taste of Winter by Laila Blake

Picking up where BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON left off, A TASTE OF WINTER is the second book in a romantic paranormal fantasy trilogy, set in alternate history medieval times. It follows the life of young Moira, a half fae noblewoman who fell in love with her shape-shifter guard and ran away from her ancestral home.

Traveling the country, searching for a safe place to stay, the two of them soon realize that life is not as kind to them as they might have hoped. They feel the sting of prejudice and bigotry in each town they visit, and the reality of poverty and winter begin to erode Moira and Owain’s blossoming love.

In the castle they left behind, darker plans are afoot. The fae spy Brody is slowly taking over, and he has no love for humans. He needs to be stopped before he can seize power and trigger another war between the races. But Moira and Owain are long gone, and Brody always seems two steps ahead.

Series: Lakeside, #2
Age: Adult

Review: 4.5 butterflies
It’s been a while since I’ve been in this world, but as soon as I opened the book, it felt like it’d only been a few months at most. Because I read the first book so long ago, I had to re-acquaint myself with the characters, but as soon as I read a bit about them I remembered who they were right away. (Plus there’s a handy little character description at the end of the novel to help keep track!)

There were four main plots here—Moira and Owain; Maeve and (briefly) Ronan; Iris and Brock/Brody; and Devali and Niamh. That tended to make it a little hard to track but once you got the hang of it, it ended up being really easy and entertaining flipping between the plots.

Maeve and Ronan’s story is heartbreaking, as always. Maeve is an incredibly interesting character that I can relate to, because while she is Fae, she acts as much as a human as she can without being a human. Her life is full of sadness and sacrifice, and she’s still fighting for her daughters.

Moira and Owain are the light to the darkness that is going on, though the darkness tends to encroach on their light for much of the book. Their love is what keeps me hopeful that things will end well for them, though I never know. Owain is the tortured, loving hero and Moira is the hopeful, lively heroine that brings light to Owain’s darkness.

I slowly warmed up to Iris in this book. In the last book I didn’t know what to think of her, but here I definitely felt for her and now I desperately want a happy ending for her. Brock/Brody, however, is a fae I have quickly come to despise. This power-hungry fae will stop at nothing to get what he wants. The fact that he despises humans makes his plan so much easier for him to execute, but leaves me feeling like he’s heartless. Which he is, completely.

I really liked Devali, though I don’t care for her blind devotion to Niamh. She’s sweet, though, and really wants to help, which is endearing. I still don’t know how I feel about Niamh. Her past is something I’m not sure I can get over, and when I find myself warming up to her, she does something that makes me dislike her all over again.

Ms. Blake writes a convincing, relatable, and original story. I read the book and couldn’t put it down until I found out how everything worked out. Her characters have flaws, which makes them people you can relate to, or at least understand their motives. Her story is refreshingly original, with a world that will make you want to stay in there forever.

I definitely recommend this book to those who love fantasy, originality, action, and romance. I do recommend you read the first book first, or you might be lost for a while!

A free copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Book links: Goodreads * Amazon US / UK / CA / AU / DE

Excerpt

It was almost nightfall when they dared to approach the small village at the edge of the forest. It seemed mostly rural much like many in the Rochmond fief but it benefited from the proximity to the excellent hunting grounds the forest offered in the region. Owain had bidden Moira to wrap a scarf around her prominent hair and was gently leading her through the darkening streets towards the small Inn.

He had hoped they would find it all but empty, ready to accept two strangers in the night if they had the coin. When he opened the door however, a flood of chatter came wafting out of the place like a bad smell. Moira stiffened in his arm. There were so many things they had never bothered to think about before they’d run away that night. For a moment, he squeezed her tightly and then led her inside. It wasn’t as dingy as he might have expected and a good number of men were sitting by the bar over a drink sharing exaggerated hunting stories.

“A room for the night?” He asked the bar-maid, who eyed them suspiciously. It was hard not to recognize Owain for what he was. With his stature, he towered over most men and there was a certain slant to Blaidyn features, a sharpness in the cheeks; the nose was large and elegant and they simply moved differently than humans. In completely rural areas he sometimes went unrecognized because the uneducated peasants still believed Blaidyn had claws and muzzles like their dogs, but it took only one glance at the woman behind the counter to know that she knew better. Carefully, she set down the mug she had been polishing with an old rag and her eyes fell on Moira. Anger boiled in Owain’s gut when he saw the hint of disgust she couldn’t hide.

“A room?” she asked, raising her brow, “for the both’o ye?”

Owain exhaled, his arm fell from around her shoulders and he took a step forward, allowing her to fade a little into the broad shadow he cast.

“I am tasked to accompany this young woman to her relatives in the capital,” he explained quickly, in that way Moira had come to recognize as an attempt to sound more human. It cut most of the growling grumble from the tone and he even managed to hide most of the Blaidyn accent she found so attractive in him.

The innkeeper took one look at their muddy clothes and the huge pack on his shoulders and then raised a brow.

“Yer far off the path, wolf, quickest way to Lauryl is down the river. Everybody knows that.”

A growl rose in his chest but he managed to control it.

“Our travels must remain hidden from certain people,” he finally said quite smoothly, “hence the expense of my protection.”

Again her eyes swept over both of them but when he pulled out their purse, she shrugged. She had a living to make like everybody else. He pulled out two coins and pushed them over the counter, in return she gave him a key. Owain exhaled a well-concealed sigh of relief. Even Moira managed a small smile.

“Oy, wolf-whore,” a voice suddenly sounded from off to the side. It was a drunk voice, slurred and wet. Moira spun around and Owain winced. It would have been better for their cover if she hadn’t reacted but his own anger was quick to rise as well.

“I for one…” the drunk continued loudly and a moment later all eyes were on them. The chatter had died down and Owain exhaled a silent prayer to the moon.

“I for one,” the drunk repeated, “think it’s a bloody disgrace… yer a perfectly adequate maid. I bet lots of real men would have ye.”

“You think if we bring ‘er down to the stables, she’d fuck them horses, too?” another voice could be heard and one of the tables erupted in harsh, loud cackles. Almost too late, Owain took a threatening step between Moira and the men. He could feel her shivering behind him, gasping for air every now and again. Strangers, always strangers. It was hard to believe sometimes that she was genuinely happy to be alone with him in the woods for days and days but in that moment it was easier to fathom.

He pinned them down with his gaze for a few long heartbeats, and then he let his eyes flicker into the wolfish silver. Once they flinched, he turned back to Moira and led her towards the stairs. They didn’t linger to find out whether the innkeeper had changed her mind.

~~~

About the Author

Laila Blake is an author, linguist and translator. She writes character-driven love stories, co-hosts the podcast Lilt and blogs about writing, feminism and society. Her work has been featured in numerous anthologies. Keeping a balance between her different interests, Laila Blake’s body of work encompasses literary erotica, romance, and various fields in speculative fiction (dystopian/post-apocalypse, fantasy, paranormal romance and urban fantasy) and she adores finding ways to mix and match. A self-proclaimed nerd, she lives in Cologne/Germany, harbors a deep fondness for obscure folk singers and plays the guitar. She loves photography, science documentaries and classic literature, as well as Doctor Who, Game of Thrones and The Big Bang Theory. You can find her across the web. To stay up to date with her most recent publications, please consider signing up for her spam-free newsletter.

 

Yours,
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