Once Upon a Winter’s Eve by Tessa Dare (Spindle Cove #1.5)

Plot (from tessadare.com)

Some wallflowers bloom at night…

Violet Winterbottom is a quiet girl. She speaks six languages, but seldom raises her voice. She endured bitter heartbreak in perfect silence. The gentlemen aren’t beating
down her door.

Until the night of the Spindle Cove Christmas ball, when a mysterious stranger crashes into the ballroom and collapses at Violet’s feet. His coarse attire and near-criminal good looks would put any sensible young lady on her guard. He’s wet, chilled, bleeding, and
speaking in an unfamiliar tongue.

Only Violet understands him. And she knows he’s not what he seems.

She has one night to draw forth the secrets of this dangerously handsome rogue. Is he a
smuggler? A fugitive? An enemy spy? She needs answers by sunrise, but her captive would rather seduce than confess. To learn his secrets, Violet must reveal hers—and open herself to adventure, passion, and the unthinkable… Love.

Buy at: Amazon | B&N (ebook only)

Things I Loved

Violet doesn’t take crap from anyone. If I were in her position (emotionally devastated by a total jerk who shows up in disguise at an inopportune moment), I would have fallen to pieces. Violet isn’t afraid to interrogate him, yell at him, and order him about at gunpoint. I totally want to be Violet when I grow up.

Also, languages and spies! Those are always fun.


Novellas are generally not my favorite thing in the world. Romance writers (and, increasingly, YA writers) are using free or very cheap e-book only short stories and novellas featuring minor characters from their major series to promote their novels. It’s a great idea, but novellas are either too long or too short for my taste.

I think as a novella, it worked fine. A one-night adventure featuring two characters with a complicated history is simple enough for the shorter format but interesting enough to sustain itself for the entire story. It didn’t really reach squee-worthy heights for me, however. It was just a little bit too much happening in not enough time, and I didn’t connect very well with the characters.


2/4 chili peppers (1 being a step above a sex-free gentle romance, 4 being an all-sex-and-no-plot romance). Proceed with caution if you’re more Georgette Heyer than Ellora’s Cave.

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