Yet again, I spent a sleepless night in bed and it’s all Tiffany Reisz’s fault.
You’d think, having read all of the Original Sinners series, that I would learn my lesson and at least start an anthology of short stories set in that universe on a Friday night. Nope: foolishly assuming I could put Winter Tales down after the first story was the most excellent mistake of my week.
“December Wine” gives us the backstory of Nora and Nico. It’s lovely, although it’s decidedly from Nora’s point of view and focused on her struggles regarding parenthood. So far Nico isn’t a fully fleshed out person, but this is also his introduction so it’s a nice start. I love Nora and Zach’s interactions as well, and this story was a sweet ending to their romantic thread while keeping their friendship connection fully intact and well. It is a beginning and an end, and I’m so looking forward to more of Nora and Nico in future work.
“Christmas Truce” is just excellent. Set during the estrangement between Nora and Soren, the story delves into the corners of their relationship together and with Kingsley. True to it’s title, “Christmas Truce” touches on the WWI Christmas Day truce in 1915 and parallels the break in the entrenched war in their relationships. One of the things I adore about Reisz’s characters is the concept that breakups can be temporary episodes in the span of a couple’s life, and this story exemplifies the idea.
“Poinsettia” introduces a new character from Soren’s past to us, and what a character. Magdalena is fabulous: a person I’d love to get to know right along with Nora. I enjoyed this one immensely: it’s a bit of a break from some of the more intense chapters. This one’s a flashback to when Soren was a baby priest in training, as well as a Dom in training, a combination that I found entertaining as hell. Magdalena pops up elsewhere in the book: an example of the detailed continuity of the lives and pasts for Reisz’s characters.
“The Scent of Winter”. What do I say about this one. It has to be my favorite: everything about this story is perfect. We get a little of Griffin and Mick, a little of Nora and Celeste (peripherally), and a whole hell of a lot of Kinglsey and Soren. The entire story is brutally lovely. The nuance between King and Soren is just so well done, and the way it comes full circle is satisfying in every way. I’ve reread this more than once in the past few weeks.
“Blood on Snow” is the bonus story that brings us back to Magdalena’s…house…in the present day. It would be a spoiler-filled paragraph if I detailed why I so enjoyed this one: perhaps it’s best to say that often Soren is portrayed as cold and detached except in certain circumstances. Here he reveals vulnerable details to his mentor and asks for advice in ways that reveal he, like every human no matter how strong, carries his own insecurities and worries. As always touching on these darker or more fearful aspects of the human psyche is done with wit and sarcasm so the reader is both amused and discomfited at once.
Tiffany Reisz’s stories are so much deeper (pun intended) than a saucy BDSM tale. She pokes fearlessly, sometimes gently, sometimes not, into every nook and corner of what it means to really love. She opens secret drawers that aren’t meant to be opened, letting light and air into dark places and forcing her characters to deal with all the parts of a complex relationship no one wants to talk about. Winter Tales is a fun, exciting, sexy as hell series of stories that fills in some of those dark spaces for Original Sinners characters. I highly recommend picking it up for a cold snowy night: snuggle beneath warm blankets, drink some cocoa (spiked or not) and enjoy the fuck out of smartass smut with serious heart.