Title: Winter Knights
Author: Harper Fox
Publisher: Carina Press
Amazon: Buy Link Winter Knights
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance/Paranormal-lite/Holiday
Length: 35000 words
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: Reality and fantasy collide in this beautifully written story, where two lovers learn how to compromise and respect each other with some extra help.
Historian Gavin Lowden is in Northumberland on Christmas Eve for two reasons: to find evidence of a romantic bond between Arthur and Lancelot, and to finally tell his partner Piers that he loves him. Piers has promised to come clean with his conservative family and join Gavin for their first holiday as a couple, but at the last minute, he bails. Devastated, Gavin heads out onto the moors alone, just as snow begins to fall…
Gavin stumbles into an underground chamber, where strange happenings cause him to question what is real and what is fantasy. He’s found by two mysterious men who offer him a bed for the night—and awaken him to nuances of erotic pleasure he didn’t know existed. Pleasure he hopes to share with Piers.
When Piers learns that Gavin has gone missing, he is desperate to find him. He knows now breaking up was a terrible mistake, and he’s ready to take the next step in their relationship—if it’s not already too late.
This story is a part of the Carina Press winter holiday-themed anthology, Men Under the Mistletoe. There are some things I expect in a holiday anthology — reunions, second chances, forgiveness, willingness to move forward from the past hurts and yes, some miracles too. I think this story certainly delivered on all of those themes.
I thought that the setting was beautifully done and I loved how Harper Fox mixed fantasy and reality in it while still making me wonder as to what was real and what was not at the end. Any man who wants to prove that Arthur and Lancelot were real and had a strong bond is a man after my heart as I have such a weakness for those two, so I was bound to like Gavin from the moment he appears on page. I also enjoyed how the writer managed to portray both Gavin and Piers as very layered and flawed, but at the same time likeable characters. I thought that first and foremost the story dealt with the fragility of the human relationships, with how easy it is to destroy something and how much harder to mend it back.
“Exactly. We’re such frail things, Gav. So easy to knock the trust and hope out of us. There has to be something to make us fight.”
I also enjoyed how Fox developed the religious theme in this tale. This is not the first story I have read which deals with one of the characters struggling with reconciling his faith and being gay, but this was one of the few stories which dealt with this theme with such effortless skill and without being preachy at all. Does true faith need to be reconciled with anything or does the one who truly believes understand that loving another person is a part of true faith? Piers may have made a few missteps along the way, but he does know where his heart lies. Gavin does not need to learn how much he loves Piers, but he learns to be more patient and tolerant and realizes how much Piers already moved forward to be with him. It was actually quite refreshing for me to read a story where one of the protagonists is reminded of being patient towards the other who is still somewhat in the closet and who is travelling the road with his own pace. More often than not I am so very annoyed when I read a story where one of the heroes demands that his beloved just needs to get out of the closet and to do it NOW. I was pleased when Gavin learns to change his tune and of course Piers meets him halfway as well.
“He was never going to lapse from his Catholicism any more than I was likely to convert, but our worlds had met somewhere in this shared vision and we both knew it”.
Lastly, just a note for those of you who are sensitive to it, there is, as the blurb hints at, a ménage scene.
Overall I thought this story was just overwhelmingly beautiful. Highly recommended.