Review: A Gift of Ash and Frost by Chrissy Munder

When new residents come to the Grange, Mathias applies for a job at the house and is hired on at the housekeeper’s request for the Christmas season. He finds there a temptation of the body and heart in the form of the house’s master, one that he is ill-equipped to handle or resist … not that he has the desire to do so.

(10,000 words-ebook)

Review by Erastes

This was one of the Advent Calendar stories from Dreamspinner Press, a new story each day, and all set around the winter holiday season. It’s set a few years after 1812, approximately.

I found myself a little confused, as the author weaves a little too much into the first few pages, Mathias is a bastard but he has a recently deceased father, so it appears his parents weren’t married. His mother is a whore, but it’s unclear what role his father played there.There’s inconsistencies–there’s a small staff for the house, we are told, but then we are told that Mathias gets a room to himself because the staff bedrooms are all full up.

It does improve, and once Mathias starts working in the house I found myself reading more fluidly without being jolted, but I’m afraid the characters never really appealed to me, and I wasn’t touched by Mathias’ ‘tragic’ past because he did tend to whine about it. He’s a big strong lad and his mother is whoring to support the family.  I lost my affection for him early on.

The romance element is somewhat sidelined as the author flicks back to more description of the house and tasks than are actually needed. This approach would work better within a full-sized novel, but with a book of 40 or so pages, there needs to be more than two short meetings to convince me of attraction and love on both sides. I think that’s part of the problem, that the premise that is carefully layered, and the subplots put in place as the book progresses are larger than this–a short story–can cope with, and even at the end I couldn’t believe in the  happy ending, as Edward–Mathias’ love interest–didn’t really show that much interest before the last few pages.

Sad to say, that I have to add that it’s not at all well edited. I wanted to sprinkle comma dust over the book as a whole. Several of the run on sentences were almost impossible to decipher due to this lack, missing words confuse further and tenses change without need. It’s a shame, because what is there isn’t that bad, the ideas are good, if ambitious for the size of the book, and the prose could have really sparkled if the editor had done their job.

Author’s website

Buy from Dreamspinner

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