Title: Snow in July
Author: Kim Iverson Headlee
Publisher: Pendragon Cove Press
Release Date: July 2014
Genre: Historical, Paranormal, Romance
ARC Received From & Reviewed For: My Family's Heart
Sir Robert Alain de Bellencombre has been granted what every man wants: a rich English estate in exchange for his valiant service at the Battle of Hastings. To claim this reward, the Norman knight must wed the estate's Saxon heiress. Most men would leap at such an opportunity, but for Alain, who broke his vow to his dying mother by failing to protect his youngest brother in battle, it means facing more easily broken vows. But when rumors of rampant thievery, dangerous beasts, and sorcery plaguing a neighboring estate reach his ears, nothing will make him shirk duty to king and country when people's lives stand at risk. He assumes the guise of a squire to scout the land, its problems, and its lady.
Lady Kendra of Edgarburh has been granted what no woman wants: a forced marriage to an enemy who may be kith or kin to the man who murdered her beloved brother. Compounding her anguish is her failure to awaken the miraculous healing gift bequeathed by their late mother in time to save his life. Although with his dying breath, he made her promise to seek happiness above all, Kendra vows that she shall find neither comfort nor love in the arms of a Norman… unless it snows in July.
Alain is smitten by Lady Kendra from the first moment of their meeting; Kendra feels the forbidden allure of the handsome and courtly Norman "squire." But a growing evil overshadows everyone, invoking dark forces and ensnaring Kendra in a plot to overthrow the king Alain is oath-bound to serve. Kendra and Alain face a battle unlike any other as their honor, their love, their lives, and even their very souls lie in the balance.
Is it selfish to want happiness when one is called to fulfilled their duty? What of the emotions and doubts one bears? Are they ignored for the sake of duty? Or are they acted on?
Kendra and Alain are both grieving, she for her brother and he for a broken promise. Obligation has already bound them together. Fulfillment has yet to take place. Deception keeps them from really knowing one another and could, in the end, bring about more pain than happiness. But if it helps Alain get to know his soon-to-be bride, is the price worth it?
For a moment, I didn't think it was. Lies beget hurt and distrust among people, but Alain proved his honor time and again when it came to Kendra. Was it easy to forgive his deception of being a squire instead of her betrothed? For me, yes because his heart and intentions always ran parallel to one another.
The evil that grows in the shadows lurks throughout the story. It doesn't fade in the background while Alain and Kendra's relationship and feelings flourish. It seems to develop in time with it and brought with it this sense of urgency in me. I crossed my fingers that Kendra would remain safe, that Alain would rescue her before it was too late. I held my breath as I watched the climax unfold and breathed a sigh of relief when the dust settled and the world was right again.
I've never read anything by Ms. Headlee. I'm not sure if her other stories are like this one, written with depth and pull, appeal and intrigue. Not only did she open this story with an epic battle scene but she never lost that momentum it set. Alain and Kendra are characters worth knowing. Their emotions for one another and for their circumstances were, at times, consuming and made me wish their happiness would happen sooner. But a quick end wouldn't have been fulfilling for me. Another aspect I think other readers will enjoy and, hopefully, appreciate, is the history woven into this story. It isn't told, doesn't read like it would from a textbook, but is, like I said, woven through Alain and Kendra's story. You don't have to be a history buff or be familiar with the time period because Ms. Headlee does an amazing job of putting you there, of having you experience the life and times and going-ons of this period.
A beautiful story that doesn't diminish evil while building up and reinforcing a love that defies all boundaries.
Kim Headlee lives on a farm in southwestern Virginia with her family, cats, goats, Great Pyrenees goat guards, and assorted wildlife. People and creatures come and go, but the cave and the 250-year-old house ruins—the latter having been occupied as recently as the mid-twentieth century—seem to be sticking around for a while yet. She has been an award-winning novelist since 1999 (Dawnflight, first edition, Sonnet Books, Simon & Schuster) and has been studying the Arthurian Legends for nigh on half a century.