Review: Once Upon a Winter’s Eve by Tessa Dare

Once Upon a Winter's Eve by Tessa Dare
Once Upon a Winter’s Eve
Tessa Dare
Publisher: Samhaim Publishing
Publication Date: November 15, 2011
Series or Standalone: Spinde Cove #1.5
Links: Amazon Barnes & NobleGoodreadsStoryGraph
Rating: 1.5 Stars


CW: Violence; sexual harassment

I somehow skipped this novella when I did my last reread of the Spindle Cove series. Now, normally I adore Tessa Dares work – she writes some of the funniest, smartest, and sexiest historical romance novels out there. But this novella was not it. I think I actually hated it? And that pains me to say. Violet should have stayed FAR away from Christian as that man is a walking red flag.

Violet Winterbottom is a wallflower with a knack for languages (she speaks six!). During the Spindle Cove Christmas ball, a mystery strange crashes into the ballroom and collapses at her feet. Wet, chilled, bleeding, and speaking an unfamiliar tongue, any young lady would stay far away from him. But Violet understands him, and she sees a flicker of someone she once loved in him. She has one night to uncover his secrets, but he would rather seduce than confess to his true identity 

While we do get to see a few friendly faces from Spindle Cove, this story is very much a standalone novella and has little impact on the overarching series. I would recommend skipping it if you’re reading the Spindle Cove series, as it adds little and is super frustrating.

My biggest issue with this novella was that Christian is the WORST. This man is such a prick, and all he does is lie! I don’t know what Violet sees in him or how she can ever trust him after everything he’s done. I also did not buy that he was in love with Violet this whole time – there was no setup or emotional arc for him at all. Literally, just thinking about his actions ENRAGES ME. Like, dude, you’re not really doing all that much work in your job to justify how you treated Violet.

I also thought Violet would kick his butt to the curb after how he treated her in the past, but she too easily accepted him back, in my opinion. I seriously thought she would make him work harder to make it up to her considering she had been referring to him as the Disappointment over the years. On a positive note, I did enjoy Violet’s intelligence and her way with languages – I can see how she would fit in well with the ladies of Spindle Cove. 

So clearly, the romance didn’t really work for me, given all this. Dare does manage to squeeze in two sexy love scenes, but I wasn’t feeling it as I didn’t buy the emotional arc of these characters. I was so disengaged by the end and actually hoping Violet would come to her sense and leave him behind, but they do get their happily ever after. 

For me, this novella suffers from too much telling and not enough showing. I wish there were more flashback scenes to show Christian and Violet’s past, as I think that would have helped the emotional arc of the story and made me more connected to the romance. 

There were also a few scenes that rubbed me the wrong way, like the one with Sally Bright’s father and when Violet literally carved the letter V into Christian’s chest, which really hampered my enjoyment of this story. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love Tessa Dare! She has written some of my all-time favorite historical romance novels. But this novella felt nothing like her regular writing and left me scratching my head at the end of it. Luckily, it was a quick read, but I would definitely skip this if you’re checking out her backlist or reading the Spindle Cove series

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