by JC Wilder, paranormal (2007)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-59998-843-7
Winter's Daughter is the first book in a series revolving around sisters who were separated after the death of their mother. They will all return to their home Angelov House in the town of Salem, Ohio more than a decade later, according to their mother's last words to them. These sisters are witches like their mother and there are enough not-so-witchy people of Salem who want to cause trouble, which is why eldest sister Synnamon Angelov's return to Salem twenty years after the death of their mother is not a happy occasion.
Synnamon wants to do two things - get to the bottom of the suspicious death of her mother and to find her other sisters. The poor Salem Police Chief, Matthew Whitefeather, who arrived in town after the Angelov sisters had long been dragged screaming and crying out of town, has no clue at first that the woman he is attracted to is going to stir up a hornet's nest. Ghosts, humans - the party has only started.
A part of me will always wonder what it is with these persecuted witches and their determination to stay in a town that hate them enough to commit violence against them. Perhaps getting burned at the stake is something to be aspired, I don't know, but Syn is adamant at wanting her sisters to stay in Angelov House with her like the Good Old Days - the same days that saw generations of Angelov witches including their mother getting victimized by their neighbors, mind you. It is not as if these witches will use their woo-woo to blast their enemies to dust. Maybe they just like the drama of suffering in the hands of their oppressors.
Anyway, Syn shows up with an ax to break her way into her own house, which will definitely endear her to her neighbors, I tell you. She thinks that the cops have "betrayed" her because she (most reasonably) assumed that the Chief twenty years ago engineered the separation of the Angelov sisters. Yes, she intends to stay here with her sisters and all. Really, don't ask me why. Syn had it pretty rough in the years after her forced departure from Salem, having spent time even in prison. I'd expect her to know better than to come back to town. Maybe what these women lack in common sense, they have in abundance a high tolerance for pain. I understand the need to come back to get answers for her mother's death, but... I don't know. The author is aware of how silly it is for Syn to want to stay in Salem as there will be a scene later on where Syn's mother will return as a ghost to tell Syn to get out of town. But she also makes things too easy to be believable here by having the town turning into a happy place after the bad guys are picked clean, as if centuries of prejudice are wiped away just like that.
Therefore, I don't find the premise of Winter's Daughter that believable. While I like how the author manages to weave in the paranormal aspects of the story cohesively with the romantic suspense elements, this story could have easily gotten rid of the paranormal aspects. In other words, this is a very standard small town romantic suspense, only with woo-woo, right down to the gender and motives of the predictable villain. I have read many romantic suspense stories that follow the same script as this one.
The main characters are likable on the whole, with Syn actually being a nicely balanced character whose angst doesn't bleed too often into annoying acts of mule-headedness or self-pity. I still think she could have set up home elsewhere in a much more welcoming place, but she and Matthew nonetheless have a pretty solid love thing going on here.
All in all, Winter's Daughter is a most readable paranormal romantic suspense with a fairly likable couple as main characters. But I also feel that I have read this story in various less paranormal incarnations many times before.
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