Book Title: Blood Winter
Author: S.J. Coles
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Release Date: December 29, 2020
Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Paranormal/Vampire Romance
Trope/s: Forbidden love, enemies to lovers, stuck together, rural romance
Themes: Healing, belonging, finding acceptance, alternate reality
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Length: 71 797 words/ 266 pages
There is a sequel planned.
Vampires are attempting to integrate into human society.
When Alec MacCarthy first meets a ‘haemophile’ in the flesh, it’s not the obvious dangers that frighten him.
Alec MacCarthy, Lord of Aviemore and largely-forgotten descendent of a once-proud family line, keeps the wolf from the door of the crumbling family mansion by restoring classic cars.
He leaves the real world alone and wishes nothing more than for it to return the favor. But in a reality where haemophiles—still colloquially known as vampires, despite the publicity campaigns—have come out of hiding and are attempting to integrate into human society, the real world is rapidly becoming a disrupted and conflicted mess that threatens to trouble even Alec in his remote Scottish hideaway.
When he unwittingly attends a Blood Party to please a friend, he has his first meeting with one of these mysterious and dangerous beings. Terje is like nothing he has ever encountered before…literally. His reactions are as troublesome as they are undeniable.
Alec’s snap decision to help the haemophile rather than sample his sense-heightening and addictive blood sets them both on a path that will lead them into a tangled web of intrigue with consequences that will change their lives—and the world—forever.
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence, murder, kidnapping, blood stealing, drug use, addiction and blood drinking.
“You have questions.” He sat and uncorked the bottle. The electric lantern made his pale skin glow. It shone off his high cheekbones and the lines of his neck. His mouth was soft, his lips slightly curved, even at rest. I remembered it open, redder than blood, the teeth shockingly white and sharp. I remembered his hands, strong enough to crack the wood of the basement door, strong enough to break Brody’s bones. But now he sat easily in my kitchen chair, regarding me steadily with calm, entrancing eyes. He was terrifying, but he was beautiful, like a freezing winter morning in the very heart of the mountains. I bridled at the thought and dropped my gaze to the tabletop.
“How old are you?” I heard myself ask.
“Not old enough to have known Jacob More,” he said, with something like amusement in his voice.
“That’s not an answer.”
He still didn’t smile but something like humor flickered in the dark depths of his eyes. “I don’t know exactly. Over eighty, less than a hundred.”
“How do you not know how old you are?”
He lifted a shoulder in a half-shrug. “You stop counting after a while.” I narrowed my eyes and his mouth twitched. “And, well…at the time, it wasn’t considered important where I’m from.” His brow creased slightly, his eyes far away. “I remember the Second World War but not the first. Do I get to ask a question now?”
I chewed on the inside of my cheek, regarding him closely and trying not to think about the fluttering in my belly. “What question?”
“Is this really your home?”
He tilted his chin slightly. “I knew you must live here when we arrived. I could smell it. But the place looks like it belongs to someone else.”
Something prickled over the skin of my back. “Again, why do you care?”
“Just curious, like you.”
“I’m not curious about you,” I said in tight voice. “That’s not what this is.”
He inclined his head. “Very well. You don’t have to answer. Next question?”
I picked at a splinter on the table, not looking at him. “Daylight…”
“What about it?”
“Does it kill you?”
“The cellar?” He sipped his wine. His mouth was stained slightly pink. I hurriedly lifted my gaze. “We have to sleep, just like you do.”
“During the day?”
“We’re sensitive to sunlight,” he said slowly, factually. “We don’t produce melanin in the same way, so we burn easily. And it’s hard to see.”
“So you just…sleep?”
He frowned at his glass. “Not the way you sleep. The Blood requires us to…offline. Recharge.”
“Could you stay awake if you wanted? During the day?”
“Yes, though it’s hard. But the Blood wakes us if there’s a threat. Is it my turn now?”
I hesitated and reached for the other glass. “I thought you said you were supposed to answer my questions.”
“Polite conversation normally goes both ways.”
I fought a scowl. “We’re not exactly meeting at a dinner party here.”
“No,” he said softly, looking into the fire. “But that’s not my fault, is it?”
Review: Blood Winter is the debut novel of S.J. Coles and it’s extraordinary. This is an author to add to follow for certain.
In this luscious world that Coles has created… vampires or haemophiles are beginning the difficult task of co-existence with human beings. Naturally, there is push back from both sides, misunderstandings and ample potential for abuse.
Alec MacCarthy is the Lord of Aviemore, living in the family mansion he inherited and repairing classic cars for a living. The title of Lord isn’t something that Alec embraces in any way… he’s existing within the confines of the walls of his family home; he certainly isn’t thriving.
When his ex’s sister – Meg – requests his presence at an important event… Alec is pulled back into the outside world briefly. Unfortunately, it’s not briefly enough to avoid accidentally attending a “blood party”. At this party, Alec is disgusted when he realizes that the host has obtained a haemophile for them to drink from. The poor creature looks as though it is suffering and in spite of his fear and trepidation it is Alec’s instinct to help the haemophile.
While trying to ease the suffering of the haemophile, Alec sets off a series of events that changes his life drastically. The haemophile, named Terje, isn’t at all what Alex expected him to be.
Let’s see… what did I love about this novel? The short answer is everything. Let me break it down a bit though.
The characters in “Blood Winter” are glorious. These are the kinds of characters that feel so real that I can’t let go of them once they are in my brain. Alex is a bit of a lost soul, struggling with where he fits into the world…but also a bit stuck. He’s moving through the days almost as though he’s just adrift and doesn’t really care to determine his route anymore. There’s something very empathetic about Alec. Despite the way he has withdrawn from life, he still feels connections to people…and that makes him unique.
Terje is fascinating. As Alex and Terje get to know one another, the reader gets to learn more about haemophiles and their existence. Coles has done a fantastic job of creating creatures that are unique … it’s an original take on vampires. I particularly loved the way that Terje knows he is “other” than human. His thought patterns are unique and intriguing… and I really enjoyed the conversations that he and Alec had as they tried to understand one another.
Coles’ writing style is lyrical and descriptive… almost poetic at times. There are long passages in this book that are quite stunning and beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.
As the intrigue and danger build up in the book, the relationship between Terje and Alec grows and endangers them both even more. Each being is risking something for them to stay near one another…and they seem to be surrounded by constant threats.
This is an exciting story. It’s packed with action, intrigue, engaging characters and passion. The plot is solid and captivating.
About the Author
S.J. Coles is a Romance writer originally from Shropshire, UK. She has been writing stories for as long as she has been able to read them. Her biggest passion is exploring narratives through character relationships.
She finds writing LGBT/paranormal romance provides many unique and fulfilling opportunities to explore many (often neglected or under-represented) aspects of human experience, expectation, emotion and sexuality.
Among her biggest influences are LGBT Romance authors K J Charles and Josh Lanyon and Vampire Chronicles author Anne Rice.