Qhuinn and Blay made a lifetime commitment to each other, but they've never gotten around to having a proper mating ceremony. Their busy lives as fathers and warriors seem to keep getting in the way. Now as the residents of the Brotherhood's mansion prepare to celebrate Christmas, their mountaintop home is hit by a fierce blizzard that transforms the merry atmosphere into one that takes a dangerous and deadly turn. In the aftermath of the storm, a tragic discovery is made that puts Qhuinn and Blay's relationship in jeopardy. As they both battle feelings of guilt and Qhuinn goes to a dark place, their love is put to the test. But with a little help from a fellow Brother, Qhuinn makes a surprising discovery that helps him realize that nothing is more important than his mate and their family and that all he needs to do is let Blay's love light the way.
Despite being classified as a between the books story in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, A Warm Heart in Winter is a full-length novel that revisits fan favorite couple, Qhuinn and Blaylock. It's the Christmas season, and while the residents of the Brotherhood's mansion started celebrating the holiday in deference to their members who were raised human, they now fully embrace it. However, before Christmas arrives, a blizzard hits their mountaintop home, causing mayhem when the power goes out, leaving some of the daytime shutters frozen open. As they battle the elements to get things back under control, little do they know that a tragedy is playing out for one member of their ranks that will have repercussions for our happy couple. As Qhuinn struggles to recover from the devastating event, it affects his relationship with Blay. But as help comes from an unlikely source, he makes a startling discovery that helps him realize nothing is more important than his mate and their family, leading to a joyous celebration of life and their love.
Qhuinn and Blay have always been one of my favorite couples in this series, even though that's sometimes difficult to quantify given the sheer volume of wonderful characters in these books. But in any case, I was extremely happy to revisit them and share in this new chapter of their lives together. The story opens with Qhuinn sustaining a serious injury out in the field, although it comes from a bunch of hooligans rather than while fighting their new enemy. This has the effect of scaring the crap out of Blay, but the real challenge doesn't occur until a tragic discovery is made following the blizzard, which leaves Qhuinn struggling emotionally and shutting Blay out. As he tries to navigate his feelings of guilt and pain, he finds a lifeline in a fellow Brother, and with Blay's unconditional love and support, he discovers a long-buried secret that makes him realize the importance of having a proper mating ceremony with his hellren. Qhuinn and Blay are so perfect for one another, and their relationship is built on the lasting foundation of a deep friendship that has never died, instead morphing into them recognizing each other as their one true mate. When facing challenges, they've always been present for one another. Blay especially has been a positive influence in the tortured Qhuinn's life and in this new chapter nothing has changed. Even though Blay fears that his actions may have driven Qhuinn away when the other male becomes distant, he quickly realizes that their love goes far deeper than that. I greatly enjoyed finally getting to see the ultimate culmination of their love for one another.
As is typical for the BDB series, there are peripheral POVs and supporting characters aplenty. Surprisingly Zsadist is one of the secondary POV characters. I say surprisingly, because although I can't recall for sure, this may be the first time since his own book that we've seen things through his eyes. After hearing a shocking message that seems directed at him, Z reluctantly revisits the past, but with Mary's help, he becomes an inspiration for the floundering Qhuinn. The other POV character is a human teenage girl named Elle who is new to the series. The story opens with her taking a late night joyride with her younger sister that could have turned tragic if not for Qhuinn's help. At first, her storyline seems rather random, but it ends up intersecting with the main part of the narrative in a way that caught me by surprise and left me hoping that perhaps we haven't seen the last of her yet. Qhuinn's brother, Luchas, was found alive in a vat of the Omega's blood quite a number of books ago (so long I can't even recall in which one :-)). Since then, he's been languishing in the Brotherhood's clinic, and although he's been making some progress on his recovery, he's still a shadow of his former self. We finally get some resolution to his story, and although it wasn't quite what I was expecting or hoping for him, it added a great deal of emotion and drama to the narrative. The Bastard Balthazar shows off his skills as a thief when he literally scales the mansion during the blizzard to help with the shutters and gets a potentially deadly shock. Then there's Lassiter, the fallen angel who is now the race's deity. I absolutely love this guy. In one scene, he can crack me up with his irreverence and flamboyance. Then in another scene, he can be totally serious and show just how kind and compassionate he really is. Of course, I think pretty much all the main series characters show up in some capacity within the story, rounding out the cast.
Overall, A Warm Heart in Winter was another wonderful read in the BDB series. It's filled with emotion, warmth, drama, and tension that keep the story moving at a nice pace. There's also a good amount of passionate, steamy scenes for Qhuinn and Blay, as well as heartfelt romance as they stamp paid to their union. I never had any doubt about their rightness for one another or their HEA in Lover at Last, but I still loved seeing this new chapter in their relationship. My heart also went out to Z who clearly still has issues, but proves that he's moved forward sufficiently to pay the help he's received forward. This book took me on a roller-coaster of emotions, bringing a few tears to my eyes over the pain and heartache that our main characters experience. But it also lifted me up with the joy of both the holiday season and seeing a love completed and fulfilled. A Warm Heart in Winter was a wonderful addition to the series and makes me look forward to the next novel, Lover Unveiled, which will be arriving on bookshelves in a few months.
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