After The Duchess War, I decided to take a break from Milan just so I wouldn’t finish the series too quickly. Yesterday, I started a novel that is good but kind of grim. Last night, I thought I would just take a look at the next book in the “Brothers Sinister” series, the novella A Kiss for Midwinter, and here we are. This is a holiday story that I know some Cannonballers like to reread at Christmastime, and, in the way of Milan, it offers a combination of a great love story, very interesting historical information, and two characters who have to come to grips with their own issues before they can move forward in a relationship.
The two main characters in this story were minor characters in The Duchess War, and I’m really glad Milan developed them further here. In The Duchess War, we learned that Lydia Charingford, Minnie Pursling’s best friend, had gotten pregnant out of wedlock and miscarried. It is mentioned in passing that the young and handsome Dr. Grantham seems to have an interest in Lydia but she wants nothing to do with him due to the fact that Jonas Grantham is one of the very few people in Leicester who knows that Lydia had been pregnant as a 15-year-old. In A Kiss for Midwinter, Milan gives us the whole story of Lydia’s pregnancy and the Charingford family’s fateful meeting with Dr. Parwine and novice medical student Jonas Grantham. The action then jumps forward 5 years when Jonas has finished medical school and returns to Leicester to take over Parwine’s practice. Dr. Grantham decides for very practical reasons that he needs to get married: he wants to have sex and not get a venereal disease so he’s gotta find that one good woman. Lucky for him, he is good looking and plenty of young ladies would be thrilled to become Mrs. Dr. Grantham. He ranks the most eligible and develops a top ten list (!) but there’s one young lady, #11, whom he cannot seem to put aside. What he does not realize is that his #11 is Lydia Charingford. She, however, immediately recognizes Jonas and is determined to hate him. Lydia is convinced that Jonas thinks her naive, immoral, an object of derision. Jonas does himself no favors in trying to win her over. While Lydia is an optimist who seems to be able to see the best in everyone (except Jonas), Jonas spends his days seeing the worst humanity has to offer. He has a tendency toward sarcasm and gallows humor, which even his friends realize makes him something of an “acquired taste.” He is constantly putting his foot in his mouth when talking to Lydia, and she is only too ready to find offense. Jonas decides to offer Lydia a deal: go on medical rounds in Leicester with him three times. If Lydia, after doing so, can agree that there are some people/cases that are hopeless, she must give Jonas a kiss. If, on the other hand, she can maintain her cheerful attitude, then Jonas must leave her alone and never speak to her again.
It is during the course of those medical rounds that the reader learns more about Jonas and his past, and Lydia is forced to confront all the things that have happened to her. Milan presents the reader with some very interesting facts about medicine in the mid-19th century and the ways in which it was changing and improving. She also demonstrates attitudes toward sex, the ignorance in which many young women lived regarding the sex act and pregnancy, and the double standard that turned a blind eye toward men’s sexual activity while condemning women for it. As ever, Milan details Lydia’s personal journey and Jonas’ with great care and respect. Of course, there are some sexy scenes, too, but what I especially liked about this novella was the message that sex and desire are normal, natural functions, and that it’s important to speak plainly about our bodies. It’s a penis and a vagina! Use the real words and not euphemisms! And teach your kids the same!