This is a short, direct little story that delivers exactly what the cover promises: a romance in the throes of winter, and a dash of the "something evil lurks" feeling. Matt Bennett is a police detective who, called to a crime scene on Christmas Day, discovers that he is not so emotionally broken as to ignore the murder of a six-year-old girl, and not so close-minded that he can ignore evidence that ghosts are real. His sympathetic, knows-better-than-you sister-in-law Sheila convinces him to talk with a medium who has come to town with his traveling show, and so Matt meets Keirnan Fitzpatrick. The two men form a bond over Matt's ghost and the quest to right the wrong, and the romance breaks out as they get into the hunt.
The plot is set in Somewhere, New York, with a population of a half-million in the city, and an airport nearby. The names of neighborhoods, hotels, and coffee shops build a very convincing backdrop while never once hitting up against reality. We are all familiar with Hilton hotels, and the easy implication that the rich people live in the neighborhood named North Park. The snowy roads with ice and bad plowing jobs are familiar to anyone who has been through that kind of weather.
Likewise, the characters throughout the story are not especially deep, but all have their moments of descriptive charm. The two men's sisters are the self-appointed managers of their brothers's lives - nosy, bossy, funny, and full of love - and they add a strong antidote to the homophobia that Matt has suffered (and internalized) at work. Matt is also recovering from the loss of his previous partner, and trying to move on with an empty heart and an empty house. Keirnan has had to overcome rejection, abandonment, and in one case economic screwage by previous partners because of his paranormal talents and driving need to converse with spirits.
The romance and the paranormal mystery are laid out together with a sure authorial hand under an excellent editor. Copland does not try to make this story more than it is, so the murder and mystery go from discovery to discovery in a strong straight line. The plot thickens and the danger closes in right on schedule, so the romance and the sex scenes are thrown into strong contrast against the external tensions.
The scant handful of sex scenes were quite good for their intensity, humanity, and moments of silly fun. They were also definitely written by a woman, which made them more appealing to me, but possibly less realistic. (I would love to have a gay guy's opinion of the writing to share here, but sorry.) Copland was good enough to give us 150 pages of plot before the sexy times really started, so I feel pretty good about recommending this as a well-balanced book.
My favorite quote from the story is from a t-shirt. It has a big cartoon giraffe on it with a word bubble saying "Moo! I'm a goat!" I like Copland's sense of humor.
I picked this up because it was on the list of e-ARCs available from Geek Speak Magazine. I recommend this book as the winter, by-the-fire equivalent of a beach bag romance. It has a good balance of whimsy and malice, plenty of snow, and lots of heat.
New-to-me Books for 2012
House of the Star by Caitlin Brennan, YA fantasy. 282 pages; hardback; stand-alone. 3/5 stars on Goodreads (3 = "liked it"), 4/5 stars on Amazon (4 = "liked it"); straight into the giveawaybox (eta: gone)
Gwenhwyfar by Mercedes Lackey, Fantasy. 404 pages; hardback; stand-alone. 2/5 stars on Goodreads (2 = "it was OK"), 3/5 stars on Amazon (3 = "it was OK"); straight into the giveawaybox (eta: gone)
Blood Engines by T.A. Pratt, Urban fantasy. 336 pages; paperback; first in the series. 3/5 stars on Goodreads (3 = "liked it"), 4/5 stars on Amazon (4 = "liked it"); going to keep it around and loan it to friends
Hexed edited by uncredited, listed under the first author, Ilona Andrews. Urban Fantasy, 326 pages. Paperback; anthology of four novellas. 3/5 stars on Goodreads, 4/5 stars on Amazon; going to loan it to friends who like Kate Daniels, then likely give it away.
Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White. YA Fantasy, 335 pages. Hardback; first in the series. [3/5 on Goodreads] Giveawaybox. (eta: gone)
Stormwalker, by Allyson James. Urban Fantasy, 330 pages. Paperback; first in the series. [3/5 on Goodreads] Giveawaybox. (eta: gone)
The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson. YA Fantasy, 423 pages. Hardback, stand-alone. [3/5 on Goodreads] Giveawaybox. (eta: gone)
Shadow Ops: Control Point, by Myke Cole. Urban Fantasy... sort of... 382 pages. Paperback, first in the series. [4/5 on Goodreads] Giveawaybox.
Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, fantasy. 672 pages. Paperback; first in the series.[4/5 on Goodreads] Borrowed.
Westward Weird edited by Martin Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes. Hell-if-I-know, 302 pages. Paperback, anthology. [3/5 on Goodreads] Giveawaybox.(eta: gone)
Discount Armageddon, by Seanan McGuire. Urban fantasy, 360 pages. Paperback; first in the series. Keeping it for now.
Fair Game, by Patricia Briggs, Urban fantasy. 293 pages; hardback; third in the series. Keeping it.
The Modern Fae's Guide to Surviving Humanity, edited by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray, Urban fantasy. 308 pages; paperback; anthology. Giveawaybox.(eta: gone)
Tempting Danger, by Eileen Wilks. Paranormal romance, 301 pages. Paperback, first in the series. Giveawaybox.(eta: gone)
Too Much Information, by Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes. Comic book, 127 pages. Paperback. 9th in the series. Keeping it.
Touch of Power, by Maria V. Snyder. Fantasy romance. 390 pages, paperback. First in the series. Giveawaybox.(eta: gone)
Out Whom Shall We Gross?, by Brooke McEldowney. Comic book. 87 pages, paperback. First in the series. Keeping it.
Sonata for Piano and Armpit, by Brooke McEldowney. Comic book. 87 pages, paperback. Second in the series. Keeping it.
Sphinx's Princess, by Esther Friesner. YA Fantasy. 365 pages, paperback. First in the duology. It was a loan. 4/5 on GoodReads.
Sphinx's Queen, by Esther Friesner. YA Fantasy. 347 pages, paperback. Second in the duology. It was a loan. 4/5 on GoodReads.
Bone Shop, by T. A. Pratt. Urban Fantasy. Online. Prequel to the Marla Mason series.
Kitemaster and Other Stories, by Jim C. Hines. Fantasy. e-book anthology. 3/5 on GoodReads, 4/5 on Amazon.
How is that Underling Thing Working out for You?, by Scott Adams. 128 pages, paperback. Comic. Keeping it.
Teamwork Means You Can't Pick the Side That's Right by Scott Adams. 128 pages, paperback. Comic. Keeping it.
The Sentinel Mage, by Emily Gee. Fantasy. 509 pages, paperback. First in the trilogy. It was a loan. 4/5 on GoodReads; 4/5 on Amazon.
Dragon Ship, by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. e-ARC. Science Fiction. Fourth in the series; 14th in the Universe.
Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers, YA fantasy. 549 pages; hardback; stand-alone. Giveawaybox. 4/5 on GoodReads; 4/5 on Amazon.(eta: gone)
Eon, by Allison Goodman. YA Fantasy. 531 pages, paperback. First in the duology. It was a loan.
Silence, by Michele Sagara. YA Fantasy. 289 pages, hardback. First in the series. Keeping it.
Divergent, by Veronica Roth. YA Dystopia, paperback, 487 pages of story, 72 pages of afterwards. First in the duology.
Princeps, by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. Fantasy. 496 pages; hardback; fifth/second in the series. Keeping it.
Black Blade Blues, by L. A. Pratt. Urban Fantasy. 398 pages; paperback; first in the series. It was a loan.
Home from the Sea by Mercedes Lackey, fantasy. 311 pages; hardback; seventh/eighth in the series. Keeping it for now.
Kitty's Greatest Hits by Carrie Vaughn, urban fantasy. 308 pages; paperback; anthology related to the series. Keeping it for now.
Nightshifted by Cassie Alexander, urban fantasy. 331 pages; paperback; first in the series. Giveawaybox.
Hex Appeal edited by P. N. Elrod, urban fantasy. 356 pages; paperback; anthology. Keeping it for now.
Spellcast by Barbara Ashford, fiction (urban fantasy). 433 pages; paperback; first in the series. Keeping it for now.
Monster in My Closet by R. L. Naquin. Urban Fantasy. E-ARC. First in the series.
Spellcrossed by Barbara AShford, urban fantasy. 448 pages; paperback; second in the series. Keeping it.
Cyanide & Happiness; Ice Cream & Sadness by Kris, Rob, Matt, and Dave. Comic books. 160 and 176 pages; paperback. Loaners.
Raven's Shadow by Patricia Briggs, fantasy. 334 pages; paperback; first in the duology. Loan.
Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews, urban fantasy. 433 pages; paperback; sixth in the series. Keeping it.
Greywalker by Kat Richardson, urban fantasy. 352 pages; paperback; first in the series. giveawaybox.
Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill, urban fantasy. 341 pages, paperback; first in the series. giveawaybox.
Friday Night Bites by Chloe Neill, urban fantasy. 357 pages, paperback; second in the series. giveawaybox.
Charming Blue by Kristine Grayson, urban fantasy/romance, E-arc, stand alone (I think). delete.
7th Sigma by Steven Gould, science fiction / western. 384 pages; paperback; stand-alone (I think). Keeping it for now.
Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris, urban fantasy. 325 pages, hardback, 11th in the series. probably giving it away.
Something Red, by Douglas Nichols, e-ARC. Stand-alone.
What Do You Want to Do before You Die? by Jonnie Penn, Dave Lingwood, Duncan Penn, and Ben Nemtin. NonFiction, gigantic paperback, 224 pages. Giving it away to someone who needs it.
Cast in Peril by Michelle Sagara, e-ARC. Book 8 in the Chronicles of Elantra.
Ashes of Honor, by Seanan McGuire. Urban fantasy, paperback, ?? pages. Book 5 in the October Daye series.
Last Wool and Testament, by Molly MacRae. Mystery, 319 pages. Paperback, first in the series.
Reason to Believe, by Diana Copland. Paranormal romance. e-ARC. stand-alone.
Books abandoned in 2012:
Vamparazzi, by Laura Resnick. Accidentally picked up book 3; couldn't invest in the characters.
In case you want back references, here is the Books for 2011 round-up post