Poacher’s Fall and Keeper’s Pledge (Midwinter Manor #1-2) by JL Merrow (4 Stars)

Reviewing these together made more sense, since I didn’t get the feeling of completion I wanted after the first one. The first story was sweet watching Danny help Philip appreciate life again. They spent a bit of time together while Philip helped Danny recover from an injury. Unfortunately, the second story was focused on family drama, and we rarely saw Danny and Philip together. I also didn’t understand how they could be together for four years and still seem to know so little about each other.  It didn’t quite work as a romance for me, but I enjoyed the story and the characters. I also got the happy ending I was hoping for.

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Poacher’s Fall, Midwinter Manor #1

One snowy night just before Christmas, 1922, poacher Danny Costessey rounds off a night trapping rabbits by climbing a tree to fetch some mistletoe for his mother—only to fall and break his leg. Taken to the manor house to recover from his injuries, Danny meets the reclusive owner, Philip Luccombe. Village gossip has it Luccombe went mad during the war, but Danny soon realizes he’s simply still mourning his late lover. As friendship grows between them, Danny starts to fall for handsome, shy Philip.

Danny’s lively nature, roguish good looks, and ready laughter enchant Philip, and he finds himself being drawn out of his shell whether he will it or not. But when Danny tries to move beyond friendship, Philip panics—and his rejection threatens not only their happiness, but Danny’s health.

Keeper’s Pledge, Midwinter Manor #2

A sequel to Poacher’s Fall, set four years later, in 1926.

Landowner Philip Luccombe has been enjoying a passionate relationship with young poacher turned gamekeeper Danny Costessey for four years now. Danny’s love has brought him out of the shell he retreated into when his first lover died after the Great War. But this Christmas, visitors to the manor threaten their happiness. Philip’s young cousin Matthew is artistic, vivacious, and flirtatious: just the sort to remind him of his long-dead first love—and to emphasise the social gulf between Philip and Danny.

But the worst danger comes from much nearer home. An old flame of Danny’s is discovered in incriminating circumstances, forcing the lovers to keep their distance for fear of being tarred with the same brush. Meanwhile, Danny’s younger brother, Toby, has grown to resent the connection between his brother and the lord of the manor. Danny wants to do the right thing—but that could divide the lovers forever.

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