Monday, February 18, 2019

Snowed In: Nen and Anani by Nell Iris Release Blitz

It is time to go to my son.

Nen waited to hear those words from the Vasilissa for fifteen rotations, since that time the snow wouldn’t stop falling. But now that he’s about to meet Anani, the love of his life, again, he’s afraid. What if Anani doesn’t feel the same anymore?

Anani, the guardian of the water element, was only seventeen when he was banished from his mother’s court. Heartbroken he couldn’t be with the one he loved, he lost control over his emotions and his power. No matter what he tried, the snow wouldn’t stop, and as a last resort, he was sent away.

When they finally meet again, Anani is hopeful but disillusioned. The law that kept them apart hasn’t changed. How will they be able to find their happily ever after?

And what happens when the snow starts falling again?

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A third knock hushes the forest even more. Not a single insect can be heard. Is the wildlife waiting for me to leave? Is he? Would he answer if I call out to him? Or will the sound of my voice make him even more resolved to stay behind the closed door?

Before I have time to come to a decision, the door is yanked open and he appears in the opening.

The Vasilieu.

Oh, great Spirit, still my heart!

He is magnificent!

He is willowy tall and has grown so much these last fifteen rotations, reaching me to my nose, standing over a head taller than any other member of his family. He’s dressed like a commoner in a tunic and pants even plainer than my own – where's his kaftan? The clothes hug his body and reveal every long sinewy muscle in his legs and arms.

Hair as white as newly fallen snow is parted in the middle and hangs straight to his waist. His nose, slightly upturned, gives him a mischievous look. His pale lips, imperceptibly darker than his skin color, are pillowy but set in a severe line.

But it's his eyes that draw my attention. Pale blue eyes staring at me as if he can't believe what he's seeing. After a few heartbeats, they widen, and he lets out a gasp.

A wave of emotions hit me square in the chest. What was muted just moments before grows into an avalanche as though he let them loose, or lost control of them. They overwhelm me; I physically feel them, poking and prodding my breast, invading my heart. I stagger a few steps backward and sink to my knees without hesitation. I don't avert my gaze. "Vasilieu."

He narrows his eyes. "Do not call me that. You know my name. Use it."

The barrage of his emotions intensifies, making it hard to breathe but easy for me to identify them. Disbelief. Uncertainty. Hope.

... Happiness?

Yes, definitely happiness.

"Anani," I whisper. Never before have I uttered his name, not even alone in the night. Saying it now is terrifying and freeing all at once. And it feels right, as though my lips are meant to say it. Whisper it in his ear as our limbs are entwined and sweaty.

He surges forward and throws himself on his knees before me. Cups my cheeks and lets his thumbs caress my beard. His gaze flits over my face as if though he's trying to take in all the changes that have happened since we saw each other last. The crow's feet by my eyes. The corners of my mouth that are downturned from the lack of smiling. The first gray at my temples in a sea of black, bristly hair.

I'm an older, more tired-looking version of the man who watched him walk away all those rotations ago, while he's more breathtaking than ever.

"Vasilieu. Don't kneel before me. It's not proper."

"Nen. Oh Nen. Is it really you?" he asks as if he didn't hear my plea. His hands explore my face; the fingertips linger in my wrinkles and lines, sending sparkles through my body. He tugs lightly on my beard and gazes into my eyes. I wonder what he sees.

"Vasilieu. Anani." The second time I use his name is even more momentous. "Stand, I beg you."

He sits back on his heels. "What are you doing here?" His disbelief melts away. Clearly, he trusts his own eyes and what he can see before him. Confusion takes its place. With grace, he rises to his feet, bends down to grab my hands, and pulls me to standing with little help from me. Spirit, he is strong!

He doesn't let go.

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

This was an absolutely lovely story. This is the first fantasy romance I’ve read by Nell Iris and I really hope she has more planned for the future. The world she created in Elemiis and the characters we met there had me glued to my Kindle from start to finish. Yes, this is a novella so it wasn’t a long read, but when I started it on my lunch break I planned to read half of it and finish it later that evening. However, once I embarked upon the journey with Nen to Anani’s cottage, I found myself unable to stop reading until I reached the end. And even knowing that Iris’ stories are typically snapshots of moments in the lives of her characters, I still was unprepared for the final page because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the two men. I wanted the story to continue so I could see how the next chapter in their lives would play out. Alas, that was not to be.

One of the things that kept me off balance as I read was that I kept forgetting the near-decade age difference between Nen and Anani. Anani is more mature than I expected him to be based on the young man we “met” in Nen’s memories. I suspect living on his own, separated from friends and family and being denied the luxuries befitting of a prince (though not the title used in Elemiis), had more to do with his maturity than the fifteen years that passed since the two last saw one another. Yet it is Anani’s attempts to protect himself from what he sees as inevitable heartbreak when he’s separated from Nen once again that packs the emotional punch. Interestingly, Nen’s empathic gift is both a boon and a source of angst. It’s a boon in that it gives him the insight he needs to not give up on Anani and to keep reaching out to the younger man, but it is a source of angst in that his heart is still put through the wringer as Anani grapples with his expected heartbreak warring with his hope over what the future holds for them. There is a beauty in watching Anani begin to believe that a future with Nen is possible and seeing how that hope takes root and allows the young man who once believed in love and happily ever afters to resurface. I will admit that I did feel as though there was a thread in the story that remained just outside of my reach. I’m unsure if I was so caught up in the romance that I missed something, if the author didn’t develop it fully, or if she left it unanswered on purpose, but I felt like the mystery surrounding Anani’s magic and its strength wasn’t fully addressed, then again, I would love to read a sequel to this story, so perhaps it’s just wishful thinking on my part.

On a side note, while I understand that the same cover is used across the various stories in this collection, it really does a disservice to this particular novella. While the bottom half of the cover could conceivably represent Anani’s cottage in the woods, the upper half of the cover is far too suggestive of a contemporary romance set in an urban setting. So potential readers, don’t let the cover put you off as Nen and Anani’s story is a lovely fantasy romance complete with all the magic I’ve come to expect from Iris’ writing.

NELL IRIS is a romantic at heart who believes everyone deserves a happy ending. She’s a bona fide bookworm (learned to read long before she started school), wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without something to read (not even the ladies’ room), loves music (and singing along but, let’s face it, she’s no Celine Dion), and is a real Star Trek nerd (“Make it so”). She loves words, poetry, wine, and Sudoku, and absolutely adores elephants!

Nell believes passionately in equality for all regardless of race, gender, or sexuality, and wants to make the world a better, less hateful, place.

Nell is a forty-something bisexual Swedish woman, married to the love of her life, and a proud mama of a grown daughter. She left the Scandinavian cold and darkness for warmer and sunnier Malaysia a few years ago, and now spends her days writing, surfing the Internet, enjoying the heat, and eating good food. One day she decided to chase her lifelong dream of being a writer, sat down in front of her laptop, and wrote a story about two men falling in love.

Nell Iris writes gay romance, prefers sweet over angst, and wants to write diverse and different characters.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Snowed In: Nen and Anani by Nell Iris to read and review for this tour.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this fabulous review! I'm humbled by your kind words ❤️


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