(My title for those who want to join me on my journey... 'Fellow Travelers'.)
First of all let me say I never do anything arbitrarily in my stories. In the "Harp & Sword Chronicles" there are reasons for certain characters and occurrences within this 4 part story line. Now, "Passion's Chill" is book 2 in this arc, and it contains A LOT of information. As a result people are probably finding it difficult to get through. I received a very sensitive, but critical private message from a reader who commented on what they did NOT like about the story. However, I should note they didn't tell me anything they did like. So, though their points coming from a reader's perspective were valid, the criticism in and of itself was unbalanced. Why? Because they confessed that they actually skipped through most of the book to get to the major battle near the end. Their take on it was that there was too much back story. Ok, I get it, I understand. So, here's my request (plea, argument, what have you): skip book 2. I mean, seriously. There is a lot of back story, and... another criticism was that the promised 'wedding night' between Thaddeus and Stephen didn't happen. However, I don't know what this reader skipped, but it's possible they missed the hint from Thaddeus' POV that there would be no 'wedding night' between Stephen and himself because of Stephen's terminal illness. Even the possibility of sex with Stephen never crossed his mind.
So, no I never promised a 'wedding night' between them. I'm sorry the reader was expecting one, but with the circumstances surrounding Stephen's lung illness it just didn't make sense to put it in this area of the story arc. (Trust me they will get together, their sexual union WILL happen, just not until the end of book 4. How it's done, though, is one of the things I refuse to give away. :) )
Onto the battle scene:
Granted it could be construed as a tad anti-climatic, as the Mist of Light making an appearance in Thaddeus' battle to the death, sort of threw the reader off guard a bit, but... the Mist of Light is very necessary to the story. As I said I never do anything arbitrarily. The Mist of Light is invested in the lives of Thaddeus and Stephen, and it will do whatever is necessary to keep that investment intact. Even if that means assisting Thaddeus in drawing first blood in the battle. The superstition being that the people will cheer the one who draws first blood, as that is a sign the fighter is blessed by the Gods. With Stephen being in danger of execution for the charge of 'treason' against the established religious order, his champion to win favor with the people was something I deemed a necessary punctuation to the battle. Yes, the battle could have gone on longer, but the story was already over 95,000 words. I needed to cut somewhere, and to prolong a battle where the hero is obviously supposed to win, just seemed gratuitous. I could have cut scenes in other places, true, but that would only have cut the word count down to about 92,000 words. In going over the story line yet again, I honestly could not see where I could cut from it any more than that without damaging the set up of other characters who are necessary to its development.
In a sense 'Passion's Chill' is a foreshadowing of what is going to happen in the future installments, even beyond book 4. So, it's up to you. If you honestly cannot get through Passion's Chill, just know that Thaddeus and Stephen get together as Warrior Guard and Royal Charge; then move on to book 3 "Visions", which takes place a year later. That book begins the second half of Thaddeus and Stephen's story regarding how they find out what their destiny entails. It's a shorter story, building up to the ending of this arc in book 4 (which may yet turn into two parts, as again there will be a lot of story. This time more action, more reveals, and the whole purpose of why Thaddeus and Stephen are brought together.)
This story took over 12 years to write. It's seen revision after revision, rewrite after rewrite and a lot of heart and soul has been poured into it. I have a vision for this story. There's a lot more coming than just the first 4 books. And I would hate for readers to miss out on anything even remotely associated with all that Thaddeus and Stephen are going to be facing, as well as the supplemental characters. It's not going to end with book 4, just this story arc. What happens after book 4 will be worth this entire journey.
I ask you to trust me... I know where I'm going with it. But, like I said, if you absolutely cannot get through book 2, or if others told you it's not worth reading, then skip it and move on to book 3. I'm being completely serious. Passion's Chill sets the stage for the second half of their story line, but "Visions" will begin to move the characters into the ultimate showdown.
I hope you will view this as a capitulation on my part that I understand some may find it difficult to get through "Passion's Chill". I just don't want you to miss the rest of the story. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
Thank you for taking the time to hear me out.