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Literature / Hands Held in the Snow

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"It was... something at first sight."

Hands Held in the Snow is a Yuri Genre/Young Adult Web Serial Novel written by Thedude3445, author of ATL Stories From The Retrofuture, with art and illustrations by Mikayla Buan, character designer for The Acorn Princess.

The story's about a girl who meets a girl and the romance that forms between them. Beatrice Ragnell is an ace student who is studying to become a priest and help save the world. Emi L'Hime is a wealthy bureaucrat's daughter who resents her family for keeping her in an engagement to a noblewoman she's never even met. The two meet at the library, bond over books... and that's where their story begins. At the same time, though, their home city of Balarand has been conquered by The Empire, and there's a lot of tension rising. That's not going to stop them from falling deeply in love with each other, though.

It's a Slice of Life Queer Romance story filled with Coming of Age drama and some serious issues about a military occupation by a foreign government, but it is also an adorable, WAFFy Slice of Life story about two young women having a great time together.

The story's posted on its own site and on Royal Road (here) too. It updates two times a week.

This series provides examples of:

  • Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Subverted by Emi L'Hime. She comes across as cold, stoic, and princessly to strangers, but the moment you peel past that, it turns out it was all a cover for her intense social awkwardness.
  • Animesque: The entire web novel is styled after Japanese Light Novels, all the way down to featuring in-story black-and-white illustrations.
  • Arranged Marriage: Emi L'Hime is engaged against her will to a noblewoman named Lady Khara, marking an extremely rare case of same-sex arranged marriage in fiction. Near the end of the novel, Emi is married to Novella, as shown in Chapter 70 that Emi's surname is now Emi Khara.
  • Boke and Tsukkomi Routine: Beatrice and Emi make half their relationship out of Emi being silly and Beatrice setting her straight. They really should be a Comedy Duo, shouldn't they?
  • Cast Full of Gay: Almost every character who isn't a parent is some form of LGBT.
  • Canon Character All Along: The Grandma turns out to be Novella in the epilogue chapter, which takes place 57 years later.note 
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Lady Khara, who is simply a mentioned character, is fundamental to the plot of the story especially with Emi up until her first physical appearance as her full name Novella Khara which makes her Unseen No More.
  • Dance of Romance:
    • At the end of Chapter 24 and later in Chapter 25, the blooming couple Beatrice and Emi dance altogether during the winter party within the L'Hime residence.
    • Both Emi and Novella at the end of Chapter 68 are both seen dancing together, which signifies their eventual relationship as a married couple. It also counts as a major Character Development for Emi as she is no longer resenting her engagement with her, starkly contrasting as to how she was resentful of her family for the same thing during the first half of the story.
  • The Empire: The city of Balarand has been under occupation by the Empire of Dannark since before the start of the story. They aren't turning the whole place into a dystopian nightmare, so they aren't Obviously Evil, but there does appear to be a lot of protests and resentment towards them.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Religion: The Church is very much a Fantasy Pantheon variation on the Catholic Church. They are a large semi-political organization that almost everyone follows, and priests take a Vow of Celibacy.
  • Framing Device: The story begins with the framing device of a grandmother telling a story to a grandchild. The narrator usually disappears into the story, but sometimes makes side comments. Said Grandma is revealed to be Novella in the future.
  • One Head Taller: Beatrice is almost exactly one head shorter than Emi.
  • The Power of Love: discussed by Beatrice and Bodhi in Chapter 23, where Bodhi wonders if humans could gain better magical abilities with stronger emotional connections. Sadly for him, Beatrice shoots the idea down as impossible.
  • Romantic False Lead: Initially the main couple of focus is between Emi and Beatrice, which blossomed into a real relationship for the majority of the story. That is until that they are no longer romantically involved as of Chapter 65, due to Beatrice becoming a priest, of which requires her to leave Balarand. L'Hime's true romantic lead in Chapter 66 is finally revealed to be Lady Khara, the character who drives most of Emi's conflict arc in the story. To hammer the point, Beatrice has been dead as mentioned in the finale.
  • Show Within a Show: All sorts of fake book titles show up, including a book series called The Elf Cycle that Emi and Beatrice's dad are fans of.
  • Snow Means Love: It's a romance between two lesbians in the winter.
  • Two Aliases, One Character: The Grandma in the first page who is narrating is eventually revealed to be Novella Khara in the final chapter. It counts as a big twist and a Late-Arrival Spoiler for newcomers as Emi gets married to Novella as seen in Chapter 70 with Emi taking up the latter's surname.
  • Unseen No More: Chapter 66 marks the full appearance of Lady Novella Khara, who started off as The Ghost despite being central to the story in terms of Emi's unwarranted engagement that was done by her parents.
  • Walking Spoiler: It is hard to discuss about the Grandma in the first chapter and in the epilogue without mentioning the fact that she is Novella, a fact that recontextualizes everything about the story.
  • Wham Episode: Chapter 66 is the start of Lady Khara's first physical appearance, which drastically changes the final ends of the story when she becomes fully engaged to L'Hime. It also marks Beatrice's real role as the Romantic False Lead to Emi.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Tia Knoll, the very rich and very sly nobleman, crossdresses in almost every appearance so far, but nobody comments on it much beyond curiosity.