3.5 starsWe skip ahead from Book 4 (Robbie's story) to Winter's story... We know from Book 1 that Daar (Pendaar) needed to bring Greyland MacKeage forward in time from the 13th century so that he could find his true "mate" in Grace Sutter. Daar knows that their 7th daughter (all daughters born around the winter solstice) is to be his druid replacement -- that he is to teach her how to use her magic to keep their clans alive and healthy. But Daar has always maintained that Winter won't come into her powers until she's an old woman of at least 70.Background: Grace Sutter, Winter's mom, is from a large family born all around the summer solstice. She was "supposed to be" the 7th son of the 7th son, except she was, of course, born a girl. Her sister is Mary Sutton, Robbie's mom who shortly after he was born; Mary is also a Guardian, and her soul now lives in the a snowy owl that follows Robbie and the MacKeages and MacBains around on TarStone mountain. Robbie MacBain is the "official" Guardian over the MacBains and the MacKeages. In Book 4, he had to go back to the 13th century to get the taproot from the Tree of Life guarded by Curam de Bain, a "young" wizard (in comparison to Daar) who is Daar's rival; Curam is supposed to be very cunning. Curam and Daar were both "fighting" over the heritage of the next druid heir, although *why* they should have to fight or manipulate the blood lines was never made clear. Daar needed the taproot to replace his book of spells needed to make permanent the spell that brought back Greyland MacKeage and 3 others (including Robbie's father, Michael MacBain) forward in time; without this "book", Grey and the others will be hurled back through time and space into their own time, ripping the families, and who knows what else, apart. Since Daar's original, most powerful staff was broken in two in Book 1, he's been training a newer staff, which blew up his cabin and his own book of spells. Robbie did locate the taproot and Daar did make the time travel spell permanent, but by taking Curam's taproot, Robbie destroyed Curam's Tree of Life - thus his source of power and spells. (Or so we've been told.)So... in this book, Daar finds that the "new" Tree of Life growing from the stolen taproot is dying. Some disturbance has affected all living Trees of Life for all living druids; the trees are fighting the disturbance, which is draining them of their magic, power, and lives. Daar tells Grey and Grace that Winter must assume her druid role now; she's the only hope to restore the balance of power. But for Winter to take on her druid role, she'll have to give up a husband and children, because husbands are only in the way, and having children will take away her powers.Except that no one's told Winter anything about her "role" or what the rules are. She's become a successful artist who primarily paints scenes of nature that are both whimsical and a little other-worldy spiritual. Her gallery is doing well selling her works, as well as those of Talking Tom, a 70-something year old man who appeared about 2 years ago and who carves figurines of nature, often crows. Tom is quite secretive about who he is and his story, but he's a good friend to Winter and to most of the folk in Pine Creek.Into Winter's gallery comes Matheson Gregor, or Matt -- a wealthy, successful businessman who's company manufactures private jets with fighter pilot mach speed. Matt purchases 2 of Winter's paintings immediately and commissions her to help him choose the site of his new home and create renderings to show what the house looks like, drawings that architects will use to create the home. Oh, and 2 years ago, he purchased Bear Mountain, next door to TarStone Mountain. AND Matheson means "son of bear" in Gaelic, while Gregor is Scots.Matt also clearly has designs on Winter, herself. But just why is he so anxious to make Winter his own? What does he know about her powers? What does he know about Gesader, the black panther that Robbie brought back from the 13th century as a cub and gave to Winter as a pet? Only the family knows about Gesader (Gaelic for "enchanter"); everyone else thinks the black panther is just a myth.Winter is falling fast for Matt. But will she choose love and family over her druid powers? Must she choose? And can she save the Trees of Life or is it the End of the World for mankind? And who the heck is Talking Tom, and why does he seem to have such a vested interest in all these goings on?-------------------I liked the light banter of old-fashioned romance between Winter and Matt in this book. I enjoyed allowing the story to enfold, and I wasn't as tempted to read ahead. It was nice to see major chemistry without the two people jumping into bed at the first opportunity, as has happened time and time again in the earlier books. It was fun to learn more about the MacKeage girls - who they are, what they've become, and how close they are. And I really liked knowing that Grey and Grace still have a close, loving, sexy relationship!A lot happens in this book, and at times, the various parts feel disconnected from the whole. But the pieces do come together... maybe a bit too neatly at the end?Fun read. Good bringing together of all the events up 'til now in the series in this book. Glad to know that stubborn women like Winter can find a way around the "rules" and figure out how to have it all.