"Then he walked out of the light."
I love McKillip's books because she creates such beautiful fantasy realms. She doesn't go Tolkien and create elaborate mythologies (well, not often, as The Riddlemaster of Hed series is contrary to this), but you feel like her worlds are full and lived in.
Winter Rose is the story of Rois Melior, a farmer's daughter. A stranger named Corbet Lynn comes to the village and turns their lives upside down. Corbet, it seems, has a curse on his family. He has returned to build Lynn hall, where is grandfather, Nial, and father, Tearle, had lived decades before. Lynn Hall was the site of his grandfather's mysterious death, assumed to be at the hands of Tearle himself, although he disappeared and no one saw him again. So the village lays in wait for some part of the curse Nial laid on his descendents to fall upon Corbet.
Corbet, meanwhile, takes the time to befriend the Melior family, which in addition to Rois includes her father, her older sister, Laurel, and Laurel's betrothed, Perrin. Rois is infatuated from minute one, having seen Corbet shape out of light long before he introduced himself in the village. She knows there is more to him than the stories he tells. The wild Rois, who has spent her whole life wandering about the wood in all seasons and all weather, starts questioning who she is under Corbet's eyes. She watches Corbet look at Laurel the way she wishes he would look at her.
As Rois starts to work through the tangled web of Corbet's past, and where he is really from, tensions rise, and then something happens to make Laurel start to behave like their mother did before she died - wasting away watching for a season. As winter settles in, Rois must figure out how to fix the damage Corbet's past has wrought on all of them, and find out not only who she is, but what that means to who she will be.
It's a great, easy fantasy read, with characters I love. One of my favorites, and a great winter read.