Well, evidently, Mercedes Lackey has decided against ending her writings in Valdemar. Which isn't a bad thing, although the first book in the follow up to her Collegium Chronicles, Closer to Home, does borrow a few tricks from her Elemental Masters series.
Again, we're following Mags and Amily, since Bear and Lena are off Barding and Healing someplace besides the capital. As we start, Amily's father, Nikolas (current King's Own), has an accident, dies for a few minutes in icy water, then gets Chosen by another companion. The grove born Rolan, King's Own companion chooses Amily to be the new King's Own. (It's kind of like Buffy. One dies, another gets activated.)
As such, Nikolas is more or less out of commission, meaning Amily has to learn to be Kyril's adviser and Mags has to take over much of Nikolas's spy ring.
In the meantime, as Midwinter approaches, two feuding Houses come to Haven for Winter Court, mostly to get daughters and sons betrothed. As such, King Kyril gets Amily involved with Lord Leverance and his 3 girls, while Mags gets involved with Lord Kaltar and his son Brand. Leverance's youngest daughter, Violetta, is flighty and hooked on novels of great romance. Kaltar's son Brand likes to go with Mags (posing as Magnus) to brothels. At one of the parties, Violetta spies Brand and grows infatuated. She sends him an impulsive note. After getting a rather stern lecture about fallout from such an act, Violetta starts pining away with unrequited love.
Now, Brand, supposedly having been convinced that a lesser noble wrote the note as a prank, runs into Violetta at a party her House is hosting. Brand and his friends arrive masked, of course, but Violetta's cousin Talbot recognizes Brand right off the bat. Brand shows up outside Violetta's balcony, makes promises of love, Talbot and Brand get in a sword fight, well... you get the idea.
Quite thankfully, even if Lackey borrowed heavily from Romeo and Juliette, she makes enough changes to the course of events that I wasn't busy complaining about teen angst and stupid reasons to commit suicide. (Seriously. R&J annoyed me as a teen.)
I'm kind of curious why Lackey is staying in this time period, following the same characters now through a 6th book, when most of Valdemar has been in trilogies and focused on different characters with previous foci becoming recurring characters. Not complaining, since it remains interesting enough to read, but I'm kind of missing the "Modern" setting.
As a side note, according to Goodreads, I managed to log 38 books read last year. Now, given there were a few here and there I didn't list (mainly graphic novels and a few YA novels), and I probably did list a few which were series I was trying to find new volumes in, 38 is probably a good estimate. As such, I set a goal to read 40 in 2015. Which may be easier, since my lunch hour is mostly my own again, although I no longer have a job where I can read during downtime.