Christmas Carole by Stephanie Bennett

Christmas Carole by Stephanie BennettAvailable: Now Amazon/B&N

Type: Contemporary Novellette

Publisher: Ellora’s Cave

My Copy: Sent

Reviewer: Michelle

Carole Daughtry is a workaholic. After the death of her fiancé, she’s determined never to fall in love again, never again to lose someone she loves so much. Little does she know that a romantic encounter is just around the corner in the muscular form of Sawyer Langston. But given that he was her fiancé’s best friend, the situation becomes much more complicated than either of them bargained for. After a glimpse into her past, present and future, Carole realizes she must make a choice between remaining stuck in old memories or letting them go and claiming the future she longs for.

Christmas Carole is a short, fast read that left me wanting more. A lot more. I’m always a sucker for a holiday romance, and this one was so emotional and so touching that I didn’t want it to end. The friends to lovers storyline isn’t new, but this one had a twist: Sawyer was best friends with Carole’s fiance Dane. When Dane died a few years ago in a horrible automobile accident, they were both left reeling.

Carole has been living on autopilot since Dane’s death. All she wanted was to have someone to love, build a family with and grow old with, and she had found that in Dane. When he was taken from her far too soon, something broke inside her. Unable to open her heart to any more pain, she closes herself off from feeling anything other than friendship for any man, including the one who knows her better than anyone.

Sawyer has been in love with Carole since he first met her. Knowing that his buddy Dane had feelings for her and that she returned them, he took the high road and stepped aside, never letting on how he felt. Seeing Carole at work and remaining friends with her are important, but after all this time he’s finally ready to admit he wants more. Dane has been gone for years, but Sawyer is very much alive, and so is his love for Carole.

It takes a few unrealistic scenes in the book – sort of a twist on the story of The Christmas Carol – where Carole sees her past, present and future, to realize that she hasn’t really been living. By protecting herself against the pain she felt at losing the man she loved, she blinded herself to a man very much alive who wants nothing more than to love her. It took Carole a long time to see past her friendship with Sawyer to the handsome, sexy, caring man beneath.

Sawyer made this book for me. So many times a woman is blind to the affections of a man in her life and that man eventually gets mad – or gives up. Not Sawyer. He felt frustration. And sadness. But he never took it out on Carole, and he never walked away. I loved when Sawyer said to her, “I can’t keep competing with your past, Carole. Dane was like a brother to me and I miss him too. I will always miss him but he’s gone and I’m here. I’m standing right here in front of you and all I want to do is love you but you won’t let me because you can’t let go. Do you really think Dane would want you to remain stuck in the past and not be happy? Because I don’t.” He wasn’t trying to make her feel badly, he was just so desperate for her to open her eyes to the possibility of him loving her.

This is a short book packed full of haunting emotion. The sadness and loneliness that Carole feels over Dane’s loss is tangible, and Sawyer’s determination to make her SEE him and his love for her practically jumped off the pages. This is categorized as a “blush” sensuality level, and that’s true: for an Ellora’s Cave book it’s pretty tame. However, this author packs more romance into one kiss than some others put in an entire chapter. There aren’t any sex scenes or crude language, but it does have some very beautiful, sensual scenes in which Sawyer and Carole are drawn together.

I give Christmas Carole by Stephanie Bennett 4 stars!

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