Type: Contemporary Romance
My Copy: Sent
All he wants this Christmas is her.
In the small town of Crystal Lake, Christmas is a time for sledding, hot chocolate, and cozying up to the fire with those you love. For Jake Edwards, it’s also time to come home and face his past. He thought there would never be anything harder than losing his brother. Turns out there is: falling in love with his brother’s widow, Raine.
Ever since they were little, Jesse was the Edwards brother who was always there for her, and Jake was the one who knew just how to push her buttons. Raine can’t imagine a life without them, which is why it was doubly decimating when Jake left town after his brother’s sudden death. Now he’s back and she doesn’t know whether to be mad or thrilled. Maybe both. Maybe it will be the perfect chance for both of them to finally find happiness again.
Let me start this review with a story so you can fully understand where I’m coming from when I say later on how much this book affected me. I once knew a girl who was only 15 years old. She was madly in love with an 18 year old guy who was simply perfect. They had their troubles but at 15 it’s not like they were worried about house payments. The girl was immature, the boy was angry. The boy had a hard home life and the girl simply wasn’t old enough to know how to help him. The fought. A lot. Despite all that they were in love. They skipped school to go to the lake. They stayed out past the girls curfew and got in trouble. They drove too fast down country roads. It was amazing. The summer after he graduated he proposed. The girl knew right then they’d be together forever. Because when you’re 15, forever seems like tomorrow. Everyone told them how crazy they were, How they’d never make it. They didn’t care. They just knew they’d make it work. Then one afternoon he dropped the girl off at home. It was a hot summer day where everything seemed perfect. He kissed her goodbye, and he never came back. There was a massive car wreck 10 minutes after he dropped her off. He survived, but in all honestly he also died that day. He never recovered. For the girl, well I guess a part of her died that day too because she never fully recovered either. For a long time after that day she didn’t go out, she didn’t laugh, she didn’t live. When her graduation came around she sought out the boy trying to find closure. There was none to have. The eyes that once held so much light, were glazed and vacant. Years later…17 to be exact…whenever she thinks of the boy, the tears flow just as easily as they did that day so long ago. I know. Because I am that girl.
The Christmas He Loved Her follows the story of Raine, who has lost the one person she was supposed to have forever, her husband Jesse. Floundering in a sea of depression she turns to the only other person she’s ever needed as much, his twin brother Jake with whom she has a sordid past. Jake and Raine have always fought constantly but there was always a ribbon of heat wrapped around every argument. When Jesse died they sought comfort in each others arms for one night and then Jake disappeared. Now he’s come back months later to find that Raine is still shrouded in depression and isn’t faring any better then himself. Consumed with guilt at being attracted to his dead brothers widow he tries his best to keep his distance but Raine isn’t having any of it. With Jake’s reappearance Raine has started coming back to life. It’s time to pick up the pieces of her life and start moving on. With Jake by her side, she just might be able to do it.
I absolutely loved this book! It moved me to tears many times throughout the story because I identified with Raine so much. Her feeling of hopelessness was my own at one time. Juliana Stone writes with so much conviction that I could feel Raine’s emotions clearly. Raine is drowning in depression. She’s too thin and the dark circles under her eyes testify to her lack of solid sleep. But past my identification with Raine was Jake. I really liked how Stone goes out of her way to give Jake his own torments. His constant battle with himself and his guilt over not being able to help his brother more eats slowly away at him with every breath he takes. Added to his unwanted but undeniable attraction to Raine, he’s deep in his own depression. He compensates by pushing himself to the limits physically but his nightmares seem to only stop when he has Raine in his arms. He’s a tortured hero for sure but when he and Raine come together it’s just beautiful. Oh and sexy, Stone excels at stretching that attraction as tight as it can go, and then letting it loose in a tidal wave of emotion.
A big theme in the last book was friendship and learning how to lean on your friends when you need them. Each character provided something the hero and heroine needed. In The Christmas He Loved Her there was an absence of that theme for most of the book. I expected past characters to come back and they did but they did it in much smaller roles. As a result Raine and Jake were left to rely mostly on each other which helped move the story along much faster. Stone stayed true to the story by allowing her characters more time to get past their insecurities and allow themselves time to heal in each others arms.
This book is a twisty dark descent into the basest of human needs and emotions. It’s a roller coaster ride of tears, laughter and love and Stone delivers it flawlessly. This is easily my favorite book of hers to date! I can’t wait to come back to this trilogy with book three, when the final bad boy of Crystal Lake gets to come front and center. I expect it to be messy, consuming and wrought with the emotional response I’ve come to associate with Stone’s work. There wasn’t a whole lot of lead up to the next book in this one with the exception of Jake’s damaged female friend who should be a hard one to crack. I will definitely be back to this world!
I give The Christmas He Loved Her by Juliana Stone 5 stars!