Christmas He Loved Her (Bad Boys of Crystal Lake #2)
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.
The Bad Boys of Crystal Lake are at it again. This trilogy started as a lark for me, I only picked it up because I have been a fan of Ms. Stone’s paranormal romances for a while now. And I can say for sure that I haven't been disappointed yet. The first novel in this trilogy revolved around one of the four Bad Boys and began during the funeral of another. This beginning is the set up for all the angst and sadness that eventually leads the remaining three bad boys to their mates and their hard earned HEAs. Christmas He Loved Her was one of the saddest stories I’ve read recently and watching Jake and Raine work through all of their problems to be able to finally embrace the love that has haunted them for ages was a very blissful experience for me. Full of vivid and rich descriptions and with a snow-covered enchanted setting, this tale of love was only enhanced by the holidays that lead Jake and Raine to overcome the obstacles in their fight to find love and contentment.
Our story begins almost eighteen months after book one. Jake has been running from his life since his brother’s funeral and has finally returned home for the holidays. But he is faced with the sad truth that he hasn’t gotten over any of his issues and he’s still deeply in love with Raine, his brother’s widow. Raine has changed; she is no longer the woman that he remembers, having lost a lot of her vitality and fallen into a deep depression that nothing and no one seems to be able to drag her from. The changes in Raine are extremely disturbing to Jake and though he is determined to try to help her, he is also determined to keep his distance from her for both their sakes. Raine is dealing with her losses as best she can, when suddenly Jake returns and blows her small world apart. When they are thrown together repeatedly for family functions it becomes clear that something still burns between them and that tackling their unfinished business is the only way they will ever find closure. But will facing the past tear them apart or offer them that bright future they both once reached for?
Jake and Raine are both obviously deeply conflicted characters with deep secrets, shattered hearts, and fear driven anxieties. Coming to terms with those fears and rebuilding their hearts is difficult for them both. Jake has been living with the secrets surrounding his brother’s death for almost two years and returning home with that hanging over his head is even more terrifying to him than seeing the woman he loves deteriorating as she wallows in the loss of her husband. Hiding all the symptoms of his own depression makes it easy to spot in Raine, but dealing with it is something that neither of them have been able to do. Jake’s guilt and regrets lead him to make some very bad decisions, but at his heart he is a great guy and one that just needed to accept his destiny instead of fighting it to find his true happiness. Raine has certainly had her knocks in life, but I was a little disappointed that she seemed to have just given up on life. I wish she had been able to find some way to overcome her depression, at least enough that she didn’t seem quite so weak because she seems to be anything but a meek woman. When she finally decides to make a change in her life and go after what she wants, her true will wins out and her inner strength allows her to grab onto the happiness that has eluded her for so long.
These two are one of those unique couples that grace the pages of a romance novel—one with a deep and conflicted past to face before they can move forward. Their passion has been building for decades and when they finally give in to their desires we are blown away with their heat, emotion and eagerness. Jake is extremely sexy and that sexiness lures Raine in like bait to a bear, and like a baited bear she attacks him with a fervor that had no equal. The emotions are just as off the charts as the physical interactions and seeing the two of them delve into this new side of their relationship will definitely leave you hot and bothered. One of my favorite quotes in the story says it all. “She was on fire. Her body, long dormant, now raged with hormones and pheromones and whatever the hell else kind of mones were out there.”
Christmas He Loved Her was a thrilling read with all the angst and sadness you’d expect from two people that have lost a piece of themselves, but in the end they are able to overcome that loss and teach us all that just because you feel like the world has stopped doesn’t mean we can stop hoping or living for the future. Jake and Raine have been beaten down by life and broken by circumstances, but they won’t be defeated and when they finally dig themselves out of the hole they’ve fallen into, we get to see the strong-willed and loving characters that we always knew they really were. We are reminded of the magic of the holidays as they bring Raine back to life and force her to make Jake see her and accept the love between them. As their love deepens and they finally decide to stop running from each other, we can see Jake and Raine come to terms with the fact that though life has thrown them for a loop, together they can find their happiness and share the love in their hearts with each other and their family. If you haven’t read book one in the series you might miss a bit of the undercurrents and hints that are in this book, but you will catch on everything quickly. (Though I suggest you read Summer He Came Home of coursebecause it is awesome.) I’m looking forward to delving deeper into Lily and Mac and their personal stories and their story, The Day He Kissed Her, will certainly be excellent and explosive when these two clash. Cannot wait for April to see more of these two. Another great novel Juliana, though of course I am not surprised!
Rating: 4 stars
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review. No compensation was provided.