The Christmas He Loved Her
By Juliana Stone
October 1, 2013
Raine Edwards is drowning in sadness. Even the ordinary tasks of life such as eating and getting dressed require more effort than she can summon. Once she was the wife of Jesse Edwards—Jesse, who had always been in her life, making her feel safe and cherished, Jesse, who promised her forever. But Jesse’s promises ended more than eighteen months ago in Afghanistan, and now Jake, his twin, who challenged her and pushed her and stirred all kinds of feelings, is gone too, leaving Raine with grief and guilt and secrets too painful to bear. Raine has lost too much, and now she’s losing herself.
Eighteen months ago, Jake Edwards, former bad boy and ex-Army Ranger, ran. Behind him in Crystal Lake, the small Michigan town where he grew up, he left his best friends, his grieving parents, and Raine, his twin brother’s widow who has owned Jake’s heart for longer than he can remember. He didn’t leave his own crippling grief or the guilt that torments him or his memories of home, Jesse, Raine, the horrors of war, or a night that should never have happened. Now he’s headed home, and he’s not alone. And he’s not prepared for what he finds in Crystal Lake.
Seeing Raine so precariously balanced fills Jake with more guilt and more anger at her, at himself, at life and its losses. The feelings that Jake and Raine have for one another are so tangled that they can’t separate the love and the desire from the grief and the guilt and the belief that they have betrayed the man they both loved. The things they can’t share and all they do share are tearing them apart. At least Jake’s presence has Raine rejoining the living. But can they remove the barbs of the past without destroying each other in the process? Can love really conquer all?
The Christmas He Loved Her is the second book in Stone’s Bad Boys of Crystal Lake series, following The Summer He Came Home, and it is darker, more intense, and more angst-filled than the first book. The characters who gave the first book its feeling of community and home are here, along with Lily St. Claire, a new one who complicates the current story a bit and hints of things to come. But the focus is solidly on the twisted mix of feelings between Jake and Raine and the complex battles they must fight individually and together to win their happiness.
The intensity in this story is real, credibly arising from the powerful emotions of these characters whose pain keeps a firm grip on the reader’s heart. This is not a typical Christmas story. The well-intentioned but confused plotting of Jake’s mother and Raine’s puppy Gibson are as warm and fuzzy as it gets. If you like your romance complicated and dark with memorable characters who take you on an emotional journey, with Stone’s usual sizzle as a bonus, I suggest you add this one to your Christmas romance wish list.
Do you prefer light-hearted stories, or are your bookshelves filled with darker reads? Or do you like a mix of the two? What’s your favorite angst-laden romance?