The Day He Kissed Her
By Juliana Stone
April 1, 2014
Mackenzie Draper is back in Crystal Lake for the long Memorial Day weekend to say hello to his mom and spend some time catching up with his best buds, Jake Edwards and Cain Black, and then it’s back to New York City, his job at the architectural firm where he’s just about to make partner, and a free-wheeling social life that leaves him free of responsibilities. A few days in Crystal Creek are about all he can take before the bad memories from his childhood start taking him places he doesn’t want to go. His abusive father may be in jail now, but that doesn’t prevent Ben Draper’s presence from being very real in the home in which Mac grew up. But an unexpected meeting with a curvy blonde and heated memories of a New Year’s Eve with bedroom fireworks more explosive than any that lit up the skies leave Mac reconsidering his friend Jake’s request to spend the summer in Crystal Creek designing houses for an Edwards’ land development project.
Lily St. Clare has her own share of dark memories, but Crystal Creek and the friends she has there are helping her to heal. She’s found a measure of serenity in the small town, but serene is the last thing she feels when the stranger from a passionate New Year’s Eve encounter turns out to be her friend Jake’s old friend Mac. To her own surprise, Lily, who meets life head on, can’t run away fast enough from this man who makes her feel things that threaten her carefully controlled life. But she can’t escape the man or the feelings, and when Mac assures her that he will be back in Crystal Creek for the summer, Lily knows that whatever is between them is far from over.
Neither Mac nor Lily is interested in long-term commitments, so when the heat between them makes a July afternoon seem mild in comparison, they agree to seize the moment, accepting that forever is not part of the plan. But soon they are spending every possible moment together and building a shared life even if love is still a word that strikes fear in their hearts. But Mac is a damaged soul, his childhood wounds still festering and his anger barely contained. He and Lily have no hope for a future when he is controlled by his past.
The third novel in Stone’s Bad Boys of Crystal Creek series is the darkest of these emotional tales. Mac and Lily are both wounded creatures who fiercely protect their vulnerabilities. Lily is further on her journey toward health and wholeness than is Mac whose hatred of his father, anger mixed with love and pity for his mother, and fear that he is a man in his father’s image, inside and out, color every choice he makes. The redeeming power of love is a standard theme in romance fiction, but Stone makes it more potent by showing that a hero must believe himself worthy of love and happiness before he can be transformed.
I fell hard for Stone’s wounded bad boys, and from the first book, I’ve hoped to see light and love shatter Mac’s darkness. The Day He Kissed Her fulfilled my hopes, and Lily was a perfect match for Mac. There were some loose ends left with secondary plots. Perhaps that means readers have not seen the last of these bad boys and the people in their lives. If you like your romance high on sizzle and emotional twists, I suggest you check out this book. For readers like me who prefer a lower sensuality level, these characters are sufficiently engaging to make it worth moving outside your comfort zone.
Romance fiction ranges from sweet to scorching, and it’s not always easy to tell where a particular book falls on the sensuality scale from the cover and cover copy. Some people advocate a number system that gives readers a clearer idea of what to expect. What do you think of that idea? Where would the books you read most often fall on such a scale?