I’m glad I paid attention to the blurb on this one otherwise I would have received quite a surprise. Contrary to the whimsical cover, this is no light and fluffy second chance holiday romance with all the issues swept aside by Christmas cookies and the spirit of Christmas. This is the ‘barely there’ chance for two very broken people and how high the cost of service to country can be for not just the soldiers, but for the ones they leave back home. After closing the cover on this one, I have to say that I was still reeling and raw from how deeply this story affected me. Good stuff for certain.
Lt. Sully Jax, the hero who saved his unit from an IED attack and took the hit himself causing him to experience Retrograde Amnesia, has finally come home as the town’s favorite son. Lucy Crabtree, formally loving wife to said hero, thought she could handle it.
It has been almost a year since Sullivan destroyed her hopes of new home, starting a family and a beautiful Christmas when he inexplicably re-upped his enlistment without even mentioning the possibility to her. She had taken out her frustration and pain by sending him back to war with silence and no ‘I love you’ on her lips even though she was choking on the possibility that she loved him so much more than he did. Then to have him return home alive but different poured on the regrets. Not only did he have no memory of her, but the sight of her sent him into screams of terror and volatile actions. He served her divorce papers and she signed them because she would do what it took to make him heal and have peace of mind, but it hurt beyond anything. Now though… yeah, she was still in such pain that it made her nearly physically ill.
Sully comes home hoping to pick up the pieces of his life. He is almost healed and has back most of his memories. All, but the ones of the most lovely woman he knows, his ex-wife. He couldn’t possibly chain her to him as he is so he let her go and she obviously want it too since she signed the divorce papers without giving him an argument. If he thought it would be easy to move on since he has no memory of her, just seeing Lucy break into a smile that warmed his heart and knowing it was for another man told him otherwise. And what was this craving he had for sweets all of a sudden. He can’t get enough of Lucy’s Christmas cookies nor of being near Lucy who smells just like the sweets she bakes. He wants to start over- start everything from scratch with his ex-wife.
Lucy has no idea what to do with Sullivan’s renewed interest especially when she remembers all and he remembers nothing. She loves him beyond hope and he didn’t love her enough to choose her over his enlistment. She just can’t do all this again no matter what he does to her heart rate or the expression in his eyes.
This story isn’t for the faint of heart or those who need their fairy tale ending. I’m not saying that it doesn’t end on a high note; I’m just saying that its high only in comparison to how low things go to get there. This one stung my eyes with tears and gripped my heart tightly. The angst in this book is the real stuff.
My sympathies were equally divided as to liking the characters and wanting them to find happiness, but I found myself really connecting with the heroine, Lucy, because of girl empathies.
I never once blamed Sully for how things went down nor did I blame her for doing what she had to do which left me in a quandary. I wanted them to get their second chance, but I also understood what it would take for that to happen and they kept swinging between protecting what was left of their hearts and lashing out in hurt. Lucy did this more than Sully. Most of the pain he cause during the story was unintentional, but he did have a knee-jerk response near the end that made me groan out loud with frustration.
Despite the high emotional level this story hit, it is still very sensual. These people never lost the physical connection and that is pretty much the thread their chances are dangling by.
The story also has really neat secondary characters in the form of the family that owns the bakery where Lucy works, her friend Coe and Sully’s dad Lowell. These people pretty much keep the story grounded from the fog of emotions. I would love to get a story about Coe now. He was such a good friend to Lucy. He said the hard stuff and made her remember to take care of herself.
The setting is the holidays in a small town and this backdrop is thrumming in the background where it is there and weaves through everything, but it stays firmly in the background.
All in all, it was an amazing story that I can recommend to those who enjoy their holiday/military romances, but don’t like them easy.
PS. The story ends without an epilogue, but the author did write one and it along with another deleted scene can be read for free at the author’s website. DO NOT read until after the book has been read.
My thanks to Netgalley for providing the book for review purposes.
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