Title: The Christmas He Loved Her
Author: Juliana Stone
Series: Bad Boys of Crystal Lake, Book 2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 1 October 2013
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.
After reading The Summer He Came Home, where we first met Raine and Jake, I was anxious to read their story. I knew it was going to break my heart and had the potential to be incredibly satisfying at the same time - something I was perfectly in the mood for. From the first moment we meet them it's easy to see that Jake's in love with his brother's widow, and it's ripping him apart inside.
Jake is eaten up by guilt, on multiple fronts; he has survivor's guilt, guilt that he didn't bring his brother home alive, guilt for wanting his brother's wife...my heart was breaking for him. What also was clear was that Jake is suffering from PTSD from his experiences in the war, and the day his twin died. I thought the author did a great job portraying this, with a few quibbles that I'll get into later. I loved the small moments that shows the closeness between Jake and his twin, Jesse throughout their childhood and even into adulthood. It really helped to cement the kind of person that Jake is, and the family that surrounds him, that means so much to him.
Raine's been a part of this family for years now, always tagging along with Jake and Jesse and the other 'Bad Boys'. It's her love as much as anyone's that has been such a constant in Jake's life. Raine's suffering from losing her husband too, and her best friend when Jake walked away for over a year, the depression, the loss, is clear in everything she does - or rather doesn't do. I loved that her road back from this was gradual - and not entirely due to Jake. She realizes bit by bit that she's not living how she wants to, and she takes small steps to change that, incremental and momentous.
I didn't expect an easy story between these two, and I definitely didn't get one. With all the guilt and hurt to be worked through Jake and Raine had a hard road to travel. More than once my heart broke while reading and I wanted to just see them realize what they had with each other. They had a lot of healing to do, and I was so glad when I saw them on the road to that...together.
My one complaint is that I think love healed a bit too much. As soon as Jake gave in and started sleeping with Raine, his nightmares stopped. Just like that, he was sleeping through the night. Up until this point the guilt and PTSD was portrayed so well, and to see it just cured made me disappointed. It seems to me that it'd be so much more realistic if he continued to struggle, even if his acceptance and love did make things significantly better. But overall, I was able to overlook this and enjoy this story immensely!
Now that I've confirmed my suspicions about the heroine for the third book, The Day He Kissed Her, I'm so excited to finish out this series! Juliana Stone continues to get better in this series, and I can't wait to see where she takes us next.
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