The Christmas He Loved Her by Juliana Stone (Bad Boys of Crystal Lake #2)

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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.

Source: egalley from Netgalley/Sourcebooks Casablanca for review purposes

Jake has finally returned to Crystal Lake after being gone for a year and a half.  He’d left behind his parents and sister-in-law, all still reeling from his brother’s death in Afghanistan.  Jake, himself, is still feeling guilt for his time in Afghanistan and what he believes is his part in his brother’s death.  Add to that the fact that he’s in love with his brother’s widow, one can understand why he stayed away from Crystal Lake for so long.

Now that he’s back, he has to face Raine.  She felt abandoned by him when he left and she hardly had any contact with him in that time. Raine has spiraled into a depression she doesn’t want to get out of.  Jake being back brings her hope but it also reminds her of her loss.

Conflict:

Oh, so much.  These are two people who are very attracted to each other and plagued by guilt and obligations, in more than just the most obvious areas.

Overall:

This book kind of broke my heart.  Jake and Raine are such a fantastic couple, their love and attraction is always just beneath the surface of their nearly constant confrontations.  I kind of love a couple who argues and is as passionate as they are.  Jake and Raine were the best thing about the first book in the series, The Summer He Came Home, because their chemistry was obvious, even in the background of another couple’s story.  There was a lot of great stuff in this story.  Jake was…hot. Smokin’. Just the way I like ’em. Raine was vulnerable and sympathetic. The Summer He Came Home, though it was well-written, did not compare to this one.  Jake and Raine’s story made me feel things and I may have gotten a little teary eyed in more than one spot. They’ve gone to the top of my favorite couples list. The background characters were fantastically rendered, particularly Jake’s parents, who I LOVED.

I am looking forward to more of the same in the final book, The Day He Kissed Her, which is about the most tortured of the Bad Boys, Mac (victim of an abusive father) and Jake’s friend, Lily, who is rich, reality-tv famous, and has problems trusting people and some other unknown issues, which I am anxious to delve into.  Lily was a great addition to this story and to Crystal Lake and was one of my favorite characters.  Ms. Stone has become one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. I would even compare her to Jill Shalvis or Susan Mallory.  Keep ’em coming!

4.5/5

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