Breath On Embers is part of the Red Hot Holiday anthology from Carina Press. It can be purchased individually.
If you’re looking for a cheery Christmas story this is not it. Breath on Embers is a story that deals with grief; it’s very sad and emotional, but there is hope for the characters and that’s what makes this such a lovely story of healing and renewal. This is one of the best holiday stories I’ve read this year.
Thea is lost in her grief over the death of her husband two years ago. She now lives in New York and welcomes the hustle and bustle of the city to insulate herself from the pain of her loss. Emotionally intimate relationships are out of the question. That’s what makes her relationship with Ronan perfect for her. They have great physical chemistry and Ronan seems happy with their no strings attached arrangement. Thea can lose herself for a little while, and give herself temporary permission to feel without the worry of becoming emotionally involved. But when Ronan shows interest in deepening their relationship, Thea realizes it’s time to withdraw before someone gets hurt. Ronan knows about grief and understands Thea’s pain. He sees more in her than just a casual hookup and he may be able to help her discover life beyond her grief.
A woman who cut off feeling that thoroughly had to have a forest fire of life inside. He just had to find a way to cut through the noise and chatter to the long-buried soul inside.
Oh wow, such angst and pain. That Thea is so quiet and withdrawn in her pain made me ache for her even more. On the outside you may not know the true depth of Thea’s pain but it’s there, with her all the time. I love how tender but firm Ronan is with Thea and how he gently helps set her on her path to healing and reconciliation. He doesn’t push, but he is there for when Thea is ready.
“You keep trying to drown this out. I’ll keep doing my thing, but I’m not going to help you go under.”
Although Thea is in pain, Ronan brings out her sensuality. The sex scenes are very powerful because that is where we see glimpses of raw vulnerability even though Thea is convinced she’s got it under control. The intensity of the erotic scenes blends perfectly with the raw emotional journey of healing and hope.
After writing my review, I realized this is a story I will put on my “Read it again” shelf. Breath on Embers makes my top picks list for 2012.
There is no fix for this. She has to endure it, and somewhere along the line she has to learn to live again. Surviving isn’t the goal. Living is. This is a battle between me and her grief, and I’m going to be the last man standing.
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