I have a Kristen Ashley addiction – it’s been diagnosed, I have accepted it, embraced it and have the hazy-eyed look on my face to prove it. Reading a KA novel is like cruising on a sailboat on a beautiful sunny day – your heart is happy, your body is happy, you want to pinch yourself to make sure you are really there. It might get bumpy at times, the waters might get rough, the wind might pick up and make the boat sail faster, but at the end of the day, you will reach the shore, happy as a clam, filled with a giddiness that has no equal. This book was no exception and apart from having all the winning elements of a ‘KA formula’, it had the added message of hope. A hope that no matter how cruel life has been to you, how many scars it has left on your body and soul, how much emotional baggage you are forced to carry with you each day, love can truly conquer all and be its own reward for all that has passed.
This is the story of two people who grew up in the same small town, their families knew each other, their paths crossed on more than one occasion, but while Raiden grew up oblivious of Hanna, she had always been more than aware of his presence in her life, having nursed a crush on him since she was six years old. Raiden was the town’s hero, a man who went to war, earned the stripes of a hero but returned a broken man. His activities since his return were clouded in mystery but his hero status remained intact. Hanna kept watching him from afar, with the innocent infatuation and pure adoration, always hoping he would one day turn in her direction and notice her. But when that day never came, she put her fantasies aside to finally stop daydreaming and create the life she was happy living.
And then one day Raiden noticed her.
“Home. Warmth. Comfort. Nurture. Love.”
He never hoped, dreamed, expected for his luck to change and to find a woman like Hanna. He knew who she was and how beloved she was in their home town. He knew she looked after her grandmother, she was quirky, trusting, sweet, loving, funny, and all those qualities made her exactly the kind of woman he hoped he would be able to claim as his own one day. After a quick courtship and through some nail-biting circumstances, they fall in love, head over heals, all in and never wanting to let go.
“How into you do you think I am?”
“Honey, you crawled around on all fours in a pet store, totally unable to cope with bein’ in my space. You’re seriously into me.”
But Raiden’s demons run deep, they are ever-present and they crawl out at night giving him night-terrors. They are faced with challenges from the get-go, but Hanna is no ordinary woman. She takes the fire blazing inside Raiden, the good and the bad, and she tackles it all determined to stand by her man and help him come out of his dark tunnel, waiting for him in the light with open arms. She never judges his life choices, she tries to understand them and accept him as a package rather than as a collection of rights and wrongs.
“Baby, … you are the only thing in four years that has come close to getting me to a place where I can even begin to think I might be able to bear those flames.”
Raiden is probably one of the most complex characters that I have encountered in a KA novel. He is troubled but he is also a dominant alpha male who knows what he likes and he has no qualms claiming it. He falls in love with the sweet “Peggy Sue throwback from the fifties” Hanna, but he ignites for the wildcat that trusts him to make her lose control. Their dynamic is moving and their hot lovin’ scenes are mind-blowing.
“You get my teeth, Hanna, ‘cause makin’ my own personal Peggy Sue go wild for me drives me f*ckin’ crazy. You do it for me like no woman before you. I lose control because you make me and you get my teeth, and what makes that shit better is you love havin’ my mark on you.”
Ms Ashley’s writing style is flawlessly unique as always. Her language has a life of its own, setting the scene so well and immersing us in a world that we quickly become part of. Her male characters never beat around the bush, they hit the target with every word they utter, using language economically but achieving full impact. Raiden is no different. He tells Hanna exactly what is on his mind, truthfully and succinctly, making him a hero we admire on every possible level.
This is a story about the healing power of love and the loving effort it takes to help a man overcome his demons. It is a story of meant-to-bes and childhood dreams coming true, but above all, this is a story of hope, hope that the future would bring all the beauty that the past never did.
“If you’re the kind of woman who can withstand the blaze of hellfire he’s got burning inside, he battles that and wins, you will know nothing for the rest of your life, no taste, no experience, not even the birth of your children that will be sweeter than the love he’ll have for you.”