Never underestimate the power of a great writer because the moment you step into one of their books, your every emotion is at their mercy, but when that writer also happens to be one of your favourite contemporary authors at present, their every single word has the power to annihilate you. And this book did just that. I have never cried so many times and so desperately as I did while reading this breathtaking story, every aspect of it touching everything that I am, everything that I dream of, everything that I fear the most as a woman. Ms Ashley’s unparalleled insight into the female psyche and her ability to infuse a woman’s innermost vulnerabilities as well as strengths into her stories, celebrating both in equal measure, is the very reason I keep coming back for more, the thrill of diving into one of her stories never wearing off, never dimming, never becoming anything less than a true craving. Whether you’re a fan of MC romances or not, it does not matter in this case—this is a story that first and foremost celebrates women for their resilience, for their selflessness, for their ability to love without limits, all the while underlining the meaning of true love.
“I met my perfect man at age eighteen and I had him for three years. Then I sent him away.”
Millie Cross once had it all—a man who adored her, a man she adored in return, the kind of future she’d always dreamed of within her grasp—but the course of her life changed with a single sweep of fate’s cruel hand, spending the next twenty years simply going through the motions of living, her heart never even beginning to recover from losing its other half. So, when a chance sighting of the man she never stopped loving suddenly brings back all the memories she’s fought hard to suppress, she becomes convinced that only facing him would heal her wounds, and perhaps even give her a chance to move on in life. Because the one thing Millie never told him was why she left him.
“I needed to right that wrong. He needed to know. And I was the only one who could tell him.”
Logan “High” Judd was only a young recruit for the Chaos motorcycle club when he met an eighteen-year-old Millie at a party, but it took him merely an instant to know down to his soul that she would be the only woman he’d ever love. After three years of blissful happiness, however, his heart was torn out of his chest when she sent him packing, throwing all their dreams away. For the next two decades, High moved on, settled down, tried to build all that he once dreamed of having with Millie, but the hole in his chest never went away, never allowing him to forget the pain he felt from losing the love of his life.
“Millie,” he called.
I kept my gaze to the yard and replied with a, “Hmm?”
“Safe with me.”
My attention cut back to him.
“Never won’t be, babe,” he went on softly. “Not ever. Hear?”
When High finds himself suddenly facing the woman who broke his heart, he channels all he’s ever felt for her into anger, wishing to hurt her over and over again for all the pain he’s had to endure since she left him. He uses her body’s reaction to him to punish her, to humiliate her, to make her feel as insignificant as she’d made him feel all those years ago when she pushed him away without an explanation, and she suffers every blow, every hit to her dignity, starved for his touch, for his love, for his tenderness, knowing there is nothing of her left to break. Until there is and she is forced to tell the man she never stopped loving why she left him when they seemingly had it all.
“I’m done walking through fire for you, High! I’m done not because I’m done but because there’s nothing left of me to burn. You have it all! You’ve always had it all! I gave up everything so you could have it all! Please! God! Leave me to my nothing! And if you gave one single shit about me, ever, make them let me have my nothing!”
And this is where my own heart broke into smithereens, crying for a heroine who never deserved the fate life served her, or the punishment she endured as a result of it, and hurting for a hero who spent twenty years of his life never really knowing why he lost it all, or how much he had truly been loved all those years. This is a story of second chances at love, at happiness, at a happily-ever-after that was theirs from the beginning and it always remained theirs, showing us that time cannot touch true love, and that great sacrifices often bring even greater rewards in life. This is also a story of forgiveness, of acceptance of what we cannot change. In true Kristen Ashley style, we are given two characters who are so multi-faceted and compelling that their journey very much becomes our own, and I felt every up and down right in my gut.
“I love you. Loved you then. Love you now. Never quit lovin’ you in a way I know I never will. You were it for me, the only one, the only woman I ever loved, and you never quit bein’ it.”
With a colourful plethora of secondary characters from previous instalments in the series very much playing a vital role in Millie and High’s story, and proving once again the unbreakable bond connecting them all to one another, Ms Ashley has given us another unforgettable tale that will undoubtedly be added to the ‘re-read pile’ for many. I was drawn to re-visit several scenes right after I first finished this book, unwilling to bid farewell to this story and to these characters…because if you keep re-reading a book, it never really ends, right?
“If we can walk though fire, baby, we can do anything.”