Some of the greatest love stories in fiction are born out of tragedy and pain, reminding us that there is light at the end of every tunnel, that true love can endure it all, but in the hands of a great writer, a love story becomes an epic one when it pushes us to question our own preconceptions, to put aside our reservations, and to embark on a journey of self-discovery right along its characters. From the moment I opened this book, I knew in my heart that this story would be like no other—its bold premise a refreshing change of pace in a genre that is becoming more and more reluctant to take risks and push its readers out of their self-defined comfort zones—and Karina Halle once more delivers with a punch a well crafted and utterly compelling tale that will stay with us for some time. I am always floored by the way Ms Halle is able to translate her view of the world into such spectacular, life-changing prose, and this book proves once again that her talent is endless.
“I knew, I knew, the moment I laid my eyes on Natasha, that I was gone and there wasn’t a single thing to hold me in place.”
They met at a time when neither of them should have fallen for the other, but from the moment Brigs McGregor laid eyes on Natasha Trudeau, he knew his life was about to change. Trapped in a loveless marriage for the sake of a child, Brigs had convinced himself that happiness was as elusive as it was fleeting, forgetting the passionate man he once was and focusing his energies on the things he could control. When Natasha walks into his life, however, her exuberance and spontaneity show him all that’s been missing in his marriage, and the more time they spend with each other, the more reasons he finds to never settle in love again.
“The human heart isn’t meant to be caged by someone who doesn’t feed it.”
But their love ends up costing them dearly, changing the course of their lives forever, and turning all the beauty they found in each other into a soul-crushing memory that would forever haunt them.
“Our love was a mistake from the start. A beautiful, life-rendering mistake.”
Four years have passed, and even though their guilt has not ebbed away in the slightest, their love for one another has somehow survived its devastating weight. And every suppressed emotion comes bubbling to the surface when they suddenly cross paths again and see in each other’s eyes that nothing has changed for either of them. But even though their feelings have stayed the same, the ghosts of their tragic past remain as vivid as ever, making them question themselves at every step, and forcing them to face their shame and guilt head-on.
“I’d like to say it all feels like a blur to me, the years at the bottom of the spiral, the world around me bleak, guilt and hatred sticking to me like tar. But I remember it all vividly. In horrible, exquisite detail. Maybe that’s my punishment, my shackles for my crimes. I knew that falling in love was a crime. I deserve all the punishment I can get.”
While everything so far might appear like a typical second chance romance scenario, I promise you that nothing about this gripping story is anything less than startling. By infusing these characters with an extraordinary level of self-awareness and retrospection, Karina Halle presents us with a daring story that explores a person’s right to seek happiness, to pursue the ‘more’ that makes everything else appear as ‘less’, to be loved and feel the kind of love that makes one feel alive. It’s a story of new beginnings, of accepting past mistakes, and letting go of crippling guilt for what cannot be undone. Brigs and Natasha are flawed human beings, they are people who have paid the ultimate price for their sins, but it is the beauty of their hearts that endears them to us and makes us connect with them from the get-go.
“Whatever do you see in me?” I ask her quietly. I can’t help it.
She tilts her head, frowning at me. “I see you. What do you see?”
I will not lie to you, I initially expected not to relate to this story at all, and the mere act of turning that first page was based entirely on my trust in this author’s supreme ability to tell a persuasive story. And that trust was repaid in buckets by making me feel so much page after page, from scenes that had hairs standing up on the back of my neck, to others that broke my heart into smithereens, and I never stopped feeling throughout it. Reminiscent of Love, in English in the way similar themes were handled in that book, Ms Halle gifts us with a confronting tale of second chances, of forgiveness, of opportunities lost and amends made, and she does so with one of her most defying love stories, remaining true to her inimitable voice and delivering a story that is as real as it is breathtaking. A new favourite in the series for me, another must-read from this author.
“We are forever surrounded by ashes. But we are fire. And fire rises.”