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Title: Blaze of Winter
Author: Elisabeth Barrett
Publisher: Random House
May Contain Spoilers
Winter heats up in this hot new Star Harbor romance, as another sexy Grayson brother, a wickedly handsome writer, plots his happily ever after with a sweet stranger.
Frustrated with her job in Boston, social worker Avery Newbridge welcomes the opportunity to reassess her life when family asks her to help manage the Star Harbor Inn. Trying to figure out her future is overwhelming enough, but she doesn’t count on distraction in the form of one Theo Grayson, the gorgeous, green-eyed author who she knows is trouble from the moment he saunters into the inn.
Not only does he have a talent for writing swashbuckling adventures, but Theo also has a soft spot for big-hearted damsels in distress, especially a woman who’s great at helping everyone—except herself. Avery’s demons challenge him, but for desire this hot, he isn’t backing down. With every kiss and heated whisper Theo promises her his heart . . . if only Avery is willing to open up and accept it.
I have mixed feelings about Blaze of Fire, and most of them are because I have a love-hate relationship with Theo. Of all the Grayson brothers, he somehow ended up my least favorite. I don’t know why, exactly. Maybe I don’t find bespectacled authors of historical yarns intriguing. Maybe I’m jealous that he was able to live in a bed and breakfast indefinitely, never having to worry about making his bed or cleaning the bathroom. Or maybe it’s because I found him a bit too inconsistent. For most of the book, he is sweet and mild-mannered, with infinite amounts of patience to support Avery during her moments of insecurity. But like Clark Kent, once those glasses come off, he changes, but not always for the better. He could be a smug jerk, and I didn’t feel quite so fond of him then.
I did enjoy the tempo and tone of this story. Avery is emotionally bruised after finding one of her therapy patients dead from an overdose. Upset with herself for not realizing that she was being lied to and not able to forgive herself for not being able to keep Mia from harming herself, Avery is hiding out in Star Harbor. Helping run her aunt’s business while the older woman recovers from her battle with breast cancer, Avery is moving from one day to the next, trying to stay on the fringes of Star Harbor society. It drives her nuts that everyone in the small community knows everyone else’s business, and she doesn’t like feeling like she’s under a microscope. She just needs to be left alone so she can come to terms with her feelings of inadequacy, and figure out what to do with the rest of her life.
Theo is struggling, too, but his internal strife is based on his inability to write. He’s under pressure to complete the next volume in his privateer adventure series, but he’s stuck. He can’t write a word. He has no inspiration, and he feels empty. Leaving his meaningless life in San Francisco behind, he heads back to his childhood home to rediscover his writing roots. Instead, he discovers Avery, and one glimpse of her vibrantly hued hair has him captivated. He has discovered his muse, and he’s not going to let her out of his sight.
I liked Theo when he was gently wooing Avery, giving her the emotional support she needed so desperately, but backing away when she needed space. He taught her how to have fun and take risks, while teaching himself how to open his heart at the same time. His courtship methods were occasionally questionable, and I didn’t know whether to be amused or appalled as he basically stalked her to her favorite hangout in Boston. That was a little creepy. He also showed an epic lapse in judgment that almost destroys his relationship with Avery, and for such a smart guy, I was disappointed with his behavior. Of course it’s all set up so the good folk of Star Harbor could meddle in his business, but for him to completely disregard everything he knew about Avery and to push back like he did didn’t make sense to me.
The drug runner plot thread had a bigger role in Blaze of Winter than in the previous book in the series, and I am assuming it will be played up even more in Val and Cole’s books. They are my favorite characters, but they didn’t get much page time here, only serving as backup for Theo. I was a little disappointed that they didn’t get to play a bigger part in the story, but that just gives me something to look forward to in the future when they get their own 200 pages. Bring those on!
Blaze of Winter is a quick read with a (mostly) sweet hero who occasionally displays a lack of common sense. Avery is an emotionally wounded heroine who needs a lot of handholding to get through the train wreck in her past that has her questioning every decision she makes. It was gratifying to see her finally set her fear aside and embrace the love Theo, and her own family, were desperate to give her.
Review copy provided by publisher