Thursday, December 4, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: 31 Days of Winter by C.J. Fallowfield

3 Stars

London resident and publishing editor Ellie Baxter’s world is turned upside down when she catches her rich fiancé with drugs and two prostitutes in their bed. Oh and then discovers he lost his job six months ago and has blown their joint savings. Thus, a change of scenery is in order, and what better way to spend a month including the holidays than in a gorgeous remote island rental overlooking the Loch with a hunk of a man who speaks in double entendres. Of course, Ellie doesn’t know that said hunky and mysterious caretaker is part of the package when she signs up to rent the property, but she soon learns there are quite a few perks included with the rental.

All part of the service.

Ellie and Dan are instantly drawn to each other and they embark on a sexually charged relationship that even they struggle to define. At times it’s “friendship” because Dan refuses to get involved further; other times it’s friends with partial benefits; and then on occasion it’s a distant renter/caretaker business interaction.

Ellie is a talker who often speaks candidly and shares her personal hardships and recent heartbreak. Dan is a loner, determined to maintain his privacy while shielding huge aspects of his life and undertaking a mysterious errand to the mainland each day and allotting Ellie one personal question per day that he is often elusive answering.

There is plenty of intrigue to the story and this mystery aspect kept me engaged till I felt it drug on a little too long. There is so much back and forth, hot and cold, between Ellie and Dan that after a certain point I just wanted the plot to move forward. 

Who really is Dan? What happened in the past to make him such a recluse and emotionally unavailable? What secrets does he harbor?

Dan starts out an intriguing, physically exquisite character, and most of his dialogue/banter with Ellie is interesting and well written.  On the surface he certainly seems like the fantasy man to be secluded on a remote winter island with. But eventually his intensely mercurial behavior became tiresome.  As for Ellie…well she comes off as a bit of a weak female character— easily deceived, lacking independence, and at times a doormat to the men in her life.  I really didn’t get why she was even considering just taking “a break” from her fiancé after everything he did. And then at one point she says she could forgive him for the women and the drugs, but she’s mostly mad he kept her in the dark and even considers taking blame for not pushing him to share more! (Oh Ellie, where is your backbone and self esteem?) I definitely had some issues with Ellie’s character traits that kept me from connecting with her.

Told via mostly Ellie’s first person point of view with a few chapters from Dan’s, the story blends elements of romance, mystery, and erotica.  The setting is unique, well described, and helps lend to the intrigue aura of the story. This is a two part story where larger secrets are revealed but the details withheld for the next book, 31 Days of Summer, releasing December 26th.  Therefore, Ellie and Dan’s story is not resolved in this installment. As a reader who likes closure at the end of a book, I definitely felt frustrated with the pace of the story.  And while I mostly guessed at Dan’s secrets, I can’t say they were ones that left a pleasant taste at the end.  That’s not to say that the circumstances of Dan’s secret may not redeem him in the conclusion (I certainly hope they do), but where it leaves off may not appeal to some readers, depending on your tastes and preferences. 

Purchase 31 Days of Winter:
Or add it to your TBR:
Add 31 Days of Summer to your TBR:
Scheduled for release December 26, 2014

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