Wednesday, December 13, 2017

REVIEW/RELEASE BLITZ: Of Smoke & Cinnamon: A Christmas Story by Ace Gray

Genre: Holiday Second Chance Romance


Camilla Collins hasn't gone home in thirteen years. As much as she loves her family, their tiny hometown in the folds of the Colorado mountains holds too many memories. Memories of a life barely lived and a love barely realized. No matter how she thrives, AJ Jenkins is the man she compares all others too. He just so happens to be the one that broke her heart. Seeing him, seeing the life she might have had with him, has been a very convincing reason to celebrate the holidays in the Pacific Northwest, happy in the rain instead
of the snow.

AJ Jenkins isn't exactly bitter and frigid. It's the below freezing temperatures, the knee deep snow, and the death of his chronically ill father dragging him down. That is until Cam Collins finally comes home for Christmas. After thirteen years, he'd almost given up on seeing her. And was incredibly happy about it. But thirteen is unlucky for a reason, and apparently that reason is still a klutzy, gorgeous, living memory determined to poke holes in his barely hanging on heart with death defying stilettos.

~Book Review~

3.75 Stars

Guilted into coming home for Christmas and into attending an informal class reunion, Camilla Collins can’t ignore the town or the boy she left behind any longer. Both she and AJ Jenkins are convinced the other one broke his/her heart thirteen years ago.
“‘Because you were young, because you were both foolish and made mistakes. But the world is built on forgiveness…You were young. But now, you’re not. The only reason things stay broken is because you let them.’”
The relationship development in this story is very solid. There’s no insta-love or insta-lust. Their history is divulged and developed well, and it wasn’t hard to believe how attached they were to each other.
“Our lips are back against each other, tracing the trails they both know too well and have to learn all over again.”
AJ was a good guy, a great catch. He wasn’t a jerk or a manwhore. He was hurting but once he realized his true feelings, he was all in. Cam was the one for him and the one he never got over.

Cam was okay. She was independent in the sense that she made a prosperous career for herself, but she was so over the top clumsy.

Things I didn’t understand about Cam:
#1 Why she was so intent on proving herself a different person to her old classmates when it seems like she had a pretty good high school life that included a caring high school sweetheart.
#2 Why in the hell this woman walked around in stilettos in the snow!?

Told via Cam and AJ’s alternating first person POV, there’s often more narration/description than dialogue. The writing is a bit flowery in places, but the use of sensory details in the writing works well for the Christmas mood and theme. There are even some drink recipes at the end.  The plot incorporates elements of the holiday season well; it’s not just a romance set at Christmas time.

What dropped the story below 4 stars for me was the point where Cam and AJ should have been coming to some kind of solution, but instead they just created their own personal (and unnecessary) angst, causing the story to drag. I wanted to smack them both upside the head to knock some sense into them. They were tormenting themselves for no valid reason alongside lousy logic like two dumbasses (Trigg’s choice of word but I couldn’t agree more!) In no way were they thinking like two grown adult 31 year olds. Thank god for Trigg who had more sense than the two of them combined.

On that note, while it’s a sweet romance, it also focuses heavily on internal drama as the pair try to figure out where things went wrong the first time while avoiding having an intelligent conversation about the future in the present. After a point, that was just plain out frustrating.

This can be read as a standalone, but there’s another story releasing next Christmas.

99c for a limited time
Free in Kindle Unlimited

Barely behind me, Cam is bent over the pool table, angling at a difficult shot. Those painted on jeans accentuate curves I don’t remember her having. Curves I want to paw. Then there’s the mysterious tattoo. It cuts across cream colored skin and I want to lick it—lick her—despite everything between us.
To make matters worse, she makes the near-impossible shot. The Cam Collins I know is three things: uncoordinated, callous and the world’s worst pool player. I’d had to help her with every shot she ever took, my body wrapped completely around hers, my hands guiding her every movement. Almost every time she’d look over at me rather than the ball.
But she’s well on her way to running the table.
How long has she had these skills? Did she develop them because I wasn’t there? My heart twists at the thought.
Or, worse, could she always do this, her mind so accustomed to angles and trajectories, but wanted my hands on her?
I don’t know why I’ve thought of the possibility, but it’s the most dangerous one yet because it sucks me back to that warm summer night when we’d played the best game of pool of my life. I’d helped her with each shot. She’d wiggled her ass up against my crotch too many times to count. Just when I thought I was going to have to take her home then jerk off, she’d grabbed my hand and pulled me out to the 13th green behind Molly Merithew’s house.
Crickets chirped, punctuating her labored breathing. There was the slightest warm breeze tickling my skin. I never asked if it was the breeze or me that peaked her nipples when she shimmied out of her white eyelet linen top. I couldn’t really ask anything as Cam stripped naked behind the willow trees and let me have her for the first time, bathed in moonlight. When we snuggled under the stars she wore nothing but my flannel.
I never got that shirt back. I’d sworn off anything remotely related to vanilla, too—that’s what Cam tasted like.
That’s what the hidden taste in the bourbon was.
Fuck pool. Fuck this delicious bourbon. And fuck Cam Collins. 

Ace Gray is a self-proclaimed troublemaker and connoisseur of both the good life and fairy tales. After a life-long love affair with books, she undertook writing the novel she wanted to read, which culminated in her first release STRICTLY BUSINESS and followed with, well, quite a few more. When she’s not writing, she works in craft beer. Originally a small town, Colorado girl, she now loves rainy days, shellac manicures, coffee shops and bourbon—all of which are  bountiful in her adopted home of Portland, OR where she runs amok with her chef husband and husky pup.

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