Title: Healing Hearts (Challenge Series #1)
Author: Liz Crowe
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Published: December 30, 2012
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Jay Longmire had it all–a successful business, a beautiful wife, two loving children. But one normal Sunday evening in Ann Arbor everything was ripped from his arms at knifepoint. He has retreated to Traverse City to hide from the world, nursing his physical and emotional wounds and trying to cope with mind-numbing guilt over his inability to protect his family.
Abby Powers serves him coffee he never drinks and has become obsessed with the movie-star handsome but melancholy man. And the anticipation of his appearance every day takes her mind off her own messy life.
What begins as a near desperate physical connection out of the blue develops into a friendship that has the potential to heal two damaged hearts. But Jay is terrified to love again. While Abby’s fierce independence forces them both to acknowledge the deeper relationship they both desire, but that remains just out of reach.
Grief and tragedy and hatred are only for a time. Goodness, remembrance and love have no end.
As a personal preference, I have never been a big fan of novellas. Many times I feel the story is just getting started and then it ends leaving me speechless and wanting more. However, since I am a huge Liz Crowe fan and she personally asked me to read her new novella, Healing Hearts, I made an exception. Healing Hearts is the first novella from the Challenge Series, which consists of stories where the “challenge” must take a central role in the characters’ romance.
The main hero of Healing Hearts is Jay Longmire. And the title “hero” doesn’t even come close to describing his character. The man watched helplessly as his wife was brutally raped and killed as well as his son. His daughter survived the attacks but remained on life support in a coma. Words cannot even describe the hurt and sorrow that I felt for Jay, which is all a reflection on the incredible writing of Liz Crowe. I could feel Jay’s pain. I could feel his sorrow. And I could understand why he didn’t want to live anymore. A central theme ran through Jay’s mind throughout most of the book—that he had somehow failed to protect his family. And isn’t that the goal of most men? To protect and provide for their family.
Jay spends his days in a coffee shop where Abigail Powers works as a barista. He goes into the coffee shop every single day just so he can see Abby’s smile. He always orders the double skim latte, but he never talks to anyone. He just stares out the window. Abby has her own family issues causing her a different kind of pain. But she takes on extra shifts just so she can see the blue-eyed, model gorgeous Jay. Abby has one goal in life and that is to attend the University of Michigan nursing program.
A chance encounter eventually brings Jay and Abigail together outside the coffee shop where they are physically attracted to one another but both have so many baggage. At this point in their lives, they just want and need the physical release of sex. No commitments. No expectations. Just to be there for each other as friends…at least that’s what they thought.
Her innate soothing nature worked its magic even without words. She reached out and took both his hands. Her skin felt warm against his and every inch of him ached to hold her, to fold her into his arms and never let her go. But the baggage, he couldn’t share it. It was too much to ask of anyone.
There are scenes in this book which ripped my heart out. I couldn’t help but think about the people who have experienced this type of tragedy in their life. To be that numb to society. I know that I have my faith, but I don’t know what Jay’s religious background is so I’m not sure what kept him going day after day except for the fact that he still had his daughter on life support. This story is incredible, powerful, and emotional, and it will leave you with hope that love does conquer all and that grief and tragedy are only for a time.
I would also like to go on record saying that besides the fact that I don’t typically read novellas, I also don’t normally read drama-intense/sad books. I like the traditional books filled with hearts and flowers and romance—not murders and sadness. But I was pleasantly surprised at how much I truly enjoyed the storyline in this novella but definitely was not surprised by the talented writing of Liz Crowe. She has definitely raised the bar! Great job Liz. I look forward to the next novella in the Challenge Series! (Yes, that means I will read it!)
“Stop flirting with me. That’s a personal bubble violation,” he whispered, letting his lips graze her earlobe, loving how her whole body shivered against him.
“Fine, then stop pressing against me so hard I can feel how much money is in your pocket.”
“Touché.” But he gripped her closer. The candlelight flickered, the music embraced them, and she nearly brought him to his knees with her next words.
“I can’t be what you want me to be, Jay. I have goals. I need my independence. I want to make it on my own.”
He sucked in a breath, slid the hand he had on her hip around to the small of her back. He didn’t need this. But he wanted it so much he was about to explode. “I’m never going to be what you want me to be, either. Let’s just be…what we are…tonight.”
She laid her head against his chest, and he shut his eyes, trying not to let the moment overwhelm him, send him screaming into the night. Christy’s face at their wedding, at the birth of their children, and that last moment when her eyes clouded over after she told him not to blame himself while he watched her die—they all rose, clear and bright. He swallowed, leaned down into Abigail’s thick riot of dark curls, sucked in a deep breath. “What do you want me to be for you…tonight?” he asked.
She put her hand to his face, went up on her tiptoes, and met his lips, urgent and needy. He kissed her, listening to the crowd clap and catcall. Then broke away. “Well?” he asked, his body zinging.
“I want you to be the guy who takes me to bed again.” The simplicity of her words taking his breath away. “I don’t want to be made love to, not now. I need you, Jay. With me, inside me, all over me. And you need it, too. No strings, no emotion. Only physical urges met. I’m willing. Are you?”
He stepped away from her, a little shocked and a lot horny. “Give me two minutes.” Grateful the room had dimmed for the music and dancing, he dropped three hundred in cash on the table, more than enough to cover the meal, wine, and a healthy tip, and took her hand.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” she said, giggling when he pushed her up against the side of his SUV and dove into her mouth, sweeping into it with his tongue, his hands cradling her face then buried in her hair. She molded into him, making that damn noise, the one that made him insane, down in her throat.
He broke from her, stared into her eyes. “Yes.”
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