Title: Of Smoke & Cinnamon: A Christmas Story
Author: Ace Gray
Genre: Holiday Second Chance Romance
Release Date: December 13, 2017
5 Penguin CROWNS
Of Smoke and Cinnamon has been my introduction to the world of Ace Gray, and if any of her other books are even remotely as good as this second chance, Christmas romance then this author has a new insta-fan. Each page is filled with angsty goodness that tore at my heart.
Camilla and AJ are fantastic characters. The author does a fantastic job establishing them as characters, delicately balancing memories of the past with the present. The reason for the breakup and the broken hearts they endured and continue to harbor all cause the reader to feel incredibly sympathetic for these characters. I felt my heart break right along with them. Plus, the author made the demise of their past relationship believable and gut-wrenching, while also not laying blame at any one character’s feet, keeping in tact are loyalty to both the hero and the heroine.
Of Smoke and Cinnamon is an beautifully developed second chance romance. From the very beginning, readers connect with the heroine who is returning to her hometown, and we connect with the hero who remained behind, attempting to make a life for himself. As the story progresses, the revelation of what ended them not only serves as an impetus for these two to reconnect but also works to set up the conflict of the story. The inevitable conflict weaves each present moment together with dashes of sadness. Ace Gray’s writing and development of these characters and plot makes readers feel it all, and even though we know what is coming it doesn’t stop us from wishing for their moments together. The inevitable hope that seeps into our minds that this time they can get it right and heartbreak the occurs when it all falls apart just shows how wonderful this writer is at putting us in the moment with Camilla and AJ. Ace Gray ends the story with perfect Christmas surprise, so romance readers be prepared for a resolution that will have you smiling as it is the perfect moment for the clumsy Camilla and the man who always seems to save her from harm.
I love second chance romances, Christmas stories, and angst, and Ace Gray has combined three attributes of romance that I love into one phenomenal story. It is the perfect book to curl up by the tree or in front of the fire and make you believe in fated love all over again.
ARC received in exchange for an honest review.
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.
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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.