Author: Lissa Kasey
Charlie “Wood Chuck” Fox knows his best friend and fellow wildfire firefighter Jessie Row had a major family break up in her past. Charlie has adopted her into his heart and into his huge family and when Jessie gets word her mother has passed away, Charlie fears returning home is going to tear her up.
Bastian Hart’s choice of career as a doll painter has put him at odds with his family. He’s made a sanctuary for himself on the San Juan Island of Friday Harbor, an hour away from his family. He welcomes his aunt Jessie and her friend Charlie into his house as they all prepare for the upcoming funeral. Charlie and Bastian discover a spark of smoldering fire igniting between them, but Charlie is unwilling to push and Bastian hesitant to trust.
They will have to wade through pain, hate, and fear to find their future together.
Bastian Hart and his aunt, Jessie Row, are family outcasts, but they are also survivors of pretty traumatic childhoods. Charlie Fox is a wildfire firefighter that has been working with and been bestfriends with Jessie for 10 years. Charlie and Jessie are family by choice, so of course Charlie is going to go back to her childhood town when her mother passes away and Jessie is attending the funeral because Bastian asked her to. What is intended as a short stay ends up being a bit of a journey for all three characters.
The story is told from Charlie’s point of view.
This book was on my favorites of 2016 list but we had not reviewed it yet. Obviously, I loved the story, since I had it on my favorites list, and the reason for that was the characters, they are just so well written, have so many layers and I felt completely drawn into the story, even when it was going to some dark places. And such a collection of characters – Jessie is asexual, one of the best in her field of work and is usually the trainer of new firefighters; Charlie is half Native American, who lived on a reserve and usually ended up not being white enough or native enough, but he has a huge family who supported him when he came out as gay and they have adopted Jessie as well. Then there is Bastian, who has a career as a doll painter, which has added to why he is at odds with his relatives, but also, neither he nor Jessie will lie about their childhood abuse, which does not go over well with the rest of the relatives. Up until this trip, Charlie did not know the extent of the family secrets and what led to the split for Jessie.
Charlie feels attracted to Bastian when they first meet, but based on what Jessie told him and how skitterish Bastian seems at first, he figures it will be something that just stays in the back of his mind. He does feel drawn to him and wants to at least be friends since he thinks, like Jessie, Bastian likely does not have enough of those. Only thing is, spending time as friends, makes Charlie like Bastian more, and Bastian surprises Charlie by returning the attraction. Their romance is so beautifully written, it is definitely about connecting on emotional and intellectual levels more than physical, although there is cuddling and a few hotter scenes between the two, but they feel very natural to the story. I reread the book for this review and fell in love with these two all over again!
Now, there are mentions of child abuse and child sexual abuse, which readers should be aware of if that bothers you. However, if you like dramatic stories with well-developed characters that balance angst, heart, humor, strength, trust and of course, love, I believe you will enjoy this story. And I am very much looking forward to reading An Arresting Love, the second book in the series, coming out March 1, which is about Graham Church, who plays a key role in this book as well.