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Reviewed by Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers' Favorite
Elysia Lumen Strife pens frost and fire in Christmas in Montana. “Life isn’t always going to be what you want. It’s going to be what you make of it.” Orion McNalley loves her family and hometown in Montana. Yet, she secretly dreams of a Hawaiian Christmas getaway, but it is not happening this year. Even though she needs a break, Orion’s mom and disabled dad need her, and Toby, her best friend, is coming home for Christmas this year. After finishing her shift, bartending at the local bar, Orion sits down and waits for Toby to arrive. While waiting and pondering why Toby is coming home, a stranger shows up. Orion’s attention immediately focuses on this very fit and handsome man. Matt is ex-Army, now a busy CEO, who does physical training on the side. As he enters the bar, he feels out of place. Yet, no matter how uncomfortable he feels, Matt is determined to help Sophia move past her accident and finish college. Scanning the bar, looking for Sophia, Matt’s eyes are drawn to a woman with cider curls. Wow! After being briefly captivated, he spots Sophia in the crowd. Matt and Orion meet and are unexpectedly thrust into each other’s lives. Can two strangers, each bearing scars from the past, have a future? Love is a risky pursuit, especially while celebrating Christmas in Montana.
Elysia Lumen Strife stays true to her Embers in the Ice Series. Christmas in Montana chills the bones and warms the heart. The narrative begins with quick character introductions. Within a few pages, the reader knows all the players and how they are connected. The characterization is built and defined masterfully. I was pleasantly surprised by the body-building aspect penned in the narrative; I did not see that one coming. Yet, this is the thread that pulls the main characters together. Although fit and strong on the outside, there is weakness and fear hiding behind the vanity of their physical appearance. Both main characters have been traumatized, making them guarded and cautious. Through bodybuilding, they push themselves to the “limits of their human capability.” They project a need of no one, yet desire to help everyone else. As their characters grow and arc, the conflict heightens. They proceed with caution nearing the threshold of trust, then bam, take a giant leap backward. This writing technique, although frustrating, is necessary to the story building. After all, when fire and ice converge, there is a gradual thawing, not an immediate melting. Out of all the supporting characters, I like Isabelle the best. She epitomizes the role of wife and mom. She speaks many valuable truths. Titus is the backbone; ironically, he is the one with an injured back, revealing clever writing by the author. Christmas in Montana is a beautifully written love story. It has it all: family devotion, the loyalty of friendship, moments of catch your breath danger, prayerful pleas, and a whole lot of holiday magic.