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Reviewed by Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers' Favorite
When the Ice Melts by Phyllis J. Burton is a perilous tale of romance. Tom Wenham’s small plane crashes in Switzerland. Comatose, he is sustained by life support. His wife, Sarah, is grief stricken with the decision to turn off the machines. Months pass, Sarah’s guilt leads to depression and mood swings. Her law firm, employees and close friends need her to move on with her life. This task is easier said than done. Reluctantly, Sarah hires a new lawyer, John Bradley, to fill the gap that Tom’s death left at the firm. Sarah and John’s relationship vacillates from friend to foe on a daily basis. However, John is determined to break through Sarah’s icy exterior and see her smile again. Sarah’s life slips, slides and snowballs out of control. After some coaxing, Sarah decides to take a vacation to Greece with her dear friend Heather. At the last minute, Heather cannot go, therefore Sarah ventures out alone. On the Greek island of Kalynithos, Sarah is caught off guard by a charming man, who fascinates her in the beginning and frightens her in the end. This encounter changes her life forever. Sarah returns home. John is waiting for her. Her frosted heart begins to melt. Could love really spring forth again, out of the cold frozen winter of grief? Just when life was beginning to be worth living, a dangerous storm gathers to test Sarah’s resolve and her enduring love.
Phyllis J. Burton’s When the Ice Melts focuses on the traumatized heart of a woman. The narrative is told in a two-part format. The first part is a steady climb to the plateau of the story, and during this segment the author creates the romance and introduces and builds the characters. It is in the second part that the action and suspense are developed. The analogy of ice shapes the theme of the story. Ice is cold and seemingly impenetrable until warmth is added. Then the ice gradually melts. This is true to the character of the heroine; she is hard, cold as ice in the beginning, but through the warmth of love and companionship she becomes vulnerable, her heart softens, and ultimately melts. The characterization of the novel is its nucleus. The narrative’s heroine is both equally strong in spirit and fragile in heart and soul. She is bright, intelligent and easy to relate to in thought and manner. Burton portrays her heroine as both a victim and a victor.
As a reader, you become engaged in her traumatic situation; you sense the stress, fear and horror, as well as the weakening spirit and fight for survival. The heroine’s sidekick is handsome, virile, accomplished, and patient, displaying meekness - strength under control. He gives balance to the heroine’s evolving character by blanketing her soul. The villain is malicious and cunning, his evil intent is deep and dark. The supporting cast of characters is the nuts and bolts of the narrative; they keep the main characters connected, each one playing a significant role in the story. Lastly, Burton portrays the reality of severe trauma; what happens to the body, soul and spirit is at times beyond words. The nightmares, the pain, the memory loss, the brain’s fight to make sense of the senseless are all reflected in a poignant and genuine manner. In the end, Burton leaves the reader thankful for the power of enduring love.