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Sunday, April 10, 2011

REVIEW: Angel's Rest (#1, Eternity Springs) by Emily March

4.5 of 5 Stars - Read March 2011

ANGEL’S REST WOULDN’T LET ME REST – It kept me up reading until almost 2am on a weeknight!

I found this book through Lisa Kleypas’ Facebook page where she said:

“I have to tell you about a wonderful new book--a debut by Emily March called ANGEL'S REST! This new series has had a spectacular start-- Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review. I gave her a quote: "Emily March's stories are heart-wrenching and soul-satisfying. Don't miss a visit to Eternity Springs." I'm telling you, you're in for a real treat! Please get this book and check out her FB page.”

So, of course, I had to read this book! Yes, an endorsement by one of my favourite authors is why I bought the book. I’ve only ever read a few books for this reason, but hey, this was Lisa Kleypas!

It is so funny, but as I was writing this review and watching American Idol, Pia Toscano was singing Whitney Houston’s “Where Do Broken Hearts Go?”, and my reply was: Eternity Springs! ^_^

Eternity Springs, the setting of this series, is a small town in the Colorado Rockies, population 827. The town was founded by 3 miners and was called “Eternity Springs” for the hot springs where they soothed their sore muscles, and because the area was so remote that it took an eternity to get there. But Eternity Springs isn’t just a place to sooth muscles. There is a something special about the place. It is a place where broken souls find healing.

Angel’s Rest begins with John Gabriel Callahan (Gabe), a man tormented from losing all that mattered in his life, at the darkest point a person can be – contemplating “taking a hike”, in the solitude of the Rockie mountains, with a 9mm Glock. I immediately connected with Gabe in those first few pages, having been in that dark place, myself, in the past… where the pain and sadness becomes so unbearable that you just want to die.

A homeless, goofy boxer saves Gabe’s life, stopping him from pulling the trigger by face-planting him in the snow, licking his face, and causing Gabe to smile for the first time in months.

An adorable boxer from Emily March's website
A few days later, Gabe returns the favour, saving the dog from a trap. He takes the dog to the local vet, Dr. Nicole Sullivan (Nic). The caring, compassionate, quietly confident, no-nonsense Dr. Nic, with her wholesome girl-next-door beauty, sparks Gabe’s interest but he is determined to keep his solitude, up at his borrowed mountain retreat. He leaves the dog with Nic, to find a home for it. But the dog has other plans and sees Gabe as his. A view Gabe does not share. This was so cute. The dog, which Gabe refused to name, was such an adorable character in this story, and I loved the reluctant relationship that forms between them.

The town is in economic strife. Celeste Blessing, a town resident, has a plan to save the town, which involves Gabe, and this sets off a chain of events.

Angel’s Rest is a heart-wrenching and moving story about grief, healing, second chances, and what happens when a relationship develops all the wrong way around…well, at least not in the “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage” way.

The pretty pastel cover of this book is a little bit misleading, as it certainly was not a completely light and fluffy book, for me. Gabe’s torment, his depression and grief, and the hurts he inadvertently causes Nic as a result, gave me a physical aching pain in my chest, and my eyes were teary quite a bit while reading this. While there are strong mitigating reasons for certain downright "Ass" behaviours that Gabe displayed, it was the way he showed his remorse and how he apologised through his actions, and not just his words, that I fully forgave him for what he did. The scene near the end had me crying tears of joy.

This book really touched me. I was completely drawn into the setting, the characters and the story. I really cared about both Gabe and Nic, wanting them to have a Happily-Ever-After.

I loved the secondary characters: Celeste Blessing, the visionary older woman, young at heart, who rides a motorbike; and Nic’s best friends, Sage and Sarah, who seem to have secrets hurts of their own. I loved the friendship between these women. These were women I could see myself being friends with, in real life. I loved how they supported one another through difficult times and how they had fun together.

I loved the scene below where Nic, Sarah and Sage are watching college basketball, admiring their “fantasy man”, Coach Romano. They end up talking about an important issue to one of them (as happens to my friends and I - you drool together, share “deep and meaningfuls”, and bicker, as well), and then…
“Excuse me?” Sage interrupted. “Can we pause the bickering for more important matters, please? Look. There’s a time-out on the court.”

Which meant more Coach Romano camera time. The three women focused on the TV.

“OMG,” Sarah said, the slang usage obviously for Nic’s benefit. On the screen, the man in question had slipped off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves, and he was holding a basketball in a one-handed grip. “Look at the size of those hands.”

Sage fanned her face. “Think of what he could do with them.”

“At the risk of sounding crude, this is the first time in my life my boobs ever wished they were a basketball,” Nic observed.

Out in the hallway, something heavy thumped to the floor. Nic recognized the voice that muttered the epithet that immediately followed. Gabe Callahan.

She glanced at the wall mirror and smoothed her fly-away hair, catching Sarah’s knowing smirk as she did so. She stuck out her tongue at her best friend and sent up a little prayer that his hearing wasn’t all that sharp.”

The steamy scenes are mild, though there are some good shivery and tingly chemistry moments. Especially with tall, dark and sexy Gabe trying to resist his strong attraction to Nic, but failing miserably.
'“Thanks!” She flashed him a smile, her eyes gleaming with pleasure, then spun on those heels and disappeared from view – leaving Gabe standing frozen in place, unaccountably warm, uneasy and…holy crap…turned on.

Guess it wasn’t broken after all.’
This is a book for people who don’t like overly descriptive/lots of love scenes (who are these people?? ^_~) or who can make do without a high heat factor, as long as it satisfies on other fronts, which this did, for me.

At the heart, Angel’s Rest is a story about being honest with ourselves, and with each other, in relationships. It is about not letting the ghosts of the past direct us, but forging our paths, being aware of the issues of our past and how to move on from it. It is about the healing power of love and the magic of a little place called Eternity Springs.

I should mention that this book does have traditional, small-town values, and has inspirational tones, so if that isn't your cup of tea, just be aware. I, personally, loved the uplifting and inspirational tones.

As I understand from Emily’s March’s website, the author used to write Romantic Suspense as Geralyn Dawson. She has a RS series, the Callahan Brothers trilogy series, which involve Gabe’s brothers, which I’m interested in reading. The author had actually taken a break from writing, but then John Gabriel Callahan and Eternity Springs wouldn’t leave her alone. The reason she decided to write this series under a different name (Emily March) was because her writing style, and the tone of these books, were going to be very different from her Geralyn Dawson books, and she didn’t want to create false expectations in her readers. But mostly, this is a series about change and rebirth, which reflected the changes in the author’s journey as a writer.

I haven’t read the Virgin River series by Robyn Carr, which I understand is also set in a small town, so I really can’t compare this to that. I, however, really enjoyed this and look forward to other books in the series. I’m about to start Sage’s book, Hummingbird Lake, which was just released on 22nd March 2011. Heartache Falls is due out on 26th April 2011, and I was surprised to see is about Ali Timberlake, and not Sarah Reese, as I had expected.

I enjoyed browsing through Emily March’s website and she has some lovely images of her vision of Eternity Springs:

My images of Gabe (Hugh Jackman) and Nic (Elizabeth Mitchell): 

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