A Christmas in Montana

Embers on Ice Book 1

Fiction - Holiday
321 Pages
Reviewed on 03/21/2021
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

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.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Everyone has their secrets; some of them we never want to share, let alone remember. Orion is still trying to put an abusive relationship behind her, but when a mysterious and very handsome stranger walks into the bar of her sleepy little Montana hometown, she has to fight to keep the flooding feelings of attraction from resurfacing. Matt, the stranger, has his own secrets after years in service and the gruesome realities he had to face. He’s not expecting to find romance in this small town. He only came to check out his aunt and uncle’s cabin. It might serve as a great escape from his past, but will this new spark that’s attracting him set his plans of anonymity on edge? Add to the mix a jealous friend, an unwanted reunion with an abusive ex, and the sparkling romance of Christmas, and there literally will be sparks flying.

Elysia Lumen Strife’s romance novel, A Christmas in Montana (Embers on Ice Book 1), has all it promises for a Sweet and Fiery Small-Town Holiday Romance. The plot revolves around the two main characters, Orion and Matt, and their secrets and inner conflicts which present metaphorical roadblocks to their initial introduction and a rocky start to a relationship. There are multiple tangents and incidents of conflict throughout the plot development as Orion and Matt work hard to prevent themselves from falling for each other. The characters are well developed with all the human emotions one would expect: humor, anger, temper, love, joy and so much more. The introduction of the plot is rather convoluted and at times difficult to follow, but once the reader gets well into the story, it’s difficult to put it down. An interesting seasonal read.

Peggy Jo Wipf

A Christmas in Montana is Elysia Lumen Strife’s first book in her Embers on Ice series. Orion McNalley has a heart of gold that attracts those who are broken, insecure, or callous. Years ago someone she loved and trusted hurt her badly; now she has sworn off dating. Matt Jefferson has a brief break from work to figure out what he is going to do with the house he inherited. Christmas holds no meaning for him, but the people in this little town are excited about the seasonal bliss and good cheer. They attempt to pull him in because of old family ties, but Orion’s Irish temper has Matt questioning what he wants in life. Is it worth trying for love one more time?

Elysia Lumen Strife writes a tremendous romance novel with layers of hidden emotions and doubts woven into the lives of her characters. A Christmas in Montana has all the elements of holiday fiction; plenty of drama between the individuals, fearful of being hurt in love, and the magic of circumstances and hope that bring them together. The characters are full of life and well-rounded, keeping the action flowing. The importance of family is key to Orion’s character. Her ability to bring people together makes her lovable, even when her temper pushes people away. Matt’s powerful character and beliefs were built on someone he lost; now he falters finding a purpose. With scars inside and out of her characters, the author gives hope to her readers that love can find a way into remote areas, broken hearts, and when you least expect it.