Review: Rekindled by C.J. McKella

Note: This ARC was provided by InkSlinger PR in exchange for an honest review.

I so love it when I come across an author's debut published work and realize that I've got a hidden gem in my hands. That's what happened with C.J. McKella's Rekindled, which I think is a standalone but I'm really, really, REALLY hoping is a series starter because it's got a supporting cast of characters that are just itching to get their own time in the spotlight. But more on that later. Let me return the focus on this great second chance slash friends to enemies (kinda but not really) to lovers romance that had two people who were best friends at seven and then forced to become strangers for seven years when she was seventeen and he was eighteen and cross paths again in their mid-twenties with anger, pain, and betrayal still lingering in their veins but the undeniable love and concern--both they believed long buried--remained. This is a book with angst but nothing contrived or melodramatic and it does lighten things up with moments of levity. Rekindled was such a pleasant surprise of a weekend read and I so loved it to bits.

Tate Corbin has loved Callie Winters since she was seven and laid claim to his treehouse. They became best friends and his feelings for her developed into much more when they were teenagers. His admission of love, however, was met with Callie's news that she would marry her boyfriend and move to California with him, essentially breaking Tate's heart and ending their friendship when he turned his back and walked away from a decade of memories. Seven years later, Callie has returned to McCall, Idaho with her six-year-old son Jonah in tow. She's left her husband after too many years of controlling and unpredictable behavior led to her losing nearly every cent in her name and the home they shared. Seeing Tate again  on the night that his engagement is made public hurts more than she's ready to admit, but it's his residual anger that she can deal with. She's tried to reach out to him over the years and he's rebuffed and rejected every move she's made. All she wants now is to move on and create a stable life for herself and little Jonah.

Just when he was working to start a new life with the woman he loves, the girl from his past and who's haunted him more than he'd care to admit makes an unexpected return to their hometown. The pain she left behind still lingers and evidence of her having created a whole new life away from him is right there when he sees her young son. But as much as he'd like to hold on to all the negative emotions, when he discovers how hard up Callie is now and that life wasn't all that great for her while she was with her husband, his protectiveness comes to the forefront. They decide to forgive one another and make a go of rekindling the friendship that they once shared, but could their feelings for each other also be rekindled, if they had ever really died down in the first place? Tate is engaged and Callie is now the one on the outside looking in, realizing that she's now in the same position Tate was in seven years ago, with all her emotions to be thrown aside. Will the proverbial stars ever align for these erstwhile best friends and hopeful lovers?

I think that when you choose to read a book from an author who is either new or whose previous work is unfamiliar to you, it's a risk of sorts. I am happy to report that the "risk" I took with Rekindled paid off in spades. Not only did I get a well-written and heartfelt story of a first love being one's last and true love, but I also met two main characters who were honest--albeit a few years later--about their flaws and mistakes and yet strove to make amends and make the most of their situation, acknowledging the past but choosing to focus on the present in hopes of having a chance at a future together. They also happen to be surrounded with a great group of family and friends, and I hope that C.J. McKella considers (or maybe she already has!) making a series, because I certainly wouldn't mind reading about Caleb Winters and the Tate's friends and fellow smoke jumpers, especially if their stories are as good as Tate's. If you're in the market for a tale about love, friendship, forgiveness, and second chances, check out Rekindled. Five stars! ♥

Date Read: 22 May 2016

Learn more about C.J. McKella.

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