Release Date: December 3rd, 2021
‘Tis the season to … be freshly divorced at twenty-six and moving back into your parents’ house?
Because that’s my reality this Christmas. As if it isn’t bad enough that my entire hometown is buzzing with the news of my failed marriage, who is the first person I bump into at the grocery store? The guy who treated me like his personal booty call in high school just happens to be looking at spices while I’m trying to pick up cinnamon for my mother.
And get this; Porter Kelly, the broody, mysterious recluse who exposed his own secrets to the world by writing a book about his family years ago, is the one who acts like I wronged him. His rude remarks on aisle nine are the final straw as my exhausted unhappiness breaks, and I’m officially calling off the most wonderful time of the year.
Too bad it’s literally impossible for the woman whose parents own a railroad that specializes in Christmas train rides to ignore the holiday season. Because I’m back under their roof, it’s mandatory to work in the middle of the red and green merriment, Santa himself, and wait for it …
Porter serenading us with the greatest festive hits of all time. That’s right, apparently my teenage heartthrob turned nemesis not only works for my parents, but can strum a guitar like he’s trying to get every soccer mom on board pregnant. As we’re forced to spend more time together than ever, his past baggage and my marital rejection make their way to the surface, bonding us in ways neither of us knew possible.
I thought I was heartbroken about my ex-husband wanting to end our marriage, but that pain is nothing compared to what Porter could inflict. He seems like a changed man, one on the precipice of a new chapter, which is exactly where I find myself. Would it be crazy to think we could turn the page together?
Returning home was the only option I had. But as I come dangerously close to counting on the first man who broke my heart, I wonder if all of my future dreams are too good to be true.
There’s a reason why Carrie Aarons is one of my favourite authors––she writes magical love stories like this one that have me all up in my feels for hours before I can fully process what I’ve just read. I went into If Only in My Dreams thinking it would be a Christmas romance, but it’s not exclusively connected to Christmas. Yes, the holidays are mentioned throughout the book, but it never once felt overwhelming or over the top. It was the perfect balance that strangely made me look forward to the holidays!
“Wanting you wasn’t the problem. Deep down, I wanted more. I almost told you I loved you.”
This second chance, enemies to lovers in a small town was just what the doctor ordered. It made me swoon, sigh and gasp as I read it, because Madison and Porter’s story is one that I absolutely loved. I really liked these characters individually too, because there’s so much more to them than meets the eye. They are so much more than just two pretty people and dipping into their heads and their personal struggles was such a wonderful experience.
Madison is back home in her small town fresh off a divorce that she never saw coming. A year into her marriage, the man she thought she was going to spend forever with announced that he didn’t love her anymore and filed for divorce. With her tail tucked between her legs, Madison returns home and tries to get her feet back under her. Of course, she comes home just in time for Christmas and everywhere she goes, whispers follow and the gossip mongers are champing at the bit for more information. Madison is a slightly fragile and broken woman, she’s young and heartbroken, she’s also very determined in moving on past the heartache and pain her ex put her through. But she’s also a kind and generous person. Coming home means being with her loving family and her best friend and helping out with the family business. I liked that even though Madison is small town royalty, she doesn’t carry herself that way. In fact, her entire family is made up of awesomeness and I loved them so much. Despite the heartbreak and pain, Madison is a tough woman. It takes a lot to move back home, keep your head up and push through every day even when you’re not feeling up for it. Especially when her first love––and current source of frustration––keeps treating her like crap.
Speaking of him…Porter’s life is shrouded in pain. Raised by a single mother, he had to keep the secret of his parentage a secret because his mother said so. But when he finally had enough and took control of his own life and narrative, Porter wrote and published a tell-all book about his estranged father, who just so happened to be the biggest rockstar in the world. Porter’s life weighs him down and it also factors into a lot of the life choices he made. When I saw him through Madison’s eyes, I didn’t like the man standing before her. But his chapters are so raw and real, and I appreciate that he was accepting of the asshole he is and the bad choices he’s made. I do love Porter Kelly, though. He’s wounded, he’s tragic, but he’s also the most generous person ever. Even though he became a best selling author, Porter stays in his small town and keeps to his routines. He sings Christmas music on the local tourist attraction train service and he helps out whenever necessary. He’s not a bad guy, he’s just gotten really good at keeping everyone away from him because he doesn’t want to get attached. But seriously, there was a brief moment when I wanted to smack him for the way he was treating Madison.
“There is something in my molecular makeup that can’t fend off the feeling I get when I’m around him. I hate it, but I can’t stop it.”
I’m one of those people that doesn’t enjoy enemies to lovers when one person is being an asshole because they have feelings for the other person and the only way is to be hateful towards them. That being said, I really liked the way Carrie crafted Madison and Porter’s relationship. There’s a lot of snarky back and forth, lots of angry and hateful words spewed, but you can sense the despair that follows those words. It’s almost like they want to take back everything they’ve said every single time one of them opens their mouths. And I also appreciated that the ‘enemies’ angle lasted a lot longer than a few chapters in the book. It takes them a good amount of time to accept that these feelings of rage might actually be something else. And while low on angst, the confessions and the admissions of feelings and deep rooted emotions are so overwhelmingly wonderful. It might be weird that I swooned when Porter was admitting his feelings and how he’s held onto them for so long, but I do sincerely appreciate the level of communication and constant need to talk to each other.
Their relationship is HOT. I feel like with every Carrie book I read, the steam levels go up and I love that a whole lot. And in this…OOF. As you can imagine, there’s lots of sexual tension and there’s all this pining––heck yeah, pining!––but when they strip off their clothes and come together, it’s explosive. There’s also the history they share as sexual partners that play into this level of intimacy and I really enjoyed watching them reconnect and fall back in love. It’s halting, it’s slow, but at the same time, it happens all at once. And their relationship felt real, which was another thing I absolutely loved about Madison and Porter.
I thoroughly enjoyed If Only In My Dreams and I can’t wait for more of these kinds of stories from Carrie. I’m also very curious about a lot of the supporting characters––Matthew, Gigi and Raven––and I hope they all have stories coming soon, because I need more!
Thanks to Carrie Aarons & Grey’s Promo for generously providing me with an advance copy. I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.