Handle Me with Care by Helen J Rolfe

Title - Handle Me with Care
Author - Helen J Rolfe
Publication Date - June 29th 2015
Publisher - Fabrian Books
Format - Kindle Edition (Provided via author)
Pages - 344

Does true love come along more than once in a lifetime?

Maddie Kershaw doesn't think so. She lost the love of her life in the 9/11 attacks, and since then has hopped from one casual fling to the next. But when she delivers an erotic cake to a one-hundredth birthday party by mistake, she meets Evan and starts to believe in second chances... until she realises there's a risk of getting hurt all over again.

Evan Quinn is serially single, yet when he meets Maddie he feels an instant connection, so much so that he confesses on their first date that he may have testicular cancer. Was it a mistake to tell her? He wants Maddie more than he has ever wanted any other woman. But he doesn't want her pity.

With the odds stacked against them both, finding love won't be easy. But beneath Australian sun, a Happy Ever After could be worth fighting for.

Handle Me with Care by Helen J Rolfe is the first novel I've read by this author. Beforehand, I'd seen a fair few book-bloggers enthusing about it, so my interest was definitely piqued. When the author approached me in regards to reading and reviewing, I couldn't say yes fast enough. The blurb, coupled with such a gorgeous cover, enticed me completely, even more so when I realised that this wasn't going to be just any romance. The blurb hinted towards topics that would never offer the characters within an easy ride, but more than that, I really wanted to see how the characters would develop and grow throughout the novel, given their separate circumstances. Quite simply, it sounded to me like these characters were going to be put through their paces, which would only result in stronger people by the end of the novel. I couldn't wait to begin.

Helen begins Handle Me with Care with a highly amusing scene which had me stifling my giggles with my hand. An avid baker, not only due to her obvious talents but also because it allows her to forget,  Maddie delivers a risqué cake to a one-hundredth birthday party by mistake. Amongst the smirks and giggles, this is where she first sets eyes on Evan, and pretty much Maddie and Evan's beautiful story begins. I loved that Helen chose to open the book in such a fun, carefree way. In the throes of the birthday party, it was clear to me (and Maddie), that between she and Evan, there was an instant connection, almost like love at first sight. The glances and smiles reeled me in completely and it felt as though Maddie and Evan had created a bubble around themselves, no-one else included within it. I knew from this point that there was something special about these two, it was clear for everyone to see, including Evan's gran Jem, who insisted that they seemed just right for each other, and who also added so much warmth to this scene. With the party atmosphere, it was impossible for me not to be sucked into it all and revel in the new-found chemistry that was zipping between Evan and Maddie. I was incredibly eager to see where life would take these two characters, although I had an inkling that it wouldn't be a smooth ride for either of them.

Helen's character development in Handle Me with Care was flawless. From beginning to end, watching Maddie and Evan change and grow, apart and together, was absolutely beautiful. Maddie was damaged, and quite understandably so. Since she'd lost the love of her life Riley in the 9/11 attacks, she'd kept her heart close and rather than get involved in any relationships which would put her at risk of deep loss once more, she'd chosen to stay casual whenever it came to romance. Considering what she'd went through, I really couldn't blame her. It was obvious that the loss of Riley had left Maddie with some horrific scars, scars that encouraged her to hold back whenever the idea of 'something more' happened to crop up. Helen did such an exquisite job of splaying Maddie's emotions out for me to get a good look at. Every feeling, every emotion, it all made perfect sense to me. I was able to understand Maddie's reasoning perfectly, could understand why she'd rather not become involved with anyone else, and it only made me love her more as a heroine. Her worries and fears were rational, and I couldn't help but to agree with how she felt about certain things. She was terrified, petrified even, of having the same thing happen to her again, and this shone through beautifully in the author's descriptions of Maddie's inner thoughts and feelings. She was such a complex character, scared and hidden away beneath her own personal armour that had been built by her past. There was nothing I wanted more than for Maddie to find her second chance, to be able to let the demons of her past go and learn to move on. I felt so connected to Helen's characters, so much so that by the end of this novel, I was reluctant to say goodbye to them. They were pure magic, perhaps a tad frustrating at times when fate continued to keep them apart, but wonderful nonetheless.

Everything in this novel worked for me. The stunning Australian setting, the sparks and ribbons of chemistry that wrapped around Helen's heroine and hero, the barriers each of them had built up, and the sheer, emotional strength it took to take those barriers back down. It was more than a romance, it was a display of trust and courage, intimacy and belief, letting go and finally being able to move forward in life, despite what had gone before.

I absolutely loved this novel. It was beautifully moving, with equally beautiful characters and descriptions that made this a truly special story. It's about taking chances, being brave and learning to love again, no matter how terrifying it may seem. Becca's Books is awarding Handle Me with Care by Helen J Rolfe with five gorgeous cupcakes! I really cannot wait to read more from Helen J Rolfe.

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