Title – Caged in Winter
Author – Brighton Walsh
Series – Reluctant Hearts, #1
Release Date – November 4, 2014
**Can be Read as a Standalone**
In this emotional and sexy New Adult debut from Brighton Walsh, the only thing more frightening than commitment is hope…
Aspiring chef Cade Maxwell is immediately, viscerally attracted to Winter Jacobson. But it’s not her mouthwatering curves he’s drawn to—it’s the strange emptiness in her eyes. When Cade saves her from a drunken customer with grabby hands, he’s shocked at her response…
Winter doesn’t need Cade’s help. After a lifetime of getting by on her own, she’s happy to rely on herself. She’s exactly seventy-six days away from graduating college, and if she can hold it together that long, she’ll finally be able to rise above the crappy hand she was dealt.
But now, every time she turns around, Cade is there, ready to push her, smile at her, distract her from her plans. Winter knows she can’t afford to open up—especially to a man she’s terrified to actually want…
Caged in Winter is everything I fell in love with about the New Adult genre. When I got back into reading for fun after college, NA was just breaking out onto the scene and I loved that there were finally books I could relate to and characters I could connect with. Authors were starting to bridge the gap between YA and Adult and I was hooked. It has been a while since a book from an author I wasn’t already familiar with has grabbed me in the way that Caged in Winter has and I am already obsessing over Brighton Walsh, waiting not-so-patiently for her next book. She truly has a gift for storytelling and her talent as a writer is apparent from the start.
“I don’t want to be scared anymore. I want to be the kind of person Cade sees in me.”
When it comes to Cade, what’s not to love? He’s inked, toned, and knows his way around the kitchen. I’m usually a huge sucker for those stereotypical alphas, but Cade swooped in and stole my heart away with his sweetness. The man knows how to turn up the heat one minute and have me gushing over his relationship with his sister and niece the next. Brighton Walsh has created such a fantastic multidimensional character with Cade and I loved learning each and every one of his facets. Winter is a girl after my own heart. The girl is stubborn as hell and totally independent. She’s tough and closed down in response to the things she’s experienced in her past. Underneath her hard exterior, Brighton reveals the insecurities, fears and faults of a young twenty-something trying to find her way in the world. I applaud Brighton Walsh for giving her characters difficult journeys. Neither of them had it easy in life, but while she certainly lets it influence her characters, she doesn’t let it define them.
“The kind of person who’s fearless, who spreads her wings instead of staying frozen on the ground.”
The relationships in this book really made the story. Brighton Walsh has developed a variety of relationships between her characters, each one distinct and vital to the development of both the character and storyline. Cade’s relationships with Tessa, Jason, and Winter are all absolutely revealing of who he is. I loved watching Cade chip away at Winter’s walls, winning her over with his thoughtfulness and attention. He took everything she threw at him with a smile and really proved his intentions, making him undoubtedly swoon-worthy in my book. Everything about this couple had me smiling. Their banter, chemistry, and ability to bring out the best in one another had me addicted and completely invested in their happily ever after. I am also seriously intrigued by the relationship between Jason and Tessa. Brighton introduced their dynamic flawlessly, not giving anything away but leaving me begging for more of those two.
“I want to fly for him.”
The thing I loved most about this story was its emotional honesty. Not a minute of this book felt contrived and every single page read as genuine and raw. The myriad of emotions that accompanies that last year of college is overwhelming. Brighton Walsh expertly captured a time in life dominated by the bittersweet – excitement and fear, independence and the desperate need for approval. I could appreciate the difficultly Winter and Cade had in balancing their dreams with their responsibilities and letting go enough to let someone else in. This story was well-paced, unexpected at times, and just what I needed at others. The moment I finished this book, I wanted to jump back into it. I was definitely enchanted by Caged in Winter and Brighton Walsh, falling in love with the New Adult genre all over again.
I can’t put my finger on it, but there was just something about Caged in Winter by Brighton Walsh that had me instantly intrigued. I thought that it would end up being just a sweet, tender love story where the hero and heroine come together, toss in some drama, and that would be the end of it. I’m happy to say that what I got was so much more than that simplistic design. It was a love story, but the character development and strength was over the top perfect.
“It took me two months to realize home is a relative term. It’s not a place, not a city or a house.”
Winter is one of the most unwavering, self-sufficient heroines that I have ever come across in a novel. There were times where I almost envied her spirit, purely because of her determination and strength. From an outside perspective, it’s easy to say she was making a huge mistake and being stubborn. However, her character is just written in such a phenomenal way that you can’t help but admire her tenacity. On the other end of the spectrum, we are introduced to Cade. He was just one of those insta-love heroes; kind and thoughtful, protective and passionate, and beyond patient. Not to mention he was a chef, and it provided for such a unique character, as I have not come across a single male chef protagonist in any book I have read. Cade has been through some rough spots in his life, but rather than pushing people away, he tends to bring them closer into his circle. With the drastically different coping mechanisms each use, there is a great potential (and follow through) to see the benefits and the shortcomings of each character. They complemented each other perfectly, even if they weren’t always so sure of it.
“Not an address you can write down, not somewhere you can plant a garden or paint the walls.”
Even though the book didn’t span over a large period of time, readers got to see a fantastic transformation in both Winter and Cade. They each had to grow and become their own people in order to achieve any sort of success – whether in their careers, relationships, or love lives. It was my favorite part of the book to be honest. They were attempting to find a balance between responsibilities versus chasing their own dreams and desires which just felt so authentic to their characters, but also to the situations they were in. Sometimes, I see instances where characters compromise and have to rethink a future, but these two didn’t do that and it really endeared me to them. The book truly epitomizes what the New Adult genre should be.
“It’s a feeling – when you’re complete, accepted, and loved unconditionally.”
Caged in Winter by Brighton Walsh is impeccably written with such strong emotions evoked. The language and imagery used really helps the reader to sympathize for the characters and even empathize with them at times. It was a tremendous journey of growth and discovery for Cade and Winter, and I loved being on the ride for it. There was just something about the story and the way it was written that makes you fall into this world and become utterly captivated. Brighton Walsh is a wonderful writer with many talents and I can’t wait to get sucked into whatever it is she writes next!
I bend my knees so we’re eye level and tug on her hand until she meets my gaze. “I don’t know what we could have. It might be nothing. But I’ll be honest . . . I haven’t felt like this in a long time, and that’s enough for me to know I want to see where it goes. Can’t we just see where it goes?”
With a deep sigh, she says, “I’m not right for you, Cade.”
“How about you worry about if I’m right for you. Let me decide the other.”
And then before she can stop me, before she can utter another word of opposition, I slide my hand up her arm, over her shoulder, until it’s wrapped around her neck. With my other hand, I swipe a piece of hair back with my fingers, and then lean in, brushing my lips against hers. After only a moment, I pull back just enough for her to be able to tell me to stop. When nothing comes, I close the distance between us once again, taking her bottom lip in between mine. I brush my tongue against it, coaxing her mouth open, and she breathes this sexy little gasp as I slip inside. She tastes like cookies and wine, and I want to fucking devour her.
She grips my shirt with both hands, clutching me to her, and I stop holding back and press every inch of my body against hers, groaning as my cock presses fully against her. The moment a whimper comes from her, I know she feels it. And I can’t muster up any embarrassment, because I want her to feel it. Even with all her brass balls and fuck-everything attitude, something tells me she needs reassurance, so I give it to her. In every stroke of my tongue against hers, every brush of my thumb along her jaw, I show her how much I want her.
When her chest is heaving, her lips parted and swollen and so fucking hot, I trail kisses down her neck, seeking out every inch of skin that’s uncovered. Her head thumps back against the wall, one of her hands gone from gripping fistfuls of my shirt. Instead, she’s holding my head to her, and I don’t want to stop. I want to kiss and lick every inch of her, slip my hands under the material of her sweater, unbutton her jeans, and not stop until I feel her soft wetness against my fingertips.
But the knowledge that she’ll regret it if I don’t stop forces me to slow down.
I pull back, loosening my grip on her and putting an inch of space between us. I kiss the corner of her mouth, her cheek, and then her ear. Against it, I whisper, “Don’t say no.”
There’s a beat of silence. Two. Three. And then she says the sweetest word I’ve ever heard.
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Don’t miss the rest of the Reluctant Hearts series:
Tessa Ever After (Reluctant Hearts #2)
Paige in Progress (Reluctant Hearts #3)
Our Love Unhinged (Reluctant Hearts #3.5)
Brighton Walsh spent nearly a decade as a professional photographer before deciding to take her storytelling in a different direction and reconnect with writing. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and two children.