Light the Lamp by Catherine Gayle
Series: Portland Storm #3
Publisher: Night Shift Publishing on June 11, 2014
Life’s been rough lately for Noelle Payne, but she’s not one to let negativity rule. So, she lost her job? She’ll find another one. The bank foreclosed on the house? Well, she can live out of her car for a while. There’s always an upside to be found…but now Noelle needs to find something to give her life meaning. She owes it to the universe to figure it out, too, because a stranger just saved her life.
When Liam Kallen’s wife died, his goal-scoring ability died with her. After a trade from the only pro hockey team he’s ever played for, he’s now playing for the NHL’s Portland Storm. Everyone said he needed a change of scenery, but nothing changes until he rescues Noelle. All of a sudden, the world once again looks bright and he’s lighting the lamp like he used to.
Noelle’s cheerful disposition is just the bit of sunlight Liam needs in his life. He wants to give her everything she needs because she’s everything he wants. The problem? She doesn’t believe she needs anything…at least nothing material. The one thing they both know she truly needs—a real purpose—also happens to be the one thing he doesn’t know how to give her. If he can’t help her find that, she might walk away and take all her sunshine with her.
This book includes mature subject matter that may not be appropriate for readers under the age of 18.
This was a tough one for me. Noelle is kind of a free-spirit, and after her parents were killed, she’s done all she could to support her younger brothers. She gave up her own college education to finish raising them and then worked her fingers to the bone to send them off to the Ivy League. It’s impossible not to respect a sister that would rise to the occasion like that. However, when financial cutbacks leave her unemployed, she ends up losing their house, and then a freak accident destroys her makeshift home — her car.
Liam has never recovered from the death of his wife, especially since she never would have been there if not for him. When he finds Noelle on the side of the road, he insists upon helping her, and it’s because of him that she isn’t still standing there when another vehicle careens into hers and sends it up in flames. Upon learning her car was doubling as her home, he gives her a place to stay with him and his roommate.
As in the other books, Liam is an NHL player sharing a place with the rotating roommate, Jamie Babcock. He’s considerably older, and if he doesn’t get his game in shape, his career may not last. But he hasn’t been able to find his groove since his wife died. In many ways, he’s the typical widower, and Noelle is the sunshine that brings him back. He’s such a kind, generous man that it’s impossible not to love him, and that’s what makes this story so impossible to believe.
Frankly, Noelle is an idiot. She’s sweet and funny and always tries to look on the positive side of things, but she’s stupid enough to put herself in danger rather than accept the help of a man she’s clearly falling for. Liam hasn’t made a single demand of her, and he’s done everything he could to ensure her safety and comfort, but she’s so caught up in some “I can’t accept handouts” mind-frame that she instead sleeps on a park bench next to some sketchy homeless dude who gives her a small pocket knife with which to defend herself.
I’ve read some romances with flighty heroines that were funny and sweet and absolutely believable, even if I couldn’t entirely identify with their way of thinking. But I’m convinced that Noelle doesn’t have a way of thinking at all; she just has some vague concept of being a freeloader that she can’t get past. She wants so badly to do something with meaning, a job that does some good for someone who needs it, which is why she volunteers for an animal shelter and seeks out other such opportunities. And I totally get that part. But instead of using the opportunity that Liam has given her, the safe place to sleep and enough to eat, to go out and find a charity organization where she can work full time — or hell, even part time — for some wages, she bails on him, breaks his heart, and decides living on the streets and in a homeless shelter is the better thing to do. Sure, because giving up a safe, warm, free bed is so much worse than using up one of the limited beds at the shelter that some abused runaway might need. Good job, Noelle. Put another woman in danger because you can’t take handouts. Isn’t a free bed at the shelter also a handout?
Okay, so I’m more upset about this book, specifically Noelle, than I thought. The thing is, I should be able to identify with her on some level. I’ve been dead broke to the point that I nearly lost my home and relied on friends for groceries. Taking handouts sucks, but it’s also a blessing. More recently, I quit a job and took a huge pay cut to go work for a non-profit, where at the end of the day I can feel like I did something good, even some small good, for someone. But watching Noelle turn down generous help and instead rely on limited social services due to her pride just made me angry. If the food bank I volunteer at runs out of goods for people who truly need help because someone refuses good options from friends and family — like Noelle does — well, I guess you can understand why I’m only giving it one star.