Burn by Crystal Hubbard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Crystal Hubbard has delivered a great story of a woman trying to start a new life, and break free from the prison of fear that her abusive, controlling ex-husband held her captive to. For readers who enjoyed movies like "Sleeping with the Enemy" and "Enough", this book will strongly invoke memories of those stories, but Ms. Hubbard has put her own spin on that storyline of an abused ex-wife on the run from her crazy, stalker ex-husband.
Ms. Hubbard teaches me as an aspiring writer how to use language to tell a story. She always stimulates all the five senses when she writes. She beautifully describes colors and imagery, that give this novel a three-dimensional feel. I liked how she uses the language of color to describe how different Cinder's relationship is with Gian to her painful marriage to Sumchai Wyatt. Whereas everything was grays, blacks, and whites with Sumchai, there is a dazzling array of colors, each vibrant with Gian. Her descriptions of food were so scrumptious, I wanted to jump into this story and start eating. And the love scenes are very descriptive and evocative, making me think about sex and how it can express the feelings that a couple has for each other to a degree that I usually don't when I read a romance. Also, I appreciated how she wrote Gian as a hero in an inspiring, appealing way, but also showed that he was just a man, not a superman. In this case, Cinder didn't need a champion in the traditional sense. She needed to find her inner champion, and Gian helped her to do that.
The characters in this story came to life, fully realized. Cinder was a deep person, not perfect. A real woman. It's really easy to cast judgment on abused women, and say, I'd never let a man do that to me. However, it happens more than not that a woman ends up in a relationship that starts out good, and then finds that her life is completely controlled by a man who doesn't know what the meaning of love is. In this book, I could see how Cinder went from point A to point B, and woke up one day realizing exactly the extend of the control and games her husband had over her. Some of his cruel tactics made me so angry, and I couldn't imagine being in that situation. Yet, I didn't feel the need to judge Cinder, because being in love with someone does give them a control over you that allows you to put yourself in situations that can be just as unhealthy as Cinder's, and there is a large component of psychological damage, steadily inflicted that allows a person's will to be weakened to the extent that they feel that this is the norm. There is also that fear and shame of speaking out and telling others what is going on. Fear for oneself, and fear that this person might hurt them as well. As with the slow procession from lover to victim that unfolds with Cinder, we see her slow healing and the psychological breakthroughs that allow Cinder to come back from that edge and reclaim her sense of self, her identity, and control of her life. I think this was written brilliantly, and unlike film media, I could see deeper into the abused wife scenario. I admit that this was a harrowing journey at times, too. You think in your mind, how could someone associate this with love. How could you deliberately hurt your wife that way. It was clear that Cinder's ex-husband was a deeply mentally ill person, but not one that I ever felt sorry for. Not when he truly didn't want to get better. At the end of this story, I was cheering loudly for Cinder, having gone along the way every step with her and seeing how hard she worked for her emotional/mental/physical victory.
Gian was a hero that I just adored. He was a very good man--a lovely mix of oh-so delicious masculinity, stability, honor, sweetness, and gentleness. Not to mention sexiness. I liked how he was a man with a military past that had colored him, but he had some conflicted feelings about the violence he had to commit as a soldier. When he told Cinder why he ran a martial arts dojo, it was a very profound thing. I know I've heard it before that martial arts helps a person to empower oneself on a level that makes it easier for them not to kill someone, but it made even more sense from the vantage point of a man who had to kill people for a living, and was subjected to the violent acts of others. There wasn't anything I didn't love about Gian. He was a fully-realized kind of hero. The one that you can drool over and respect, and think how much you'd admired and be drawn to him in real life. It wasn't that he was perfect, and no man or woman is. He was just perfectly lovable.
I loved the integration of martial arts styles and philosophy in this story. It was clear that Ms. Hubbard did her research, and she built a beautiful story around it. I never felt subjected to 'info-dumping'. Instead I found the facts and descriptions very intriguing. Of course, being a long-time fan of Asian martial arts, in the real world, and in the cinema, that gave me just one more thing to like about this story.
As one of my friends on GRs touched on, I loved the diversity in this story. You have such a beautiful mix of ethnicities, which is how I see the world being. Not one palette, but so many colors, coming together to make an intriguing society, each contributing to the world in which they live. I loved the scenes of Gian's employees at the dojo, Cinder and his mutual friends, and their trash-talking and playing around. Also how they helped each other and stood up for each other. I even liked how things worked out with one employee who really acts like an idiot over the course of this book.
This is my third book by Crystal Hubbard, and my praise for her is well-earned. She is such a good writer, and she delivers a beautiful love story, one that is more than just romance. It's fiction that hits on many cylinders, and gives the reader even more than they expected. Burn is a book I'd highly recommend.
View all my reviews