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.
Up to this point, I have been a fan of Catherine Gayle’s Portland Storm series but, Light the Lamp really tested my loyalty. To be clear, this is still a solidly written novel with little to no editing, formatting, etc. kinds of issues. My sole issue with Light the Lamp lies with one character and one character only. Here’s the skinny:
Noelle Payne is the very definition of a human disaster. After losing her job and in an effort to preserve the money left to her by her parents for her two younger brother’s educations, Noelle has given up her home and all of the things that were once so much a part of all their lives. Additionally, thanks to a horrible car accident, her home on wheels is now a big ball of smoke and ash and she has no means of replacing it. With no job and no place to live, Noelle accepts the kind offer made to her by Liam Kallen to stay in the spare bedroom in his apartment.
Liam Kallen is a kind and gentle soul who is still absolutely shell-shocked by the death of his wife. Ever since his personal life took a tragic turn, his hockey has suffered and after more than a decade in New York and some most excellent hockey, Liam has been traded to the Portland Storm. As far as Liam is concerned, he can finish out his career with the Storm and then retire to Sweden, his home country and the one place in his life where he was the happiest. Nothing can prepare Liam for his encounter with Noelle and how completely crazy she is going to make him.
Worried that the pretty girl standing beside a stalled car is going to be the victim of an accident, Liam pulls over and convinces Noelle to wait in his vehicle for her overheated car to cool down. As if he were psychic, within minutes of getting her off the side of the rode, Noelle’s car is hit by a reckless driver. Completely helpless, Noelle and Liam watch as Noelle’s car bursts into flames. More intent than ever to see her safe, Liam invites Noelle to use the spare bedroom in his apartment until she can get her life sorted out. It doesn’t take long for Liam to figure out that Noelle’s life if a complete disaster and she has nothing, nowhere to go and, no one to turn to for help. Liam jumps into action and helps Noelle with a place to stay, plenty of food to eat and, a shopping trip to help replace all that she has lost. To Liam these are simple kindnesses that he can easily afford and wants to do for Noelle. Liam immediately sees that Noelle is a good person who is going through a very hard time and he wants to help her get back on her feet. Add to this, Liam’s instant affection for Noelle and you have a man who is willing to do anything for a woman he quickly figures out he loves. To Noelle, Liam’s actions are nice but way too much and something she struggles to accept. Noelle’s heart and mind tell her that she cares deeply for Liam but all that he does for her creates an imbalance in their relationship. Furthermore, Noelle feels that a part of Liam is still hidden behind a wall he is unwilling to tear down and until that breakthrough happens, Liam will never truly be hers.
The Bottom Line: I struggled with this read because of Noelle. For me, she is a completely ridiculous (and not in the cool, hip way) character whose logic and reasoning is completely misguided. While I fully appreciate and respect her intense desire to do something meaningful with her life, I can’t fully appreciate and respect her methods. For Noelle to accomplish what she wants too she has to be stable, she has to have a home, and she has to have enough food to sustain her. She has none of these things on her own and by her reasoning staying in a women’s shelter or on the streets will be just fine. She can still be completely satisfied with her life and her achievements while being homeless. Liam is willing and able to provide all of these things as well as allow Noelle to pursue her dreams no matter what those dreams may be. Liam is always honest with Noelle about his feelings, his wants and desires and for her to outright reject him and all that he is willing to offer her (and NOT just material things; I’m not that shallow) is a betrayal and utterly stupid. On the flip side of this little rant, I adored Liam and was so impressed with his ability to move forward with his life given his tragic past. Liam is the saving grace of Light the Lamp and because of him, I am able to give the read a solid three stars. Does this lower rating mean I am done with the Portland Storm series? Absolutely not! Catherine Gayle writes solid novels that may not having jumping up and down screaming but they do keep my attention and have (mostly!) strong characters that I can get behind and root for.
Catherine Gayle is a bestselling author of Regency-set historical romance and contemporary hockey romance with a New Adult feel. She’s a transplanted Texan living in North Carolina with two extremely spoiled felines. In her spare time, she watches way too much hockey and reality TV, plans fun things to do for the Nephew Monster’s next visit, and performs experiments in the kitchen which are rarely toxic.