She’d never met him before, or had she?
The last thing forty-year-old Natalia Santagario expected was to be sitting on a Manhattan barstool, ogling a man she’s never met, but swears she knows.
He didn’t know her at all, or did he?
The mysterious dark-haired woman at the end of the bar stops twenty-eight-year old Marc Tremonti in his tracks. His head says she’s a stranger, but his heart tells him otherwise.
Together they embark on an adventure that will change their lives forever.
Marc’s aunt Mariella, an expert in reincarnation, persuades them to relive their past to help explain their enigmatic attraction. As they open the doors to their past lives, they discover they have been lovers for hundreds of lives, are connected by an ancient bond, and are considered Twin Flame soul mates.
But their reunion in this life is complicated by an almost ex-wife, a temporary bout of amnesia, and a mischievous and meddling ghost with its own agenda.
Will their strong connection find a way to bring them together? Or is this the lifetime where they must go their separate ways?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: There is so much to enjoy in Twin Flames, by first-time author Debbie Christiana. This book is not a straight out romance. Sure, romance plays a part in the story, but the interesting thing is the way Christiana has fleshed out her story with the notion of past lives and their impact upon the central characters. Twin Flames grabbed my interest from page one with its tight storyline, and it held me in its thrall until the end. And the Revised Edition answers a few minor questions I had about the story. Our heroine, Natalia, a winery owner from Connecticut, travels with friends to New York for a day of shopping and meets by chance—or is it fate—our hero, Marc, a chef. From here, we start a journey that challenges our concepts of soul mates and the bond of love-ever-after. Christiana’s characters are full bodied, complete with flaws that add a layer of realism and provide impetus to a well-crafted plot—a plot that refuses to compromise with the sort of guaranteed happy ending you can spot five chapters from the end. Natalia and Marc have to be brave and face their insecurities and fears in order to earn their happiness—just like you and me. It’s real life, but without the heavy shopping bags to carry and the empty toilet roll left for you to replace. Whether this is a trait of women’s fiction, I have no idea. It’s not a genre I’ve wet my toes with too often.
For those wanting some steam with their romance, you won’t be disappointed. The sex is hot, and fits snugly into the plot. Twin Flames made me laugh, cry, and a few times growl in frustration—a stubborn woman suffering from the effects of insomnia will not always make the best of decisions. Special mention should be made of the level of research Christiana has obviously undertaken in regards to sleep therapy and past-life-regression. Both topics are handled with great skill, and the reader experiences each session with a sense of realism that is a the credit to the author. What can I say, I’m already itching to read this book over again. A good sign.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Twin Flames by Debbie Christiana is an interesting book. Although, women’s fiction is not a genre I normally read or care for, I thoroughly enjoyed Twin Flames. The book is fun to read and contains some very interesting and enlightening concepts. It made me laugh, made me scream at the characters in frustration, and it also made me think. I think the Revised Edition only improved what was an already great story. Christiana’s characters are three dimensional, well-rounded, and entertaining—and you have to hand it to an author who has the balls to make her heroine twelve years older than the hero! Yes, you heard me right—Natalia is 12 years older than Marc. My first thought when I encountered the age difference was: “Oh, hell, that’ll never work.” But it did. Marc and Natalia just seem to fit together naturally, the way soul mates should. And while the ending was satisfying and right for the story, because this isn’t a romance, I wasn’t sure what kind of an ending I’d get until I got there. After all, we aren’t assured of a happily-ever-after-type of ending in women’s fiction. Kind of like endings in real life. You aren’t assured of a happy one there either. Now, I’m not saying there wasn’t such an ending, and I’m not saying there was. You’ll have to read the book to find out. But you won’t be disappointed by the ending either. And that’s not been my experience with a lot of women’s fiction.
I particularly enjoyed the past-life-regression part of Twin Flames. Not to give anything in the plot away, but I loved all the different stories and the roles the characters played in their past lives as they tried to figure out their connection in this one—even though none of those past lives were exactly pleasant for Marc and Natalia. Christiana did her homework, too. The techniques she describes in both the sleep clinic and the past-life regression sessions are accurately portrayed. I checked, of course, but more importantly, the story has a ring of truth that only comes from extensive research. If you want a book that will make you sit up and say “Hmmm. I wonder…” Twin Flames is it—a keeper that will make you want to come back and read it again and again.
“What is a soul? It’s like electricity — we don’t really know what it is, but it’s a force that can light up a room.” ~ Ray Charles, 1930-2004, Pianist and Soul Musician
“I thought you two were here to cheer me up.” Natalia took a long sip of her eggnog. The warmth of the rum soothed her mood.
The three women huddled in Natalia’s family room surrounded by boxes of Christmas decorations. Christine and Ellie came to help her decorate, or so she thought, but then, some sort of holiday “intervention” had begun. She loved them to death, but sometimes well-meaning friends were a pain in the ass.
“We did.” Christine gave her friend a half sympathetic smirk. “Listen, I know you’ve had a rough couple of months–with Jacob leaving you at the altar.”
“It was the Justice of the Peace,” Natalia said, annoyed that Christine had even mentioned the bastard’s name. “I was a little late, and he overreacted.”
“That may be so, but it doesn’t change the fact that your fiancé was convicted of a felony a few days later.”
“Ex-fiancé.” Pissed off, Natalia began to rub her temples. “Can we change the subject? Please.”
“Sure, let’s talk about our annual trip to New York City.”
“I know your hearts are in the right place, but I’m not up going to New York this year.”
They had dragged her up to the attic and gathered all the Christmas things together. After countless trips up and down the attic steps, everything labeled ‘Xmas’ was stacked on the family room floor. As a reward for all her hard work, Ellie handed her a glass of eggnog complete with rum. Then they plopped her on the couch.
“Nat, there’s only a few days until Christmas. You have to snap out of this funk and get some holiday spirit,” Christine said. “I think coming with us is just what you need.”
Ellie poked around in one of the boxes until she found what she was looking for. “Remember this?” she asked, holding up a picture of them in New York last year.
“Yes.” Natalia sat the frame on her fireplace mantel and smiled at the memory it brought to mind. “I remember. We had a great time that day, but I don’t think I’ll be much fun this year.”
As Natalia spoke, a familiar cool breeze swept past her. Her friends didn’t seem to feel the gentle gust go by–like always. A string of lights laying on the coffee table crashed to the floor.
“Stop it, right now,” she growled under her breath.
“Be careful, Nat, you don’t want those lights to break,” Ellie warned. “Anyway, I know once you get to the city and start shopping, you’ll be glad you came. If you’re not having a good time, you can hop on the train and come home.”
Natalia was about to refuse the offer one last time when her glass of eggnog tipped over and spilled onto the table. “I said stop it and I mean it,” she hissed, louder than she should have.
She whipped around to make sure her friends hadn’t heard her. They had their backs to her, busily attaching gold garland and red ribbons to her staircase. Natalia watched them and groaned. These two were not going to leave one spot undecorated. Hadn’t they ever heard “less is more”?
“I spilled my eggnog,” she called to them. “I’ll be right back.” As she entered the kitchen, a chill tingled at her neck. “Why do you want me to go to New York so badly?” she muttered to the empty room.
The hanging light over the table rattled.
“How could I possibly meet someone while shopping with Christine and Ellie? Anyway, I’m not ready for that yet. Please, just leave me alone about it.”
The kitchen drawers opened and slammed shut.
“Be quiet! They’ll hear you.” Her irritation grew as the refrigerator door flew open. “I know you don’t care if they hear you or not. You’re not the one who has to come up with an explanation of what’s going on in here. I do.”
Water spit out of the faucet into the sink.
“Fine. Have your temper tantrum.” She leaned back against the counter and crossed her arms over her chest. “Let me know when you’re through.”
Natalia had lived with Giovanna, a mischievous apparition, long enough to know when she couldn’t win. When Giovanna’s outburst was over, Natalia closed the drawers. A picture of her and her brother Robbie, which she kept on the counter, inched toward her.
“Yes, I know. I have to get him a present.” Natalia shook her head in defeat. Between her friends and Giovanna, she hadn’t stood a ghost of a chance. “You always get your way, don’t you?” Grabbing a towel, she headed back to the family room. “It seems I’m always cleaning up your mess.”
Christine and Ellie were spraying fake snow over snowman stencils on the windows around her front door. Natalia rolled her eyes.
This was what happens when your friends had kids and you did not. She wasn’t sure how much more of their decorating she could take.
“I think you both have done more than enough for me. I appreciate it. I really do. I’m at least an eight on the holiday spirit meter.” Leading them back to the family room, she said, “Let’s have some more eggnog.”
“Oh my God, look at the time!” Christine hurried to the closet, grabbed her coat, and handed Ellie hers. “Nat, I’m sorry but we can’t.”
“I wish you’d reconsider and come with us on Saturday,” Ellie said, trying to persuade her one last time.
“Okay, you two. I’ll come. I have to get Robbie a present. He’s coming home for Christmas.”
“Good.” Christine hugged her. “You won’t regret it, we promise. We know a good restaurant. Bring your famous appetite.”
Ellie took a turn hugging her goodbye, and they rushed out the door.
Once Natalia saw their car back down her driveway, she got out the window cleaner and sprayed her front door windows. Within a few minutes, all the snowmen had melted away.
With a hot cup of coffee and a donut in hand, Natalia and her two friends boarded a train for the hour ride to New York City. Grand Central Terminal was jammed with people, most of whom were watching a holiday light show flashing onto the ceiling. Having seen it plenty of times, the three women worked their way through the massive crowd on to Forty-Second Street.
After taking in the obligatory holiday sights, the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, and a quick stroll down Fifth Avenue, they hopped on the subway to Christopher Street in the Village to their favorite stores for a day of shopping.
“Nat, are you almost ready?” Ellie asked.
“Yeah. I’m hungry.”
“Should we take Nat to that Italian restaurant we found last time?” Christine asked.
“Sure,” Ellie said. “Want to try it, Nat?”
“Do you both think with a name like Natalia Santagario I don’t get enough Italian food? I was hoping for a big juicy steak and bottle of red wine.”
“I guess we could have steak, but this place is really good. Plus all the waiters are cute.”
“You’re both married,” said Natalia.
Christine wagged a finger at her. “But you’re not.”
“Whatever. I don’t care. I’m starving. Let’s go.”
A crowded subway ride later, they arrived at Tremonti’s restaurant on West Fifty-Fourth Street.
Before they went inside, Natalia stopped her two friends. “Thank you,” she said. “I really needed this. I’m glad you kept harassing me about coming with you.”
“We told you so,” Ellie teased.
As they entered the restaurant, a crowd of shoppers, tourists, and people reveling in the holiday season swallowed them. Sandwiched between her friends and the other hungry inhabitants of the restaurant, Natalia couldn’t help but notice the wonderful aromas swirling around the room. For a moment, she was a little girl in her grandmother’s Brooklyn apartment, having Sunday dinner.
As she inhaled once more, a strange sensation took hold of her.
Her body temperature seemed to shoot to a hundred degrees. Sweat formed on her brow. Light headed, she felt the color drain from her face.
“Nat, what’s wrong?” Christine asked, resting her hand on Natalia’s shoulder. “You look like you saw a ghost.”
No, I’m used to seeing ghosts. “I’m fine. It’s hot in here, that’s all. Let’s try to work our way to the bar so I can get some water.”
They pushed their way through the crowd when Ellie grabbed her hand. “Hurry, those people are getting up.” She yanked Natalia behind her.
They hopped up on their barstools and a young waiter appeared.
“What can I get you ladies this evening?”
“Hi.” Natalia licked her parched lips. “I would love a glass of wa–” She sat frozen, her stare focused behind the waiter.
“We’ll have three glasses of Merlot, please,” Christine chimed in. “Could you bring my friend some water? She isn’t feeling well.”
“Sure,” the young man said and left.
“Nat, what are you looking at?” Christine asked.
“The man over there making drinks.” She pointed to the side of the bar.
“Looking? Ogling is more like it,” scoffed Ellie. “You’re practically drooling.”
“I know him from somewhere,” Natalia said.
“His back is to us. You can’t see his face.”
“I don’t need to see his face.”
Having no logical answers to give them, Natalia ignored the rest of her friend’s questions and continued to watch the fascinating man behind the bar. He was tall with broad shoulders and dark curly hair. His sleeves were rolled up, his strong arms and hands visible. He was good at his job. Dipping his hand in the ice and dropping the cubes into the glasses, he had three drinks made in a just few moments.
Then something changed.
“Hey, Marc. I need two Absolute Martinis and two Cosmos,” the older waiter said patting him on the back.
“Okay, give me a minute.”
Marc reached for the martini glasses on the shelf. The regular bartender picked the worst night to call in sick, although Marc didn’t mind helping out. It beat sitting home alone on a Saturday night, which had become customary as of late. He put the three drinks aside and started on the next order.
As he reached for four new glasses, he became woozy as if he were on the bow of a boat being rocked in a storm. His temperature seemed to spike. He leaned over and reached his right hand into the ice, relishing its coolness. As he straightened up, the same odd affliction he’d felt a month ago hit him once more. Within seconds, first his left, then his right shoulder burned as if hot coals were blistering his skin.
He took a few deep breaths and the throbbing subsided. Startled, but not knowing why, his whole body twisted to the left knocking over the glasses.
Clutching a fistful of ice, he turned and gazed into the considerable crowd at the bar. What was he looking for? He didn’t have clue, but when he saw it, he would know. Of that, he was sure.
He moved in a near-full circle. Then he saw her. She wore a bewildered expression on her face but a playful gleam shimmered in her eyes. He cocked his head and gave her a curious nod, well aware she had been watching him.
As he moved toward her, the pain in his shoulders all but disappeared. His whole body relaxed. The ice fell out of his hand onto the floor. He ignored it and kept going.
“Marc! What are you doing?” asked one of the servers. “Someone is going to slip on the ice.”
“Oh, sorry, I’ll get it in a minute,” he responded, never taking his eyes off the woman he was approaching.
When he reached his destination, he was at a loss at what to say. “Hi,” he said, unsure of himself. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but have we met before?”
When she hesitated, the woman beside her spoke. “You’ll have to excuse her. She’s not feeling well tonight. Nat, tell him you thought he looked familiar to you, too.”
“I thought you reminded me of someone I knew. That’s all. My friend is overreacting. It was warm in here, and I was lightheaded. I feel fine now.”
“Yes, it can get warm in here. Do I know you from school? I went here in the city.”
Amusement spread across her pretty face. “Listen, hon. I’m a little older than you, don’t you think? I grew up in Connecticut.”
“I went to summer camp in Connecticut for two years.” Her words and friendly demeanor put him at ease. He was confident and even a bit flirtatious. “You could have been my camp counselor. Maybe I didn’t appreciate you in your bikini when I was ten and you were…”
“I don’t know. How many years ago were you ten?”
“Eighteen years ago.”
“Like I said maybe I didn’t appreciate you in your bikini when I was ten and you were…”
“I was twenty-two when you were ten. And I did look good in a bikini back then,” she said with a smirk. “Sorry, I never worked as a camp counselor. Try again.”
“I will. You have me intrigued. Anyway, they say forty is the new thirty.”
“Does your wife know you flirt with all the women?”
He twirled the wedding ring around his finger. “If it brings in good tips, she doesn’t mind,” he said, not knowing how his wife felt about much of anything lately.
“Good for her.”
“I’m Marcos, but please call me Marc.” He offered his hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“I’m Natalia. Same here.”
The minute their hands met, a powerful shock traveled from his hand up his arm. He forced himself not to jump.
“Ouch!” she exclaimed.
“Sorry. It’s that time of the year, I guess,” he said, concluding she received the same jolt.
“These are my friends, Christine and Ellie.”
“It’s nice to meet you.” Marc shook their hands. “Can I get you something to eat?”
“Sure,” Christine said. “We’re starving. We had a busy day of shopping. We already ordered drinks.”
They chose a few appetizers to share. Marc wrote them down, gave Natalia another long stare, and went to place their order.
A safe distance from her in the kitchen, with his heart pounding, he rubbed his arm, still tingling from the shock. Amber, the cute, blond waitress walked by and winked at him. She had made it clear more than once that she was available to help him through the present impasse with his wife. He’d rejected her advances and tried to convince her–as well as himself–he and his wife were on their way to working it out. With Simone off to find herself, it had been difficult for Marc, living alone these past eight months. Through bouts of loneliness and sadness, he’d remained faithful. However, the mysterious, dark-haired woman at the bar stirred something in him he had never experienced before.
“Nat, we have to go to the ladies room,” Ellie said.
“Go ahead, I’ll stay here. Put your coats on the seats to save them.”
Glad to have a few minutes by herself, Natalia shook the arm that had received the shock. It was prickly, as if asleep. She took a gulp of water and tried to calm down. This was totally out of character for her, letting someone have this jarring effect on her. He was just a man, albeit an extremely good-looking man. She sighed. An extremely good-looking younger man she swore she knew, who turned her insides to jelly, and was married. Shit.
To pass the time, Natalia picked up a pen and doodled on a napkin.
As she watched her strange drawing come to life, she began to see things clearly. In an hour or so, they would leave, and she’d never see Marc again. It was harmless flirting. She enjoyed having some innocent attention from a man. It had been awhile. There was no need to read anything else into it. She would be herself and enjoy the food and wine.
From the corner of her eye she saw him, his hands laden with plates. She moved the napkin and pen aside to make room for their food.
“What’s that you’re drawing?” he asked.
“Nothing. I’m doodling until my friends get back from the bathroom.”
“Can I see it?”
“Sure, I guess.” She slid it across the bar toward him.
He studied the napkin for a minute and gave her a hard look.
“What’s the matter?” she asked.
“What made you draw that?”
Natalia was taken aback at the harshness in his voice. “I don’t know. Why?”
“Are you trying to tell me you don’t know what this is?” It was more of an accusation than a question.
“No, I really don’t. What’s the problem?”
“Nothing.” He dropped their plates down harder than he should have and walked away.
Natalia sat there, stunned.
I guess I can add uptight to the list.
“Angelo, can you cover for me for a few minutes? I need a break.”
Marc couldn’t fathom how in one short hour his evening had turned so…weird. Nor could he explain the strange effect she had on him. It was no ordinary shock she had given him. And now the drawing! How could she have possibly known?
For the sake of his sanity, she needed to leave. He’d give them time to finish their meal and bring them the check.
When he peeked out the kitchen door, she stared right at him. He made his way over to her and started to speak when she interrupted him.
“I’ll have a whiskey on the rocks.”
“What?” he asked.
“You heard me.”
“You drink whiskey straight up?”
He turned his back to them and reached for the first bottle of whiskey he saw.
“Excuse me. Is there something wrong with the Johnnie Walker Gold?”
He didn’t turn around to acknowledge her but grabbed the whiskey she wanted and poured her a drink. As he handed her the glass, their fingertips briefly touched. Shocks ignited between them. Their eyes locked.
“Who the hell are you, lady?”
He heard her mutter “Faccia di stronzo,” under her breath.
“Natalia.” Ellie nudged her. “Stop it. That isn’t going to help, and you’ll only regret it. You always do.”
Marc was impressed as Natalia took a good size gulp of her whiskey and, without flinching, swallowed it. Setting the glass down, she said, “How about we stop with the silent treatment, and you tell me why my sketch made you so angry?”
He snatched the napkin off the bar, walked to the register, tabulated their bill, and handed her the check. “Someone will take this for you when you’re ready.”
“We aren’t going anywhere until you explain to me what the problem is,” she said.
She sipped her whiskey. “Fine. We’re staying. Please send someone else over to wait on us. Your attitude has pretty much sucked tonight. I hope you’re not expecting a tip.”
He glared at her. She retaliated with a defiant stare. Now what the hell was he supposed to do? If showing her would get her to leave, that’s what he would do.
“All right, ladies, follow me. What you want to see is in the back.” They hesitated. “Change of heart?” he asked.
“No,” said Natalia.
He led them through the kitchen as his Uncle Giuseppe approached. “Marcos, what’s going on?”
Marc ushered the three women into a small office and told them he’d be right back. Reaching in his pocket, he handed the older man the napkin. “This is the drawing I told you about, and the woman who drew it is in the office. I overreacted when I saw it and didn’t handle it well. Now she won’t leave until she gets an explanation. But I’m the one who needs an explanation.”
“Marcos, you’ve always been too sensitive about it, even as a child. Let me see it.” He examined the napkin. “It’s perfect,” he said carefully. “It’s exact.”
“I’ll show her, and maybe she’ll tell me how she knew. Then can you please ask them to leave?”
“Of course, Marcos.” The two men walked into the office.
“Ladies, this is Giuseppe,” Marc said.
Giuseppe extended his hand to the women. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Marc stood self-conscious and unsure. He glanced at Giuseppe, asking for some reassurance. When he nodded, Marc started to unbutton his shirt and take it off.
Natalia whistled at him.
Marc spun around. “Jesus Christ, can’t you control you forty-year old mid-life hormones?”
“What? Don’t you dare, you–”
“Natalia!” Christine yelled.
“What? Okay, I’m sorry, but this has to be a joke. Why else would he be taking off his shirt?”
“Ladies,” Giuseppe said, leading the women toward the door. “This way out. This is not a joke to him. Please leave him alone now. We’ll have your check ready by the bar. Good night.”
© Copyright 2011 by Debbie Christiana
Author, Nana Prah:
Tuesday, October 30, 2012: Nana Prah calls Twin Flames a spectacular tale.
She says: “If you don’t believe in soul mates, you will after reading Twin Flames by Debbie Christiana… Twin Flames reinforced my belief in soul mates, especially with the fantastic soul mate quotes at the beginning of each chapter, and introduced me to the term ‘twin flames’ which I found to be a fascinating concept. The past life regressions that Natalia and Marc experienced were like mini stories within a well-structured bigger story. The fact that they could remember all of their previous lives when the session ended actually made me want to undergo regression to find out about my own past lives. That’s how I know a book is really good, I’m compelled to do the things that the characters do (this is probably why I don’t read crime fiction)…Debbie Christiana has woven a spectacular tale of love and time that I am pleased to recommend to everyone I know because it was just that good. I just wish I could have seen that compelling birthmark, I don’t think my imagination did it justice.” READ FULL REVIEW
Kick Back & Review:
Wednesday, October 26, 2011: Laura McQuillen from Kick Back & Review calls Twin Flames a Keeper.
She says: “Anybody that reads romances regularly (or even those that don’t) knows that a common theme, whether it is subtle or not so subtle, is the idea of soul mates. But one that isn’t so common (at least to me) is that of ‘Twin Flame’ soul mates. The idea of twin flame soul mates is that each person is one half of the same soul instead of just souls that are destined to be together.
Even though the chemistry [between the main characters, Marc & Natalia] is immediate, rather than something that is built up through the course of the book, the author did an excellent job by showing the reactions of the characters as being wary of the whole thing. They both resist the attraction they feel for each other, feeling like it’s an infatuation that will pass. Throw in a meddling aunt and mischievous ghost though, and they don’t stand a chance.
I loved how Ms. Christiana built the tension through this book. As I mentioned above, it wasn’t a matter of building chemistry, that was there from the beginning, but rather a matter of building acceptance. The reactions and thoughts associated with them seemed completely believable and realistic to me. With so many things standing in their way, including themselves, by the end of the book you are left feeling like love can conquer anything and that there really is such a thing as two souls that are absolutely meant for nobody else but each other.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone and it is one that will go on my keeper shelf for sure. I will want to read this one again.” READ FULL REVIEW