Published: 8 August 2017
Publisher: Ballantine Books
A woman finds the strength to overcome a painful history and faces the challenge of learning to trust and love again in this powerful and uplifting novel.
Shay has never had a happy life. After growing up in an abusive home, she finally secures a job at a bank when her father passes away. Her brother, Caden, quickly falls into the wrong crowd and finds himself indebted to a dangerous drug lord. In a desperate attempt to rescue her only living family member, Shay risks everything, and finds herself sentenced to two years in prison.
When she’s finally released, even the brother she gave everything to save has abandoned her. Dejected and alone, Shay wanders into a church. She catches the attention of Pastor Andrew Douglas, a leader in the community and recent widower. Together, she and Andrew find healing and remember how to open their hearts to a brighter future.
Rating: 3 Stars
What drew me to this book was that the main character, Shay, reminded me of an earlier character of Macomber’s, named Alix, from her Blossom Street series. Alix having been one of my favorite characters in that series, I was curious to see what would be made of Shay’s journey.
Reflecting back on the story and considering what I remember of Macomber’s previous character Alix, I do have some doubts about her fleshing out of Shay. There were a few tweaks to backstory, and Shay was not as bristly as Alix, but they share a lot of similarities, including that they both fall in love and end up with men of the church (Alix’s is a youth pastor, Shay’s a primary one). I think some characterization work could have been done, but Shay wasn’t a terrible one, just a slightly bland person since I’ve read so many of Macomber’s books at this point.
I liked that, while I knew where the relationship would go the whole time (there’s not much mystery in a Debbie Macomber book), it wasn’t as overbearing as some romance books can be. The relationship between Shay, Drew, and even Drew’s children Sarah and Mark felt more naturally cultivated than forced for the sake of plot.
The first 15-20% of the book went by very quickly, not just in terms of the writing style, but in terms of the time that passed in the story. There’s not one scene in which we see Shay in prison (3 years gone), 4 months go by in a flash after she’s released and gets into the Hope program, and then suddenly an entire year is gone since Shay was released. I would have appreciated a bit more time spent on two crucial time periods for our primary character: her stay in prison and people she may have met or communicated with there, and the classes and lessons she learned at the Hope center. We hear tidbits about the Hope center, but these little scraps of information didn’t really feel like enough.
The summary is slightly misleading in two ways. First, it says that Caden has only abandons Shay after her release, something he did long before when he left her to face the consequences of taking the money to save him alone. Also, after not hearing from him for three years, she wasn’t expecting anything from him, so I wouldn’t say it’s a fair assessment to have that air of hope there. Second, not once in the entire book is Pastor Drew referred to as Andrew, a little thing from summary to book that irked me.
For frequent readers of Macomber books, this book will feel quite familiar in terms of character (Shay like Alix) and storyline (every Macomber book I’ve read so far), but in terms of relationship pacing it does have a bit of freshness which in this type of book I appreciated. For a new to Macomber reader, this book is a standalone and therefore wouldn’t necessitate any background reading, plus the familiarity wouldn’t be there for them. All in all, it was a nice book, if not a very special one.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.