Reviewed by Kelly Ferjutz
Bethany House specializes in Christian books, so it should come as no surprise that in many ways, they’re also inching toward mainstream readers. This marvelous tale is a great example of the type of books they do. It is definitely ‘Christian’ but not obnoxiously so. There are references to God or church on nearly every page, but they are seamlessly woven into the story, which is extremely well-written, in my opinion. (I love it when a book I’m reading just zips right along, not dislodging me from the story or the characters, prompting me to wonder, ‘now what did that mean?’ or just a plain old ‘huh?’) This one didn’t do that at all.
Julia Dare and Zeke Malone have a shared past, so it’s no wonder that sparks fly when they’re brought together in the present. After all, they work in compatible businesses, even if neither of them is aware of that fact when the story opens. Julia, a single Mom, is a party planner checking out a resort for a huge, new client–one she wants very much to keep. Zeke manages an older, traditional, even historic party / resort center not far from San Luis Obispo–one with major financial difficulties.
Nothing is ever as it seems, however. They are positioned to help each other, but in so doing, can they also help themselves? Julia is at the mercy of the arrogant attorney, Hunter Adams, who is her son’s dad, and is determined to make their son Max into his ‘mini-me’. Hunter will immediately go to the top of your ‘best’ enemy list, believe me. The patience that Julia expended on him will blow your mind!
Zeke is trying valiantly to keep Caliente Springs from being sold or worse, re-developed into a mall or condo cluster. The aging resort is currently owned by Ginger and George Travers, once a big-time sister / brother musical duo. George is happy owning CS, but Ginger wants out, as she considers it to be little more than a huge money-pit.
The author has done a fabulous job of creating very interesting and unusual people. These are not ‘stock’ characters by any means. There’s Ellen, Julia’s widowed Mom and Hunter’s Uncle Maury, who might be a prospective purchaser of CS, who is as different from his nephew as it’s possible to be! Chet, the head cowhand has his hands full, just wrangling the horses, but then, Ginger brings him another needy animal–the hard-headed Ladybug, who is a very belligerent goat. Several of the resort’s employees are also featured prominently.
Mix and match all of these characters and the underlying drama – will CS be allowed to continue as is? – with the wedding of Tiffany, the Travers’ orphaned god-daughter, to Derek. He’s just been offered a great job and Tiff wants to go with him as his wife. Therefore, she really wants her dream, full-blown wedding with 500 guests–all to be done in less than a month! Can Julia produce a miracle? Ingenuity goes a long ways at times, and you’ll cheer at the happier than usual ending.
Unless you’re a 100% dyed-in-the-wool atheist, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would be offended by the Christian or other references in this book. The plot and the characters, not to mention the smooth writing throughout, will easily carry you right along.
First and foremost, Kelly is a reader, then a writer and editor. She adores Regency-set novels, and cozy mysteries. Every now and then, however, she finds something else to enjoy if it has a great premise with characters who belong in there, and fabulous writing! She writes under her own name, as well as her pen-name, Hetty St. James.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Bethany House Publishers. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.