Disclaimer: I’ve been friends with the author on Goodreads for several years (before she became a published author). I respect her as a human being, h...more Disclaimer: I’ve been friends with the author on Goodreads for several years (before she became a published author). I respect her as a human being, her tastes in books and her thoughtful manner of expressing herself on the books she reads, and now I can add that I respect her as an author.
When she asked me to beta read her novel last year, I said yes. I’m glad I had the opportunity to read “His Heart’s Desire” in its pre-publication form, and I am happy to write a review for it and recommend it to romance novel lovers.
If you’ve been reading romance more than fifteen years, you might be experiencing a longing for the “Good Old Days” when stories were genuinely romantic, and not just an over-emphasis on graphic sex with just enough declaration of love to classify as romance novels. Books that made you feel strongly and made the hours pass away rapidly while you read them. If that is the case, you will probably love this book.
“His Heart’s Desire” does read like a fairy tale come true, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I like angsty stories where the heroine has had a tough life, and her dreams come true in more ways than one. In this case, it’s not just getting her prince, but it’s getting a chance to live a life of purpose and fulfillment she always wished for.
Becca made with friends with a guy named Ethan, not knowing that he was impressively wealthy and powerful in his own right. She liked his personality and they bonded over their love of animals. She had no idea that he had fallen head over heels for her, and nursed a long simmering affection for her that she was oblivious to. Becca always knew a guy like Ethan was way out of her league, but she loved spending time with him, and he was one of the few people in the world she felt she could trust and feel safe with.
Ethan loves everything about Becca. He just wants her to be happy. When her mother’s death leads to a colossal mistake, he’s there to pick up the pieces and help Becca rebuild her life after the tragedy and betrayal she suffers. He makes every day a day of joy and simple pleasures, but has to be careful not to trespass on Becca’s long-held belief in self-sufficiency. Becca could never imagine that a man like Ethan could love her that way, but it’s up to Ethan to convince her otherwise.
Ethan is a bonafide Prince Charming, and in the best way possible. He’s not the boring kind of prince that makes me long for a bad boy or a hero to make your heart beat faster. No, he’s the strong, masculine, endearing and exciting, kind of prince who saves the day by loving his heroine genuinely and steadfastly. As you can guess, I loved him. He’s just the right guy for a sweet, somewhat naïve and unworldly young woman like Becca. These two make sense together.
I liked that their relationship is based on the rock-solid foundation of friendship and respect. Becca hasn’t had a lot of reason to open up to people and trust them, but Ethan proves he’s worthy of it. While they have a few bumps in the road, they don’t spoil the story or seem like they are manufactured just to fit the romance novel formula. Instead, their relationship feels genuine.
The sensuality is perfectly tailored to this novel. The love scenes are well-written, steamy and emotional. The best combination for this reader. I like that Ethan respects Becca’s values and her past hurts and he also has a desire to treat her like she's the woman he's been waiting his whole life for. It shows in his every interaction with her. When they consummate their relationship, it feels right.
Overall, the secondary characters are fairly well developed and add to the novel. Lindsay’s character was a bit too ‘evil ex’ for my tastes, but it’s not a deal breaker for me. Ethan’s family dynamic makes sense for his character (shows his values and why he's the man he is), and the tidbits about his siblings make me curious to read more about them. My favorite secondary character is Edna’s Becca’s older neighbor. She’s like a adoptive grandmother and a very good friend to the orphaned, lonely Becca, and she adds some comic relief with some of her dialogue.
His Heart’s Desire is an excellent first novel. It showcases strong writing talent and it is well edited. It's also very emotional and romantic (which is just what this reader loves in her romance novels) It’s nothing less than I would expect from Julianna. She’s a promising writer, and I’m excited to read more books by her.
I recommend this book to true romantics. Becca’s a sweetheart and Ethan truly is a to-die-for hero. I enjoyed reading this immensely.
Sarah Pendleton returns to her hometown of Mistletoe Valley, Oregon, to get her deceased grandmother's affairs in order, especially the sale o...moreSynopsis
Sarah Pendleton returns to her hometown of Mistletoe Valley, Oregon, to get her deceased grandmother's affairs in order, especially the sale of her grandmother's home. Her past memories of Mistletoe Valley are painful, including her rebellious behavior and earned reputation as a "Preacher's Kid," her subsequent failed marriage, and most of all, having to give her baby daughter up for adoption. Her first day back, she meets handsome and friendly real estate agent, Rich Stevens, who happens to have an adorable daughter named Carly (who coincidentally is the same age as her daughter). An instant spark and connection develops between them, but Sarah knows she doesn't intend to stay in Mistletoe Valley, where the past has eliminated her hope for a good future. Besides, Rich is also a part-time youth pastor and a grieving widower, not an ideal choice for a romance, considering Sarah's bad reputation as a rebellious "Preacher's Kid" when she was younger. Can they spend the short time they have together, knowing that they will have to walk away from any love developing between them?
The Heart Leads Home is a sweet contemporary romance that has a meaningful message about letting go of past mistakes and pain and being open to a future. Both leads have distinctive burdens to carry, and they clearly help each other through their pain, although each has to work through the bulk of their emotional issues themselves. I could feel Sarah's anguish over having to give up her daughter, failing her grandparents, and her regrets over her short-lived marriage. Her fears are reasonable, and her desire not to ‘go back' is completely understandable. She showed a lot of courage to face people who knew about her mistakes, so when she had occasional lapses in mettle in being open to a future romance and letting go of the past, it's forgivable.
Rich's issues seem to take a backseat in the story. The author does mention his pain about his wife's death, and there is a sense that he is grieving, but not as much page time is spent on processing his grief as is spent on Sarah's journey. Also the stress of his juggling his single father status with his full-time job as a realtor and his work as a youth pastor wasn't as well-described as I would have liked. I felt that his portrayal was lacking, as a result.
The romance is well done. I appreciated that even though this is a sweet/lightly inspirational romance, the author does establish romantic chemistry with some sexual attraction between Sarah and Rich. One of my pet peeves with Christian romances is the way that the characters are often sexually neutered by the author, perhaps out of the sense that any sexual content is inappropriate. While I respect that not all readers would feel comfortable with graphic sexual descriptions, I see nothing wrong with a passionate kiss between the characters or even an acknowledgement that they feel attraction to each other. Voeller achieved a good balance in her portrayal of Sarah and Rich's developing feelings for each other. How, yes, they initially feel physically attracted to each other, although their love is built on a foundation of friendship and respect.
I did feel that the secondary characters lacked definition and development. Because they seemed one-dimensional, some of the dialogue between the characters seemed disingenuous. Overall, Carly was well-done as a child character, although the scene where she behaves badly could have been more authentic.
For readers who enjoy sweeter contemporary romance with a light inspirational theme, The Heart Leads Home will probably be an enjoyable read. In some ways it seemed to have an identity crisis, because the Christian message felt a little sidelined/watered down. For readers who don't really identify with the faith message, this might appeal. But for Christian readers or those who read books to gain insight into the way believers live out their faith, this might be disappointing. Additionally, the crises faced by both leads were watered down in how they were described (another pet peeve of mine with Christian romance). Being a Christian is hard, and Christians face some serious challenges in life, and the tendency in Christian fiction novels is to sanitize the content to the point that the message lacks profundity. Despite the way the end dragged, leading to the loss of some of my emotional investment, this was a well-paced, well-written book overall.
While I wouldn't typically reach for an Amish romance novel, this was a pretty good read. I liked Adam a lot, and the fact that he breaks stereotypes...moreWhile I wouldn't typically reach for an Amish romance novel, this was a pretty good read. I liked Adam a lot, and the fact that he breaks stereotypes about the typical romance novel hero. The food descriptions were mouth-watering.
I enjoyed this book. It has a lot of heart and humor, and the characters are fun and likable. For those who would like an older couple romance, you'll...moreI enjoyed this book. It has a lot of heart and humor, and the characters are fun and likable. For those who would like an older couple romance, you'll find a great one here with the secondary couple.
This is my first contemporary read by Ms. Thomas, and I really enjoyed it. Feel good, small town contemporary romance populated with a host of interes...moreThis is my first contemporary read by Ms. Thomas, and I really enjoyed it. Feel good, small town contemporary romance populated with a host of interesting characters. Works for me!
Holly Harrison meets kind, good-looking, if very overweight Jess Colton when they are stranded in the elevator in their apartment building. He helps h...moreHolly Harrison meets kind, good-looking, if very overweight Jess Colton when they are stranded in the elevator in their apartment building. He helps her to get through her attack of claustrophobia and fear by praying for her, and shows what a nice guy he is. Once they are rescued from the elevator, Jess invites her to go to church with him. Holly became a Christian years ago, but she listened to her sister's insistence that God wouldn't forgive her for the sins she had committed while in college, so she stopped going to church, praying and reading her Bible. Jess's encouragement and spiritual counseling helps Holly to get back in a close relationship with the Lord, and she starts to fall in love with the gentle, beautiful man. His weight doesn't matter to her. She sees the loving person inside, and is drawn to him for his love for God and the warm friendship he shows her. Even though she knows that he probably wouldn't want damaged goods like herself.
Jess falls in love at first sight with Holly, but more importantly, he reaches out to the lonely, unhappy young woman with the love of Christ. While others seem repelled and critical of his weight, she shows him loving friendship and support. He knows that no woman would want him with his large body and his addiction to food. All he can do is take comfort in their friendship, even if he wants more in his heart. But what can he offer to her when it turns out that with his weight issues, his health is a ticking clock getting closer to eternity?
Give Us This Day was a very touching novel about the relationship between two lonely people who felt deeply unworthy inside, despite their relationship with Christ. I appreciated that God brought them together so they could help each other through their mutual issues with feeling loved and accepted. Additionally, it was refreshing to read a book where the couple falling in love aren't drop dead gorgeous or without flaws, and they love each other for what they see inside, as well for their mutual love for Christ.
The story touched me deeply, both from a spiritual and emotional perspective. Jess was a very good man, and it was painful to see how people treated him because of his weight, as if he was disgusting and inferior and undeserving of respect. Foster ably conveys the message about God's love for all people, and that he accepts us as we are. Jess's struggles with an alcohol addiction that he substituted with food because of feeling a lack of acceptance from his hypercritical father resonated with me. His process of turning that addiction over to God and seeking his help to recover from it, was a powerful message to me of God's ability to heal all our wounds and to be our sufficiency in a fallen world. In the case of Holly, I was reminded that God's love is unconditional, that there is no sin he won't forgive and that we don't need to feel unworthy of his love and fellowship because of mistakes we make, past or future.
At times, I feel as though Christian fiction can be all about a message with no story to go with it. With Give Us This Day, I felt that the message was seamlessly intertwined with an involving story. I rooted for Jess and Holly to find their happy ending together, even as I appreciated the spiritual truths and insights given in this novella. I loved how in the midst of their struggles, these characters were able to find comfort in each other, and from the people in their lives (both Christian and non-Christian), but also to help those who didn't know and appreciate God's unconditional love as a gift available to all.
There are very few, if any romance books that feature an overweight hero or even a hero who struggles with weight issues, so this book serves as a very good trailblazer for a needed genre today. I found that I loved Jess for his whole being as I read this novella. While I felt pain for his emotional issues that led to his obesity and worried about his health, his weight didn't diminish his attractiveness to me as a person. It wasn't hard to see why Holly fell in love with him. I definitely see this as being realistic, because many people don't just look for the perfect physical specimen, either because they have gone down that path and been disappointed or because they know all along their soulmate won't come in that package. They look to the heart for a person who they feel safe and loved with. Give Us This Day is the book for those readers. And for readers who want a great romance with an effective and non-preachy Christian message. I recommend reading it.
Very good book. I didn't like it as much as Perfect Chemistry, but I still find Elkeles to have so much energy in her writing. I liked the heck out of...moreVery good book. I didn't like it as much as Perfect Chemistry, but I still find Elkeles to have so much energy in her writing. I liked the heck out of Ashtyn and Derek. I can't wrap my mind around how sexual teens are today.
I really, really liked this book. The main characters were real and three-dimensional and very likable. The romance is sweet and nicely sexy. Ms. Hart...moreI really, really liked this book. The main characters were real and three-dimensional and very likable. The romance is sweet and nicely sexy. Ms. Hart's depiction of the members of the basketball team added another layer of flavor to this story. I found myself cheering on the game scenes. I will definitely read more by this author. This is supposed to be a mini-review, so I better stop now.