An unexpected mother-to-be A romance-leery composer And a forgotten melody from the past that holds the keys to their futures
When Julia Jenkins' great aunt dies and leaves her a Victorian mansion with decades of secrets, Julia never expects to unearth a World War 2 espionage mystery. Struggling with her own past since an assault left her pregnant, her future as a solo parent leaves her dreams uncertain. The inheritance from her great aunt gives Julia the ability to take a step back into her future, but also sends her into the discovery of a love story she’d never anticipated. As she goes through her aunt's treasured possessions, Julia uncovers some oddly written piano music with a musical code she can’t decipher on her own. Not to worry, introverted Englishman and composer, Henry Wright, is thrust on the scene by a pair of homespun matchmakers who know the ‘right’ man for Julia’s wounded heart.
Henry arrives in Pleasant Gap with the task of composing the soundtrack for his best mate’s newest film. The Jenkins’ family’s southern welcome and gregarious personalities set his reticent nature on edge, but he’s inexplicably drawn to his gentle and music-loving hostess, Julia. Uncertain how to build a friendship with the wounded woman, and rather hopeless in communicating well through words, the bond of music becomes a bridge between her uncertainty and his awkwardness.
But her broken past and his families’ expectations build a wall much greater than the cultures that separate them. As they work together to solve a musical mystery from the grave, will an unlikely romance from the past inspire their hearts to trust in a God who’s written the perfect melody for their lives?
Pepper D Basham has been telling tales ever since she was a little girl. When her grandmother called her a “writer” at the age of ten, Pepper took it as gospel and has enjoyed various types of writing styles ever since. A native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, mom of five, speech-language pathologist, and lover of chocolate, Pepper enjoys sprinkling her native Appalachian culture into her fiction wherever she can. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC, where she works with kids who have special needs, searches for unique hats, and plots new ways to annoy her wonderful friends at her writing blog, The Writer’s Alley.
Oh my heart! I loved this gentle introverted couple so much and the way they blossomed with their unexpected friendship and romance. They both have tragedy in their pasts that has made it difficult to trust, but the natural connection they share made it worth the risk to reach out and move forward. So many great scenes together as they get to know one another; I loved the feeling of hopeful uncertainty and longing. There is quite a bit of anticipation leading up to their first kiss, and wow, was it worth the wait! They are seriously so sweet together.
I enjoyed the relationships Julia shares with her sisters and family, and appreciated the way they supported her and encouraged her. There are a few scenes from her father's point of view that add another perspective and show the deeper tender feelings of a protective father. I loved the beautiful role that music played in the story and in Julia and Henry's relationship, helping them both express their emotions and overcome some obstacles. The story of her aunt Millie unfolds layer by layer throughout the book and adds another dimension to the plot, giving a historical mystery for Julia and Henry to solve together, and lessons to learn from her life. Powerful themes of overcoming fear, the importance of family, and the power of love brought depth to this lovely story. Highly recommend!
(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions expressed are my own)
There are a few things one comes to expect from a Pepper Basham novel. First: a hilarious meet cute. Second: a kissing scene in a closet. Third: the grace of God. But you never know how Ms. Basham will deliver these expectations which makes opening one of her novels full of anticipation.
In When You Look at Me, the meet cute is hi-lar-i-ous! Seriously, I may have snorted while laughing. And because I don’t want to give anything away, I’ll leave you with the words, “purple eye patch.” 😉
The kissing scene was probably her best one yet. And that’s because of Julia’s background. The tender way that Henry woos her made the kiss scene one that makes your heart sigh with the beauty of it.
And last, the grace of God. I tell you there were so many quotable lines in here that just did me in. But I’ll leave you with this one meme that sums it all up.
If you’ve never read Pepper Basham, please do. Her contemporary romances will make you laugh out loud, cheer, and possibly even make you cry. You won’t be sorry!
*I received a complimentary copy from the publisher. A review was not required nor influenced.
When You Look at Me is one of the sweetest romances I've ever read! Balancing humor and a boisterous family with two lead-character introverts, this story shows the heart of people who trust God to give them strength and lead them to good things, even in the midst of a painful and imperfect world. The friendship-growing-into-romance deserves all the hearts, cupcakes, and happy sighs!
I loved watching Julia and Henry grow, learn from each other, and just be together in so many moments of everyday life. The story felt like a glimpse of their lives with its special moments AND hard things, and through it all their relationship progressed naturally. Little moments I loved: midnight teas, piano duets, family dinners, stress-baking, musical puns, messy hair, old letters, and "The Princess Bride" references.
It was fun to "catch up" with Wes and Eisley (from book 1!!!!!) and see where their journey is headed. Eisley gives good advice, too. ;)
Seeing Henry's personality and purpose come to life and Julia's journey to bravery and the discovery of love's worth was a delight. With a thread of a family mystery, humorous moments that made me giggle, and a prominent theme of music weaving it all together, this is one Britallachian contemporary romance not to miss!
Thank you to the author for the review copy. This is my honest review.
When You Look at Me was one of those stories that felt so very real as I read it. When I turned the last page, I felt as if I had lived this emotional journey with Julia and Henry, who, by the way, were simply wonderful people!
The author beautifully captured Julia's mixed feelings regarding her pregnancy. She also expressed such honest emotions as Julia wrestled with feelings of attraction and possible love for Henry, yet battled fear and panic based on her past assault.
I loved the way Henry and Julia connected. It was clear that God had made them for each other. Watching as they discovered this for themselves was so sweet. I also thought Henry was an amazing and patient hero, loving both Julia and her child with a love fashioned after the amazing love that God gives to us.
When You Look at Me was a truly wonderful story and definitely a favorite of mine. It is book two in the series, and although I believe that When You Look at Me can probably be enjoyed as a standalone, the characters definitey overlap with those in book one, Just the Way You Are.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
This is the 4th book I have read by this author, and by far the best. It is unusual for an author to write a male character like Henry: shy, quiet, unsure of himself...especially around women, not comfortable around many people, etc....yet he turned out to be an awesome character and just the right guy for Julia.
I am a guy, but an emotional guy...so I found my eyes watering a lot through this book as Julia's pain from what happened came through, and how Henry helped her heal. This was an emotional read, but man was it a great read.
Why haven't I read this author's books before last week??
There is so much to tell you about When You Look at Me so hold on. For those who read Just the Way You Are, you know a little of Julia’s story (don’t worry if you haven’t read it, you’ll get caught up quick). Suffice it to say, she endured and horror, fought back, and is now reaching for her dreams. When she meets Henry (complete with an awkward and humorous meet-cute), she finds a kindred soul.
Henry is a bit of a reluctant hero but oh, what a one he makes! This man is uncomfortable around people, a bit of a bumbler, and gets lost in his work. But he is the perfect fit for Julia.
I loved how Henry and Julia talked. Yes, just talked. They communicated with each other, sharing their passions, their hearts, their fears, and so much more. They share life, even the mundane things like packing up boxes and baking. The foundation between these two characters is firmly set in friendship. Henry sees Julia as courageous (something she doesn’t believe she is at all). It’s through his eyes she sees herself differently.
Pepper Basham balances the difficulties and seriousness of Julia’s past with the promises and hope of moving forward (with some humor tossed in there because it’s the Jenkins family). Then she throws a family mystery in for Henry and Julia to solve, the beauty of both the Blue Ridge Mountains and England, and the shared passion for music. Oh, the music! It’s another character—one that draws you into its magic and binds these two people together even more. One that eases anxiety, calms fears, and releases frustration and anger.
This is my favorite Basham book yet and if this is what she’s got in her arsenal for readers, I cannot wait to find out what’s next!
Disclosure statement: I receive complimentary books from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including NetGalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
Pepper does it again with this swoony romance! I really, really enjoyed both books in this series and would like to put in my request for a Book Three (with Andrew and Sophie, pretty please!).
But back to this book: I just love Julia. She’s kind and strong and doesn’t know how strong she is. A soon-to-be mama (single) who’s had her life upended but is still dreaming of a future for her little family.
Then there’s Henry! Quiet, musical Henry. Their quite, slow (sorta) love story is so beautiful. Enter England and distance and decisions and I was on the edge of my seat!
I also really appreciated that Henry’s family in England NEEDS Julia. To be honest, I was worried about her facing them, but without any spoilers, I’ll say the author does a brilliant job showing how Julia could be good for them …
It is always a happy day when Pepper Basham releases a new story! And this one is just as wonderful as all her others. Ms. Basham has coined the word "britallachian" for this series and it is quite perfect. From the mix of Appalachian and British accents, to the wonderful and hilarious adventures of our main couple, I giggled my way through this story quite happily! :)
Julia and Henry are so worth spending time with. The difficulties that they both face in their respective journeys are genuine and give a depth to the overall sweetness of their romance. But of course, the romance bits are undeniably adorable, though! Their meet cute is so appropriate and I just loved the shy way they tiptoed around each other at first. I especially loved how they connected through their love of music. How each of them had discovered the way music helped them cope and then to find another who understands that part of their heart? Such a connection isn't easily found and it was one of my favorite bits of the whole story. And watching as they both step out of their comfort zones and seek to add a bit of bravery to their lives....it was delightful to see. They both have so much to overcome, but as they grow and learn, they help each other become more confident. A true rapport is between them. So it's not just the cute, but also the swoony and genuine that delighted me!
And have I mentioned how much I love the big, loud, and awesome Jenkins' family?! I think they just got added to my list of favorite fictional families ever! The hilarious way they interact, yet balanced with the deep love they have for each other, I adored each and every time they came on the page. They are the backbone of this series, for sure.
Filled with sweetness and giggles, as well as a mystery to solve, this story is certainly one of Ms. Basham's best. With a swoonworthy (and quiet) hero, a damaged (but hopeful) heroine, fairly serious romantic (and crackling) chemistry between them, and the boisterous family of loveableness (and hilarity), this is a book worthy of checking out. If I haven't convinced you, I promise that Ms. Basham will if you only give her a chance! Trust me, friends. :)
**I received a complimentary copy from the author. All opinions expressed are my own.
Another extraordinary tale from masterful storyteller Pepper Basham! This beautiful love story about gentle introverts Julia and Henry, in addition to being entertaining and holding my attention, was uplifting with themes of valuing how God designed each personality, the different faces of heroism, the healing power of love, the importance of family, and trusting God when His plans for us lead us in new and unexpected directions. This story made me smile, wonder, think, cry, and laugh out loud (guffaw, if I'm being honest). It went above and beyond--wish I could give it six stars! Highly recommend!
My heart is swollen with love for this book. Julia and Henry are both introverts but find a great way of communicating through music. I love that Henry tells Julia she is brave and courageous. I love how Julia rescues Henry. The way they meet is one of the best "meet cute" scenes I've ever read. Pepper Basham's description of Appalachia, music, and the Blue Ridge mountains put me right there. Henry is a gentle hero. Julia has been wounded but not broken. Their love story is precious and healing. This book also has a great mystery. I highly recommend this book!
Original short review: "Heart eyes for days. I loved Julia and Henry and their gentle spirits."
Full review: I've noticed that my favorite contemporary stories tend to have characters with great pain in their lives. Perhaps a few secrets hidden off to the side, too. I believe it's because they call out to me in the pain I have known, in the heartbreak and loss and things you can't just say out loud in front of everyone. In stories like this, it's the vulnerability and the hope that dares to shine through that gives me joy and leaves my heart feeling stronger for having spent time with these fictional people.
"It's the ones with the bruises and scars that have the most amazing potential for greatness." Seven months previously Julia was the victim of date rape and is now preparing for the arrival of a baby who was the result of the attack. Her friends have mostly retreated, unsure of how to relate to Julia as a single mom and even doubting her claims on the baby's parentage. Thankfully she has a large and loving family to support her, and she keeps her days full with running her bakery and getting her great-aunt's home ready to sell.
"...Sometimes God uses what we least expect to bring us what we need the most." Henry traveled to Appalachia to hear local flavor as he prepares to compose the score for an upcoming movie. This quiet British fellow is rather knocked off his feet by the loud and friendly country folk he meets - as well as the kind and gentle pregnant woman from whom he is renting a room. While his high society mother has always chided Henry for being an introvert, when he's around Julia they find deep ways to communicate, including through their shared love of music.
Julia's heart has been badly wounded, she carries haunting memories that make her hesitate at even the thought of a relationship, and she is dealing with the challenges of single motherhood. It doesn't seem like the right time to become romantically involved, yet there's something about Henry that draws her. Could God bring something beautiful out of the shattered pieces of her heart?
I loved how gently this novel dealt with several different heart-wrenching issues. Things like going to counseling were portrayed in a positive light. There is a whole cast of colorful side characters, but it's the soft hues of gentleness emanating from Julia and Henry that truly light up the story. This novel is a gem and proves that the best things in life are never easy, but God makes a way through rough paths, even if the destination is not what we ever expected.
Running along the deep emotional themes is a historic mystery in need of solving, and the most adorable meet cute I've ever read. There's lots to love here!
WHEN YOU LOOK AT ME is a heartfelt, beautiful story of turning something terrible into something wonderful and perfect, but only found by letting go and trusting in a God who knows best. Readers will love the small-town charm, the swoon-worthy English gents, the close-fit family relationships, and the sweet and toe-curling romance. This story is perfect for inspirational contemporary romance fans!
I loved these characters from the start! The beginning of the story when Julia and Henry meet was hilarious and a great introduction to their personalities. They just grew on me more from there. The introverted, cautious, and shy way they moved about each other as they slowly developed a friendship and then battled attraction was quite entertaining, but also perfect for these characters. I also loved all the humor in this story, from Julia's dad, to the mouse incident in the car, to Julia having everything go wrong while trying to make dinner for Henry... I literally laughed out loud. I also could relate to Julia's struggles and challenges as a new mother as I've been there.
I enjoyed the first half of this story and thought it was about to end and then looked at the percentage on my Kindle and realized I had quite a ways to go... I wondered what else was going to happen. A whole lot did. And that whole lot that happened during the second half of this story... was my favorite part. It felt real. It brought a different setting, and not the ideal, easy situation Julia and Henry faced at the beginning. They needed that start for them to even be open to a relationship (particularly Julia with what had happened to her). The real test was when things weren't perfect, when Henry saw Julia messy and under a stressful situation and she saw his consistency, and when their circumstances pushed some distance between them. That's what really pushed this story from like to love for me. It allowed both of these characters to really face challenges that tested if they truly trusted themselves, each other, and God.
"What is courage, if not, in part, continuing to dream even where there are nightmares?"
In the end, was it what I wished for? If you enjoy contemporary romance with a strong inspirational element, but one that feels genuine, then definitely grab this story! The characters were lovable, the story had plenty of twists and humor, and the romance is sweet with some fabulous chemistry. I'm excited to find out what other happily-ever-afters await the Jenkins family.
Content: Some references to a prior rape related to the story. Clean. Source: I received a complimentary copy through JustRead Publicity Tours, which did not require a positive review nor affect it in any way.
Reading a book by Pepper Basham is like being covered by your favorite blanket in front of the fireplace, with a big cup of hot chocolate. You're warm, happy, and giddy (at least if you are me you are!). I already know when I see her name that I'm going to like the book. She's a fabulous writer. She writes from the heart and she writes characters you can easily relate to. Basham's fun loving personality can be found in all her books, with humor that will make you giggle, and kissing scenes that will make you weak in the knees. She's not afraid to shy away from hard topics such as assault, however at no point in the story do you need to close the book because it feels uncomfortable. Basham delicately weaves the topic in and then moves on. She presents it when necessary, but stays true to the point of the story - good romance and the need for reliance on God.
Julia and Henry are a sweet couple. I mean you stick some introverts together and there is bound to be some uncertain feelings between the characters. But as they grow in friendship first, my favorite kind of romance, you see them ease into their feelings and the budding relationship. I adored the music aspect in this book, mainly because I am a huge music fan myself. Music is a part of my everyday life. I listen to different types based on my mood and became giddy once I saw there was a musical component in the story. Music can really touch the soul, at least in my opinion, and I couldn't wait to dive in and see how it made a difference in the life of Julia.
A Basham book wouldn't be complete without a kissing scene. Correction, without an amazing kissing scene. We're not talking a litle smooch here folks, and while it's not inappropriate (it is after all a Christian read), it will blow your socks off. I think they might be the main reason I read her books. Well, one of them anyways. I think this might be one of my favorite kissing scenes so far that Basham has created. I'm not sure how she'll top it, but I can't wait to read more of her stories to find out!!
When You Look At Me is everything I wanted and more. Yes it is the second book in a series, but it certainly could be read as a stand alone. I highly recommend it to all readers, especially those who love a good romance. For now, this girl is going to be eagerly awaiting the next installment! I received a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to write a favorable review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Another wonderful delight to read from Pepper Basham! When You Look at Me follows Julia Jenkins (who was introduced in Just the Way You Are—but don’t worry! If you haven’t read that book, you can still enjoy When You Look at Me.) and Henry Wright through a story full of music, family mystery, and utterly charming character interactions. I could not stop smiling as I watched the romance grow over the book’s pages, getting to know the character backstories and cheering for them to embrace the possibilities of a brighter future. An excellent story, I highly recommend When You Look at Me to any reader in need a contemporary read.
Thanks to JustRead Tours, I received a complimentary copy of When You Look at Me and the opportunity to provide an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all the opinions I have expressed are my own.
"She'd never met another person who thought in music, and gave her head a little shake to dislodge the sudden fascination."
Julia Jenkins is in the process of moving forward with her life following the senseless act that resulted in an unexpected pregnancy and hours of post traumatic stress counseling appointments . Inheriting her great aunt's magnificent estate and selling her bakery has provided Julia with the opportunity to advance her dream; that of owning and operating a bed and breakfast nestled cozily within the idyllic Appalachian mountains. However, when her future brother-in-law arrives in Pleasant Gap with his best British "mate" in tow, everything around Julia transcends into sound, the kind of music that was destined to communicate without speaking a single word.
And in fact, speaking real words to real people is not in Henry Wright's vocabulary. He's a musician, not a conversationalist, especially in the presence of the beautiful, albeit rotund Julia Jenkins. In spite of Henry's non-verbal tendencies, their common introvert-ism ends up throwing them together for support against the wild, unbridled antics of Julia's loving, unconventional family. "They" could never work though, could they? Henry's life as a professional composer is back in England, and Julia wants to raise her son or daughter close to home; interestingly, it might take a family mystery to clear their path.
"When You Look at Me" is such a beautiful example of sweet romance that's generously sprinkled with gentleness, meekness, and self-control, not thinking more highly of oneself than the other; blanketed comfortably with humility and grace, letting faith overcome fear and allowing dreams submission to the one and only composer whose plans are for "welfare and not for calamity. . . . . to give a future and a hope".
Don't let the amount of time it took for me to read this story lead you to think it had anything to do with the story. It was all me and time not being on my side to savor the lovely and meaningful story of Henry and Julia. Ms. Basham does a beautiful job weaving a tragic event into a plot where forgiveness, courage, and patience bring healing and hope. Loved all of the secondary characters and cannot wait to read more of Ms. Basham's books!
I have been a fan of Pepper Basham's writing since I read her debut novel, The Thornbearer and have read every book she has written since then.
Julia Jenkins was a glass-half-full person. Well, most of the time.
The character of Julia immediately intrigued me (although I have to disagree with her assessment of baths & pregnancy - I couldn't have survived my pregnancies without those long soaks!) and I wanted to know more about her. I wanted to know how she'd gotten into her situation and how she was going to handle it now that she was there.
Julia Jenkins - As I mentioned, Julia intrigued me at the start and she continued to hold my interest throughout the book. This is a woman with a quiet strength. The type of person you might not notice when you first enter a room, but whose strength and courage will astound you in times of trial. Most importantly, her faith is a thing of incredible beauty.
Henry Wright - Oh how I love the chuckle Pepper gave me by giving Julia a "Mr. Wright." Name aside, however, the character of Henry had to grow on me a bit. It wasn't that I initially disliked him -- I liked him right away -- but he is so unique and his introversion is expressed in such an unusual manner that it did take some getting used to. In the end, my heart was completely won over by this one-of-a-kind, heart-meltingly loyal, and inspiringly selfless man.
Amelia Dawn aka Aunt Millie - Julia's recently deceased aunt is a source of mystery. A recluse in her old age, Amelia's life before settling near Pleasant Gap is mostly unknown, despite Julia's close relationship with her in recent years. Throughout the novel, Julia and Henry attempt to uncover Amelia's secrets and I have to tell you, what they find is worth the search.
Eisley Jenkins - Heroine of the first book in this series, Eisley is one of Julia's sisters and longtime girlfriend of Wes Harrison (see below). Her role is important, but not large in this book, although she does get a couple scenes as the Point of View character. (For anyone not familiar with that term, it means the scene is written as if the reader is in her head, hearing her thoughts, seeing what she sees, etc.)
Wes Harrison - Hero of the first book in this series, Wes is back in this book as the longtime boyfriend of Eisley and best friend of Henry. As with Eisley, his role is important, but not large in this book.
Nate Jenkins - Father of Julia Jenkins, he is naturally protective of his daughter - even more so given her recent experiences - and he provokes some very entertaining and also very touching scenes in this novel. Fair warning: one of his scenes had me wiping moisture from my eyes and swallowing a lump in my throat. While not perfect, in many ways, he's what dads should be.
Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:
As I stated above, I was immediately engaged by the character Julia and eventually loved the character of Henry. The story maintained a comfortable tension throughout, with the expected increase of intensity growing toward the climax, so of course, I kept reading.
Not only were the hero and heroine of this book engaging, but the secondary characters were equally so. Pepper has done an excellent job developing the Jenkins family and I am looking forward to reading more stories featuring them. Henry's family was refreshingly dysfunctional and I loved the surprising and compassionate way in which Pepper portrayed them. This book made me laugh out loud, shake my head, and wipe away pesky tears.
Elements I especially liked/disliked:
I'll begin by stating that this story captured first my interest and then my heart. However, I admit to not being as big of a fan of the big duet scene between the two main characters which I have read other reviewers rave about. To be clear: I didn't dislike the scene. I just didn't love it. I think my lack of enthusiasm can be attributed to my general lack of passion for the lingo of music. While I love listening to it, I am neither a player nor a student of that particular art. Therefore, I think some of the subtler nuances of that side of the story - the various musical vocabulary and phrasing sprinkled throughout the story - may have escaped me. Nonetheless, I never felt that I was in any way lost or confused about what was going on.
Furthermore, there were many, many other things to delight me in this story. I completely related to many of the experiences Julia had in regards to her pregnancy, and, in some ways, I could relate to Henry's need for moments of solitude. The love which grows between the two main characters is something I couldn't help but feel in a very real way. The unexpected twists Pepper created in this story kept me very happy as a reader, and as always, her literary gift with words was a music all its own.
God is our source of purpose, courage, and healing.
Wonderful and full of small twists you didn't see coming. This ending is sure to leave you grinning.
5 out of 5 stars
Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book, but was NOT required to write a positive review. All opinions are 100% my own and 100% sincere.
When You Look at Me by Pepper Basham is an excellent novel! I am so blessed to have been allowed to read and review this book. I was immediately swept into Julia and Henry’s romance and loved every moment of their sweet story.
Julia is one of the strongest, most courageous characters I’ve read in a long time. She experiences an awful, soul-crushing, physically devastating trauma. I know for a fact that if I had been in Julia’s shoes I would have struggled on a daily basis with just getting out of bed each day. But Julia fought her villain, sought counseling and medical attention, and used her faith in God to see her through to a real place of physical and emotional healing. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more in awe of a fictional character before. What I really love is that Julia has not been written as a “Super Woman” figure. She is a very realistic character. Over the course of this story she deals with anger, frustration, anxiety, doubt, insecurity, and a small bit of “I can do all of this on my own” pride. What saves Julia from her own self time and time again is her constant reliance on her faith in God. Going to God with everything is Julia’s default. Of the many things I liked and respected about Julia, her constant need for and reliance on God to see her through is the best takeaway I received from reading this book.
Henry Wright is my new most favorite hero ever! I’ve not swooned this hard over a fictional hero in a LONG time. Yes, he is handsome. Yes, he is a musical prodigy who uses his fantastic music to express his deepest feelings. And yes, he has a refinement born out of his British background. All of this coalesces nicely into a great Contemporary Christian fiction hero, but what makes him the BEST hero ever is his ability to see. Henry pays attention to details and then he follows through. Nothing is more romantic to me than a man who notices the small details, who anticipates his loved one’s needs, and who follows through to meet those needs. Add to this a deep, real faith in God and Henry is as perfect as a man can be in a fictional setting. And, as far as being Julia’s hero, Henry is the God-made partner who delicately, respectfully, and honorably loves Julia to her core. The way he loves Julia because he is the one God made for her is just perfect, and I could not help but root for Henry the entire time!
My most favorite message in When You Look at Me is the notion that love destroys fear. Julia struggles hard with fear. I struggle hard with fear. Most all of the female friends I have battle in some way with fear. I think it is safe to say that most all women on earth deal with some level of fear. But no matter how hard we all struggle, we have to remember that God created love to combat fear. This reminds me of the beautiful words found in 1 John 4:18, “There is NO fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” Julia comes to this understanding with Henry. Julia’s fear stems from her traumatic incident. Her fear is 1000% understandable and justifiable. But as her relationship with Henry grows, and Henry continually shows her Christ-like love, patience, kindness, and understanding, Julia realizes that “it [is] easier to fight [scary feelings] as love [grows] larger than fear.” What a fantastic reminder for me! Every time fear rears its ugly head I must remember that God’s love is stronger than any fear I could possibly have because God is bigger than fear!!!
When You Look at Me by Pepper Basham is a story that will stick with me long after I’ve turned the last page. Henry and Julia have endeared themselves to my heart for sure! I found this story to be honest, realistic, romantic, and timely. I highly, highly recommend this beautiful read. It was quite the blessing to me.
I received a review copy of this novel in eBook form from the author via Just Read Tours. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.
When You Look at Me is so good that I hardly know where to begin. Pepper Basham excels at crafting stories that entertain and touch the heart, but there’s something very special and personal for me about this one. Those who have read the previous Just the Way You Are will enjoy seeing the story of Wes and Eisley continue, but this story easily stands alone.
Set in the hauntingly beautiful Appalachians, When You Look at Me is about turning to God for strength, trusting that His plans are better than anything we could devise. It’s about the love and support of family. Well written and laced with the most delightful humor, we see the Christian life lived out by imperfect people. Some of my favorite scenes are the initial meeting between Julia and Henry, interactions at Jenkins family meals, and Henry’s mountain walks outside the town of Pleasant Gap. And the fascinating historical storyline involving Julia’s Aunt Millie, a world-renown pianist, adds depth and richness.
In Julia and Henry, Basham has created two of my all-time favorite characters. Henry comes to Pleasant Gap to compose a musical score for Wes’s production, seeking inspiration by studying Appalachian culture and music. I have always been drawn to the Appalachian Mountains, sensing the “music of the mountains” along with Henry. Julia’s reticence in the company of men and Henry’s social awkwardness make them unlikely romantic leads, yet such appealing characters. I loved how Henry’s first meal with the family, when they held hands for prayer, awakened a longing for connection in him … “This place, these people, stirred his senses – his heart – to life in a way words fell short. And when words failed to comply, music swelled to the rescue.”
That I connected with Julia and Henry on a personal level is one reason why I loved this story so much. Julia and Henry are both musicians and introverts, as am I. When Henry uses music to speak where words have proved wholly inadequate, I see myself. When Julia plays the piano to wind down or convey emotions, again, I see myself. When Henry needs to retreat to a quiet place, away from a loud, glorious Jenkins family meal, I can relate. There’s such a sweet chemistry between these two, as the “something” that each senses in the other initially slowly grows into friendship and much more.
“Sometimes God uses what we least expect to bring us what we need the most.” - Sophie
Those words reflect the heart of When You Look at Me. Because of Julia’s past experience, two voices were fighting for control in her life – one of fear, the other of the God who says, “Fear not” – and that’s something to which most readers can relate.
I’ve enjoyed all that I’ve read by Pepper Basham so far, especially stories with Appalachian settings, and When You Look at Me just might be my favorite. The conclusion is delightfully satisfying, but with the promise of much more to come. “Best of the Best” for me!
I received a copy of this book through JustRead Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
When You Look at Me is certainly a delicious love story with a swoony hero that any fan of romance will devour. But, but . . . it is soo much more! With a message of God’s healing love, this one is a highly recommended read from the talented pen of Pepper Basham. Set in Appalachia and England it can accurately be described as a Britilachian delight! I loved it!
The setting is fun, the romance is sweet, the characters are like old friends or family, and God is in middle of it all. When You Look at Me really has everything that a reader could want. There is no fluff, only great story told in a meaningful way. The raucous Jenkins family welcomes the very British and very timid Henry Wright into their heart. Family members are fun and memorable, especially Nate, the patriarch, but this is Julia and Henry’s story. Attracted to each other by their mutual love of music and their introverted ways, this unlikely couple is right, right from the start. But this novel is more than just a love story, at least a love story between a man and a woman. It reveals the love God has and the way He looks at our hearts. It also has themes of courage, sacrifice, and overcoming fears to find God’s plan. Was there a down side to When You Look at Me? Yes! It ended way to soon for my tastes. 😉 I hope that future books featuring the Jenkins family will give me a glimpse of Julia and Henry’s happily-ever-after.
If you are in the mood for a great romance, then look no further. When You Look at Me will be just the ticket. Although this is the second installment in the Pleasant Gap Romance series, it is easily read as a standalone. It did reinforce my need to read book 1, Just The Way You Are, which is FREE on Kindle for a limited time. I grabbed my copy, and I recommend you do too as quickly as you can.
(Thanks to the author for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone)
Lovely story. Tough topics handled very well, in a way that you don't really hear details, but you know they are there. Unwed mothering is one topic, Date rape is another. Healing from trauma was well dealt with since there was a lot of healing done before a relationship occurs. I found myself laughing at the main character's fear of mice, and such real life issues with a big family done well. This author knows how to make you laugh and cry at the same time.
When you read books by Pepper Basham, you know that the characters will be interesting and the setting plays a great role. This book was no exception. It also added English charm and music. It took a woman in a tough situation and showed her healing and growing. I will continue to look for books by this author.
Julia and Henry are such a sweet couple. Julia comes from an American boisterous, loving family while Henry comes from a refined yet cold English family. They have both overcome some very tough trials. I loved the quiet humor they both shared and the way they each brought out the best of the other.
A deeply moving story is full of hope, of faith and love.
Julia had been crushed by a man she had trusted and struggled to put the pieces of her life together again. With the help of her counselor and through the love of her family she had made progress. Yet she figured she was damaged goods and that no man would ever want her. After all, even her friends had deserted her.
Julia was so special in the way she put people at ease and nurtured them, despite her natural shyness. She seemed to always be watching out for others to make sure they were cared for. This came out so clearly as she recognized Henry’s need to get away from her boisterous family and made a way for him to be able to do that gracefully so neither he nor they were embarrassed.
While I can’t say that I have experienced the kind of discomfort Henry did around people, I did find that it made him quite endearing. He was more comfortable with music than he was with words. As a person who feels that if people aren’t talking they must not be comfortable, it was good for me to see how silence was actually a situation that he was very much at home in. I think that this will impact my interactions with some of the shyer people I come into contact with.
I loved the way Henry and Julia bonded so strongly over music and even spoke music to one another. I cracked up at their music pun session. So cute! One of the sweetest, kindest things I think I have read in a book the way he . . . Sorry – that would have been a spoiler. Let me just say that he found a way to reach Julia and help her through her fears using music in a manner that was so personal and so perfect.
In the midst of their love story is a mystery about Julia’s deceased Aunt Millie. As Henry helps Julia clean out her aunt’s house, they discover clues that point to things being not quite what they appeared. I love the way that music and composing tied so strongly into that story as well.
There are so many “favorite” moments in this story. The fun way Julia and Henry meet was so funny, especially because one accident seemed to happen after another. Their bonding over music. Henry with Eisley’s kids. Julia when she is sleep deprived and goes to the store. The mouse. When they are on the hill behind her aunt’s house and Henry rescues her from the “water fall”. I could go on and on.
I don’t remember being so strongly drawn to Julia’s father when I read Eisley’s story, Just the Way You Are, but Nate was hard to miss in this one! He is one of those down-home country boys who is rough on the exterior and soft as a marshmallow on the interior when it comes to love for his family. His protectiveness towards Julia was almost as touching as Henry’s care for her – and that is saying a lot! His nicknames for Henry and Wes were pretty funny, as was the way he kept trying to encourage them to do “real” manly work.
This deeply moving story is full of hope, of faith and love. Even now, at least a half-hour after I finished reading, I am still a little teary – in a good way. I appreciate so much that despite the fact that it is known that Julia was date-raped, no other details about the event were really given. And they didn’t need to be to make it clear what had happened. The fact she was seven months pregnant was really enough to make that abundantly clear. The story is not depressing or dark by any stretch of the imagination. The focus was not on Julia’s brokenness but on her healing. She and Henry both had strong faith in the Lord and he saw a strength in her that she needed to realize was there and encouraged her through music, words, and Scripture.
'I don't wish my type of tragedy on anybody's happily ever after.'
Pepper Basham takes us back to Pleasant Gap deep in the Appalachian mountains with this novel and tells us the story of another Jenkins sibling. This time, it's Julia, who has been assaulted and is now an unexpected mother-to-be. Her sister Eisley's British boyfriend has come to Pleasant Gap to film a movie and brought his best mate, Henry Wright, with him to compose the musical score. Julia happens to be their landlady for the duration of their stay.
Henry is a reticent and shy composer, hurt one too many times in romantic relationships and determined to not make the same mistake again. Julia has been hurt in a most tragic way and still suffers from the horrific wounding. But God has written a different story for their lives. IF they will allow Him to bring His plan to fruition.
Julia's great aunt has died and left her a huge Victorian mansion and as Julia begins to sort through the house and her aunt's belongings, she comes across more than just a bit of intrigue. Henry volunteers to help her go through everything and soon they are both swept away into the mystery, musical in nature. As they work together trying to solve the puzzle, both these introverts begin to have wonderful feelings for the other. But fear holds Julia back, fear of even the simplest of relationships with a man. Henry, kind and wonderful soul that he is, is totally happy to wait for as long as necessary for Julia to trust him and overcome her fear. As they begin on this new journey, sharing their deeply seated love of music with each other, love blooms between them. But there are also obstacles to overcome.
This book surely deserves more than the allowable 5 stars. How can I even begin to craft a review worthy of this book? It's a romance, to be sure, and what a romance it is, but it's a deeper story, a story that will weave its way into every nook and cranny of your heart and make you long for the kind of love that is spoken here. A story that will make you realize what a wonderful story God has indeed woven for each of His children. Psalm 139 tells us that He has ordained every day of our lives before even one of them came to be and this story shows us just what greatness He has planned for two people He loves. Even though they both have suffered through relationships and painful circumstances, hideous circumstances on Julia's part, God has planned such a stunning and heart filling conclusion for their lives. Henry Wright is a hero beyond compare. He is the kindest, most thoughtful and preciously sweet romantic hero I believe I've ever encountered in the pages of a book. And his love and care for Julia is the best ever! There is so much in my heart that I can't get it all out. There is a line in the book that says it perfectly: 'How did a heart hold so much at once?'
Pepper Basham has crafted, in my opinion, her very best work ever. I highly recommend this book. This one is for the keeper shelf and destined to be read over and over again. Do not miss this book.
*My thanks to the publisher and author for a preview copy of this book. My opinions stated here are entirely my own.
Update: 12/30/2022. Reread and even better the second time around.
This story - wow! I laughed, I cried and I was so touched by this story & these characters. Such gentle but brave souls. Their faith and willingness to keep moving forward are such a beautiful picture of how God wants us to be. Of how He is working in all the big & small details of our lives. He does bring beauty from ashes. And if we will trust Him with all of ourselves; our hearts, our lives; He has so much more planned for us, bigger & better than we could ever imagine!
This was a beautiful love story spanning two continents, over 50 years and two couples. This also is a story about courage and bravery. I loved the incredible well crafted storyline,the amazing characters,and all the twists and turns. This book is recommended for those who love Christian romance with a strong inspirational message.
This book was so good that it sucked me in and after I finished reading it I couldn't think what to say in a review - so I read it again!
I really loved both main characters. It was quite different to have both of them be introverted, but Basham made it work beautifully. I love how they connect over music and I really loved their conversations throughout this book. They were often hilarious but other times quite straightforward and honest.
What hit me the most was this book's honest and real-life look at relationships after difficult past relationships. I really appreciated that even though Julia was dealing with some painful past experiences she was working through them and I especially liked the examples from the book from her counseling sessions with a Christian counselor who included prayer in her sessions!
I also was thrilled with the incorporated mystery in this book. It was so neat to see Julia discover things in her aunt's house and at the same time learn things her aunt had long kept secret from everyone. I did figure out the mystery pretty fast, but if I hadn't I loved the way Basham revealed in in the book. It was perfect and made me wish I hadn't known what it was going to be.
As a musician, I especially appreciated all of the music scenes. Reading about familiar composers made this story oh so special. I really enjoyed Henry's ability to compose music and it played such a delightful role in this book.
This book really had everything. It has a touch of women's fiction, romance, history, mystery, and some comedy too. This is one I'll read over and over! And it is available on Kindle Unlimited for those of you that use that!
I received an advanced copy of this book from the author. This is my honest review.
Pepper Basham has done it again! This story is just wonderful! I highlighted more lines then I think I ever have, and you can be sure I’ll be rereading them again soon. Let’s start with the beginning - this has got to be one of the best first meets ever!! I loved it! And, of course, the humor throughout the book is spot on! Even at some of the most heart wrenching moments, Pepper will add a perfect line of humor, so it lightens the mood and never feels too sad. Nate and Henry had me snort-laughing so many times throughout the story. Thank goodness I was alone - well mostly anyway! There are some epic humorous scenes in this story - the laundry scene, the birth scene, and the family dinners were probably my favorites.
Pepper takes a very sensitive subject and handles it really well. The way Julia acts and feels seem very realistic. Your empathy pours out for her and for what she has gone through. The mystery part of the story was so fun! I loved how Julia and Henry worked together to solve it and how Henry eventually figured out the whole thing. I also absolutely loved the way music played such a large role in their relationship. It brought them together and helped Julia heal. Oh! And I loved seeing Wes and Eisley again! It really made me want to do a reread of their story!
Finally, God is all throughout this story, without being preachy or pushy. I Love this quote, “Sometimes God uses what we least expect to bring us what we need the most.” ❤️
I could could just keep going, but I’ll end with this - go order this book!! I can’t wait for more stories in this series! Awesome job Pepper!!
I received this book from the author. All thoughts are my own.