I was sucked into Denise Hunter’s latest read The Lake Season from the opening scene. Molly thinks that Adam is the friend her brother sent over to help her put a bookshelf together. The instructions are in French. Adam speaks French. Molly slyly insists he read them out loud. Smart girl.
That’s all it took for me. By the time that bookshelf was put together, Molly was crushing on Adam, and so was I.
Molly, with her brother and sister, owns and runs an inn nestled against the mountains and lakes of North Carolina. By doing so, they are keeping their parents’ dream alive and holding onto their childhood home. Within the old walls of the historic house, they find a letter written during the Vietnam War. That letter unites Molly and Adam in an adventure of a lifetime. Through flashbacks, we also learn about the woman who wrote the letter and the soldier she loved.
As Adam and Molly feel themselves drawn to one another, old fears and insecurities surface. Adam is hiding something major from Molly: he is actually the reclusive, mysterious, best-selling romance author Nathaniel Grey. The romance author that Molly idolizes. Yet one reason he keeps his identity a secret is because he doesn’t think he could measure up to the fantasy man his female readers assume him to be. When Molly overhears a conversation between Adam and his dashing, handsome agent, she inadvertently confirms his fears. She assumes the man with overt sex appeal is Nathaniel Grey, not Adam.
And thus we come to my only major criticism of this book. Never in the story does Molly realize her own shallowness in assuming that “Mr. Sexy” is Nathanial Grey. Never does she actually apologize to Adam for choosing his “better looking” friend over him. Adam is a bit awkward and shy, and it felt as if Molly should have realized how she hurt him when it literally NEVER OCCURRED TO HER that he could be Nathanial Grey. Instead, more emphasis is put on how Adam lied to her. I get that she had trust issues from a previous relationship, but it still felt one sided to me. I felt like they both made mistakes, but Adam is the only one who apologizes. My other criticism is a minor one: I didn’t like how the author stated that Adam looked like the actor Ryan Gosling. I just don’t like when authors make a celebrity comparison. I didn’t imagine Adam looking like Ryan Gosling at all, so it irritated me. I’d rather the author give general descriptions and leave the rest up to my imagination. However, if you like Ryan Gosling, you might not care!
Nevertheless, I loved this book and there were nights I stayed up later than I should have because I wanted to know what would happen next. The mystery surrounding the lost letter was intriguing, kept me guessing, and then was resolved with an interesting twist. I also liked how Hunter wove the flashbacks into the story without taking too much away from Adam and Molly. This one is an overall wonderful read!
For today’s review, I’m highlighting Karen Witemeyer’s Head in the Clouds for a very exciting reason: it’s currently only $1.99 on Kindle!
I could really relate to Adelaide Proctor because she’s a clumsy, daydreaming bookworm. She’s also a romantic, and her naive fantasies about love find her alone and humiliated in a new town. Desperately needing a job, she takes a governess position on a sheep ranch. There she meets Gideon Westcott, a handsome Brit who became a father to five year old Isabella literally overnight. Adelaide’s biggest challenge will be breaking through Isabella’s silence: the child hasn’t spoken since her mother’s death on the ship to America.
Gideon’s relationship with his adoptive daughter is one of my favorite things in this book. How he came to be her father is a heart-tugging story that will make you fall in love with this gallant sheep rancher right along with Adelaide.
Adelaide herself is a breath of fresh air in Gideon’s and Isabella’s tragic lives. The humorous situations due to Adelaide’s daydreaming and her bubbly personality reminded me of Maria in The Sound of Music and had me laughing out loud. However, Gideon is far from stoic and serious. He’s worried about his daughter, yes, but he’s a charmer and a bit of flirt. He and Adelaide are attracted to each other from the start, which is a refreshing change from most romance novels.
One warning to readers, however. There is an attempted rape scene in this book. Frankly, I felt it was handled poorly. It was used as a plot device to set certain things in motion. Afterwards, the victim brushes it off (though it’s pretty violent, with her thrown onto the ground and her clothes ripped), and it’s never mentioned again. The woman has no long term effects from this experience, and that really bothered me. In all fairness to the author, I think that media has long treated attempted rape in this manner, and it isn’t the first time I’ve seen it. Of course, that’s another post entirely. Overall, I just felt that the scene took away from the tone of the rest of the book.
Despite the scene I mentioned above, I still highly recommend this book. You’ll get completely invested in the characters, and the drama surrounding Isabella’s unconventional adoption will have you on the edge of your seat. You’ll also swoon from the get go as Adelaide and Gideon fall in love.
I have been eagerly anticipating Becky Wade’s newest book, Stay with Me, for a while now. I just finished it and enjoyed it so much that I immediately read the prequel novella Take a Chance on Me. Which is why I didn’t review the book right away - I was getting lost in the story of Sam’s best friend Eli!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Sam is the male lead character in Stay with Me, and I absolutely adore him! I usually would roll my eyes at a character that runs an organic farm and a keto/paleo farm-to-table restaurant, but Sam was such a dynamic, complex character, he felt believable instead of a trendy stereotype. He is a man with a past, riddled with guilt and regrets, who keeps people at arm’s length. Yet he also tends to be a rescuer, a fixer (aren’t a lot a men?), and so he can’t help attempting to rescue Genevieve, the female lead. Even though he tries really hard not to.
Oh, and did I mention he’s a hunky Australian?
Genevieve, on the surface, seems like the last person who could identify with Sam’s walls and secrets, yet she too wears a facade. She’s a popular, extremely successful Christian author and speaker. Her Bible studies for women have made her an example for others to follow, but she harbors a devastating secret: she’s an opioid addict. (This is revealed right away, so I’m not spoiling anything!)
As Wade often does, a mystery from the past is woven into the tale as well. I couldn’t figure it out until Genevieve did, or at least, I didn’t want to believe my suspicions. Let’s just say secrets are a family sin.
With the subjects of opioid addiction, social media personas, and Christian celebrity culture with a keto/paleo farm-to-table restaurant to boot, this book could have easily been a trendy morality tale. I’ve read those and can’t stand them. Wade, however, crafts layered, believable characters into a story that transcends all those things and gets right down to human nature. The theme of sin thriving in secret is universal, meaning we can all relate to these characters and their struggles while rooting for Sam and Genevieve to fall in love. This is my favorite quote from the book:
“Relationships were painful and messy and beautiful and important. The mess came with the beauty. The pain came with the importance.
That was life. And God was calling him to live it.”
I am a former English teacher turned homeschool mom of three who writes Christian romance novels on the side. You know, in my huge amount of spare time.