Last week I added lists of my favorite books to my blog. As I listed my favorite Christian novels, I realized that some of them were book three, and in one case book four, in a series. I contemplated posting the series instead of the individual books, but in each case there was a book in each series that I didn’t care for enough to recommend. So I’m going to review these three titles and explain why I chose them. I’ll also give you my opinion on whether you should wade through the whole series or skip some of the books.
Today, we start with On Magnolia Lane by Denise Hunter:
On Magnolia Lane is book three in the Blue Ridge Romance series by Denise Hunter. Book one is called Blueridge Sunrise and book two is Honeysuckle Dreams. There is also a stand alone title called Sweetbriar Cottage that takes place in the same small town in the north Georgia mountains as the other three. I’m not sure why it isn’t included as part of the series. It may be because it has a heavier subject matter while the three included in the series have more humor. I actually read the stand alone title first, then the series in order. However, the final book is my absolute favorite!
The main reason I love it so much is because the male romantic lead is a pastor. Married to a pastor myself, I was impressed with how Hunter portrays Pastor Jack. He is an ordinary man who just happens to be in ministry, and he longs for a relationship with a woman who will love him just as he is and not for his job. Specifically, he’s already fallen in love with Daisy. Unfortunately, Daisy sees him only as a pastor. Like many romances, there’s a comedy of errors as his well meaning friends decide to make a fake dating profile for him so Daisy can get to know the “real him.” You can probably guess that both humor and conflict comes as a result. I love Hunter’s main theme: that “pastor” is Jack’s job, but it isn’t who he is. I could relate to that so much! Parts had me laughing so hard I cried while other parts just made me cry, period.
Would I recommend reading the entire series? Not necessarily. You don’t have to read them all to enjoy each individual title. All of the characters appear in all three (including the main couple in Sweetbriar Cottage), but each book has its own plot thread that you can easily follow and enjoy without reading the others. All of the books are great, however, and there weren’t any that I disliked. As a matter of fact, I absolutely loved Honeysuckle Dreams as well. I can’t rave about the other two, to be honest, but I didn’t dislike them. Do be warned that Sweetbriar Cottage depicts a vaguely described rape of a twelve year old girl. (The man comes into the girl’s room while she’s sleeping, and then it cuts away.) Some may want to skip that one due to its upsetting subject matter.
Denise Hunter does a fantastic job in all of her novels describing the setting. She actually travels to the places where she sets her books, and it shows. I am from Georgia, and she perfectly captured the northern, mountainous part of the state. Many people don’t even know that Georgia has three different regions with three distinct climates. Even fewer know about the mountains here (called the Blue Ridge Mountains - hence the series title). She even slips a little joke about that into one of the books where a tourist says “I didn’t even know Georgia had mountains!” She also understood the size of the state of Georgia, something that other books and movies constantly get wrong. They always act like everyone in the state can pop over to Atlanta, not understanding that some parts of the state are four to six hours away from the capital! So I was happy in book two when Hope, the main female character, gets a job in Atlanta and has to get an apartment there, thus driving a wedge between her and her love interest. Major kudos to Hunter for understanding that you can’t commute to Atlanta from the mountains! The titles obviously reference this southern setting: honeysuckles, sweetbriars, and magnolias (thank you Hunter for avoiding the peach cliche!), but none of the titles really have anything to do with the plot or theme of any of the books. Because of this, I have a hard time remembering the titles of these and which one is which!
Bottom Line: Pick and choose from this series, but books two and three get my vote as the best!
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.