Review of Surprised by Love by Julie Lessman

About the book …

Eighteen-year-old Megan McClare left San Francisco to study in Paris, and when she returns, her family and friends are shocked to see her changed appearance. No longer a chubby teenager, she’s become a beautiful, sophisticated young woman. She eagerly accepts an internship at the District Attorney’s office, and discovers that Devin Caldwell, the classmate who crushed her heart will also be interning there. Devin, smitten with the new Megan, claims to have changed his ways, and he seems determined to prove it to Meg and win her affections.

Lawyer Bram Hughes is like a member of Megan’s family. He’s also been Meg’s closest friend and mentor since she was a child. They harbor deep and secret feelings for each other, but Bram is ten years older. That, combined with believing his marriage to another woman will save his father’s business, keeps him from professing his love for Meg.

Megan’s mother, Cait McClare, is a widow who has been in love with her brother-in-law Logan McClare since before she married his brother. But the much-loved member of the large family betrayed Cait more than once over the years. Although he seems to have become a new man, she’s still not able to trust him. When Andrew Turner, a kind and respected District Attorney, pursues Cait, she wonders if he may be the one God has chosen for her.

My review …

I’ve been a Julie Lessman fan for years and have enjoyed her many books. But this one may be one of my favorites. Surprised by Love gives us two wonderful romances for the price of one. They are equally well written and woven together into one story that takes the reader on an emotional ride with a sweet and satisfying ending. The author has a gift for writing sexual tension between two characters that rips one’s heart out—while still not crossing what might be uncomfortable boundaries for some readers. This is a clean romance that tugged on my heartstrings.

The plot was also well executed, and the story took some unexpected turns. Just when I thought things were going one way for Megan or Cait, the author surprised me, and I really enjoyed that. I was guessing until the very end as to how various dilemmas were going to get resolved or who Megan and Cait would end up with and why.

This is a wonderful love story that also explores what it means to face our fears and to not only learn to trust God, but also what trust means in our relationships.

Surprised by Love is the third book in The Heart of San Franciso series. The book stands well on its own, but if readers haven’t read the first two books, the number of characters in the first several chapters may feel a little overwhelming until they become more familiar with them.  Don’t let that deter you from reading further—you’ll be rewarded!

DISCLOSURE: I was graciously provided a copy of Surprised by Love by Revell Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

Julie Lessman is an award-winning author of The Daughters of Boston series, the Winds of Change series, and The Heart of San Francisco series. The recipient of seventeen Romance Writers of America and other awards, Lessman was chosen as the #1 Romance Fiction Author of the Year in the Family Fiction magazine 2011 and 2012 Readers’ Choice Awards. She resides in Missouri with her family.

Color in the Gray

Gray, dreary skies may make us feel less energetic. They may even contribute to grumpy moods.  But there are times when cloudy days can be beneficial.

Sure, we all know they can be good for cleaning out closets, snuggling up by a fire to watch a movie or read a book, or simmering chili in a slow cooker all day. My hubby makes the best chili!

But, I'm thinking of something entirely different.

As a person who loves taking photos, I’ve learned that some of the best shots are taken when the sun is absent. How can that be?

Have you ever noticed that when you take pictures on cloudless days, sometimes the colors in your photographs fade under the sun’s brilliance? People’s faces may look either washed out or partially hidden in shadows. Glare can also affect the shot’s success. But take photographs when there is a slight rain, and most likely you’ll get beautiful colors that pop from the images.

You don’t need to be a camera fanatic to notice—just look out your window on a drizzly day and take in the sharp, rich colors.

Life can be similar . . .   

If we were to experience only good times (sunny days), we may start taking our blessings for granted. They’d pale and become less exciting. But when we’re struggling (rainy days), moments of goodness, kindness, or fun are so appreciated! They can seem like vivid colors in contrast to dark walls closing in around us.

Are you going through a rough time right now? Challenge yourself to look for the good things in each day, regardless how small, and embrace them.

Do you know someone who is struggling? Think of one thing you can you do to bring some color into that persons gray world.


Dealing With Lost Opportunities

It was a rough morning …

We arrived at church and my husband set out to locate our friend Howard. Not finding him in the chair he usually gravitated to in the coffee area, Sonny asked someone if he knew how Howard was doing.

We were heartbroken to not only learn that he’d passed away the previous weekend while we were out of town, but that we’d missed the funeral held only the day before. We hadn’t received any notice of his death or the celebration of his life.

Howard and his wife had been of the first couples to welcome us to the church when we decided to find a place closer to home. During the two years we’d attended there, they’d greeted us with warm smiles and hugs, and theyd checked in on our lives.

The two men found common ground, and over the past year started to develop a friendship. They met for an occasional breakfast, and Howard helped us with some remodeling projects in our home.

But you see, over that course of time, we discovered that Howard was battling cancer. For awhile, his health continued to improve. His color came back and he had a lot more energy. He looked and acted like the man we first met. But things took a turn, and we knew they weren’t going to get any better.

Sonny and Howard talked about getting together for ice cream and some “guy time.” But life got busy, and several weeks went by without setting a date.

Only now, it was too late for that ice cream.

A “missed opportunity” means there might be another chance. But we experienced a “lost opportunity.” There are no more options.

Our friend loved Jesus, and we know he’s basking in the Lord’s presence now. But until we can join Howard there, we’ll miss seeing him here. My husband can’t go back and share another breakfast with his friend. We won’t have another chance to be at his funeral to say good-bye and be a support that day to his wife.

This experience has been a reminder that we can’t put off spending time with people who are important to us because we think tasks need to be checked off our “to-do” list. And when we say we’re going to do something—we need to follow through to the best of our abilities.

I don’t want to live a life of regret and lost opportunities . . .

How about you? Is there something in your life today that you need to do?


Book Review of Kept by Sally Bradley

About the book . . .

Miska Tomlinson is a freelance editor in Chicago who is accustomed to drawing attention for her stunning looks. Though she’s hoping her affair with a married sports star will end in happily-ever-after, she’s also secretly spending time with another sports figure who is willing to pay big bucks for her time.

Dillan Foster, a young and handsome pastor, moves in with his brother next door to Miska. The pastor is attracted to her, but he’s waiting for the right woman to come along—a woman who is a Christian with the same beliefs. But Dillan—and his brother and fiancĂ© (Garrett and Tracy)—become friends with Miska, and when her secret life is exposed, their lives become entangled in ways that change them all.

My review . . .

This contemporary story is different and refreshing. The author gives us a convincing portrayal of a young woman searching for love in all the wrong places—who doesn’t understand why or how her choices are hindering the happiness she pursues. Miska’s lifestyle is shared without getting graphic. I appreciated the honesty in which the book includes Christians who are judgmental toward people who have not been exposed to the Bible and authentic relationship with God. There’s power in truth-telling, and this novel is filled with it.

KEPT focuses on love and grace. It delves into what “love” can and should mean on so many levels—the love between a man and woman, God’s love, the love shared between friends, and what should exist within families. The kindness that Tracy offers Miska, and the sweet friendship that develops between the two women, will stick with me for a long time.

If readers are more drawn to novels that include subtle spiritual messages woven into the story lines, they might be put off by the overt Christian message and discussions about Bible stories and verses in this book. Others will welcome it with open arms and embrace it.

Sally Bradley writes big-city fiction with real issues and real hope.

A Chicagoan since age five, Sally has been fascinated by all things Chicago (except for the crime, politics, and traffic) for almost as long. She now lives in the Kansas City area with her family, but they get back to Chicago from time to time for important things, like good pizza and a White Sox game.

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