This novel had a couple of strikes against it going in as far as I’m concerned: I don’t read romance novels, and I especially don’t read Christian romance novels, even though I am a Christian. However, it was nominated for the INSPY awards in the “general fiction” category, and although it turned out to be what I would call a romance novel, it was a pretty darn good romance.
Charleston’s Anne Brumley has long dreamed of romance while ringing the bells at St. Michael’s, but those dreams are beginning to fade. Her sister Alicia and cousin Della encourage her to strike out and make her own way—after all, she’s thirty-six. But the tall redhead is sure God said, “Stay here and wait.”
Widower Roy Summerall has happily ministered to the country folks of Church of the Good Shepherd for years. So why would the Lord call him and his daughter away to Charleston—the city that Roy remembers from his childhood as pretentious and superficial? Surely the refined congregation of St. Michael’s won’t accept a reverend with a red neck and a simple faith.
Meanwhile, Anne’s sister, Alicia, struggles with her husband’s ambition which seems to be taking him further and further from their dreams of a happy family together. And Cousin Della’s former fiancé has returned to Charleston, making her wonder if she chose the wrong path when she married her gifted but struggling-artist husband.
So the strongest part of this three strand plot is the story of Licia, who, spoiler here, ends up suffering from postpartum depression. Of course, mental illness manifests itself differently in different people, and Licia’s illness turns out to be a particularly vicious and hard-to-cure form of postpartum depression. She needs the help and support of not only her doctors, but also her husband and her life-long friends, Della and Anne. I applaud Ms. Hart for tackling this difficult subject, and I believe she did so quite realistically and sympathetically. As I said, Licia’s part of the story is the strongest and the most engaging.I really wanted to know what would happen to her and her husband and their three children.
Anne and Della have issues, too. But I didn’t sympathize with Della much, and Anne’s problem was resolved a little too neatly and predictably. Still, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this story of three friends coping with life through faith in Charleston, South Carolina.