When her mother died from pneumonia, Penny Cartwright was heartbroken. But now, after burying her younger brother just 12 years later, she is devastated. Anger, guilt, and sorrow cloud Penny’s mind, and the last thing she wants is to be reminded of her pain—but that’s exactly what happens when a stranger comes to town.
Trevor Reynolds has been chasing fame for more than a dozen years, but his musical career can’t get off the ground. While on the road, an accident kills his young drummer, Brad Cartwright. Trevor wasn’t behind the wheel, but he still blames himself . . . and so does Brad’s sister, Penny. Now Trevor finds himself in Kings Meadow, determined to follow through on his final promise to his friend.
Still feeling the pain of Brad’s death, Penny and Trevor must learn that forgiveness is the only thing that can heal their hearts. And if they do forgive, something beautiful may rise from the ashes of heartbreak.
When Penny had first arrived in King’s Meadow, his feelings for Penny had been heavily influenced by the stories Brad had told about his sister. But over the past three weeks he’d learned to see her with his own eyes. And he realized how very much he’d like her to be able to see him the same way, to know and understand him. Could that ever happen? Or would Brad’s death always be a barrier between them?
Penny patted the mare’s neck again before drawing back. “We’d better go inside. We don’t want your mother to feel like you’ve abandoned her.”
“Your dad would never let that happen.”
“You’re right.” She smiled tenderly. “He wouldn’t.”
They turned in unison and started toward the house.
Sticking his fingertips into the back pockets of his jeans, Trevor cleared his throat. “You know, it might help to know what the plans are while Mom’s here. I never have gotten much of an answer from your dad.”
“It’s simple, Trevor. Dad expects you both – you and your mom – to be part of our Christmas. All of our Christmas. That doesn’t mean just Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. It means everything. Going caroling. Enjoying the annual sleigh ride. Taking communion at church on Christmas Eve, followed by classic Christmas movies at home. Opening gifts on Christmas morning and then dinner with family and friends. Everything.”
“Wow. I should have realized. I never meant to impose. I thought-”
Penny stopped walking, at the same time touching his arm so that he stopped too. “Don’t misunderstand me, Trevor. Dad is happier than I’ve seen him since . . . since Brad died. He’s loved preparing for your mom’s visit. Thinking of ways to entertain her. And you. We weren’t going to have Christmas dinner at our house this year, but now we are. And you two aren’t our only guests. Dad’s invited others to join us. I can see how much pleasure that’s brought him, too, planning it all.” She tipped her head to one side as she looked up at him. Her expression was sad and yet not sad. “I’ve been trying so hard to protect him from any more pain. Both physical and emotional. Perhaps I went overboard.”
He refrained from shaking his head, sensing that she was working things through in her mind and didn’t need his agreement or argument.
A slight smile curved the corners of her mouth. “No. Not perhaps. I have gone overboard. Dad’s told me so more than once. I just haven’t wanted to believe him.” Her smile broadened a little. “I’m really glad you and your mom will be celebrating Christmas with us.”
Her last words could have been little more than politeness, if not for the smile that included him. Something had changed between them today. Without fanfare. Without a lengthy conversation. Without any effort. They had turned a corner for the better. For real this time. What that meant for tomorrow, he couldn’t be sure, but he was learning to trust God to take care of the future.
I found this novel to be a little on the slow side; particularly in terms of the romance, which didn’t really take off until the second half of the novel. I liked the basic plot, but without any secondary plots woven into the story it felt thin, and I wondered whether it wouldn’t have been better as a novella. Instead, it seemed to be padded out with lots of character introspection, internal monologues, and scenes that didn’t move the story forward in any significant way.
The novel opens with a prologue that takes place at Brad’s funeral, followed by a scene from Brad’s point of view in 2003; the day Penny and Brad’s mother died. Brad’s point of view recurs throughout the novel, showing brief scenes from his life (in chronological order) that marked steps on the journey that eventually took him to Trevor Reynolds’ band and the accident that took his life. It was an interesting way to reveal Brad’s story but, again, it didn’t move the story along, and so added to the feeling that this was a slow-moving book. It did fill in some of the backstory from Brad’s perspective (particularly his relationship with Penny and his reasons for joining the band), but most of that could have been related through conversations between various living characters quite naturally.
Penny’s father is also a point of view character in this novel, another departure from the traditional hero/heroine focus of the story. I thought this was a more effective inclusion than Brad’s point of view but it allowed us to learn a lot via character introspection and internal monologue rather than conversations with either Penny or Trevor. The latter would have made for a more dynamic reading experience.
When the romance did finally come along I found it a little on the cheesy side, but we had at least been able to see how Penny had progressed from blaming Trevor for Brad’s death, to realizing that he was a decent guy, to falling in love with him. Trevor also grows as a character during the novel, coming to terms with some issues he had with his own father, but as I said at the opening, it didn’t feel like there was enough meat to either of their stories to make a full length novel.
All in all, this was a bit of a take-it-or-leave-it read for me. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either.
I received a complimentary copy through BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review. This is the third in Robin Lee Hatcher’s King’s Meadow Romance series, but can be read as a stand-alone novel.
Release date: 26 January 2016
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Author’s website: http://www.robinleehatcher.com/