Cheryl Thompson learned over a decade ago to guard her shattered heart with a veil of cold indifference. Life since that day has been an endless cycle of detachment and loneliness, followed by superficial relationships. Break up, rinse, and repeat. Until something in her snaps. This life…she can’t do it anymore. She returns to her childhood home in the Colorado Rockies to help her nana, only to discover a man capable of thawing her iced-over emotions—a man she knows she doesn’t deserve, so she pushes him away. But he keeps coming back.
Brock Kelly lived high as King of the Slopes in the world of snowboard cross racing. Medals. Money. Fame. But after a visit to an orphanage in Mexico, he gave up his adrenaline-packed lifestyle to follow a calling from God he didn’t know he had—helping kids who’d been damaged emotionally. When his best friend’s baby sister returns to town, he recognizes the hollow look in her eyes and sees the pain beneath her icy armor. It seems God has issued new call on his life. One he is not prepared for.
Falling in love with a woman who keeps secrets is dangerous all on its own. But when Cheryl finally tells Brock what she’s never told anyone else…no wonder she is the way she is. It would take a miracle to heal that wound, and a love bigger than Brock had ever imagined to walk with her through the process.
“You don’t want to know me, Brock.” She made a move in the direction where she’d parked her car.
With one long stride, he stepped into her path.
“Yes I do.”
“Brock.” Her voice cracked, and she looked away.
He’d touched on something tender in her heart, and she wanted none of it. He wanted all of it. The conviction surged. They’d both landed back in Hayden on purpose. For many purposes actually. And this thing blooming between them? Part of that purpose.
Crazy. Maybe he’d taken one too many slams to the head on his many snowboarding crashes. Cheryl Thompson, the ice queen, had planted deep in his heart within a week’s time. Hadn’t he been done with women? Not to mention, she’d be one of the most difficult creatures he’d ever encountered. He worked with some pretty difficult kids, so that was saying something.
Maybe he should listen to her; maybe she was right. The things she had locked up felt ominous. Maybe he didn’t want to know.
With that thought, a noose locked around his heart and pulled tight. Strangling tight.
One hand reached for her face, and his fingers brushed her cheek. The coolness of her skin seeped through the pads of his fingers, and every other thought scattered. She needed warmth, and for some unexplainable reason, he longed to give it to her.
“Yes,” he whispered, bringing her eyes back to meet his, “I do.”
She stood still as he once again closed the space between them. With the hand that still touched her face, he tucked her close again, and the other arm he wrapped around her shoulders.
She shivered against him. Brock was certain her physical reaction wasn’t just because of the chilly mountain air. She wasn’t alone in that one.
This hadn’t been his plan. He was terrified too.
I’m not sure how it’s possible to combine such soul-piercing agony, and such heart-swelling beauty in one novel, but that is exactly what Jennifer Rodewald has done in Red Rose Bouquet. It seems trite to try and put my feelings into words – ‘squeezing words out of feelings’ is how a friend recently phrased it – but hopefully this review will in some way convey the magnitude of deeply reverent ‘wow’ I feel for this story.
First of all, this may be classified as a ‘romance’, but that is a dreadfully pale word for the depth of love shown in this story. It is a relentless, unmerited love; the kind of love that willingly endures heartache for the sake of another’s healing. It was such a beautiful picture of Christ’s love for us, and yet, at the same time, eminently human in its imperfection.
Brock doesn’t know what has happened to turn the Cheryl he remembers into an ice princess, but he recognises a wounded soul when he sees one. His pursuit of first her friendship, then her love, is one of the most tender and beautiful I have ever read, and I found myself wiping my eyes on more than one occasion. He doesn’t always get it right, but he has such a teachable spirit, and a willingness to humble himself; to put aside his own pain in order to be what Cheryl needs. It was… Oh, there just aren’t words!
And Cheryl. She’s not an easy character to like in the early stages of the novel but, like Brock, I was stirred to compassion for her, which deepened throughout the novel. And her story chastised my soul. As an adamant pro-lifer, I’m passionate about saving babies, but how often do we consider what condemnation our efforts heap on women who have already made their choice and are now suffering for it. How often do we reach out to post-abortive women and show them Christ’s healing love?
In many ways, reading this book means being prepared to have your own heart broken along with the characters. I felt Cheryl’s pain as she worked through her guilt, her belief that she had committed the unforgivable. I felt her very real fear that sharing her pain would mean losing the one person who had taken the time to melt the wall of ice she had built around her heart. But I also felt the gradual softening as she began to respond to Brock. There are so many beautiful, even light-hearted moments amidst the pain, I know this is a novel I will come back to more than once.
Tying this all together is the beauty of Jennifer Rodewald’s writing. It’s not just the story she tells, but the way she expresses it. Each word, each sentence is perfectly weighted, and the result is exquisite, in a completely natural and unpretentious way.
In short, I cannot recommend this novel highly enough. May there be many more novels to come from Jennifer Rodewald in the future.
I purchased my own copy of this novel. All opinions are my own. And it’s gone straight to the pool room.
Release date: 1 September 2016
Publisher: Rooted Publishing
Author’s website: https://authorjenrodewald.com/