~ About the Book ~
On the verge of college graduation, Loni Parker seeks employment as a music teacher, but no one will hire her since she’s blind. Or so she thinks. To take her mind off her troubles, her roommate invites her to spring retreat at Camp Hope in the gorgeous North Carolina mountains. Unbeknown to Loni, Michael Ackerman, the director, is an ex-con responsible for the accident that caused her blindness. When Loni warms up to camp and wants to return as a summer counselor, Michael opposes the idea, which only makes Loni want to prove herself all the more. Though she doesn’t expect to fall for the guy. Still, her need for independence and dream of teaching win out, taking her far away from her beloved Camp Hope . . . and a certain director.
Camp director Michael Ackerman recognizes Loni instantly and wants to avoid her at all costs. Yet, despite the guilt pushing him from her, a growing attraction draws him to the determined woman. She sees more with her heart than the average person does with his eyes. But her presence also dredges up a long-buried anger toward his alcoholic father that he’d just as soon keep hidden. When circumstances spin out of control, Michael is forced to face a past that may destroy his present.
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Release date: 4 June 2018
~ Excerpt ~
He scanned the noisy dining hall. Over fifty college students from across the country gathered to share in a spiritual revival of hearts and minds. Many were repeat campers. Some served as summer counselors. Others came for the food and rock climbing, and maybe the hopes of finding romance. Chuckling, he shook his head. But hey, it was better than bar-hopping for a future mate.
His gaze fell on Loni Parker at table number three, and his smile faded. His lungs tightened as he thought back to that terrible night. The road blurring before him, his vision dulled by large quantities of alcohol. The flash of metal approaching in his peripheral vision. The jolt of the impact and the nauseating dizziness when his car ricocheted off of a blue sedan before launching into the ditch.
But all that paled compared to the image that seared his dreams: a small figure, covered from chin to toes by a sheet, being lifted into a waiting ambulance. The accident had made headlines. He swallowed hard.
If only he hadn’t driven into Boone that night. If only he hadn’t driven at all.
Would he ever be free of the memory?
Loni Parker sitting right in front of him didn’t help. The girl he’d crashed into ten years ago. Soft, chestnut waves framed her oval face. Sunglasses hid her eyes, or perhaps what was left of them. A shiver crept up his spine as an image of hollowed sockets came to mind. Averting his thoughts, he focused on the vision of beauty in front of him. Smooth skin, gentle features, delicate shoulders straight, determined.
He’d never even said “I’m sorry.” Those words seemed so lame.
What if she knew the man who took her sight stood only yards away? How could he begin to explain?
~ Review ~
I’m always intrigued by stories where relationships grow out of unlikely circumstances, and you don’t get much more unlikely than a blind woman and the man who caused the accident that took away her sight. Quite aside from the relationship aspect, I loved the idea of a main character who was blind. It presents a unique challenge to the author to accurately portray the experience of being blind, something which ended up being one of my favourite parts of this story. I really did feel as though I was experiencing Loni’s world without the benefit of sight and with my other senses heightened as a result. I also loved that she didn’t carry bitterness about her blindness.
I enjoyed the first half of this book as Loni and Michael at first clashed—a result of Michael’s guilt and Loni’s need to prove herself—and then got to know each other better. There was a good sub-plot introduced with some of the campers, and I liked where everything was going, but then Loni suddenly did something quite uncharacteristic, I thought, that just felt plain mean. It was kind of a little thing in some ways, but it was mean nevertheless.
From there, the second half of the story lost some of its momentum for me. I could understand Loni feeling the need to prove to herself that she could be independent, but I got a bit annoyed with her stubbornness in moving away and then being melancholy over Michael. And while there were some things developing at the camp and with Michael’s parents during the second half, Michael also spent a fair bit of time being melancholy over Loni, so for me, the second half of the story wasn’t as strong as the first.
That said, the writing was engaging and I liked the way the theme of forgiveness was explored through the character of Michael, who was forgiven by Loni on the one hand, but struggling to forgive his father on the other. A good read for young adults and up.
I received copy of this novel from the author. This has not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.
~ About the Authors ~
“Healing words for hurting hearts,” is how Eileen Rife describes her books. Whether through fiction or nonfiction, Eileen wants readers to come away with love that extends beyond themselves, faith that can see the impossible, and hope that endures against all odds.
An alumna of Christian Writers Guild, Eileen has published several fiction and nonfiction books, written newsletters, a marriage column, and over ten church dramas. Her byline has appeared in magazines, such as Discipleship Journal, Marriage Partnership, Mature Living, Christian Home & School, Drama Ministry, and ParentLife, as well as other print and online publications.
Her current project is a Missionary Kid series inspired by her daughter and granddaughters. Her hope in creating these children’s books is that kids will enjoy an entertaining story with a meaningful message while learning what it’s like to live and serve in another country.
Eileen and husband, Chuck, a licensed professional counselor and marriage/family therapist conduct marriage seminars for churches and organizations internationally. They have three married children and nine grandchildren, all serving the Lord around the world.
Jennifer Slattery writes missional romance novels for New Hope Publishers. Her debut, “Beyond I Do”, releases in August. She also writes Christian Living articles for Crosswalk.com and devotions for her personal blog, JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud; Internet Cafe Devotions; and Takin’ it to the Streets’, a ministry serving Omaha Metro’s working poor and homeless.
When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, hanging out at the mall with her teenage daughter, enjoying her real-life hero husband, or serving in her church or community.