Monday, 25 October 2010

Grace - Shelley Shepard Gray

It’s Christmastime at the Brenneman Bed & Breakfast, and everyone is excited about closing down for the holiday. Anna and Henry will be celebrating their first Christmas as a married couple, and for Katie and Jonathan Lundy, it’s their first Christmas with baby Eli. Winnie and Samuel Miller plan to stop by as well for a wonderful two weeks of family and rest. 

But when two unexpected visitors show up, hoping to stay for Christmas, the family must test their commitment to hospitality. Levi is a widower who lost his wife four years ago and can’t bear the thought of another Christmas alone. And Melody is a young pregnant woman who won’t open up about how she ended up on her own at Christmas at almost nine months pregnant. Anna, who knows a thing or two about keeping secrets, doesn’t trust her, and strives to find out the truth about these two strangers who have disrupted their holiday.

But as the Christmas spirit descends on them all, along with a snow that traps them at the inn, a healing and hopefulness takes over, allowing new relationships to be built, and the boundaries of family to be extended.

Melody and Levi are strangers when they arrive at the Brenneman Bed and Breakfast in Ohio, both burdened with pain and sadness. But the welcoming, family-orientated nature of their Christmas getaway will not allow them stay unhappy for long. Soon they find themselves drawn together during the preparations for the holiday season and slowly they come to realise that God has great plans for both their futures. Can a miraculous event on Christmas day bring them together? 

This sweet, wholesome Christmas tale is the first book that I've read from the Sisters of the Heart series but it can be read entirely as a stand-alone novel. Grace is a simple story about two people thrown together to help each other heal past hurts and learn to love again. The characters in this story were quirky and endearing, making me want to go back and read the previous novels, and I came to enjoy learning about their lives. I particularly enjoyed the subplot about Melody's English friend, Leah, who is determined to track her down before Christmas day. I also loved the setting of the Bed and Breakfast and could imagine it as a real place! 

But as I said, it is a simple novel. I've read another couple of Christmas/winter themed Amish novels recently and this one pales slightly in comparison. Although I enjoyed this book, it didn't grip me and compel me to continue reading in the way that others have. I also had no doubt in my mind that the main characters were going to get together. Even in a romance novel where you expect a Happily Ever After ending, I like some stumbling blocks to be thrown in the path of the characters, something to make me wonder whether everything will work out. Melody and Levi had nothing to overcome after the first hundred or so pages. There was also something about the author's style of writing that irritated me; it felt like she was continually stating the obvious and telling us how the characters felt rather than let it show through their actions.

I would recommend this to those who enjoy Amish fiction and are looking for a simple, predictable Christmas tale. It's a quick read and easy to put down and pick up again. Although I wouldn't place this novel among the best of the Amish books available, I would be interested in reading more from this author as I think that she creates realistic characters and wonderful settings. 7/10

Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins for giving me a chance to read and review this book. Grace: A Sisters of the Heart Christmas Novel by Shelley Shepard Gray goes on sale tomorrow, the 26th of October 2010.

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