Griff Rutledge is a former member of Charleston society, but has been estranged from his family for years. He's determined to remain unattached, never settling in one place for too long. But when asked to train a Thoroughbred for an upcoming race in Hickory Ridge, he decides to stay awhile.
Despite objections from the townsfolk, and her fear that true happiness has eluded her, Carrie is drawn to Griff's kindness and charm. It will take a leap of faith for them to open their hearts and claim God's promise to give beauty for ashes.
Comment: This is the second book in the Hickory Ridge trilogy by the author. I've read the first book, Beyond All Measure, a long time ago, and honestly only some impressions and the main characters name remained with me, although my opinion of it at the time was positive.
Now, a little bit over two years after, I've returned to this trilogy because I've had the books and it will be one more series to finish at last.
This is Carry Daly's story. She's a young widow, with a fiancé, who has a very simple but busy life taking care of her farm along with her brother and being part of the small community in Hickory Ridge. The book starts with her older brother's wedding preparations and how someone pushes her away from a horse while she was shopping for the party. From that moment on, we see Carry's life unfold and slow down to a place I felt really confused about.
This is a Christian fiction story, so a lot of moral lessons are to be expected. Usually this doesn't bother me because I know what I'm going into. But still, I always wish for some sort of recognition b«from the characters that, no matter their faith and beliefs, some things have to happen because of their own actions and not just belief. In this novel, Carrie does try to act, to make decisions and to be really honest, the mentioning of God didn't seem over the top and it always came up in context, or in conversation and in a way any religious person thinks of Him.
My issues with this novel aren't the religious side or any preaching that might happen because I felt drowned in so much despair and depression that the God presence in the text wasn't as obvious as that. In fact, for such a down book, the talking and mentioning of God's will wasn't excessive or pointed out all the time. This can be good or unlikely, but the challenges Carry faces are really a lot.
I won't list Carry's problems throughout the novel not only because they are quite a few but also not to spoil this in case someone might want to read. But let me tell you Carry is constantly having to deal with setbacks and problems, not always caused by herself, but to which she can't say no - and not always because one must care for the others - Carry is someone who honors her commitments even if she has her less than compassionate moments.
I actually liked how Carry wasn't a prim and prudish woman, she knew God was with her but she didn't follow His rules, let's call them that, all the time. Deep down she's human and she has human flaws like everyone else. Still, she tries to be a good person even if those things seem too much. Often she would say, in her mind, how what was being asked of her is unfair, for instance is someone accuses her of not doing enough, she would reply in her head "really?" or "is that so?". So she acts usually polite but her thoughts are her own without a doubt. This show spine and I liked that about her.
Of course there's some judgment as in any Christian book where this theme has to be addressed to better show how people shouldn't do it. Carry feels attracted to the newcomer Griff but of course nothing ever happens between them, it's just what other say about them being friends that is full of prejudice. Carry even might lose friendships over this. Obviously nowadays we know this is too much, why should it matter, but I think it was well portrayed for the time, although Carry never dismissed Griff's friendship.
In the end there's a HEA but I wasn't very keen on it because of the feel of the rest of the book. I don't mind reading about struggling or poor or down on their luck heroines, but in this book there was hardly any convincing good moments to balance the scale. It was really depressing to read about Carry's problems. I guess one could say this is the lesson to learn, but I wouldn't have minded a bit more positivism throughout the book.
I still plan to read the final book, which I hope is a bit more focused on the romance than this one and a bit more optimistic too. This one has a very down vibe but it does have some good points to explore. Still, it could have been so much better, I think.