Sometimes after reading one book by an author whose words have once impressed, there is trepidation subsequent novels may not take the same cues or have the same effect. Being on the other side of storytelling (that of a reader), we fear that it won’t possibly be able to surpass or match that adoration of the first book from a favorite author. Fortunately even after the sense of elation any contemporary fan will have experienced in The Trouble with Cowboys, reading Hunter’s latest novel was a piece of candied joy; it goes beyond the “duty” of its peers. Set in a small-town community with a beautiful, compelling nostalgia background, the familial ties and genuine (human) characters endears this book is better than the “average” romance plus takes ahold of the commonalties within the genre and searches out the real heart of the story – the kind that effects readers in only the best sense.
The McKinley family is big, boisterous and completely won me over. I’m a fan of novels in which large families are given wings to grow, making us grow to care about them in the process and as a bonus, they also challenge us (that’s possibly the best gift a writer can leave with their audience). Here we are introduced to a broken, mourning Madison McKinley and the boy who has loved her since high school, Beckett O’Reilly. In their story, there is poignancy between the two of them; Beckett is tender, loving and not at all the “bad boy” he is made out to be. Madison is hurting in deep, dark places and only through Beckett’s steadfast support (he won’t let her go even when her actions push him away) and God’s healing hand does she come to realize that. In order to heal, Madison is “broken” from her grief; instead of coming to God, she has the idea of what she thinks she needs to feel whole again and it’s only at that breaking point that gives her real peace. By trying to fix her hurt on her own, the heroine shoved God into a corner and “forgot” the only way she’d achieve healing. Though subject to personal conclusions, it’s actually the “weakness” of the characters that brings this story full circle. The budding relationship between these two is, naturally sparked with physical chemistry (the characters first being attracted as young teens solidifies this) but it molds into something deeper; fixating on the secrets of the characters, it’s those private emotions that change and shape them, making them tangible and reachable in a fictional world that digs deep roots in reality.
Going beyond the richly drawn spiritual challenges, the romance was also precious. I adored these two together; Beckett was above and beyond a gentleman. In Barefoot Summer, there isn’t one dull moment; one scene is particularly hard-hitting, tying the title into a moving piece of truth and is also a demonstration of how, even when life looks hopeless, we have to take that step of faith. As a novel, this sheds the cliché emotional (specifically that of a loved ones death) skins of its genre and looks the reader in the face, asking all the hard questions but they’re the right ones.
It’s a story that will make you “fall to pieces” – in a fall that’s beautiful.
Coming Next: Creative and complicated, Jade McKinley felt like a weed in a rose garden growing up in Chapel Springs. When she left, she thought she’d never look back. But now, pregnant, alone, and broke, she has no other choice but to return.
The mayor of Chapel Springs, Daniel Dawson, has been an honorary member of the McKinley family for years. While his own home life was almost non-existent, Daniel fit right into the boisterous McKinley family. He’s loved Jade for years, but she always saw him as a big brother. Now that she’s back, his feelings are stronger than ever.
With thanks to Litfuse and the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes
Synopsis: In the years since her twin brother’s drowning, Madison McKinley has struggled to put it behind her. Despite the support of her close-knit family and her gratifying job as a veterinarian, the loss still haunts her. To find closure, Madison sets out to fulfill her brother’s dream of winning the town’s annual regatta. But first she has to learn to sail, and fast. Beckett O’Reilly knows Madison is out of his league, but someone neglected to tell his heart. Now she needs his help—and he’ll give it, because he owes her far more than she’ll ever know. Madison will do anything—even work with the infamous Beckett O’Reilly—to reach her goal. And as much as she’d like to deny it, the chemistry between them is electrifying. As summer wanes, her feelings for him begin to grow and a fledgling faith takes root in her heart. But Beckett harbors a secret—one that will test the limits of their love and the depth of Madison’s faith. Can their new romance survive summer’s challenges? And will achieving her brother’s dream give Madison the peace she desperately seeks?