About the Book:
Author: Susan May Warren
Publication Date: February 2014
Find the Review elsewhere:
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Series: A Christiansen Family Novel – book 2
Genre: Fiction; Romance, Christian, Contemporary
Rating: 5 out of 5
Review: Ever since reading my first Susan May Warren novel (Happily Ever After – way to hook a teenage romantic!), I have been a committed fan of Warren’s wordsmith. Since that very first Deep Haven book, this fan has been eager to return to the beloved north of the rustic Minnesota town. The second novel in Warren’s “spin-off” series (following the six novels in the Deep Haven series), It Had to Be You is Eden Christiansen’s story. As the responsible daughter of the family, Eden has always put aside her feelings and aspirations in favor of keeping baby brother, Owen in line during his pursuit of a career in the NHL. Wild and determined to push his sister out of his life, Eden is devastated when Owen is injured with the possibility he may never play again. This leads her into the life of team captain Jace Jacobsen. Jace is the Blue Ox’s “bad boy,” every stereotype of the image has been written about him and because of that neither Eden nor Jace knew each other beyond recognition when passing in the stadium halls. Eden has made assumptions about Jace, and Jace never thought of Eden as anything other than Owen’s bossy cheerleader, but now these two unlikely people are about to discover there is more to a person than first impressions.
In many ways, Susan feels like the matriarch of contemporary fiction. She has a talent beyond any author I’ve read because of the poignant ways she strings words (emotions) together and secondly, she knows how to do all the genres with effortless grace – she’s tackled suspense, historical and contemporary, each one more beautifully than the last. If memory serves me correctly, Eden was a character who interested the reader from Take a Chance on Me and her story doesn’t disappoint. Book two tells her story in such a way that most if not all readers will relate to the heartbreak of Eden – she’s the one sister and daughter who feels “misplaced.” As if she hasn’t found her way in a family that already is confident in their place in life, in society and Christ. Eden’s struggle felt genuine and her full circle realization was just as I’d have wished it to be – it took her “letting go” to realize where she was supposed to be was exactly where she was. Kudos to Susan for surprising the reader! I have to say that I didn’t expect Eden to make the decisions she did and it’s refreshing whenever the writer switches up the obvious. The second thing that was unexpected was Jace’s feelings of inadequacy. I didn’t expect him to also be struggling with past scars of belonging and finding out who he was. With Eden he became the best version of himself and the scenes between them took time to cultivate a healthy, sweet relationship anyone could root for – there’s a particularly lovely scene of the whole family together at their home up in Deep Haven. The Christiansen family is not just a fun group of people to know for 300+ pages, they’re a warm, big-hearted family that seems like good friends and whether or not it’s acceptable, I am floored by all these authors crafting genuine, crazy families for us to fall in love with.
Aside from the beauty of this story, I have to talk about one of my pet peeves which is the prose style – no matter how well I adore the story, if the format isn’t a favorite that tends to down the overall rating. Much as I liked Take a Chance on Me, the back-and-forth perspective switch off “felt” awkward – I went into the novel thinking it was to be Derek and Ivy’s story and instead felt like the secondary characters of Jensen and Claire were also prominently placed to the point that Derek and Ivy seemed to be overshadowed. In this novel, Susan uses the supporting friends and characters to help further the story instead of seemingly surpassing Jace and Eden’s own heartbreaks or spirits in need of healing, and fortuitously, it reads better, especially when everything reaches its pinnacle and we realize that everyone had a hand in helping to save someone – even if they don’t realize it. Compared to some of its peers, the spiritual message isn’t buried and shines as brightly as the characters; the novel made my mother cry and resonated with me with its emotional indicators. If you’re one of those readers who are a newbie to Warren’s novels, there is no better time to start. This is one author who is only getting better with each book and I cannot wait to find out what joy she has next for us to discover in this memorable Christiansen family saga.
This review originally appeared on Fiction Addict.
Synopsis: Eden Christiansen never imagined her role as her younger brother Owen’s cheerleader would keep her on the sidelines of her own life. Sure, it feels good to be needed, but looking after the reckless NHL rookie leaves little time for Eden to focus on her own career. She dreamed of making a name for herself as a reporter, but is stuck writing obits–and starting to fear she doesn’t have the chops to land a major story. If only someone would step up to mentor Owen . . . but she knows better than to expect help from team veteran and bad-boy enforcer Jace Jacobsen. Jace has built his career on the infamous reputation of his aggressive behavior–on and off the ice. Now at a crossroads about his future in hockey, that reputation has him trapped. And the guilt-trip he’s getting from Eden Christiansen isn’t making things any easier. But when Owen’s carelessness leads to a career-threatening injury and Eden stumbles upon a story that could be her big break, she and Jace are thrown together . . . and begin to wonder if they belong on the same team after all.
Coming Next from Susan May Warren: Hawaii was the last place Grace Christiansen ever imagined she’d vacation, much less fall in love. But when her family surprises her with a cooking retreat in paradise, she is pulled—or maybe yanked—away from her predictable, safe life and thrown headfirst into the adventure of a lifetime.
Max Sharpe may make his living on the ice as a pro hockey player, but he feels most at home in the kitchen. Which is why he lives for the three-week culinary vacation he takes each year in Hawaii. Upon being paired with Grace for a cooking competition, Max finds himself drawn to her passion, confidence, and perseverance. But just when Grace dares to dream of a future beyond her hometown, Max pulls away.
Wrestling with personal demons, Max fights against opening his heart to a love he knows he should never hope for. And as his secrets unfold, Grace is torn between the safe path in front of her and what her heart truly desires. If love means sacrificing her ideal happily ever after, Grace’s faith will face its toughest test yet.
With thanks to the publisher, Tyndale House (thanks to Jen at Fiction Addict) for providing a complimentary ARC copy of this book for reviewing purposes.