Author: Rachel Hauck
Publication Date: 2015
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Genre: Fiction; Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Review: Investing in The Wedding Chapel isn’t hard. The decades long love story is sure to stir the reader’s emotions and as is true to the signature style that is Rachel Hauck, the book has a wonderful concept of love so that despite the complex story, by its conclusion everything is wonderfully brought full circle. At the core, the story is about two couples. The first is Jimmy and Collette; 19240s, high school sweethearts, life hasn’t been kind to the now elderly couple. Collette left, leaving Jimmy with a shattered heart and nothing but a shell of a dream. In the present day, Taylor married Jack on a whim – in fact, they eloped much to the shock and horror of Taylor’s family. Six months into their marriage and Taylor senses their relationship is fading – fast. Leaving to return to her hometown for a job, it takes a wedding chapel, a reunion and a carefully hidden secret for over 50 years to open their hearts to new possibilities.
This is a kind of “raw” story. It’s not the typical contemporary fluff in the same sense as Rachel’s prior works. In fact, this reminded me of Nicholas Sparks The Longest Ride in some sense though as one would expect, The Wedding Chapel has a far more rewarding payoff. After a mediocre beginning (strictly on my part, not because the book was ill-written), about ½ way through the book, something clicked into place and the flow of this story worked its magic. I think my primary hesitation with the story was the four person point-of-views and within that, two of the POV’s shift back in time as well as unfold in the present. For me, as a reader, this is often too “messy” for someone who enjoys a two-person switch-off, back-and-forth only between the primary characters. With this story, I understand why it was so important to dig deeper into Jimmy and Collette’s story. Fortunately, the end result is really, quite beautiful.
I have to confess I liked (surprisingly) Taylor and Jack’s story best. In particular I liked Jack. Written onto these pages is a very real and very flawed male protagonist, who underneath his insecurities and messy past lays a heart of gold. I never doubted that Jack loved Taylor with a kind of reverence, and I stand resolutely by the fact that he cherished her. He just needed to find a way to move past ghosts that were trapping him in a past he didn’t know how to repair. Both of them came into their whirlwind romance with baggage, what they hadn’t counted on was those ghosts rearing up, affecting who they were as one half of each other’s hearts.
The Wedding Chapel is very different than Rachel’s last adventures which took us on the adventure of a lifetime with their three royal brides, but it’s a heartwarming story nonetheless. This is certainly one of those books that has that something special. Personally I found it quietly impacting. Everyone’s story leads to a satisfying place and gives the characters a promising future, bringing them all to a place of new beginnings and forgiveness.
Synopsis: An old, forgotten chapel holds the key to love and forgiveness.
Retired hall-of-fame football coach Jimmy Westbrook never imagined anything would come of his labor of love—building a wedding chapel for Collette Greer, the woman he fell in love with in 1949. But now a realtor wants the land the chapel sits on, and he sees no reason to hang onto the past.
Photographer Taylor Branson is trying to make a life for herself in New York. Leaving her hometown of Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, she put a lot of things behind her, including her family’s string of failed marriages. When she falls head-over-heels for Jack Gillingham, a top ad man, their whirlwind romance and elopement leave her with doubts. Jack, while genuine in his love for Taylor, can never seem to find the right way to show her he really cares.
When a post-mortem letter from Taylor’s Granny Peg shows up, along with an old photo, she is driven to uncover family secrets and the secret to her own happiness, starting with an assignment to photograph an unknown, obscure wedding chapel back in Heart’s Bend.
Taylor begins a mission to convince Jimmy that the chapel is worth saving—and that forgiveness and healing might happen within the chapel’s walls . . . for both of them. – Goodreads
Coming Next from Rachel Hauck, The Wedding Shop: It’s the 1930s, and Cora is taking the reins at her family’s wedding shop in Heart’s Bend, Tennessee. Brides come from far away to be doted on by Cora and her family while they find the perfect wedding dress. Meanwhile, Cora has found her true love, Rufus, a riverboat captain. Cora counts the days until his return from the river, and she continues to wait for him as days turn into months and months turn into years. When he finally returns, she receives the shock of a lifetime: he is married to another. Nursing her heartbreak, she must find a way to continue pouring her heart into the hopes and dreams of the brides who visit her shop, all while wondering if she will ever find true love or if it has passed her by.
In present day, Haley has finished her time as a soldier, and suffering from PTSD, wants nothing to do with the heartbreak of this world. She sets off for Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, and in order to honor the memory of a fallen friend, she takes on the task of reopening an abandoned and long-forgotten wedding shop. Perhaps through helping others, she can forget the pain and disappointment in her own life.
Haley isn’t looking for love, but when her friend’s former fiancé becomes involved in the shop’s renovations, they both find that healing and restoration can perhaps happen in their lives too. – Goodreads, August 2016
Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes.