As many of you know, I was first introduced to Julie Lessman with her Winds of Change series — which I adored! Her latest series, The Heart of San Francisco, began with her novel “Love at Any Cost”. The second in the series, “Dare to Love Again”, is one of my latest reads. Let me tell you, Julie has not disappointed! I really enjoyed “Love at Any Cost”, and “Dare to Love Again” is just as great! Enough of me gushing, let’s get on to the review.
Dare to Love Again is an enchanting novel set in 1903 San Francisco. Allison McClare teaches English and drama at the new Hand of Hope school for girls in the battered Barbary Coast region of the city. The school is a realization of her mother’s lifelong dream to provide education and love to underprivileged children. Recently betrayed by another suitor, Allison is determined to prove her independence by working late at the school and taking the cable car home after dark. The only problem with that plan is detective Nick Barone – and the seedy two blocks she must walk past bars and brothels to reach the cable car.
Detective Nick Barone is a boarder at an orphanage next door. He and Alli clash over her independent streak and the danger of the Barbary Coast, resulting in comical arguments. Each time they meet, good intentions turn to sparks flying as they disagree and antagonize each other. His experiences with the privileged class shape his attitude toward the McClares, causing him to misunderstand their motives. Nick, recently jaded by a rich Chicago socialite himself, feels that Alli and her family have no business trying to justify their lifestyle by charitably teaching at the school. At the urging of Alli’s astute uncle, Logan McClare, Nick reluctantly agrees to teach Alli the method of jiu-jitsu self defense and to assist with security measures at the school. Nick agrees under the condition that he make no romantic advances whatsoever toward Alli. At first, this plan seems to work well, but as Nick and Alli spend more time together, they forge a caring camaraderie with underlying attractions. This shift to friendly terms could prove more dangerous to Alli and Nick than their sparring relationship. Over time, Nick begins to see that Alli contradicts his initial judgment of the rich and privileged class with her giving and caring nature. Circumstances from Nick’s past threaten to reveal his secrets, however, which have the potential to alienate Alli forever.
Julie continues the stories of characters introduced in the first book, with sufficient information for new readers to feel connected to those characters. A sweet secondary story of Logan and Caitlyn McClare is threaded throughout. Logan wants to rekindle his relationship with his brother’s widow, Caitlyn, while she struggles to trust him again.
Julie immerses the reader in the time period, setting, and characters with great details. Realities of life in the Barbary Coast region are illustrated through the eyes of innocent Alli as she witnesses the crime, brothels, and bars. Also, a look at the struggles and culture of Chinese immigrants is shown through the characters’ visit to Chinatown. The reader also feels involved in the everyday lives of the characters through conversations and camaraderie among family and friends.
Throughout the novel, a theme of trust, second chances, and shattered stereotypes emerges. Multiple characters come to terms with God’s provision of forgiveness as they learn to trust God to provide for their futures in life and in love. The comical tension between Alli and Nick made this a fun novel that kept me turning the pages as fast as I could. I can’t wait to see what’s next for these characters from Julie in Surprised by Love!
Dare to Love Again releases tomorrow, January 7, from Revell publishers. You can read more about Julie Lessman’s books here.
There is a Dare to Love Again contest sponsored by Revell with some HUGE prizes! Enter the contest here.
Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.
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