Today I get to share my review of Susan May Warren’s latest book in the “Christiansen Family” series: Always on My Mind. It continues the stories of Casper Christiansen and the woman he is still in love with, Raina Beaumont. While it stands alone as a complete story, reading the previous book in the series provides additional background information on the characters. I have a lot to say about this one, so read on!
(Susan’s having a book club chat online TONIGHT! Join the event on her Facebook page.)
Casper, recently jaded from an unsuccessful archeological treasure hunt in Roatán, returns to his hometown of Deep Haven after another rejection from Raina. He is seeking peace and a way to prove himself to his family, having been the classic “middle child”, always trying to fix everyone else’s situations but still searching for his own place to belong. However, Raina is still constantly on his mind.
Raina has never had many people to rely on. Grace Christiansen, Casper’s sister, has taken her in and encouraged her as she’s dealt with an unexpected pregnancy. After she decides to give the baby up for adoption to someone more prepared for motherhood, she is left with feelings of failure and unworthiness. The true identity of her baby’s father complicates her relationship with the Christiansens – especially Casper. While trying to escape and recover, she finds herself house sitting back in Deep Haven. Her biggest challenge comes when her job puts her in the path of Casper, a man she can’t seem to move beyond.
Warren uses antique letters and mementos to impart wisdom and guidance to the characters, with a story from the past that parallels life events of the main characters. Casper’s work at the local historical society and Raina’s job with an antique store lead them to exploring an estate of a local resident together. As they are brought together by various circumstances, themes of forgiveness and sacrificial love play out in the decisions they make.
Warren’s characters face realistic problems and struggles through this story. As the characters grow, one lesson they learn is that some people are placed in others’ lives in order to be a light for Christ. Sometimes, no matter how much a person wants to fix a situation, he or she must step back and allow God to work through them in an unexpected way to change another’s heart.
A small side story takes place along with Casper’s. His older brother, Darek, is dealing with his responsibilities managing the family resort and wrestling with being enough as a husband and father. A returning reader would likely think it good to catch up with these characters. Touching on Darek’s life again is a reminder that people’s stories are never finished. They are not through growing and being molded by Christ, even after they find a “happily ever after”.
One faithful trait of Susan’s stories is her message and tie in with the story of Christ’s redemption. She beautifully illustrates through her characters’ lives the sacrifice of Jesus, His relentless pursuit of mankind, and His ready forgiveness and love. God’s love is not showered on people because of their accomplishments, but because of grace shown to them in brokenness.
A sincere thanks to Tyndale House publishers and Family Fiction for obtaining an ARC copy for my honest review. This review will also appear on Family Fiction’s website at http://www.familyfiction.com/bookreviews/.