Author Julie Lessman is well-known for her historical romance stories with her self-dubbed “Passion with a Purpose” style. I’ve been a big fan of hers for a while and have recently, finally, read her wonderful “Daughters of Boston” series. (See my thoughts on her “Winds of Change” series and her “Heart of San Francisco” books 2 and 3.) The best news, though, is that she has recently released a new contemporary novel in ebook format. It’s called Isle of Hope, and it’s the first in a new series (the “Unfailing Love” series) set in the real-world location of Isle of Hope in Georgia.
About the book:
She stole his heart.
He stole her peace.
Can hope steal their pain?
At the age of eighteen, Lacey Carmichael was a wild girl bent on fun, promised to Jack O’Bryen, a straight-and-narrow pastor’s kid bent on the seminary. When her father kicks her out of the house, she runs away from Isle of Hope, turning her back on everything she loves. Now, eight years later, she’s back as a woman of faith, hoping to make amends to the father she defied, the boyfriend she deserted, and the best friend she denied. Only the bridges she’s burned are still smoldering, kindled by an adulterous affair by Jack’s pastor father that damaged his son’s faith. But can a turning of tables—and hearts—lead the way back to “hope” for them all?
My thoughts: Julie’s writing voice shines through in this contemporary context. Though this modern setting is something new for her to tackle, her style still communicates both character and spiritual depth, something I’ve come to expect from her. It’s really further proof that a skilled storyteller can tackle any era!
The whole cast is vibrant. By the end, they feel as familiar as family. Jack and Lacey’s characters take many twists and turns through this story while grappling with forgiveness, but friendship is still the foundation of their relationship– no matter their growing attraction, which was sweet. And the secondary and supporting characters are just as well-developed and likable. I have a feeling that by the end of this all, the O’Bryens & Carmichaels of this story might just rival the McClares or O’Connor’s of Julie’s previous series (which is great news for us family-loving readers).
Julie Lessman has frequently included secondary character threads in her previous novels. This novel is no exception, with a story of reconciliation and friendship between Lacey’s dad, Ben, and Jack’s mom, Tess. The relationship dynamic between them was a bit of a surprise, I must say. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say Julie throws in a few twists and challenges for them which get *quite* interesting. Julie has a knack for transforming a character from someone you don’t particularly care for into someone you root for by the story’s end.
Other reviewers and readers have said this is Julie’s most spiritually deep novel to date, and I have to agree. Woven into each character’s story is a journey toward hope. For some, hope in forgiveness, reconciliation, and a fresh start. For others, hope in the faithfulness of God and a future focused on Him. Julie’s characters model the efforts of witnessing through love — or even unwanted generosity or advice 🙂 — and the power of prayer. While a story of fiction, the real scriptural truths in this story can be an encouragement to anyone in their walk with Christ. One point which stood out to me was that forgiveness is not necessarily for the other person, it’s for ourselves.
With strong characters who deal with forgiveness and redemption, this is a story of family and coming home. I would highly recommend this novel to fans of both Christian fiction and mainstream authors such as Nicholas Sparks. I can’t wait for the next in the series, tentatively releasing summer of 2016!
Thanks a million to Julie Lessman for the advance ARC ebook in exchange for my honest review as part of her launch team.