Review: “You’re The One That I Want” by Susan May Warren

You’re the One that I Want by Susan May Warren is the sixth and final book in the Christiansen Family series, a contemporary drama and romance focused on the family of its namesake from Minnesota lake country. It’s a dramatic conclusion that draws together conflicts introduced in former books. While it’s not necessary to read the previous books to have an understanding of the history of these characters, it is recommended for a richer experience of the story arc.

You're the One that I Want.jpgHave I mentioned how much I love that the series titles are all songs? And fitting ones, too! They are worked into the story with little hints and mentions. Often, they are tied to a specific faith theme, too. So, they work on both a romantic and spiritual level! 🙂

The entire series has hinted at the tension between Owen Christiansen and the rest of his family, particularly with his brother, Casper. This story chronicles a parallel with the parable of the prodigal son and explores the emotions and jealously the other brother experienced. While Owen’s personal mistakes threaten Casper’s future happiness, Casper’s own choices propel him into a different conflict with the law.

Owen Christiansen finds himself adrift both emotionally and physically after a stint on a crabbing boat. While he hoped to advance his work relationship with the no-nonsense captain’s daughter, “Scotty” McFlynn, to something of a more personal and romantic nature, his rash decisions come back to haunt him when his brother Casper shows up to wrangle him home. Complicating the situation further, Scotty’s new position with the Anchorage police force inserts her in the middle of the brothers when Casper’s link to a crime is revealed.

While Owen had already contemplated the humbling act of returning home after an injury ended his NHL career, he never anticipated the circumstances that would bring him back to his family’s door. Nor did he expect a police escort in the form of the woman he’s come to care for. But proving himself to Scotty becomes even more of a challenge as her emotional wall and jaded past come to light. Perhaps the refuge of the Christiansen family is just what Scotty needs to heal and learn the power of love.

Susan has a knack for pushing a character to his or her limits, be it physically or emotionally, to test their character and response. And readers experience the ride with them. This story opens with the cold of the Bering Sea; book 5, with Amelia and the intrigue of foreign lands; book 4, with Casper and the adventure of treasure hunting. This story could have been a predictable, brown-paper-package type conclusion to the series, but it goes far beyond the expected in with suspense and surprises.

You're the One that I WantThe family camaraderie of this series is present once again. In particular, the banter between the brothers, Owen and Casper, is unforgettable with scenes of humor and a bluntness reserved for family. These brothers. I think I could read a whole book called “Confrontations Conversations with Owen and Casper”. They know just which buttons to push and how to get beneath each other’s skin, infuriating one another and spurring one another to consider their present situations with unsolicited advice.

This story conveys the importance of not giving up. Not giving up on faith, on a pursuit of purpose, on God’s plan and presence, or on family and its strength. It takes the prodigal son returning to a new level. It shows the viewpoints of both brothers, the bitterness on one side and repentance on the other, with a reconciliation found in grace and the support of family. The contemporary example of Owen makes the story of the prodigal more relatable by showing how all have fallen short of God’s standards, and many run from grace while God is waiting with open arms.

A version of this review also appears on FamilyFiction.com/reviews.

Reviews of previous books in this series

Book 1, Take a Chance on Me

Book 2, It Had to Be You

Book 3, When I Fall In Love

Book 4, Always on My Mind

Book 5, The Wonder of You

 

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Review: The Wonder of You by Susan May Warren

If it’s a new Susan May Warren novel, you can bet I’m going to get my hands on it somehow. She never fails to deliver a story that both encourages and entertains. Her latest, The Wonder of You, is the quality story I have come to expect from her– sweetly romantic, faith-driven, family-centered, adventurous, with a few moments that had me chuckling (specifically, a little story about a fort 🙂 ). Plus, this story is the most recent in her “Christiansen Family” series, and it focuses on the youngest sibling, Amelia.The Wonder of You Quote

Summary: Mortified after her year abroad is cut short, Amelia Christiansen returns to Deep Haven, certain she isn’t brave enough to embrace the adventures she’s dreamed of. The last thing she expects is for the man who broke her heart to cross the Atlantic and beg forgiveness.

Heir to a European hotel dynasty, Roark St. John has trekked from one exotic locale to another, haunted by tragedy and the expectations that accompany his last name. Amelia is the first woman to give him a reason to stop running. He’ll do anything for a second chance—even contend with Amelia’s old flame, who is intent on sending Roark packing.

While one surprise after another leaves Amelia reeling, Roark’s continued presence only highlights the questions pursuing her. Like him, is she running from the life God has called her to? Could finding her place mean leaving home behind?

My thoughts: Amelia is very easy to relate to, I think. She’s the baby sister of the family, wanting prove her independence and just a little intimidated with life at the same time. She wanted adventure and to see the world, but after a not-so-successful photography trip abroad (read: heartbreak), she’s back in her hometown trying to figure out where she belongs.

The Wonder of You by Susan May WarrenClearly, Roark and Amelia draw strength from each other, and could depend on each other. It’s beautiful how he sees her, as herself with all her insecurities, and loves her just as she is. Together, they are stronger. But, with her long-time boyfriend Seth still in the picture, Amelia has to figure out her own heart. Seth is familiar and comfortable, while Roark is new and cultured. (While this was almost a love-triangle situation, it never felt unrealistic or predictable).

Roark is a complex character. He seems like the perfect guy from the outside, but carries the weight of guilt and mistakes, with a little bitterness toward God. He wants to start fresh and prove his love to Amelia, but lying to her about his identity is not the best choice. It was one of those “I want to throw your own book at you” type situations. But by the end, thankfully, no one was harmed by my book throwing.

I loved catching up with Grace (Amelia’s sister) and Max as a minor secondary story! He still doubts himself and it’s not good for their relationship. Max’s struggle is with choosing life–you can’t let fear control you because you can’t know what the future holds. I like how Susan revisited these characters and renewed some of the same struggles from their story in When I Fall In Love. They are just the sweetest couple. Their storyline really shows how doubt can be unrelenting and not so simple (or fairy-tale-like) in overcoming.

Both Amelia and Roark’s journeys in this story prove how God uses His love to draw us to Him – to trust in His plan, His strength, and His capabilities to redeem, guide, and bless us. I really loved how Susan used other characters to offer words of wisdom to Amelia and Roark at different times. This story continued the theme of grace woven into each character’s life, and illustrated the importance of obeying God’s calling whenever and wherever it may take you.

After this one, I am even more excited to see what’s next in the last book in this series, You’re the One That I Want, Owen’s story. But I will be very sad to say goodbye to this family I’ve come to “know”! Thank you for reading!

Review: “When I Fall In Love” by Susan May Warren + Giveaway Info

When visiting Susan May Warren’s Christiansen family, it’s like visiting your aunt & uncle – you know there will be a warm welcome and the familiar strength of family love, but you never know the fun you’ll have or the life lessons you’ll learn until the day is over. That’s how the latest in the Christiansen Family series is, When I Fall In Love. (Here’s my gushing thoughts on the previous two: Take A Chance On Me and It Had To Be You)

When I Fall In Love ~ Review

My copy in front of my TBR shelf.

Grace Christiansen, homebody and local restaurant manager, wants something more from life in Deep Haven, but she’s a little reluctant to risk any major changes. When her family surprises her with a culinary trip to Hawaii, she faces her fear of failure and sets out to realize her dreams and God’s plans for her life may be more – and better – than even she could imagine. When she teams up with Blue Ox player Max Sharpe for a cooking competition, he starts to show her that adventure can be found in everyday life. Max has his own problems and reasons for keeping his distance from Grace, but a vacation in paradise may prove to change his attitude toward finding a future with a family.

Watching Grace and Max’s relationship develop through this story is quite the ride. We see them each experience trials and struggles with self-worth, the fun and possibility of pursuing dreams, and the fulfillment Christ gives when we let Him direct our steps. The message of grace and Christ’s love is beautifully woven through this story.

It’s hard for an author to establish a large, loving family on the page without making them sound too “perfect”, but Susan does a fantastic job depicting realistic characters. I love how the Christiansens are such a model family. Though not without their flaws, each one loves and supports their siblings or children through joys and struggles.

There’s a small side plot with one of Grace’s siblings, Casper (the fun treasure-hunter one), and it takes place back in Deep Haven while Grace is in Hawaii. The occasional perspective from the woods and lakes of Minnesota was an interesting contrast with the beaches of Hawaii. I’m anxious to see where Casper’s (and brother Owen’s) stories go in the next book in the Christiansen Family series, Always On My Mind (releasing 2015).

You can learn more about author Susan May Warren at her website here, on Twitter, or Facebook. Also, check out the GIVEAWAY she’s having right now for a KitchenAid mixer!!

(For another fabulous blog post Q&A with Susan May Warren AND info about books 4 & 5 in the Christiansen Family series, head over to Suzanne Woods Fisher’s blog.)

Note: Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers for a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Book Review: “It Had to be You” by Susan May Warren

it-had-to-be-you-250x381Happy Tuesday! It’s time for another book review here at The Green Mockingbird. This time it’s the latest from author Susan May Warren!

It Had to be You (Tyndale House Publishers), the second in her “Christiansen Family” series, is a contemporary drama and romance centered on another sibling in the Christiansen family, Eden Christiansen.

Eden is struggling to find her place in life while stuck at an entry-level job in a field she loves and holding on to her role as big sister too tightly. She would love to advance and become a star reporter, but she cannot seem to achieve a promotion out of the obituary department at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She spends her free time as loyal fan, family cheerleader, and protective sister of her brother Owen, the new star forward for the St. Paul Blue Ox NHL team. She cannot see that she lacks self confidence in her own writing or that her overprotectiveness is causing her brother to shirk responsibility.

Through events resulting from Owen’s immaturity and recklessness, Eden meets Jace “The Hammer” Jacobsen, team captain and veteran enforcer for the Blue Ox team. His bad-boy reputation precedes him, intimidating Eden from the beginning, though she believes he could become the mentor her brother Owen desperately needs. Jace knows he is near the end of his career, but his emotional scars and secret guilt over past decisions weigh him down and keep him from facing the possibility of a career outside of pro hockey. As Jace and Eden combine forces to help a stranger, Eden gets to know the real Jace – not the famous celebrity – but the kind, protective, and sometimes intimidating person. Jace is afraid to let Eden in, thinking that she is just using him for a story. As their worlds collide and personal feelings come to the surface, they both must learn lessons in forgiveness, trust, and grace.

A secondary storyline gives depth to the characters and reinforces the theme of trust. It involves Jace’s best friend, single dad Sam, and his daughter, Maddy. She is in need of an organ transplant to save her life. Sam and Maddy’s story intertwines with Eden and Jace’s in unexpected ways, emphasizing the meanings of sacrifice and love, complete with moments of heart-wrenching emotion.

Jace and Eden are an unlikely pair: a famous hockey star and a down-to-earth would-be reporter. Jace has no clue how to approach her with her honesty one minute and withdrawn demeanor the next. They each avoid admitting their growing attraction, both convincing themselves that they are not good enough and that neither would be interested in a romantic relationship “with someone like me”. As their relationship slowly grows past friendship, Jace opens up to Eden about his fears and struggles with accepting forgiveness. Jace sees that Eden’s gift is recognizing others’ potential and encouraging them. With his support, she starts to find the encouragement she needs to move past insecurities and become confidant in her role in life.

The closeness of the Christiansen family is essential to the characters of It Had to be You, much like the first book in Susan’s series. Jace’s character has never before experienced this closeness. This poignant picture of a family grounded by faith and united through struggles serves to draw the characters closer to each other and closer to Christ.

Fans of pro hockey will be delighted with its inclusion in this novel, while those not remotely familiar with the game will not be lost. It provides an element of adventure and danger to the story. I personally don’t know much about hockey, but I really liked the glimpse Susan gives into the game through the characters’ experience.

Susan skillfully communicates the idea that God’s grace and forgiveness is available for anyone to freely accept. Each person has the potential to impact the world around them every day, with every decision he or she makes, by offering grace and love even to those who may not deserve it. That is the message at the heart of It Had to be You.

 

“You are God’s child, and that means He’s crazy about you. And that doesn’t change because you do something stupid…or terrible. God’s love simply is.” – It Had to be You, Susan May Warren

 

Note: Thank you to Tyndale House for the complimentary ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

You can connect with Susan May Warren at her website, on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.

 

Do you have a big, supportive family like the Christiansens? How has that blessed you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Book Review: “Take A Chance On Me” by Susan May Warren (Empty Shelf #5)

My latest read, Take A Chance On Me by Susan May Warren, is an alluring story of second chances intertwining the bonds of family, friendship, and love. It’s the first novel in the recent Christiansen Family series, set in the quaint small town of Deep Haven in northern Minnesota.

Take A Chance On Me by Susan May Warren
Summary from Goodreads:

Darek Christiansen is almost a dream bachelor—oldest son in the large Christiansen clan, heir to their historic Evergreen Lake Resort, and doting father. But he’s also wounded and angry since the tragic death of his wife, Felicity. No woman in Deep Haven dares come near. 

New assistant county attorney Ivy Madison simply doesn’t know any better when she bids on Darek at the charity auction. Nor does she know that when she crafted a plea bargain three years ago to keep Jensen Atwood out of jail and in Deep Haven fulfilling community service, she was releasing the man responsible for Felicity’s death. All Ivy knows is that the Christiansens feel like the family she’s always longed for. And once she gets past Darek’s tough exterior, she finds a man she could spend the rest of her life with. Which scares her almost as much as Darek learning of her involvement in his wife’s case. 

Caught between new love and old grudges, Darek must decide if he can set aside the past for a future with Ivy—a future more and more at risk as an approaching wildfire threatens to wipe out the Christiansen resort and Deep Haven itself.

My review:

Take A Chance On Me follows the story of widower father Darek Christiansen as he searches for forgiveness and resolution after a tragic accident that killed his wife. Newcomer Ivy Morgan, having always wished for the closeness of family and small-town living, has no idea the emotional baggage Darek Christiansen is carrying when she “buys” him at a charity auction and is drawn in by his caring family. As her friendship with Darek begins to develop into romance, Ivy must consider the provision of God and possibility of grace. When the lines blur between her personal life and professional life as county attorney, she faces difficult choices which could potentially hurt those she has become close to.

Susan’s characters are realistic and have great depth.  In addition to Darek and Ivy, secondary lead characters Claire and Jensen, once close friends with Darek and Felicity, also play prominent roles in the story. Each character experiences, in some form, the importance of taking chances – whether it be risking your heart in love, learning the value of forgiveness and second chances, or experiencing the grace of God and the chance He takes on each person by offering the gift of salvation.

Overall, I really enjoyed Take A Chance On Me by Susan May Warren. She successfully wove elements of faith, grace, and love with drama and romance. I look forward to reading the next one in this series and seeing more of the Christiansen family with their hearts for God and love for each other.