Review: On Love’s Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson

With the final book in the Prince Edward Island Dreams series, On Love’s Gentle Shore, author Liz Johnson returns to the picturesque Canadian setting with a fresh story of love and forgiveness.

About the Book

On Love's Gentle ShoreFifteen years after she left Prince Edward Island, Natalie O’Ryan had no plans to return. But when her fiancé, music producer Russell Jacobs, books their wedding in her hometown and schedules a summer at Rose’s Red Door Inn, she sets out to put the finishing touches on the perfect wedding. But she can’t possibly prepare for a run-in with Justin Kane–the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay.

Justin’s never forgotten Natalie or the music career he always dreamed of pursuing. He’d been prepared to follow her off the island until his dad died and he was left to run the family dairy farm. He’s done the best he can with the life that was thrust upon him–but with Natalie back in the picture, he begins to realize just how much joy he’s been missing.

After Natalie’s reception venue falls through, she must scramble to find an alternative, and the only option seems to be a barn on Justin’s property. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin discover the groundwork for forgiveness–and that there may be more than an old friendship between them.

Review

On Love’s Gentle Shore continues the sweetly romantic style of this series with a final story bringing some previous characters full circle and new ones a hard-won joy. One thing I’ve really enjoyed about this series is that each novel has been vastly different — the first having a hint of suspense (The Red Door Inn), the second a unique story of happiness (Where Two Hearts Meet), and this third one a new twist on a romantic trope with deep roots of friendship. While each can stand independently, overall they encompass themes of joy and belonging — and all have fun moments of humor.

Author Liz Johnson presents the “voice” of the characters with her smooth style, balancing lighthearted moments with those of import and gravity. Sometimes a line penned hit me in the heart with its clarity and truth. Other times, the humor and wit of a situation made me almost laugh! (Particularly when involving Justin’s POV, especially with the dairy, cake, or his sweet Mama Kane.) Or, the subtle romantic moments naturally born of friendship between Justin and Natalie had me smiling or swooning over the littlest things, like plaid shirts. And lighthouses. And a kitchen party.

With this story, Johnson employs a common romance trope that I’m not usually an advocate of: an almost-love triangle with an already-engaged heroine returning to her hometown only to reconnect with an “old friend”. HOWEVER, Johnson implements it with such care and plausible ease I can’t help but be impressed. The context of this situation serves as the necessary catalyst for Natalie’s growth and, subsequently, Justin’s own small realization of joy. Without the trope setup, the depth of characterization and fully realized arc of the characters would not be possible. It has the potential, with this feature, to be a top-notch Hallmark production with its plot and endearing cast, which would be just fine with me ;). (hint, hint, Hallmark)

Speaking of the journey these characters take, its complexity surprised me in a few ways, particularly concerning Natalie. It’s a deeper story of forgiveness and letting go of bitterness, of the importance of honesty in all relationships. Natalie’s character shows how events or people from the past can influence who you become and your choices in the present. Though Justin grew as a character and experienced his own life lessons, this story is Natalie’s transformation. She comes to terms with so much, especially the idea of her own self-worth. Witnessing her growth as a result of her circumstance and the love of friends who shield and support her is an experience not to be missed!

Thank you to Revell Publishers for the complimentary review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

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Review: “Where Two Hearts Meet” by Liz Johnson

Revisiting the quaint setting of Prince Edward Island, Where Two Hearts Meet (Revell) by author Liz Johnson presents a story of realizing dreams, accepting grace, and the joy of love born of friendship. This contemporary romance encompasses serious themes while maintaining a bright bearing on life. Readers will be happy to see returning characters in this second book in the Prince Edward Island Dreams series, though it can be read as a standalone title. (Book 1 was The Red Door Inn, click for my review).

At Rose’s Red Door Inn, chef Caden Holt has found a place to belong, turning out breakfasts and baked goods to treat guests vising the Island. Outside of her kitchen, however, she is less secure in her personal appearance and her accomplishments. When journalist Adam Jacobs arrives, Caden is challenged to leave her comfort zone and show him the wonders of the Island in hopes that his pending article will draw visitors to the Inn through the next season.

Where Two Hearts Meet.jpgAdam’s reasons for visiting the Island are not so simple. His time there is really a forced sabbatical instead of a leisurely vacation. And, his editor has high expectations for his next story – one that’s inexplicably connected to the Red Door Inn. When he begins to face the baggage leftover from the recent turmoil in his life, he finds respite in the beauty of his surroundings. Except maybe the peace he feels is more closely related to the cinnamon rolls, coffee, and unexpected friendship of Caden.

“Sweet” is an apt word to describe this story – from the setting, romance that grows from friendship, slight humorous moments, and to the various pastries Caden bakes up throughout. But Liz Johnson takes these characters much deeper than surface level with many layers to the story and nuances of emotion, dealing with themes such as guilt, bravery, and purpose.

Caden and Adam both face their own insecurities and consequently draw strength and encouragement from one another. While Adam thinks he might be falling in love with more than the island and its charming people, Caden starts to find a new freedom in pursuing her dreams with confidence. The setting itself proves to be an element of the story joining Caden and Adam with a lively cast of supporting characters who add humor and insight to the story.

While the drama and sweet moments unfold, a subtle message of grace shines through. Though none of these characters go through a prominent spiritual transformation, the growth of Adam and steadfast strength of Caden’s faith are key to the story. Each learns important lessons concerning trust and forgiveness.

The romance between Caden and Adam faces the requisite challenges and obstacles but is presented in a realistic manner, highlighting the way our lives intersect sometimes between personal and professional matters. When that definition blurs at the crux issue of the story, the consequences of a key choice show how deeply entwined these characters’ lives have become – a storytelling feat achieved admirably by Johnson. And I’ll leave you by saying the context of their first kiss and emotions of the moment made the scene one of the swooniest (is that a word?) of the year. I’m already looking forward to whatever Johnson has in store for more of this “family” of characters in the next book in the series!

Thank you to the publisher, Revell, for providing a complimentary review copy.  My honest opinion is expressed in this review.

Review: “The Red Door Inn” by Liz Johnson

An idyllic setting and story of a search for purpose come together in the launch of a new series by author Liz Johnson with the first book, The Red Door Inn, book 1 of the Prince Edward Island Dreams series. This new contemporary romance has a relaxed, old-fashioned feel with nods to L.M. Montgomery’s literary influence on the setting.

The Red Door InnMarie Carrington is running from something, though little detail is first revealed as to what compels her to escape a life of privilege. She finds refuge on Prince Edward Island in Canada with an aspiring inn owner, Charlie. He recognizes a longing in Marie that goes beyond her current penniless circumstances and seeks to honor the memory of his wife by engaging Marie’s talent in interior design to add finishing touches to his inn. And, perhaps, offer a refuge to her wounded soul.

Complications arise when Marie discovers Charlie’s nephew, Seth, is a part of the project, as well. With relational baggage of his own and suspicions of Marie’s motives, his prickly reception of her proves challenging to her future and her heart. With a tourist season deadline and waning budget, these struggling souls must attempt to set aside any differences and unite to renovate the Red Door Inn. Add to GoodreadsIn
doing so, secrets from Marie’s former life cause her to question the impact her presence could make on the lives of the people she is starting to care for.

Against the backdrop of the enchanting setting and quaint B&B in the making, stories of broken pasts intertwine while Marie, Seth, and Charlie each face their own struggles with trust and finding new dreams. Memorable secondary characters offer insight and humor while secrets and romantic tension unfold between Marie and Seth. And, the main character of the second book is delightfully introduced by way of cinnamon rolls and scones.

Woven through it all is a theme of joy — sometimes found in the most unexpected places — and often preceded by struggles and heartache. It begs this question: How can you recognize true joy without experiencing its opposites, pain and conflict? Each character must reconcile this concept in some way, realizing different blessings along the way.

Liz Johnson’s style is easy to read and instantly draws in the reader with her phrasing and moments of subtle humor. She paints a colorful, magnetic community that offers Marie a sense of belonging she’s never experienced. All of this adds up to a full story that leaves the heart eager for the characters to find their own happily-ever-afters.

A few of my favorite things about this book: the best pet name ever, Chapter the cat; a few plot elements that revolve around an antique typewriter; and, the mouth-watering baking of Marie’s friend, Caden. She’s the set main character of book 2, and I’m already excited to see more of her.

Thank you to Revell Publishers for a review ARC in exchange for my honest review. A version of this review also appears on FamilyFiction.com.