WINDS OF CHANGE SERIES, BOOK 1 -- A HOPE UNDAUNTED:
What happens when the boy she loved to hate ...
becomes the man she hates to love?
The 1920s are drawing to a close, and feisty Katie O'Connor is the epitome of the new woman--smart and sassy with goals for her future that include the perfect husband and a challenging career in law. Her boyfriend Jack fits all of her criteria for a husband--good-looking, well-connected, wealthy, and eating out of her hand. But when she is forced to spend the summer of 1929 with Cluny McGee, the bane of her childhood existence, Katie comes face to face with a choice. Will she follow her well-laid plans to marry Jack? Or will she fall for the man she swore to despise forever?
Buried deep beneath the softest blanket you can imagine, I was lost somewhere mid-way through the book...completely captivated by the lives of Katie O'Conner and Luke McGee. And when I heard someone clear their throat, I glanced up and found my husband smiling at me. "What?" I asked, only slightly annoyed to have been disturbed.
Heat rushed to my cheeks and I quickly rearranged my features. "Am I?" I knew countless pages before that Julie Lessman was now one of my favorite authors, but now even my husband knew I was lost in a good book. Had she really managed to make me smile? Oh, yes she did. Cry a little, as well.
There are a handful of books that actually sweep me up into their world. As a writer, a busy photographer, and mother of two children ages four and two, I have my hands full. I get to read between dinners of messy spaghetti and crazy, giggling bubble baths (the kid's, not mine, I should mention). If I am not hooked within the first few pages, I will never see the sight of the last page. Julie Lessman hooked me with the first scene--the first few sentences, actually. That's the mark of a phenomenal writer.
A Hope Undaunted is a Christian Historic Fiction--a genre in which I am partial to. But Julie didn't need a catastrophic event in our past to drive the story line along. Sure the collapse of the economy, the death knell for the Great Depression, was there. But it wasn't front and center. She kept me turning the pages with the chemistry mounting between Katie and Luke, subplots that were carefully intertwined among the characters, and enough scenes to make me giggle out loud (a moment I was happy I was alone with no husband to tease me).
To me, A Hope Undaunted stands apart from other Christian fiction because it was so real. Though Julie did a remarkable job at revealing the grace of God in these pages, both her characters were deeply flawed through-out most of the book. I don't like reading Christian fiction with characters I cannot relate to. In fact, one of my favorite scenes was when Katie O'Conner gets drunk--a bold move for a Christian writer, in my mind. Julie wasn't afraid to let her characters fall and shatter into a million pieces and let God put them back together again. She wasn't afraid to let them get angry, hit one another, let words slip that should never leave their mouths (though those words were not actually written in the book), or let their pain drive them to dark pits of pain. They sinned and God breathed new beauty into their lives in that wonderful way He does in our own lives.
Just when I thought that this book was a keeper, Julie threw in last second twist that nearly had me saying words that should never leave my mouth, as well! I was so angry and scared about the decisions the characters were about to make that I threw the book...startling my husband.
That's when I smiled again. Lord, I silently prayed, this is the type of writer I want You to shape me to be. Not just like her...but pretty darn close.
And that's when I picked the book up, finished it with a content sigh...and placed it on my keeper shelf. My husband shook his head, muttering something about not allowing me to read anymore.
Check out this link to read an interesting interview with Ms. Lessman and read a clip of a scene the way it was originally written.