Summary: Elle's living the dream-but is it her dream or his?
Elle loves life in Beaufort, South Carolina-lazy summer days on the sand bar, coastal bonfires, and dinners with friends sharing a lifetime of memories. And she's found her niche as the owner of a successful art gallery too. Life is good.
Then the dynamic pastor of her small town church sweeps her off her feet. She's never known a man like Jeremiah-one who breathes in confidence and exhales all doubt. When he proposes in the setting sunlight, Elle hands him her heart on a silver platter.
But Jeremiah's just accepted a large pastorate in a different state. If she's serious about their relationship, Elle will take "the call," too, leaving behind the people and place she loves so dearly. Elle's friendship with her new tenant, widower Heath McCord, and his young daughter make things even more complicated.
Is love transferable across the miles? And can you take it with you when you go? -- Thomas Nelson
As some of you might know, I recently started reading some novels with a Christian message. So far, I've really enjoyed them. I can now add another one to my growing list: LOVE STARTS WITH ELLE by Rachel Hauck. This book is considered "a heartwarming romance" -- definitely not my usual fare, but I really liked this story. Sometimes it's just nice to read a light book that makes you feel happy.
Elle pretty much has the perfect life. She is head over heels in love with her pastor Jeremiah and has agreed to marry him. She is also a successful owner of her own art gallery; and she is surrounded by her wonderful family and friends. However, things begin to change when Jeremiah accepts a job in Texas without discussing it with Elle. She is forced to decide if she wants to leave her hometown and family, sell her art gallery and follow "the call" with her new husband. Elle begins to question her new life and it's pretty clear to the reader that Jeremiah isn't the man that Elle thought he was. When Jeremiah decides to break off the engagement just weeks before the wedding, Elle's life is turned upside down. It isn't until Elle becomes friends with Heath, a widower and father who rents her house, that Elle begins to realize that life does go on.
I thoroughly enjoyed Elle's story; and I found the basic premise of LOVE STARTS WITH ELLE very interesting. However, what I most liked about this book were the characters in it. I absolutely adored Elle, but there were so many other terrific (and memorable) people in her life that added to this story. Elle was such a down-to-earth and very real woman to me. Despite her setbacks, she still managed to stay true to herself while also keeping a sense of humor. I enjoyed seeing Elle discover the power of prayer and learn to listen for God's word. I guess you could say that I liked being along on her spiritual journey.
In addition to Elle, I found myself really liking Heath, a widower and father who rents out Elle's home. Like Elle, he had been through difficult times and was searching for some peace and contentment. The two find that they have much in common, and Elle ends up falling for him. (I think many readers will also fall for Heath--- he's handsome and pretty much an ideal guy.) I also adored the character of Anna, an older woman who became Elle's spiritual advisor. I thought Ms. Hauck did an excellent job of showing how Elle grew closer to God with the help of a wonderful mentor like Anna.
Finally, I loved Elle's family and friends. Elle's parents seemed to be such loving and supportive people. And, Elle's sister Julianne was a "character" in her own right. Like Elle, she was dealing with her own issues; and I liked how she had to come to terms with her secrets by the end of this novel. Elle is the one of six girls in the Garvey family, so there are a lot of opportunity for stories about sibling rivalry as well as sisterly love. Ms. Hauck pretty much has unlimited stories that she can write about these girls. And since I now consider myself a fan of hers, I hope she continues to write more books about the Garveys.
A minor character is this book was Caroline, Elle's best friend who lives in Spain. While LOVE STARTS WITH ELLE tells Elle's story, Ms. Hauck's earlier novel SWEET CAROLINE tells Caroline's story. (Of course, I am dying to read this book now!) While many of the characters appear in both books, you don't have to read them in order to appreciate the stories -- LOVE STARTS WITH ELLE definitely stands on its own.
I still consider myself a newbie to Christian literature, but I appreciated how well Ms. Hauck incorporated these messages into LOVE STARTS WITH ELLE. The wonder of God and the power of prayer themes were prevalent in this book, yet I didn't find them forced down my throat. I liked seeing Elle mature spiritually, and I felt good after finishing this novel. In summary, I enjoyed the novel because of the characters and the story; but I certainly felt the Christian message made the book extra-special.
Check out this awesome book trailer video:
You can win a copy of LOVE STARTS WITH ELLE by leaving a comment on Ms. Hauck's blog tour post. While you're there, you can also see the schedule for this blog tour.
About Ms. Hauck: Rachel Hauck is the author of ten, going on eleven novels, and has recently become an "acclaimed" author. (Yeah, funny how that happened. Some dude found her lottery stub stuck to the bottom of his shoe and tried to "acclaim" her. But her husband refused to pay out.)
Since then, she's gone on to become a best selling author of Sweet Caroline.
Living in central Florida with her husband of sixteen and a half years, one sweet little dog and one ornery cat, Rachel is a graduate of Ohio State University and a huge Buckeye football fan. One day she hopes to stand on the sidelines next to Coach Tressel as a famed, acclaimed best selling OSU alumni, beloved for her work in literature and letters. (She's written at least a couple hundred letters in her life time.)
Her current release, LOVE STARTS WITH ELLE (July 2008, Thomas Nelson) is set in the South Carolina lowcountry, and earned 4.5 Stars and Top Pick from Romantic Times Book Club.
Look for her next release next spring, THE SWEET BY AND BY the first book in the Born To Fly series with award winning country artist, Sara Evans.
Of the writing journey, Rachel says, "I'm humbled by the amazing things God is doing in my life. I love what I do, and am so privileged to work with Thomas Nelson fiction and am excited to see what God has in store for all of His authors and writers. Just keep praying and writing!"
Visit her blog and website at http://www.rachelhauck.com
A big thanks goes out to Litfuse Publicity for providing me with this opportunity.