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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Return to Me by Deborah Pierson Dill

Return to Me by Deborah Pierson Dill
Publisher: White Rose Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational
Length: Full Length (274 pages)
Heat Level: sweet
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Geranium

Audrey Rhodes once walked the straight and narrow, but a terrible mistake changed the direction her life. Now former boyfriend and bad boy, Brent Thomason, is back in Blithe Settlement claiming newfound faith in God. Audrey's feelings for Brent haven't changed, but she has. Her life is in shambles. How can she be worthy of this new Brent's love?

Brent Thomason isn't proud of his past. Audrey had been his friend and his love, and he betrayed her. Now a veterinarian, he's returned home to work with Audrey's dad and make restitution for his misdeeds. Brent finds it's not so easy for people to accept his changed ways; still he must make things right with those he hurt, starting with Audrey.

As God directs their paths, Audrey discovers forgiveness is a two-edged sword...especially when she must first forgive herself. And Brent must accept God's will...even if it means losing Audrey a second time.

One of the reasons I enjoy reading inspirational fiction is the depth and interest that the spiritual conflict adds to the romantic elements. The spiritual conflict in this book is especially well drawn, and in a nice reversal of roles in this fine romance. It's heroine Audrey Rhodes who has lost her faith in God, and her high school crush, Brent Thomason, who has found his.

The author convincingly portrays the realities of Audrey's loss of faith, and of Brent's finding his. She manages this without becoming heavy handed or preachy. The added element of the abusive relationship with sort-of ex boyfriend Bobby lends another layer of gritty reality. I really believed both Audrey's need to draw the line with Bobby and in his ability to walk back into her life despite her good intentions. Bobby's qualities, both good and bad, shine through, and I shared Audrey's ambivalence about whether to tell him to get lost or to take him back one more time.

One of my pet peeves in romances is the “I want to shake them hard” syndrome, where the conflict between the characters would disappear if only they talked to each other – and the reason that they don't isn't one that I believe. I'm happy to say that at no point in reading this book did I want to shake either Audrey, Brent, or Bobby. Their conflict was true and real.

The action takes place in a small town in Texas, and the setting – the hot, dry weather – are an important element in the story. The story moves towards resolution at the same time that the weather cools, moving from summer into fall.

This book isn't beach reading; the conflict is too raw for that. And at times I found the pace a bit slow. As the book wound down, I wondered where the author was going to find the additional conflict necessary to finish the book. But she does, and in an especially satisfying way, she shows the true nature of forgiveness, and she doesn't shy away from showing how hard it is, and why many of us might be tempted to hold onto our anger.

Return to Me will grip you and not let you go until the final page. If you enjoy inspirational romance, this book belongs on your To Be Read list.