The Wishing Season
About This Book
In this competition, it’s not just the house on the line, it’s their hearts.
She has the touch when it comes to food, but PJ McKinley’s dream of opening her own restaurant is one building short of reality. So when a Chapel Springs resident offers her beloved ancestral home as prize to the applicant with the best plan for the house, PJ believes she was meant to win.
Contractor Cole Evans is confident, professional, and swoonworthy—but this former foster kid knows his life could have turned out very differently. When Cole discovers the contest, he believes his home for foster kids in transition has found its saving grace. All he has to do is convince the owner that a not-for-profit enterprise will be good for the community.
When the eccentric philanthropist weighs the proposals, she proposes an outlandish tie-breaker: PJ and Cole will share the house for a year to see which idea works best. Now, with Cole and the foster kids upstairs and PJ and the restaurant below, day-to-day life has turned into an out-and-out rivalry—with some serious flirtatious hallway encounters on the side. But could their magnetic attraction cost them everything they’ve ever wanted?
I am a big fan of Denise Hunter and have loved every book in the Chapel Springs Romance series so far (Barefoot Summer, Dancing with Fireflies, and the December Bride novella), so my expectations were definitely high for The Wishing Season. I was looking for a sweet-but-swoon-worthy romance unafraid to push the boundaries of edginess, full of both heat and heart. And my expectations were more than met!
PJ leaps off the page as an eager, vivacious, talkative college graduate with her whole future planned out—only to discover one’s plans are rarely the same as God’s plans. It’s a lesson I think we all learn at some point in our lives, and as such she is instantly likable and relatable. And Cole? He’s the kind of hero you wish could leap off the page . . . and show up at your front door! A wounded, brooding, big-hearted, tall, dark and handsome leading man who will delight even the most ardent romance fan. It was also great to revisit other members of the McKinley family and residents of Chapel Springs as supporting characters in this story, and the stage is well set to continue Ryan’s story in the next book.
PJ and Cole are easy to tell apart from the outset because she talks too much and he doesn’t talk enough—two traits that are easy to write into a novel but very hard to pull off as they can make the story feel very unbalanced, with her scenes having too much dialogue and his too many internal thoughts. But Hunter strikes a good balance between the two in this story, and the overall pace and structure of the novel were seamless and fast-moving.
It was fun to return to the small town of Chapel Springs, Indiana, which Hunter brings to life so well it’s hard to remember it’s fictional. Especially after reading the previous 2.5 books set in this little town, The Wishing Season felt like a long-anticipated return visit to an old friend. This book is part of a series, but each title stands alone, and readers who haven’t read the previous books will not be lost by starting with this book.
As for the romance, few Christian authors today do swoon-worthy like Denise Hunter. Be still my heart! But it’s rarely about full-on kissing/making out in her books (though sometimes it is!); my favorite moments are the quieter ones. The way she admires the stubble on his chin. The way he realizes her ponytail leaves part of her neck bare. A writer doesn’t need to be graphic or vulgar to make a scene truly romantic, and Hunter is one of the best at the art of subtlety. PJ and Cole do have their internal conflicts to overcome in order to be together (she strives to prove herself to her family; he feels guilt over a childhood family tragedy), and I felt they earned their “happily ever after” in the end.
The spiritual theme of surrendering one’s hopes and dreams to God is subliminally but powerfully laced throughout the story. The book never gets preachy, but the undercurrent is always there, tugging at your heart. This is the perfect kind of Christian fiction to share with a non-Christian friend who thinks all Christian books are about the Amish or mail-order brides!
My only bone to pick with this story was the whole house competition angle. It was just a little too much for me to believe that any old rich woman could really be that eccentric—to not only give away her historic family home for free, but to force an unmarried man and unmarried woman to both live in it for a year, and on top of that let them remodel and tear it to pieces while they do . . . with absolutely no guarantee that either of them will still be in the house after the year is over! Perhaps it’s because I’m trained and educated in historic preservation and actually live in a 120-year-old house myself, but this was just a little too much for me to get on board with. Crazy Mrs. Simmons would’ve been much better off calling me and letting me have her home for free. I’d have treated it right!
Conservative readers may object to a few moments of mild fake-swearing (“omigosh”), as well as to the general premise of PJ and Cole living in the same house (though they go to great lengths to not live together), but otherwise there is no objectionable content in this story. There are some mature themes, however, including foster care and teen suicide, so parents should be prepared for some deep discussions with their teen and young adult readers.
Denise Hunter has does it again! She writes inspirational romance with a sassy, spicy, spiritually-relevant flair that both touches hearts and leaves her readers begging for more. I’m already looking forward to the next book!
Available December 16, 2014 from Thomas Nelson