Disclaimer- Tyndale House Publishers has provided you with a complimentary copy of this book for free for my honest opinion. I was not asked to give a positive review and all opinions are my true thoughts and may differ from yours.
“Take a Chance on Me” by Susan May Warren
**WARNING, may contain spoilers**
I’ve read a couple of books by Susan May Warren and I really love her writing style. I couldn’t wait to start reading the first book in the Christiansen family series that she wrote.
This first book in the series focuses around Darek Christiansen and Ivy Madison. Darek is a single father of a little boy, Tiger. He lost his wife, Felicity, in a tragic accident. His best friend, Jensen Atwood, is to blame for his loss and he hates him for it. In fact the whole town seems to hate Jensen because of this loss. Ivy Madison, who is the new prosecuting lawyer for Deep Haven, who recently moved there after living a life with no family and wanting to move to this small town to get the family feeling. She never thought she’d fall in love, and especially not in love within the first couple of months of living there.
Ivy, meets Darek the first night she moves to New Haven. It seemed like a mistake to be around him but she soon finds herself falling in love not only with him but with his son. She soon finds out about the ties she has with Darek, even before moving to town and senses it could be a conflict of interest with her job. To make matters worse, Nan, Felicity’s mother, is fighting for custody of Darek’s son and Ivy finds her self in the the middle of choosing between the man she loves and her job.
All the while the story line is playing out we meet several other charters, each in a different spot in their life with God. Each struggling to figure out their place in the world, their place in New Haven.
Once the book ends we are given a preview of the next book in the Christiansen family series. I really can’t wait to get to know more of the family better, and I really am excited for the next book.
This book was a great Christian romance novel. It has forgiveness, searching for God, love, hate, an a HUGE adventure. There is even a study guide at the end, so it makes it a perfect book for a book club. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good, clean Christian romance book.
Q & A with the author-
1.This is the first installment in a brand new six
– book series. Can you give us a bit of background on this series?
I love stories about families – watching the members interact and grow together through challenges and victories – and I conceived this series as I watched my own children begin to grow up and deal with romance and career and futures. I love Deep Haven, and it’s the perfect setting for a resort, so I crafted a family, much like the families I know, who run a resort. They want to pass on their legacy to their children…but their children don’t know if they want it. It’s sort of a parallel theme to the legacy of faith we instill in our children. As they grow older, they need to decide whether it is their faith too. It’s a saga about family and faith and what happens when those collide with real life.
2.This Christiansen Family series is set in Deep Haven, Minnesota. Tell us about this setting.
Deep Haven, Minnesota is based in a small vacation town in northern Minnesota where I spent my childhood. It’s located on Lake Superior, surrounded by pine and birch and the sense of small town and home. Populated by everyone from artists to lumberjacks, it’s Mitford, or perhaps Northern Exposure gone Minnesotan. Quaint, quirky and beautiful, it’s the perfect place to
escape for a vacation.
3.What was your inspiration for this particular book and the main character Darek
As I started to put together this series, I began to think about our culture and our children today. I started to take a look at the big questions we are faced with as parents – and as young people; the issues that affect us as a culture, as well as personally. I wanted these books to go beyond family drama, beyond a great romance to raise bigger questions and stir truths that we might pass along to others. This story is about our propensity in our culture to blame others for what goes wrong in our lives – and how this alienates us from each other, and ultimately, God. Darek is the oldest brother in the family; the leader and a real hero. He’s a wild land firefighter and a widower who’s had to give up his job to come home and run the resort and care for his young son. Darek doesn’t realize he has a problem – he lives with anger on his shoulder, hating the man who killed his wife (his best friend). His real problem is that he can’t forgive himself. In this first story, readers meet the family, hang out at the resort and discover that God can redeem even a heart of stone, if we take a chance on Him.
4. What lessons or truths will your readers find in the pages of this novel?
This book is for the person who feels they just can’t get past the anger they have for someone else to live in joy again. It’s for parents who see their children making bad choices and don’t know where to turn. It’s for people who believe that no one will ever really love them because of who they are, or the things they’ve done. It’s for people who need the courage to take a second chance on love and faith and family. I’m hoping readers walk away with a sense of how much God loves them, and that yes, He can heal the angry and broken – hearted.
5. How do you expect this new series to resonate with your audience? How do you want your books to make them feel?
I love a story that brings me on an emotional journey from anger to laughter to hope. But most of all, I want readers to be wrapped up in joy, that feeling we get when watch our football team win, or when we’re hands up in a convertible on a hot summer day, or digging our feet into a sandy beach, or hugging our loved one when they return home. Ah. The sense that, just for a moment, all is right in the world and everything tastes and feels delicious. I write romances, and in the end it’s worth the journey to the happily ever after.
6. As a writer, what did you particularly enjoy about crafting this story?
I loved Darek’s transformation. His relationship with his son is so precious, but when he truly lets go of his anger, he becomes the hero I always knew he could be. I love writing about broken heroes who find healing.
7.What advice do you have for budding novelists?
Read! Then write the book you’d like to read. But, along the way, learn the craft. In fact, a good writer never stops learning.
8. What is the best advice or encouragement that you have received?
Just keep writing. If you want to be a career novelist, you just have to keep writing.
9. In your writing career, what are you most proud of?
After over forty novels, I’m always striving to keep the stories fresh and unique; so I guess I’m proud that every book is bathed in prayer, has a message singular to that story, and has unique characters and journeys. Every story is a new adventure for me, and the reader.
Read part of Chapter 1-
My dearest Darek,
Even as I write this letter, I know I’ll tuck it away; the words on it are more of a prayer, meant for the Lord more than you. Or maybe, in the scribbling upon this journal page, the words might somehow find your heart, a cry that extends across the bond of mother and child.
The firstborn child is always the one who solves the mystery of parenthood. Before I had you, I watched other mothers and wondered at the bond between a child and a parent, the strength of it, the power to mold a woman, making her put all hopes and wishes into this tiny bundle of life that she had the responsibility to raise.
It’s an awe – filled, wonderful, terrifying act to have a child, for you suddenly wear your heart on the outside of your body. You risk a little more each day as he wanders from your arms into the world. You, Darek, were no protector of my heart. You were born with a willfulness, a courage, and a bent toward adventure that would bring me to the edge of my faith and keep me on my knees. The day I first saw you swinging from that too – enticing oak tree into the lake should have told me that I would be tested.
Your brothers shortened your name to Dare, and you took it to heart. I was never so terrified as the day you came home from Montana, fresh from your first year as a hotshot, feeling your own strength. I knew your future would take you far from Evergreen Lake. I feared it would take you far, also, from your legacy of faith.
Watching your son leave your arms has no comparison to watching him leave God’s. You never seemed to question the beliefs your father and I taught you. Perhaps that is what unsettled me the most, because without questioning, I wondered how there could be true understanding. I held my breath against the day when it would happen — life would shatter you and leave your faith bereft.
And then it did.
It brought you home, in presence if not soul. If it hadn’t been for your son, I might have done the unthinkable — stand in our gravel driveway and bar you from returning, from hiding.
Because, my courageous, bold oldest son, that is what you are doing. Hiding. Bitter and dark, you have let guilt and regret destroy your foundation, imprison you, and steal your joy. You may believe you are building a future for your son, but without faith, you have nothing to build it on. Evergreen Resort is not just a place. It’s a legacy. A foundation. A belief.
It’s the best of what I have to give you. That, and my unending prayers that somehow God will destroy those walls you’ve constructed around your heart.
Darek, you have become a mystery to me again. I don’t know how to help free you. Or to restore all you’ve lost. But I believe that if you give God a chance, He will heal your heart. He will give you a future. He will truly lead you home.
C h a p t e r 1
Ivy Madison would do just about anything to stay in the secluded, beautiful, innocent town of Deep Haven.
Even if she had to buy a man.
A bachelor, to be exact, although maybe not the one currently standing on the stage of the Deep Haven Emergency Services annual charity auction. He looked like a redneck from the woolly woods of northern Minnesota, with curly dark – blond hair, a skim of whiskers on his face, and a black T – shirt that read, Hug a logger — you’ll never go back to trees. Sure, he filled out his shirt and looked the part in a pair of ripped jeans and boots, but he wore just a little too much “Come and get me, girls,” in his smile.
The auctioneer on stage knew how to work his audience. He regularly called out names from the crowd to entice them to bid. And apparently the town of Deep Haven loved their firefighters, EMTs, and cops because the tiny VFW was packed, the waitresses running out orders of bacon cheeseburgers and hot wings to the bidding crowd.
After the show was over, a local band would take the stage. The auction was part of the summer solstice festival — the first of many summer celebrations Deep Haven hosted. Frankly it felt like the village dreamed up events to lure tourists, but Ivy counted it as her welcoming party.
Oh, how she loved this town. And she’d only lived here for roughly a day. Imagine how she’d love it by the end of the summer, after she’d spent three months learning the names of locals, investing herself into this lakeside hamlet.
Her days of hitching her measly worldly possessions — four hand – me – down suitcases; a loose cardboard box of pictures; a garbage bag containing The Elements of Legal Style, How to Argue and Win Every Time, and To Kill a Mockingbird; and most of all, her green vintage beach bike — onto the back of her red Nissan Pathfinder were over.
Time to put down roots. Make friends.
Okay, buying a friend didn’t exactly qualify, but the fact that her money would go to help the local emergency services seemed like a good cause. And if Ivy had learned anything growing up in foster care, it was that a person had to work the system to get what she wanted.
She should be unpacking; she started work in the morning. But how long would it take, really, to settle into the tiny, furnished efficiency apartment over the garage behind the Footstep of Heaven Bookstore? And with her new job as assistant county attorney, she expected to have plenty of free time. So when the twilight hues of evening had lured her into the romance of a walk along the shoreline of the Deep Haven harbor, she couldn’t stop herself.
She couldn’t remember the last time she’d taken a lazy walk, stopping at storefronts, reading the real estate ads pasted to the window of a local office.
Cute, two – bedroom log cabin on Poplar Lake. She could imagine the evergreen smell nudging her awake every morning, the twitter of cardinals and sparrows as she took her cup of coffee on the front porch.
Except she loved the bustle of the Deep Haven hamlet. Nestled on the north shore of Minnesota, two hours from the nearest hint of civilization, the fishing village – turned – tourist hideaway had enough charm to sweet – talk Ivy out of her Minneapolis duplex and make her dream big.
Dream of home, really. A place. Friends. Maybe even a dog. And here, in a town where
everyone belonged, she would too.