HER SECRET HOPE by Shelley Shepard Gray
SERIES: A Season in Pinecraft #3
GENRE: Contemporary/Amish Romance (Christian)
RELEASE DATE: November 7, 2023
Almost two years after Lilly Kurtz first traveled to Pinecraft, Florida, with friends, she’s decided to make a fresh start there. She’s ready to be new-and-improved Lilly, a Lilly without a past, a Lilly with no secrets. At first, everything goes well. She gets a job, her coworkers feel like family, and she enjoys reconnecting with her friends. But it turns out the past is reluctant to be left behind.
When Lilly meets hardworking farmer Eddie Byler, she can’t get him off of her mind. But then she discovers that Eddie actually lives just a few miles from her hometown in Ohio. Lilly knows that he’s not going to like it when he finds out what secrets she’s been running from. And she knows she could never follow the man she’s falling in love with back to a place where she’s never felt accepted.
Will Lilly have to give up on love in order to find peace? Or could it be that love is actually the solution to all of her problems?
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“The Lord must have known that the four of them needed each other…”
I’ve enjoyed this A Season in Pinecraft series by Shelley Shepard Gray, and I admit to being sad that we’re saying goodbye to the ‘fab four’ – Mary Margaret, Betsy, Esther and Lilly. It’s been so sweet to watch their bond of friendship form initially and then grow closer over the course of these three books. And I’ve loved having a front row seat as – one by one – they each found a happily-ever-after when they least expected it. A sweet reminder that God’s plans for our lives are so much better than we could orchestrate on our own.
In Her Secret Hope, we at long last get Lilly’s story and it was definitely worth the wait. I very much wanted to reach inside the book and hug Lilly tight, bring her a coffee just the way she likes it, and sit with her on the Magnolia Inn’s porch until I could convince her of how valued she is by God and those who love her. She has never felt fully loved but instead always feels as though she is lacking in some way. I felt very protective of Lilly in this book, and subsequently felt a little betrayed by one of the series’ recurring tertiary characters who treated her quite shabbily at one point in the story. (It served a purpose though, and all ended well, but my purse whomping tote was getting a bit twitchy lol.) I appreciated this exploration of the insecurities that adopted children often experience as they grow up, carrying over into how they see themselves as adults, as friends, as employees, and perhaps most especially as marriage material. It’s not something that’s addressed very much in fiction, but it gives us as readers deeper insight into our friends and family and perhaps even ourselves.
Which brings us to Eddie, who instantly sees what Mary Margaret, Esther, and Betsy saw in Lilly – a special young woman with a big heart who is worthy of feeling loved and cherished just as she is, flaws & insecurities & all. I loved watching him fall for her, especially the moments where his normally-straitlaced personality went up in flames (aka the kissing scenes!) haha. But more than the sparks he and Lilly set off, Eddie made my heart melt in how he watched out for Lilly, protected her, listened to her, appreciated her, and just showed his growing love for her in all those little ways that make him a true hero in my book. I didn’t feel like I truly got inside Eddie’s head as much as I did Lilly’s but he’s such a steady character that it didn’t matter. I also thought that sending Eddie to Pinecraft with his spunky grandmother November was a great writing choice on the part of the author – she balanced him well and I can just see her traipsing around Disney World! I see her as someone who would gladly wear a pair of Minnie Mouse ears over her kapp just because she’s on vacation and can.
Bottom Line: Her Secret Hope by Shelley Shepard Gray is a sweet send-off to a delightful series that has highlighted the bonds of friendship and the unpredictability of love. Each couple in the series has an instant connection/attraction, Lilly and Eddie included, but the author takes them all on journeys that refine and deepen their relationships into something that will last beyond the initial chemistry. I loved getting to hang out with all my favorite characters in this third book, and I enjoyed Lilly and Eddie’s romance from once-upon-a-time to happily-ever-after. A secondary romance adds further layers to this story, as do the various family dynamics that must be navigated. Warmth, humor, and gentle faith threads round out the story, making Her Secret Hope a lovely way to spend an evening.
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 4 stars / loved it!
KissingBook Level: 3 / may forget to breathe on occasion
Shelley Shepard Gray is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 100 books, including Her Heart’s Desire and Her Only Wish. Two-time winner of the HOLT Medallion and a Carol Award finalist, Gray lives in Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail. Please visit her website to find out her latest news or to sign up for her newsletter. Shelley can also be found on FaceBook, Instagram, or on Twitter.
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