Hawaii was the last place Grace Christiansen ever imagined she’d vacation, much less fall in love. But when her family surprises her with a cooking retreat in paradise, she is pulled—or maybe yanked—away from her predictable, safe life and thrown headfirst into the adventure of a lifetime.
Max Sharpe may make his living on the ice as a pro hockey player, but he feels most at home in the kitchen. Which is why he lives for the three-week culinary vacation he takes each year in Hawaii. Upon being paired with Grace for a cooking competition, Max finds himself drawn to her passion, confidence, and perseverance. But just when Grace dares to dream of a future beyond her hometown, Max pulls away.
Wrestling with personal demons, Max fights against opening his heart to a love he knows he should never hope for. And as his secrets unfold, Grace is torn between the safe path in front of her and what her heart truly desires. If love means sacrificing her ideal happily ever after, Grace’s faith will face its toughest test yet.
This book created in me some really unsettling feelings. On the one hand, I love Susan May Warren and the Christiansen Family. I loved her characterization. I feel like I know each member (and their respective loves) so well. And this book, like so many of her other books was written so well, I was flipping the pages. However, there were two really big things that just bothered me, and so I’m going to do my review a bit differently today. Instead of listing what I did and didn’t like, I’m going to go down the list of the characters:
Max and Grace. Their romance was beyond cute. I loved the way they got to know each other over food (and Hello! A cooking show like Chopped? Completely pulled me in) and Hawaii. It was romantic, and sweet, and so much fun. I will say Grace was at moments annoyingly insecure, but it’s easy to get past it, and she’s got an otherwise great personality. Max is such an intriguing character. He’s both serious and fun, a hockey player and a chef. I loved the dichotomy that was Max. BUT, when I opened the first page of his narrative I knew where this story was going, and I was hoping to be wrong. I was not. I am about to rant about something and maybe get a little spoilery here (though you find out right away) please feel free to jump to the next paragraph. **Max is dealing with the possibility of a debilitating disease. And while I know that not everyone believes that Jesus still heals or that He’s a miracle worker, I do. And so it bothered me, that he had such a great faith in his own imminent demise and no faith in Jesus’ healing power. He believed that he was going to get sick deep down to the core of his being and while the spiritual message that Warren had was not wrong, (and I agree with it essentially) I’m sorry folks, I just couldn’t get with it. I understood his hesitance and his caution and even his fear. Nevertheless, I wanted more faith from Max.**
Owen. He was annoying in the last book. He gets worse in this one. Seriously, dude is a big pain in the butt. And if Susan May Warren writes him his own novel, it is either going to be the best one in the series or fall real short. He’s got a lot to make up for.
Raina. Sigh. I hoped, really hoped her story wasn’t going where I thought it was going to go. And then it did go there. And then it got worse. It was like a train wreck, you wanted to look away, but you just couldn’t. And I’m just worried that Susan May Warren is going to write a romance story with her and a certain guy and she’s going to put a bandaid on the situation and try to make me believe that it all worked out just fine. But honestly, in real life, Raina’s situation just might not be fixable (I’m not saying people wouldn’t forgive, and love and heal, but certain boundaries in life shouldn’t be crossed and when they are, most people would just throw in the towel and move on).Raina blew it, not necessarily because of her mistake, but because the mistake involved two people who are family members, and now her situation is going to color the rest of the series. Ugh.
Secondary characters: Eden, Jace, Ingrid, John, Darek, Ivy, Tiger, Amelia. Loved them. Loved seeing them in this book and finding out more about their lives.
So, I said all this to say, I didn’t hate this book. I couldn’t put it down. I found it highly entertaining. I also found it highly unsettling. I wanted more faith from Max, and Raina’s situation kind of broke my heart. Life isn’t pretty, in fact, sometimes it’s a huge mess. But I guess what I wanted were happier circumstances for this family.