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Bethany Turner’s The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by [Turner, Bethany]

Becoming a Christian is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Sarah Hollenbeck. Best because, well, that’s obvious. Worst because, up to this point, she’s made her very comfortable living as a well-known, bestselling author of steamy romance novels that would leave the members of her new church blushing. Now Sarah is trying to reconcile her past with the future she’s chosen. She’s still under contract with her publisher and on the hook with her enormous fan base for the kind of book she’s not sure she can write anymore. She’s beginning to think that the church might frown on her tithing on royalties from a “scandalous” book. And the fact that she’s falling in love with her pastor doesn’t make things any easier.

With a powerful voice, penetrating insight, and plenty of wit, Bethany Turner explodes onto the scene with a debut that isn’t afraid to deal with the thorny realities of living the Christian life.


It’s not often I pick up a debut author’s book without reading any reviews, but after reading the blurb of this book I was completely hooked. My thoughts:

What I Liked

The topic. I loved, loved, loved the idea of a steamy romance novelist getting saved and falling for a pastor and kind of dealing with the fallout of that. I thought the author did a lovely job of raising all the issues and problems that a situation like that would bring because the issues Sarah faced felt real. I like that the author doesn’t shy away from sexual temptation and what that looks like. She also provides some practical ways a believer can address those kinds of concerns. She faces tough topics straight on without brushing past them and it really made this novel standout.

Dating. Okay, this book suffers from one of my least favorite tropes: insta-love. And when I say insta-love, they were bringing up the “L” word on the first date. That said, I love the way the author walked them through their courtship. I love that they set up rules to follow and that one of those rules was to be completely honest with each other. Both Sarah and her guy really worked to make their relationship a success and to have a relationship built on a solid foundation.

Spiritually, you see Sarah get saved and how being saved isn’t always the easiest thing…especially if you have to disconnect from your former life. We certainly see Sarah learn how to navigate this new facet of her life throughout the tale.

What I Didn’t Like

Telling. There was just so much telling in this book. Because this book is first person narrative (and I don’t mind that) a lot of Sarah’s past is revealed through her own personal summary which she tells the reader. Then Sarah has a friend that she uses as a sounding board throughout the entire novel (we learn almost next to nothing about the girl) where they literally just meet only to talk about Sarah. Then we are told that Sarah falls instantly in love with her guy and him with her, so we don’t get to see that develop as a reader. Then her and her guy spend a lot of time talking and rarely doing stuff that shows us things about their character. With all the telling, I found myself not as invested in the characters and as this is not a plot driven novel, it would have benefited from stronger character development. As a reader, I didn’t know the characters past what they told me about themselves and thus, I found myself skimming a lot.

*Personal pet peeve. This doesn’t affect the rating of the book, but and this may be spoilery, a pastor and his wife are both called to ministry, in my opinion. I have no problem with a pastor’s wife having a colorful past when unsaved, I do have a problem with a pastor’s wife only being saved a few months before becoming a pastor’s wife. It just seemed like she needed to be a stronger, more tested believer and no one seemed to bring that up. But again, that’s just me.

Romantic scale: 5

Overall, kudos to the author for tackling this subject matter! I’m very interested to see what she does next.

**I received a copy from Revell. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**



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