Beth Webb Hart writes a genteel tale about three female friends and a male clergyman, somehow neatly weaving their individual stories into a single cohesive theme. It’s part passionate, part restrained emotion, and it all works. Readers will appreciate the strength of her message delivered through the internal introspections of her characters’ most personal thoughts. Full of evocative faith questions, fans of her work will find themselves nodding in understanding throughout this tender tale of growing up in a cultured society where real-life pains and losses must be met head on…eventually.
Anne Brumley continues to keep the faith that God spoke to her years earlier, telling her “to wait” --- and wait she has for the love of her life to make his entrance. A skilled bell ringer at St. Michael’s Church, Anne tries to get those closest to her to understand and encourage her to keep the faith about hearing from God. But in this, they fail her. Anne decides to travel to England to pursue and study bell ringing, and no sooner does she exit than the man she will come to love enters St. Michael’s…as the new pastor. Roy Summerall, unwilling reverend to the uppity (as he remembers it from childhood memories) upper-crust church meets Anne briefly and can’t shake the memory of her. This widowed father of a young daughter feels his broken heart mending, thawing, and subsequently stirring at the thought of Anne. Finally, he acts upon his feelings, and the two begin a romantic relationship that’s just about perfect.
Anne’s sister, Alisha, a medical doctor married to another medical doctor, has it all. Or does she? When she gives birth to their third child prematurely, Lish’s idyllic life takes a sudden sharp turn for the worse as she watches her marriage derail and her mental health nosedive into dangerous life-threatening proportions. Lish’s battle to rebuild her life amidst multiple horrific circumstances is nobly yet very realistically depicted.
Cousin Della, close to both sisters, is rethinking her life as a writer married to a struggling artist. When her former fiancé comes back to town, old feelings (or is it new desires?) are rekindled, but does Della understand the difference between longing for financial security, and comfort and love? Della explores this line of thinking until she almost goes too far to turn back and in the process learns a lot about what she most desires in this imperfect life.
All three women take prominent places throughout the story. Meshing their hopes, dreams and disappointments together successfully is no easy task, yet Hart succeeds in seamlessly intertwining one tale with another. There’s much in this book about the hardships of relationships past and present, about the impact material goods and personal gain have on individuals even when they know better. Readers will value LOVE, CHARLESTON for its honesty and the redemptive message it brings.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on August 31, 2010