Four friends. Four love stories. Written by four authors. Intrigued? I was, too.
The popular Christian authors of SMITTEN are also friends in real life. In fact, they are writing critique partners who together maintain the blog Girls Write Out, along with fellow author Cheryl Hodde, also known as Hannah Alexander. Kristin Billerbeck, Colleen Coble, Diann Hunt and Denise Hunter have crafted this romantic novella collection, which intertwines the lives of four female friends living in Smitten, Vermont.
"[O]verall, SMITTEN is a light, fun, fluffy read. It’s a pleasant book, if predictable, and the plotlines were satisfying..."
Smitten’s lumber mill has closed down, and the only hope to save the town is to come up with a reason for people to visit and boost the local economy, as well as create more jobs for the residents. Since Sawyer Smitten made it big as a country singer and is returning home for his upcoming wedding, what better way than to take advantage of the Smitten name and make the town a romantic destination for couples? With that idea in mind, four friends --- Natalie, Julia, Shelby and Reese --- band together to make it happen.
In “Natalie: Birthday Wishes,” coffee shop owner Natalie Mansfield has temporary custody of her niece, Mia, whose mother Lisa has abandoned her responsibilities and left town to try to make a life for herself. Natalie wants more than anything to adopt Mia as her own. According to Lisa, Mia’s father is Carson Smitten, Sawyer’s brother, and a man who grates on Natalie’s nerves. Even worse, Natalie finds herself attracted to him. Carson denies he is Mia’s father, which angers Natalie even more, due to some unresolved trust issues she’s carried with her for years. But when she and Carson are thrown together to get the town ready for Sawyer’s wedding, things really heat up.
In “Julia: Small Town, Big Dreams,” Julia Bourne has just returned from New York, where she ran a large spa. Her friends insist that a spa is just what Smitten needs and encourage Julia to open her own business. The perfect location seems to be the Smitten Grill, where her brother’s best friend, Zak Grant, happens to be renting out space. But Julia has no intentions of opening a spa in such a rustic and “manly” location. Especially since the last place she wants to be is near the man she doesn’t dare admit she fell in love with years ago -- a man she’s convinced looks at her like a sister.
“Shelby: You’ve Got a Friend” begins as Shelby Evans watches her home go up in flames. New friend and firefighter Nick Majors is there to offer a shoulder. He also offers her a place to hold her teen class, Social Graces, where she teaches girls about fashion and manners. Then Nick’s ex-wife dies, and his 12-year-old daughter Willow comes to live with him. Shelby and Nick grow closer, and she hits it off with Willow from the start. But a secret from Shelby’s past threatens to come between any possibilities of a future.
Finally, in “Reese: All Along,” we meet Reese Mackenzie, who was once engaged to Sawyer Smitten. At the time, Reese’s best buddy since high school, Griffen Parker, left town to hide his broken heart. He had been in love with Reese but never dared admit it. Now that Reese and Sawyer are no longer together, and Sawyer is coming back to town to marry someone else, Griffen comes home. Reese suddenly experiences feelings for Griffen, but is convinced he still thinks of her as just a friend. Miscommunications and misunderstandings abound as Reese and Griffen do everything they can to hide the fact that they’re in love.
Novellas don’t provide much room for character development, so there’s not a lot of depth to the main characters in these stories. But overall, SMITTEN is a light, fun, fluffy read. It’s a pleasant book, if predictable, and the plotlines were satisfying, although they might have been beefed up a bit. Each of the four women has traits exclusive to her --- for example, Shelby carries around her pet shih-poo, Penelope, with her everywhere, and Natalie is passionate about perfecting a form of Gluten-free cookies. The four romances just cut the surface, but are entertaining nonetheless.
I am a huge fan of Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt and Denise Hunter. I’ve read and loved many of their books, but honestly I felt that SMITTEN was a far cry from their other works. If you’re a fan of romantic novella collections, you’ll probably enjoy it. But if you want deeper and well-developed stories that highlight each author’s talent more brightly, you may want to stick with their full-length novels.
Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab on March 20, 2012