Review

Secretly Smitten

by Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, and Denise Hunter

Welcome back to Smitten, Vermont, the romance capital of the world.

Once again, four real-life besties and fellow Christian authors --- Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt and Denise Hunter --- team up in SECRETLY SMITTEN, a charming collection of four novellas, strung together to create one continuous story. This one centers on the three Thomas sisters --- Tess, Zoe and Clare --- and their mother, Anna.

"SECRETLY SMITTEN is a light and enjoyable book that easily can be read in one afternoon.... Although the shorter stories prevent much depth and character growth, each author stayed true to her genre and brought her talent to the table. Fans of sweet romance will surely find themselves smitten with this series."

In the first story, “Love Between the Lines,” oldest daughter Tess finds a set of military dog tags in her grandmother’s attic. They belong to David Hutchins, a man Tess has never heard of before. She shows them to her grandma, who can’t hide her shock. Grandma reveals that David was her first love, who never made it back from the war. Grandma has no idea how the tags ended up in her attic, but despite Tess’s questions, she is reluctant to talk about it. Tess decides to investigate by visiting the Hutchins’ former home, now owned by Tess’s childhood friend, wealthy and very handsome single father Ryan Stevenson. As she works to uncover the mystery, will her true feelings for Ryan also be revealed?

“Make Me a Match” features youngest daughter Zoe, who is anticipating the opening of her new business, Cupid’s Arrow, a matchmaking service for the single residents of Smitten. But she’s run into a snag. Smitten has a new City Manager, William Singer, who claims her building is unsafe due to faulty electrical wiring. Zoe is annoyed by his warnings, and even more so by the fact that she’s attracted to this man who seems bent on shutting her business down before it even starts. Zoe goes ahead with her business launch, which does not end well. Now she needs to fix the mess she made --- not only with her matchmaking business, but with the man she’s realized might be the match for her.

In “Knit One, Love Two,” Anna is busy running her knitting shop and is introduced to Michael Conners, the son of one of her regular customers. Immediately she’s drawn to this handsome man, but because her husband abandoned her and her three daughters years ago, Anna doesn’t quite dare trust again. This is especially true when she keeps seeing Michael with Heather, the pretty single mother from town. When an opportunity to purchase some sheep for a new “spinning class” arises, Michael offers Anna his barn. He also offers her his heart. Will she let go of her fears and accept?

Finally, in “Love Blooms,” we get to know middle-child Clare. She recently broke up with her boyfriend, who had the nerve to call her boring. Just because she likes routine and thrives on a schedule does not mean she’s boring! But Clare can’t help thinking she’s destined to become a spinster. Enter Ethan Foster, a mysterious drifter looking for a job. Against her better judgment, Clare hires Ethan to work at the nursery she runs. Ethan exudes danger and excitement, which, for the first time ever, Clare finds herself drawn to. Now she must decide if she’s going to let her need for routine affect her ability to let go and find love.

Throughout all four of these stories is the continuing mystery of the mysterious dog tags, and the girls’ attempt to discover whether David Hutchins is, in fact, still alive. If so, they conspire to contact him and romantically reunite their grandmother with her long-lost love. Another plotline thread is the effort to bring the railway system back to Smitten, which would increase tourism even more.

SECRETLY SMITTEN is a light and enjoyable book that easily can be read in one afternoon. The main theme is the ability to find love, if only you’ll open yourself up to it. I personally enjoyed this second installment more than the first. I felt that the characters and the storylines were more interesting and better crafted. Although the shorter stories prevent much depth and character growth, each author stayed true to her genre and brought her talent to the table. Fans of sweet romance will surely find themselves smitten with this series. RETURN TO SMITTEN releases in January 2014.

Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab on February 13, 2013

Secretly Smitten
by Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, and Denise Hunter