It’s been two years since Brooke Holloway’s husband died in a car crash, leaving her the widowed mother of two kids, now ages 10 and 6. Still in the late stages of grieving, Brooke does her best to focus on caring for Spencer and Meghan, providing for them by running a hardware store. She also keeps a close eye on her aging mother, who, much to her dismay, has recently decided to move out of Brooke’s home and into a retirement community. Brooke is shocked when she receives a call from the retirement home office, informing her that her mom has been entertaining a man in her new apartment. Speaking of men, recently her best friend and her mother have started prodding Brooke to start dating again, but if there’s one thing she knows, it’s that she’s absolutely not ready to reenter the world of romance.
"Author Beth Wiseman, better known for her Amish fiction, weaves a wonderful contemporary tale that warms the heart. The characters have flaws and fears to which we can all relate. It’s an easy read, with elements of humor that are refreshing and fun."
Owen Saunders is recently divorced and a newcomer to Smithville, Texas. He has just purchased the old Hadley mansion for the sole purpose of spiting his cheating ex-wife, whose dream had always been to restore an old home in Smithsville. Now Virginia is pregnant with “the other man’s” baby. Adding insult to injury is the fact that even though Owen had always wanted to start a family, Virginia had always resisted. He feels that restoring the Hadley home and doing something his ex-wife had her heart set on is somehow justifiable retribution.
When Brooke and Owen meet, the spark is undeniable, but they resist. Brooke struggles with feelings of guilt over betraying her late husband by being attracted to another man. Owen has a bad taste in his mouth for all women at the moment, and is determined to include Brooke on that list, no matter how cute she is in a baseball cap.
Little do Brooke and Owen realize that they share a powerful bond; unfortunately, it is not a positive one. Each is harboring unforgiveness in their heart that is holding them back from their ability to love again. Brooke still harbors anger and resentment toward her father, who walked out on her mother and her when she was a little girl. When Brooke’s dad reenters her life, she is forced to deal with her unresolved anger once and for all. Owen tries to encourage her, but with the bitterness toward his ex-wife he’s still clinging to, he’s not exactly an expert on forgiveness.
THE HOUSE THAT LOVE BUILT takes a good look at how bitterness and resentment can take hold of our hearts and keep us from experiencing God’s best. It also shows the freedom and peace we receive when we let go of our anger and turn it over to the one who is capable of healing us completely.
An equally resounding theme is the significance of family. More than that, it also demonstrates how the definition of “family” isn’t always cut and dried. One of my favorite sub-plots involves a teenager from a low-income and troubled home, whom Owen takes under his wing by hiring to help with his house repairs. The way Owen connects with the boy, and the character growth the teen experiences, tugs at the heartstrings and reminds us how far a little encouragement and care can go in reconstructing a lifetime of damage and pain.
Brooke and Owen’s romance is sweet and genuine. Author Beth Wiseman, better known for her Amish fiction, weaves a wonderful contemporary tale that warms the heart. The characters have flaws and fears to which we can all relate. It’s an easy read, with elements of humor that are refreshing and fun. One example that comes to mind is at the beginning of the story, when Brooke receives flowers from a mystery man. Her son Spencer assumes they are from Owen, and he is not happy about it. Spencer hunts down Owen and tells him a ridiculous story about his mom, in an attempt to thwart Owen’s attraction to her. It’s a cute and imaginative scene that provides a good chuckle.
THE HOUSE THAT LOVE BUILT is the perfect title for this book. The Hadley mansion represents the physical house that love built, but it’s the hearts and lives of the characters in the story that receive the biggest transformation of all.
Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab on May 17, 2013