When I Fall in Love: A Christiansen Family Novel
Grace Christiansen is a small-town girl and likes it that way. At least, she thinks she does. Grace loves her hometown of Deep Haven, where she is surrounded by familiarity and the comfort of family and friends. Venturing out into the world has never occurred to her. But then Grace’s family surprises her with a ticket to Hawaii for a “cooking retreat” as a thank-you for catering her sister’s wedding --- and also a gentle push for her to step out of her comfort zone and perhaps find the “more” that God has for her. Grace resists, not wanting to leave the safety and security she has always known. But since receiving word that she did not get into the culinary academy to which she had applied, she bites the bullet and heads to Hawaii for this perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, in spite of her fears.
Max Sharpe is a professional hockey player who assisted his team to the Stanley Cup finals --- and also possesses an unlikely passion for cooking. He is looking forward to his annual cooking retreat in Hawaii. That is, until Jace, his teammate and friend, informs him that Jace’s sister-in-law, Grace Christiansen, also will be attending the retreat. Jace asks Max to meet Grace at the airport and at least make sure she arrives safely in Hawaii. Max is annoyed, not only because he was looking forward to a solitary vacation and the last thing he wants is to “babysit,” but also because of his not-so-pleasant history with Grace’s brother, Owen.
"From the dialogue to the plot, each element is top-notch, and I found myself immersed in the lives of the characters. Sensitive issues are handled with honesty and realism."
Max and Grace somehow miss each other at the airport, but end up sitting next to each other on the plane. While Grace doesn’t exactly make a winning first impression, the initial sparks of attraction between them are ignited. What follows is an adventurous and fun two weeks of cooking school, a reality television competition, and a romance neither one of them saw coming.
But Max has a secret, and despite his feelings for Grace, he pulls away. He tells himself he is protecting her by not pursuing a relationship he can never live up to, but deep down he realizes it’s his own fear that’s preventing him from fully opening his heart to a possible future with the woman he loves.
Meanwhile, back in Deep Haven, another relationship is developing between Casper Christiansen and new-girl-in-town Raina Beaumont. Casper’s family cautions him to tread carefully, while Raina’s aunt warns her to protect her heart. This is advice both find difficult to follow.
WHEN I FALL IN LOVE is the third novel in the Christiansen Family series. Despite not reading the first two books, I found this one easy to follow. While backstory from the others is brought up several times, it only served to pique my interest in getting my hands on the previous titles to learn how the other relationships developed. But this book certainly stands alone, and I thoroughly enjoyed Max and Grace’s story.
This also was my first Susan May Warren novel, and it won’t be my last. Warren is an excellent writer, whose storytelling style is fun, authentic and heartfelt. From the dialogue to the plot, each element is top-notch, and I found myself immersed in the lives of the characters. Sensitive issues are handled with honesty and realism. The faith aspect is woven throughout without being preachy, but offers hope and grace for weaknesses, flaws and sin.
Overall, WHEN I FALL IN LOVE likely will make readers fall in love…with the Christiansen family, the series, and this author. ALWAYS ON MY MIND, the fourth book, which promises to focus on Casper and Raina’s journey, is scheduled for release in 2015.
Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab on August 13, 2014