Until I Found You
By Victoria Bylin
Bethany House, 2014
Finding each other was only the beginning . . .
When Kate Darby swerves off a mountain road to avoid hitting a California condor, she ends up trapped in her car, teetering on the edge of a cliff. Terrified, she breathes a prayer that changes her life.
It's Nick Sheridan who comes to Kate's rescue. Nick is handsome and confident, and he seems to develop a habit of rescuing her, but Kate is in town only until her grandmother recuperates from a stroke. She's not planning to get involved with one of the locals.
Nick is a reformed veteran of life in the fast lane, a new Christian, and a travel writer. When he sees a car dangling on the edge of a cliff, the daredevil in him jumps into action. He doesn't expect to be swept off his feet by the car's occupant. He's made a vow--no dating for a year--but keeping that vow is going to be a lot more difficult now that he's met Kate Darby.
Victoria Bylin has written several western romances in the Love Inspired Historical line, but Until I Found You is her first full-length contemporary romance and is a new author to me. I guess I was expecting another entertaining, but typical, romance - yet this is so much more. Victoria has a distinctive ability when it comes to combining setting, characterization, romance, environmental elements, and spiritual themes. The Christian element flows throughout, and just feels real and compelling. The story entertains, but also informs and makes you think. Until I Found You touched me greatly.
The setting is the small town of Meadows, California, located in the Los Padres National Forest, and I have to say that Victoria creates a feel for place as good as any author I've ever read - from Leona's cabin with its 300 daffodil bulbs located in the shadow of Mount Abel, to the winding roads with hairpin turns in San Miguel canyon, to the nature blind where Nick and Kate watched a condor courting ritual.
"God had a sense of humor, because He'd taken one of the
biggest sinners in California and turned him into a monk."
Nick, Kate and Leona are strong, well developed and realistic characters who remain in my thoughts. Nick is a reporter/travel writer who has "the posture of a soldier, the ease of a cowboy, and the daring of a pirate," according to Kate - and he considers traffic violations a business expense. Kate, a designer of ad campaigns, despises uncertainty and prefers to be in control. Leona, Kate's grandmother, is an independent spirit who struggles with accepting help and making some tough medical decisions.
One of the most moving parts is the condor theme which is woven throughout, beginning with Kate's grandfather, told through Leona's journals, and experienced personally by Kate in the first chapter. The California condor was . . . "a bird that isn't pleasing to the eye yet still is beautiful; a bird that mates for life; a bird that faced extinction and was given new life by a power greater than itself."
But most of all, Until I Found You is a story of spiritual transformation and growth - a grandmother seeking to help her granddaughter find her way, a new Christian struggling to get past the guilt and temptations from his old ways, and a seeker trying to knock on the right door. Victoria writes out of a deep faith and uses story to make us look within and ask, where do we put our faith? God, ourselves, or other people? My faith grows stronger with each passing year, yet I can still find myself dealing with these same questions. And then there's the ever necessary theme of trust, that only God sees the upper story, that "much of life is beyond our understanding - but we have the choice to believe life is a string of random events or that God has a plan in our lives."
"Kate needs to fall in love with the Lord before she falls
in love with you. Because if she falls for you first, God help her.
You'll let her down, and she'll have nowhere to go."
- Nick's brother, Sam
Last of all, there's the romance between Nick and Kate, who cared about each other from the very first - and that's something I like to see. Faith is the main barrier between them and it's so enjoyable to see them grow, both emotionally and spiritually. I loved Nick's poignant words to Kate and wanted to share them:
"Nothing can change how I feel about you. Nothing. I'd take a bullet for you, walk on hot coals. I'll watch chick flicks and hold your purse at the mall. When babies come, I'll rub your feet, and when we're old and gray, I'll love you even more than I do now. But I can't stand here and say, 'Do whatever makes you happy,' because happy is temporary. I want us to have more, Kate. I want us to have joy."
I enjoyed every minute spent reading this story. If Victoria continues to write in the style of Until I Found You, I will continue to read and highly recommend her books. 5 stars all the way!
Until I Found You can be purchased online at Amazon, CBD, DeeperShopping, and B&N.
Victoria Bylin is a romance author acclaimed for her realistic and relatable characters. Her books have finaled in multiple contests, including the Carol Awards, the RITAs, and RT Magazine's Reviewers Choice Award. A native of California, Vicki and her husband now make their home in Lexington, Kentucky, where their family and their crazy little dog, Hartley, keep them on the go.
Meet Victoria online at victoriabylin.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Thank you to Bethany House for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.