Monday, March 7, 2016

Review: Where She Belongs

Where She Belongs
By Johnnie Alexander
Misty Willow, #1
Revell, 2016


Can love redeem a broken past?

Shelby Kincaid is ready to move forward after the death of her husband left her devastated. With high hopes for the future, she longs to purchase her family's homestead, Misty Willow, so she can raise her young daughters in the only place she ever truly belonged. She plans to transform the abandoned house into the perfect home of her memories. But she has her work cut out for her.

AJ Sullivan never wanted Shelby's family homestead in the first place. His grandfather left it to him as punishment for not following his wishes, and he's let it fall into ruin. AJ's more than happy to unload it to this spitfire of a woman. But even after angry exchanges over the state of the house, he can't get her off his mind.

With writing that evokes a strong sense of place and family history, Johnnie Alexander deftly explores the ties that bind us to home--and the irresistible forces that draw us to each other.

My thoughts

Where She Belongs is an elegantly crafted, compelling story about coming home, and I was absorbed emotionally from the very first page. As the beautiful cover picturing AJ and Shelby by the engagement tree promises, romance plays a major part – but so much more is hidden within its depths! This is a story of family and of legacy, with characters so real and approachable that I literally wanted to join them. There’s something unusual about this novel, something that elevates it above other comparable stories. And I found it totally unpredictable, for just when I began to feel comfortable with the direction things were going, another twist came from out of nowhere.

Feuding families, holding on to anger, unscrupulous family members, a love triangle, and a house that almost feels like a major character are just a few things you will find within these pages. Also present are themes of legacy, a troubled past that casts a long shadow and shapes future generations, consequences of actions, and forgiveness. Family history is woven throughout the narrative in a way that adds a touch of mystery and tension.

Shelby and AJ are well-drawn characters that I loved, and we see how they are shaped by their family legacies. While Shelby had loving grandparents and parents who were missionaries, AJ’s grandfather was a shrewd businessman whose “acumen was rooted in vengeful ruthlessness” – and his parents fought and divorced. I also adored Shelby’s children and AJ’s dog, Lila.

I find it so easy to form attachments to physical things, so I appreciated the twist on the “coming home” theme that Johnnie incorporates through this favorite verse of Shelby’s grandmother:  “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:19). Shelby gradually came to realize her “spacious place” might be much more than a physical place as she reflected on the words of AJ's grandmother . . . “God delights in you, darling girl. He will take away your heartache and bring you into a spacious place where all will be well.”

AJ’s cousins are real characters – and not in a good way throughout most of the story. I found myself asking if it was possible for Brett and Amy to change, only to realize that if not, then there’s not much hope for any of us. Brett still has a long way to go, but I loved how Johnnie brings in the theme of transformation and eagerly anticipate his story next in When Love Arrives.

Johnnie’s previous novel is a World War II story entitled Where Treasure Hides that I also enjoyed (click on title to see my review), although I am glad she has turned to contemporary with this series. When contemporary romance/women’s fiction is done well, it is one of my favorite genres, and Johnnie's writing sparkles. Where She Belongs is excellent in every way and goes on my “best of the best” list. Highly recommended.

Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Johnnie Alexander is the award-winning author of Where Treasure Hides and Where She Belongs. Johnnie is an accomplished essayist and poet whose work has appeared in the Guideposts anthology A Cup of Christmas Cheer. In addition to writing, she enjoys reading, spending time with her grandchildren, and taking road trips. She lives near Memphis, Tennessee.

Connect with Johnnie online . . .


  1. I very much enjoyed this book too! Wonderful review, Carole :)

  2. Another book for the to-read list . . . excellent review. Thanks, Carole.

  3. This is a gorgeous cover - and it sounds like the story is just as good! Can't wait for a chance to read it! Thanks so much for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on this week!