By Toni Shiloh
Freedom Lake #1
Jo Ellen Baker is shocked to find out that the boy who teased her mercilessly throughout high school, has returned to their hometown of Freedom Lake, and he’s missing a leg. When his mother asks her to renovate their carriage house to give him a place to gain his independence back, she wants to say no. But one look at him brings a rush of forgotten feelings.
Evan Carter can’t believe he has to return home and live with his parents. Every hope and dream he ever had dissipated in a car crash that cost him his leg. Stuck in a wheelchair, he’s forced to reexamine his relationship with God and the local carpenter, Jo Ellen Baker.
Will renovating his home open the door for a mended relationship, or are some wounds too deep to heal from?
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I enjoyed this story very much and am glad to have discovered the writing of Toni Shiloh. On the surface, Returning Home seems like a sweet contemporary romance, but there’s a lot of emotion, complexity, and spiritual depth to explore. Set in the picturesque lakeside community of Freedom Lake, this relationship-driven story has appealing leading characters in Jo and Evan, as well as strong secondary characters.
I loved that we’re not given “perfect” characters in Evan and Jo. Not only does Evan wrestle with his current disability, but much of the action reflects back to his high school days when he was a popular athlete and just plain cruel to his former friend Jo. Were I in Jo’s place, I would have had trouble forgiving the past also. And then there’s the strained relationships with her sister and mom. Lots of emotional tension drives this entertaining story.
Returning Home reminds me of how God places people in our lives and patiently works through them. Both Evan and Jo had drifted away from God, but were recipients of truth spoken in love from friends and family. Evan let fear lead him, something that many of us can relate to, and doubted that he would ever be more than a burden.
God’s grace was more than he could fathom, but he wasn’t
going to let that prevent him from accepting it.
In a time when a lot of Christian fiction distances itself from overt spiritual themes, a strength of this story for me actually was its spiritual themes, for it beautifully conveys the intersection of faith and life – dealing with bitterness and regrets, letting go of the past, discovering a God that never leaves us alone. Returning Home is a heartwarming story of ordinary people in ordinary situations – a story of grace, forgiveness, and transformation. I enjoyed every moment spent with these characters and look forward to returning to Freedom Lake.
I was provided a free copy of this book through Singing Librarian Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness.
She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and president of the Virginia Chapter.
You can find her on her website at http://tonishiloh.wordpress.com.
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