The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck (2017) by Bethany Turner is a phenomenal stand-alone novel. This may be one of the BEST books I have ever read! This novel was just released on October 3, 2017. This book comes in all forms including eBook, and is 297 pages in length. With a full-time job and a very busy five-year old, this story took me three days to read. I received a free copy of this novel directly from the publisher, Revell of the Baker Publishing Group. In no way has this influenced my opinions of the story. All opinions expressed in this review are mine. I give this novel 5+++ STARS. This story is a Contemporary Christian Romance.
About the Book
Becoming a Christian is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Sarah Hollenbeck. Best because, well, that’s obvious. Worst because, up to this point, she’s made her very comfortable living as a well-known, bestselling author of steamy romance novels that would leave the members of her new church blushing. Now Sarah is trying to reconcile her past with the future she’s chosen. She’s still under contract with her publisher and on the hook with her enormous fan base for the kind of book she’s not sure she can write anymore. She’s beginning to think that the church might frown on her tithing on royalties from a “scandalous” book. And the fact that she’s falling in love with her pastor doesn’t make things any easier.
With a powerful voice, penetrating insight, and plenty of wit, Bethany Turner explodes onto the scene with a debut that isn’t afraid to deal with the thorny realities of living the Christian life.
I absolutely adore this book. This is a book that I will save and come back to again and again when I need a great laugh. As a debut novel, this book really knocks it out of the park. It has everything a reader could want: a hilarious female lead, a stunningly handsome hero, a really great best friend who is not afraid to tell it like it is, a passionate romance, a few moments of tears, and SO much comedy.
This is one of the most realistic Christian fiction novels I have ever read. The main character, Sarah, has an amazing, genuine, and powerful voice. She is honest in her observations and in her emotions. And, she is one of the funniest female leads I have read since Paige in Then There Was You by Kara Isaac. She is so refreshing! At the start of this novel, Sarah is a divorcee who has a lot of money and a lot of time on her hands, but she is missing an identity. She was the beautiful trophy wife to Patrick, a man she had been with since high school, but cannot claim this anymore. So, in an attempt to find who she is, Sarah joins a lot of book clubs. It is at one of these book clubs that Sarah meets Piper, the woman who will become her best friend and a solid helper in Sarah’s newfound walk with God. Piper is amazing. She is that one best friend who tells it like it is and holds no truth back. The interactions between Sarah and Piper are some of the best parts in this book!
One aspect I really love about this book is the complexity to Sarah’s brand new walk with God. As with anything new, people really want to do well so they pour their hearts and souls into the thing. I love the child-like simplicity that Sarah illustrates as she is trying to figure out what life as a Christian should be. One moment that really struck me deals with tithing. When Sarah reads in the Bible about tithing, and then hears a sermon preached on the topic, she gives her 10% without blinking. God said give it, so she gives it. I really love that. This is an excellent reminder for me in regards to how I need to approach God every day — in child-like simplicity with my whole heart ready to give to Him. Love this message so much! BUT, at the same time, Sarah is very honest in showing her struggle to leave her old life behind. Some of the difficulty stems from just being new and not knowing things. That just takes time and some good Bible reading and studying. But, some of the difficulty stems from the fact that old habits and thought patterns are hard to shake. I really like that Ms. Turner illustrates this complexity. Walking on God’s path can be really hard. I like so much that Ms. Turner doesn’t sugar coat or white wash this fact, and instead shows that walking with God is really a day-to-day heart matter that sometimes includes struggles and slips.
The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck is a wonderful experience. I could seriously go on and on, but I’m afraid that in my excitement I would spill a spoiler moment. I would hate to do that. Suffice it to say, I cannot recommend this story enough. It is SO well written, the characters are perfect, and the plot is so engaging. I laughed out loud throughout most of the story, and even teared up a few times. This book is so good! Run to your nearest store, or go online to Amazon, and buy this book. You will not be disappointed that you did!!!