Review: The Secret of Emerald Cottage by Julie Lessman
Welcome to the blog tour for The Secret of Emerald Cottage - my favorite author Julie Lessman's latest release! (Which I gushed about here a couple months back!) Today, I've got it all - a review, a giveaway, fun quotes (graphics designed by the author)! But let's not waste time, y'all!
#1 This is a long review, so pull up a chair and grab a bowl of popcorn. You’ll be here awhile. #2 When I read a review, I want substantial information. So I will not skimp on the details. Which may mean some spoilers, so watch out.
Wow, y’all, I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve written a review for a Julie Lessman novel. A whole bloomin’ year, actually, and suffice it to say my reviewing style has changed. I tend to be a little more...coherent than I was this time last year.
That said, I have no plans of being coherent today.
Julie Lessman wrote a mystery. She finally, after writing books for a dozen years, wrote a mystery. Considering how much I rattle on about her ability to amp up the suspense and drive you nuts with red herrings, y’all know I’m pretty darn pleased about that. I am. I am very, very pleased.
In typical Lessman fashion, she stuck with her rakish Irishmen, prudish heroines, and hilarious old ladies. And, on top of that, she took me back to where I first fell in love with her books, Isle of Hope.
Yes indeedy, this book is a spin-off of the infamous Isle of Hope series, don’t you know, and I felt right at home on Lake Loon with Miss Lily (from His Steadfast Love) and the rest of the gang—including Chase and Cat Griffin and Pastor Dave, and some cameo appearances from Ben Carmichael *swoons*, Shannon Cunningham, and Lacey O’Brien!
Of course, Julie introduces two newbies...gun-toting retired Navy nurse and old friend of Chase’s, Molly Stewart (who is, like, her first non-Irish character ever...well, since Alex Kincaid; I don’t think he was Irish...but anyway), and Miss Lily’s wayward great-nephew, the notorious soccer star, Breccan McGill.
Number one, you can’t go wrong with a heroine who packs. Like, seriously, I cannot count how many times I have begged heroines in novels of all sorts to carry a blasted gun. Just think of all the muggings and attempted assaults and annoying people we could avoid…
ANYWAY. Where was I? Oh, yes…
Naturally, Molly was awesome. I mean, she wasn’t Charity...which was a bummer. Y’all know how much I love Charity. *pouts * But for a non-Charity character, Molly wasn’t half bad. She was so sweet with Miss Lily and just fit right in with the original Hopers (which is what I’mma call the citizens/characters of Isle of Hope). I still think she was a little young to have been through everything she had...but maybe not. I dunno.
Then there was Brec. *sighs * He was...well, Irish. What more can I say? To be honest, he wasn’t my favorite of Julie’s heroes. He’s down there with Sean and Steven and Brady and Jack and...yeah...he’s not Mitch or Luke. I’ll put it like that. But what he lacked in Mitch-ness, he more than made up for in culinary skills. I’m tellin’ y’all, that man could cook! And Julie’s descriptions of food...augh. My mouth’s watering just thinking about it.
As my friend Sophia pointed out, Brec was very different from most of Julie’s heroes. How, I can’t explain, but he does have a different aura about it. I think it’s all those Irish sayings myself, but who knows! Not a bad aura, no, just...different. Same goes for Molly. You know, the whole book did have a whiff of uniqueness about it. I wonder why… Come to think of it, it might be because this is her first ever full-fledged mystery!
I haven’t mentioned that yet, have I? I have? Oh, well, we all needed the reminder.
Mainly because we’re all wondering how did Julie Lessman pull off a romantic suspense? Did she keep her focus on the romance and leave the suspense/mystery hanging? Or did she skimp on character development to work on fine-tuning her plot?
To answer your questions, dear intrigued reader-to-be, no. No, she didn’t. She did exactly what she always does: delivers a story with strong, in-depth characters and a well-developed, engaging plot that is always authentically driven by the characters. It sounds preposterous for a mystery/suspense to be so character-oriented, but, y’all, Julie Lessman can do anything she puts her mind to!
I’ll be honest with y’all, though. As much as I enjoy a good mystery, I still prefer her straight up romances. Augh the feels in those things. Anyway, I personally think she balanced the romance and the suspense very well...PLUS SHE GAVE US A CAT AND CHASE SCENE. I HAVE BEEN WANTING ONE OF THOSE SINCE I FIRST FINISHED HIS STEADFAST LOVE AND SHE FINALLY GAVE ME ONE. I AM SO HAPPY AND OVERJOYED AND YEEEESSSSS.
Anyway… I need to get a grip, don’t I?
And the spirituality. That’s one thing Julie Lessman never shies away from, not even when she ventures into the world of suspense (which I’ve found to be quite lax in the sermon department). You’ve got Miss Lily and Molly preaching, with the lovely themes of forgiveness, freedom, and truth interwoven with the story! Perfect for a mystery, am I right?
I am. As per usual. *winks*
Back on the mystery subject, y’all. This woman did it up right with all the twists and turns and red herrings and my goodness! As soon as you think you’ve got it all figured out, Sloan shows up to tell you otherwise.
SPEAKING OF. She did it again, you guys. She gave us a love triangle with two fellers ya love to pieces and a heroine who can’t seem to pick the right one! And here’s the thing...they both seemed right. Like, you know who she’s gonna end up with, and you’re rooting for them all the way, but she’s so good with the other option and you’d be pleased with whomever she chose, you know? She did the same thing with Faith, Collin, and Mitch, and Jack, Lacey, and Chase, and, well, pretty much everyone, come to think of it. She’s really, really good at those love triangle/square/never-ending line things.
I say all that to say that I loved Sloan. Sure, I glowered at him along with Brec sometimes, but for the most part, I loved him. I’m crazy excited to read his story!
One thing I want to point out was how Julie wrote Brec’s redemption arc (and, no, this doesn’t count as a spoiler). What struck me the first time I read it (as a beta-reader) was that his “come to Jesus” moment was very short and quick, as if he were simply acquiescing to Aunt Lily’s request. Then, reading it again, I realized how realistically she wrote his salvation and sanctification.
You see, Brec admitted that he always believed in God, so that wasn’t the issue. He’d even accepted Jesus into his heart when he was eight...but somewhere along the way, he lost his faith. (His faith, mind you, not his salvation. You can’t lose that.) Anyway, per Aunt Lily’s prodding and a bit of his own conviction, he rededicated his life to Christ. Even still, my man’s got issues with everything from jealousy and anger to unforgiveness to abstinence. That just doesn’t seem right, though. I mean, he’s saved, he’s committed to living for Jesus. Why in the world is he struggling with all this junk and is so ill-prepared to follow God’s precepts?
Um...because he’s human? Because we all do the exact same thing. We accept Christ but not the change He brings. We refuse to examine ourselves and purge our hearts, thinking that we’re all good just because we’re Christians. Wrong. We are constantly in need of laying down our lives and our selfish desires, constantly called to repentance, and are constantly being restored in multiple areas of our lives as we embark on the journey of santification.
So, anyway, yes. I loved the way she portrayed Brec’s slow process of leaving the wide way to destruction and starting to walk on the straight and narrow!
Long story short, The Secret of Emerald Cottage was a Julie Lessman mystery and it really doesn’t get any better than that! Unlike most suspense writers, she placed a lot of her focus on character development, but she never let the plot weaken or go by the wayside, like some romance writers do! As always, she churned out another engaging novel that will leave you breathless—only this time with suspense!
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy from the author in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Snag Your Copy!
Want to win a $50 Amazon gift card, a signed paperback of The Secret of Emerald Cottage (or choice of Julie Lessman's books), a character named for you or a loved one (great birthday/Christmas gift!) in her next book, A Hope and a Prayer, which releases early next spring and a signed paperback of that book? Just head on over to JULIE LESSMAN’S BLOG for all the details and GOOD LUCK!
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About the Author
Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. A lover of all things Irish, she enjoys writing close-knit Irish family sagas that evolve into 3-D love stories: the hero, the heroine, and the God that brings them together.
Author of The Daughters of Boston, Winds of Change, Heart of San Francisco, Isle of Hope, and Silver Lining Ranch series, Julie was American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and has garnered over 21 Romance Writers of America and other awards.
Voted #1 Romance Author in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie’s novels also made Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2015, Best of 2014, and “Essential Christian Romance Authors” 2017, as well as Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and Borders Best Fiction. Her independent novel A Light in the Window was an International Digital Awards winner, a 2013 Readers’ Crown Award winner, and a 2013 Book Buyers Best Award winner, and her independent novel, Isle of Hope: Unfailing Love was listed on Family Fiction magazine’s “Top 15 Novels of 2015.”
Julie has also written a self-help workbook for writers entitled Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Sweet and Inspirational Markets. Contact Julie through her website and read excerpts from each of her books at www.julielessman.com.