Grace A. Johnson
Review: To Bring You Back by Emily Conrad
Synopsis: Gannon Vaughn, the lead singer of rock band Awestruck who’s beloved the world over, was just rolled into town...the very same town where Adeline Green, his ex-bassist, old friend, and the girl who stole his heart, lives. When their paths collide for the first time in years, will sparks fly? Or will the ghosts of days gone by come back to haunt them?
Here we go again, writing a review literally only five minutes after finishing the book. (Do I procrastinate...or just work better under pressure? I’ll let the jury decide. *winks*) Fortunately, my thoughts on To Bring You Back are a little more defined. For example, I can tell you right of the bat that this was a solid story.
To be honest, the first half dragged and just seemed really repetitive—just Adeline whining about Gannon, mainly—BUT the second half picked up, weaving in many more elements and kicking things up a notch. In the end, the only qualm I have with the plot is that there were two issues (by the names of Harper and Matt) that were unresolved. My favorite part of the plot, though, was definitely the last ten percent...where Adeline and Gannon had a separation period. I used to hate them, because it seemed like the author was just dragging out the inevitable, but when done right (emphasis on right, because some people really do just drag it out), they’re actually very integral to the story, specifically character development and the romance.
This was one such case. Adeline and Gannon definitely needed some time off to complete their arcs—which were both so well-done! Even though I couldn’t connect with Adeline (like, at all), I still respected her and appreciated her struggles and her arc so much! (There was a reason for all that whining, believe it or not.) And Gannon! He was just the best. Crazily enough, I didn’t fall for him like I thought I would have...but I admired him SO MUCH! His character was the kind we rarely get to see—a genuine Christian male who’s imperfect but has a deep relationship with God. It seems like so many heroes in Christian fiction are missing one or more of those elements—either they’re entirely imperfect or entirely too sanctimonious. I need a realistic balance, and Gannon gave me that and more with his beautiful love for God and his nuggets of wisdom!
Granted, I felt like he could be a little gruff sometimes (not in the best way, though), which was probably for plot purposes…
The secondary characters? Spot-on! I can’t wait to read more about them!
The best part of all, though? The themes. They were exquisite. Conrad wasn’t afraid to ask hard questions or give tougher answers. She was biblical and honest about everything from sexual immorality to grace to repentance to living for God...and I loved it! I guess you’d call this story preachy because the themes were so obvious, but here’s the thing. It all entwined so well. The themes were made for the characters, for the story, for the plot...and not the other way around. It was perfectly woven together, and it flowed authentically!
(Because, yes, preachy doesn’t mean overtly Christian or full of sermons...it means droning on about issues that don’t actually pertain to the story. Like if a character went on a spiel about wearing masks when the story has nothing do to with that, and it’s obvious that the author is just using the character and the book to enforce their opinion. Make sense? Good. Glad we cleared that up.)
More than that, the themes and messages and character arcs were a part of the plot and premise and story...not a separate entity. Everything was interlaced perfectly, flowing together so smoothly! Considering most books seem to throw in a message or skimp on the character arc or change up the plot just because they can...I really, really appreciated that.
Y’all know what else I appreciated?
Premarital sex was portrayed as a sin. A grievous sin, in fact...but not an unforgivable one. I absolutely loved how Conrad gave Adeline and Gannon guilt, shame, and consequences to wrestle with, being honest about how sexual immorality affects you, those around you, and your relationship with God. I also loved how she didn’t just throw that in for scandalous backstory...it was the story. The message of hope, forgiveness, restoration, true grace...that was the story. And it was beautiful!
(Plus, no sexism here! Gannon and Adeline were both equally at fault, and the idea of Gannon having other flings wasn’t portrayed as “just what guys do” or “a part of life” or “something he regretted.” Gannon remained pure—which was amazing to see, even though he had sinned once before...which actually made that even more meaningful, in a way—and everyone acknowledged that premarital sex is downright wrong. Even if it’s a famous guy.)
Anyway. Rant over. *coughs*
On a technical level...the writing was great! Nothing to write home about, I suppose, but evenly balanced and smooth! Nothing seemed to be lacking or dry or stilted, which was lovely!
I will say this...I STILL possess this annoying pet peeve for stories about famous people—ESPECIALLY rock stars. For starters, rock was so twenty years ago (make that thirteen...2009 was the last good year rock had). I hate reading stories about rock musicians when the only famous rock musicians out there are the ones that have been around since 1986 (*glares at Goo-Goo Dolls*). When will we get stories about POP SINGERS, for gosh’s sake? Pop is what’s in style, people. Has been since—you guessed it—2009 and the dawn of mah man Justin Bieber.
(And all of this is coming from a girl who hates pop and listens to that lovely 2000s rock. My personal music tastes aside, I need realism.)
Still, my pet peeves don’t inhibit me from enjoying a good, strong story—which is exactly what To Bring You Back was! Everything, from the arcs to the themes to the pacing, was on-point, and it all came together to create a beautiful story about love and redemption!
(Seriously, though, what would it take to make these out-of-time rockstars real? I’d love some new quality rock music. Just sayin’. Speaking of...I totally need to make a soundtrack for this book. I’ve already got a few songs picked out. You’ll find two of them name-dropped in the synopsis I gave! Drop the titles in the comments if you found ‘em!)
Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher, publicist, or author, including NetGalley and CelebrateLit Publicity. All opinions expressed are my own.
about the book
He’s determined to confront the past she’s desperate to forget.
Broke in more ways than one, the last thing Adeline Green can afford is for her now-famous high school crush to descend on her quiet life.
People in the small town of Lakeshore, Wisconsin, think of her as the hard-working church secretary or as the local food truck’s lunch-hour cashier. They’d never suspect the shame she’s hiding.
She attended high school with both the lead singer and the drummer of the rock band, Awestruck. In fact, she used to play in the band herself, but that was back before Awestruck made it big—and before her relationship with lead singer Gannon Vaughn took a turn that ultimately led to tragedy and heartbreak.
She’s living a different life now, but when Gannon shows up, he brings with him a public spotlight that threatens to expose her deepest regret. The closer she gets to him, the more she risks the carefully curated life that’s finally brought her a measure of peace.
Gannon Vaughn and his rock band, Awestruck, have conquered the music industry, but he can’t overcome his feelings for Adeline.
She may have been right to cut off contact between them years ago, but thanks to the grace of God, he’s a changed man. When he hears Adeline’s struggling, he sets out to turn her life around and win back the love he lost to poor choices eight years ago.
But when Gannon’s fame and their mutual regrets jeopardize their relationship anew, will grace be enough to bring them back to God and each other?
A meaningful Christian romance with a side of fame and fortune for readers who enjoy faith-filled escapes and happily-ever-afters where no one is beyond hope of redemption.
(Dang, that is one looooong blurb. *coughs* To Bring You Back is a contemporary Christian romance that released August 16th, 2021!)
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about the author
Emily Conrad writes contemporary Christian romance that explores life’s relevant questions. Though she likes to think some of her characters are pretty great, the ultimate hero of her stories (including the one she’s living) is Jesus. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and their energetic coonhound rescue. Learn more about her and her books at emilyconradauthor.com.
a word from the author
A Guilty Pleasure with a Purpose
When a reader called the Rhythms of Redemption Romances a guilty pleasure, I had to smile because that’s exactly what To Bring You Back, the first book in the series, was to me as I wrote it.
Don’t get me wrong, To Bring You Back is firmly Christian fiction, and it’s not “guilty” of being blush-inducing. Because of the characters’ history, theirs is a slow-burn romance that focuses more on the emotional side of their relationship than the physical.
But, To Bring You Back is a rock star romance.
When I first started writing it, I was embarrassed to admit that’s what I was working on.
After all, rock star romance has a reputation for being an unrealistic and shallow escape from reality with “guilty pleasure” written all over it.
Maybe there was some of that escapism going on. At that point in my writing journey, I was dealing with disillusionment, and I enjoyed the break of writing about rich and famous characters.
However, as I wrote To Bring You Back and went on to read others’ romances about famous characters, I found that the characters’ occupations and net worth don’t impact the most important elements of their stories.
The tales can still showcase meaningful relationships and God at work in the lives of people who—rich and famous or not—need redemption.
Fame, money, and music help up the entertainment value, but those same features add even more rich conflict to explore.
The men of Awestruck, starting with lead singer Gannon Vaughn in To Bring You Back, have allowed me to ask questions like: How good is grace? What does it mean to live in forgiveness? What gives a person worth? And, when is living the dream no longer worth the price?
To write this post, I took a break from working on the first draft of the final book in the series, and it’s been fun to look back and see how much my opinion of these stories has changed.
If To Bring You Back and the books that follow are a guilty pleasure, they’re a guilty pleasure with a purpose. God has worked in my life through them.
It’s my prayer that He’ll also use them in your life, both to explore meaningful questions and to provide a few hours of entertaining escape.
lakesidelivingsite, April 25
The Sacred Line, April 25
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, April 26
Inklings and notions, April 27
Remembrancy, April 28
Wishful Endings, April 28
Texas Book-aholic, April 29
deb’s Book Review, April 30
For Him and My Family, May 1
Spoken from the Heart, May 1
Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, May 2
Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, May 3
Miriam Jacob, May 3
Locks, Hooks and Books, May 4
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, May 5
Britt Reads Fiction, May 5
Happily Managing a Household of Boys, May 6
Simple Harvest Reads, May 7 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)
Pause for Tales, May 8
Of Blades and Thorns, May 8
Before we go, I just wanna say happy Mother's Day! I hate that this post is going up on a holiday, but such is the way of life! I hope y'all enjoyed reading my review and - WAIT! What's this? Emily Conrad is hosting a giveaway in honor of her tour?
Yep! Before y'all go, make sure you enter this HERE giveaway for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card and an e-copy of To Bring You Back!
Good luck and have a blessed day!
yours in spirit and script,
#review #bookreview #blogtour #giveaway #contemporary #romance #christianfiction