When a big-hearted debutante collides with a small-town blacksmith set in his ways, it can mean only one thing—a war of hearts has come to Pine Creek.
Cameron Wallace thrives as both the blacksmith and the minister in his community of Pine Creek. Out of the fires of a chaotic childhood, he’s forged a peaceful life filled with safe relationships and predictable routines. But when the smithy he’s been renting is sold out from under him, the impulsive woman who buys it stokes the embers of emotions he’d rather keep unlit—and even has the audacity to lend a helping hand to his smithy work.
Samantha Klein has never been afraid to push boundaries when it comes to helping those whom society—and God—have overlooked, be they orphans, immigrants, or injured animals. When her latest attempt to aid a group of Chinese women lands her in a newspaper scandal, her high-society family sends her packing from Seattle. Setting out on her own, she purchases the Pine Creek smithy and hatches another plan for helping her immigrant friends. But only weeks after arriving in Pine Creek, her plan turns to ashes, and she’s overwhelmed by needs she can never hope to meet, including her own need to be seen and cared for. And the one who seems to understand her is the man who won’t let her anywhere near his heart, no matter the attraction that burns between them.
As Cameron struggles to find a new normal, and Samantha yearns for someone to share her burdens, old hurts and dangerous secrets make them both terrified to admit that what they need—and what God has planned for them—just might be each other.
Why This Book:
Well, if you have been following my blog at all, you know I am a serious fan of Sondra’s writing. If she wrote it, I’m there. Plus, this is the third installment in her Love That Counts series and I have basically been holding my breath since reading the second book, Two Ways Home. I cannot tell you how excited I am to get to read this book!
Opening Line (from Chapter 1):
Seattle, Washington, July 9, 1892
The first stars pricked through the sky’s fading canvas as Samantha Klein approached the intersection of Washington and First Avenue, looked both ways, and crossed a line.
The book opens with a high-stakes scene where Samantha is placing herself at risk to visit a group of women (and a young boy) in Seattle’s Chinatown. I so want to tell you what happens next, but of course, I won’t spoil it. Let’s just say, you won’t want to stop reading.
Samantha “Sam” Klein – She is undeniably a misfit in her world but in all the right ways. As intelligent as she is beautiful, her impulsiveness combines with her hugely compassionate heart to get her into many delightfully troubling situations. Her character is richly drawn, with a past that colors her present in ways she doesn’t even recognize at first. Watching her develop and grow as the story progresses is something I think readers will particularly enjoy.
Cameron “Cam” Wallace – Yes, their nicknames rhyme and that is mentioned in the story, but it is neither overdone nor the focus of the story by any means. It is just one more stick in the fire of their relationship. Similar to Sam, Cameron doesn’t realize how much his past affects his behavior. He thinks he has things nicely handled and planned out. Until Samantha arrives. She is exactly what he needs to show him the cracks in his “perfect” life. I enjoyed watching his real struggle to come to grips with certain revelations and learn to move forward.
David Brown – He’s the nearly-grown son of the interfering, love-to-hate-him Mayor of Pine Creek, Johnston Brown, and he is struggling with the typical issues that go with his age and an overbearing father.
Fa Feiyan – Mother of seven-year-old Wang Yong and self-appointed guardian of sixteen-year-old Ya Wen, she struggles with not letting her legitimate fears for the safety of those she cares about rule her life.
Barrett “Bear” Clarke – The hero from book one in this series is back as Cameron’s best friend and local rancher. It’s great to see his and Claire’s story progress, as well as to see more of his relationship with Cameron.
Luke Thomas – The hero from book two in this series, he’s the local sheriff now, and happily married to Mary. It is interesting to see how he’s adjusting to a more sedentary life and to see him placed in a position somewhat at odds with Samantha.
Okay, I just have to tell you there are so many more fantastic characters in this book – characters I would LOVE to see featured in their own books – but if I bring them up here it will spoil some surprises, so I am resisting. But only just.
Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:
I admit to a slight bias here as I had already fallen for Cameron in the first two books of this series and I have a particular interest in Chinese characters of this era. However, I think even without this, the first chapter alone would be enough to draw a reader into the story and the second would secure their emotional interest in seeing what becomes of Miss Samantha Klein, her big heart, and her vulnerable friends. By the third chapter if you aren’t dying to see how Samantha and Cameron get along . . . well, I just won’t understand it.
Elements I especially liked/disliked:
I loved that Cameron and Samantha both made real mistakes with real consequences, and I loved that they were forced to make difficult decisions as a result of those mistakes.
As I mentioned before, I especially enjoy reading about Chinese characters from this era. I also enjoy …. grrr. I SOOOO want to tell you something right now but I can’t. Not without spoiling a big surprise. So I will have to keep it to this: Somehow Sondra Kraak managed to include several of my personal favorite elements in this story, making it my number one favorite of all her books. In fact, this book is one of the best that I have read in the past twelve months. (CLICK TO TWEET)
One last note: Due to the nature of these two characters, this book gets a little more sizzly (I’m making this a word) than her previous two books in the Love That Counts series (while staying within the bounds, of course) and I have to admit, I enjoyed that also.
Overcoming past hurts.
The role God plays in our emotions (vs intellect).
How God uses people to show His love.
*Sigh* I cannot tell you how much I love and adore this ending. No, really, I can’t. Because if I told you all the reasons I loved it, I’d give away those surprises I keep mentioning. You’re just going to have to trust me on this one. You won’t be disappointed.
5 out of 5 stars
Available for pre-order at: Amazon
(none of the links in this review are affiliate links)
Disclosure of Materials: I received an Advanced Readers Copy from the author for the purposes of this review. (Although I also preordered an official copy for myself!) You can read My Promise to Readers HERE.
About the Author
A native of Washington State, Sondra Kraak grew up playing in the rain, hammering out Chopin at the piano, and running up and down the basketball court. After attending Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, she moved to North Carolina to work for a small non-profit ministry. It was in the backroom of that office, amid the clamor of copy machines and printers, that love blossomed. She married her mountain man in 2004, and they spent the first season of their marriage in New England where Sondra attended Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and graduated with her Masters of Biblical Studies.
Now settled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, she works part-time at her church doing worship ministry and leading Bible studies. Life at home with her husband and children is full of Uno, backyard scrimmages, bedtime stories, and magically multiplying loads of laundry. She writes historical romance set in the beautiful Pacific Northwest through which her passion and delight is to provide readers with stories that not only entertain but nourish the soul.
Her debut novel, One Plus One Equals Trouble, was a Genesis semi-finalist (2015) and the winner of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference Unpublished Women’s Fiction Award (2015). Sondra has since published three novels.
Have you read any of the books in the Love That Counts series?
Psst! Feel free to borrow any of the book quote images in this post for sharing on social media and remember to tag me @KathleenDenly !