An unexpected mother-to-be
A romance-leery composer
And a forgotten melody from the past that holds the keys to their futures
When Julia Jenkins’ great aunt dies and leaves her a Victorian mansion with decades of secrets, Julia never expects to unearth a World War 2 espionage mystery. Struggling with her own past since an assault left her pregnant, her future as a solo parent leaves her dreams uncertain. The inheritance from her great aunt gives Julia the ability to take a step back into her future, but also sends her into the discovery of a love story she’d never anticipated. As she goes through her aunt’s treasured possessions, Julia uncovers some oddly written piano music with a musical code she can’t decipher on her own. Not to worry, introverted Englishman and composer, Henry Wright, is thrust on the scene by a pair of homespun matchmakers who know the ‘right’ man for Julia’s wounded heart.
Henry arrives in Pleasant Gap with the task of composing the soundtrack for his best mate’s newest film. The Jenkins’ family’s southern welcome and gregarious personalities set his reticent nature on edge, but he’s inexplicably drawn to his gentle and music-loving hostess, Julia. Uncertain how to build a friendship with the wounded woman, and rather hopeless in communicating well through words, the bond of music becomes a bridge between her uncertainty and his awkwardness.
But her broken past and his families’ expectations build a wall much greater than the cultures that separate them. As they work together to solve a musical mystery from the grave, will an unlikely romance from the past inspire their hearts to trust in a God who’s written the perfect melody for their lives?
Why This Book:
I have been a fan of Pepper Basham’s writing since I read her debut novel, The Thornbearer and have read every book she has written since then.
Julia Jenkins was a glass-half-full person.
Well, most of the time.
The character of Julia immediately intrigued me (although I have to disagree with her assessment of baths & pregnancy – I couldn’t have survived my pregnancies without those long soaks!) and I wanted to know more about her. I wanted to know how she’d gotten into her situation and how she was going to handle it now that she was there.
Julia Jenkins – As I mentioned, Julia intrigued me at the start and she continued to hold my interest throughout the book. This is a woman with a quiet strength. The type of person you might not notice when you first enter a room, but whose strength and courage will astound you in times of trial. Most importantly, her faith is a thing of incredible beauty.
Henry Wright – Oh how I love the chuckle Pepper gave me by giving Julia a “Mr. Wright.” Name aside, however, the character of Henry had to grow on me a bit. It wasn’t that I initially disliked him — I liked him right away — but he is so unique and his introversion is expressed in such an unusual manner that it did take some getting used to. In the end, my heart was completely won over by this one-of-a-kind, heart-meltingly loyal, and inspiringly selfless man.
Amelia Dawn aka Aunt Millie – Julia’s recently deceased aunt is a source of mystery. A recluse in her old age, Amelia’s life before settling near Pleasant Gap is mostly unknown, despite Julia’s close relationship with her in recent years. Throughout the novel, Julia and Henry attempt to uncover Amelia’s secrets and I have to tell you, what they find is worth the search.
Eisley Jenkins – Heroine of the first book in this series, Eisley is one of Julia’s sisters and longtime girlfriend of Wes Harrison (see below). Her role is important, but not large in this book, although she does get a couple scenes as the Point of View character. (For anyone not familiar with that term, it means the scene is written as if the reader is in her head, hearing her thoughts, seeing what she sees, etc.)
Wes Harrison – Hero of the first book in this series, Wes is back in this book as the longtime boyfriend of Eisley and best friend of Henry. As with Eisley, his role is important, but not large in this book.
Nate Jenkins – Father of Julia Jenkins, he is naturally protective of his daughter – even more so given her recent experiences – and he provokes some very entertaining and also very touching scenes in this novel. Fair warning: one of his scenes had me wiping moisture from my eyes and swallowing a lump in my throat. While not perfect, in many ways, he’s what dads should be.
Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:
As I stated above, I was immediately engaged by the character Julia and eventually loved the character of Henry. The story maintained a comfortable tension throughout, with the expected increase of intensity growing toward the climax, so of course, I kept reading.
Not only were the hero and heroine of this book engaging, but the secondary characters were equally so. Pepper has done an excellent job developing the Jenkins family and I am looking forward to reading more stories featuring them. Henry’s family was refreshingly dysfunctional and I loved the surprising and compassionate way in which Pepper portrayed them. This book made me laugh out loud, shake my head, and wipe away pesky tears.
Elements I especially liked/disliked:
I’ll begin by stating that this story captured first my interest and then my heart. However, I admit to not being as big of a fan of the big duet scene between the two main characters which I have read other reviewers rave about. To be clear: I didn’t dislike the scene. I just didn’t love it. I think my lack of enthusiasm can be attributed to my general lack of passion for the lingo of music. While I love listening to it, I am neither a player nor a student of that particular art. Therefore, I think some of the subtler nuances of that side of the story – the various musical vocabulary and phrasing sprinkled throughout the story – may have escaped me. Nonetheless, I never felt that I was in any way lost or confused about what was going on.
Furthermore, there were many, many other things to delight me in this story. I completely related to many of the experiences Julia had in regards to her pregnancy, and, in some ways, I could relate to Henry’s need for moments of solitude. The love which grows between the two main characters is something I couldn’t help but feel in a very real way. The unexpected twists Pepper created in this story kept me very happy as a reader, and as always, her literary gift with words was a music all its own.
God is our source of purpose, courage, and healing.
Wonderful and full of small twists you didn’t see coming. This ending is sure to leave you grinning.
5 out of 5 stars
Have you read any of the books in the Pleasant Gap series? What do you think it means to be courageous?
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Note: I received a free copy of this book from the author, but was NOT required to write a positive review. You may read my full disclosure of materials HERE.