When I Fall in Love (A Christiansen Family novel #3) by Susan May Warren
Family and falling in love are two of my favorite topics to read about in fiction. I can tell when a writer enjoys taking pen to paper about these topics when what is read leads to the warmth and joy of both, as if they know exactly what they are writing about. That’s what Susan May Warren does with this book. Of course, the familial relationships have their rough terrain to cover, their rifts to mend, and detours to take. Sometimes the family drama causes tension for the romance that’s developing, and sometimes the romance creates a bump in the road for the family. The romances suffer the same complications. I especially appreciate an author who can weave both elements in the tale.
The major plot in When I Fall in Love revolves around Grace Christiansen and Max Sharpe. Max is a right wing player for the St. Paul Blue Ox hockey team. He helped his team get into the division finals for the Stanley Cup. Owen Christiansen was one of his teammates before an accident took him out of the game permanently. Max has born the guilt of the outcome of that accident this past year, so when another teammate, Jase, asks his assistance for Owen’s sister, whom he’s never met, on a trip to Hawaii, he reluctantly agrees. He believes he owes it to Owen.
Grace Christiansen doesn’t know Max or anything about Owen’s accident. Her desire to become a chef is deeply ingrained in family tradition and camaraderie. She is a foodie and loves to cook for her large family. She has already applied to culinary academy and when her sister and future brother-in-law, Eden and Jase, asked her to go to Hawaii for a culinary course in Hawaiian cooking, she was hesitant but willing. She was going to cook a Hawaiian meal for their wedding.
Grace and Max somehow missed each other at the airport where they were supposed to meet, but it turns out they were seated next to each other (seats 9B and 9A). Grace hates to travel; when she sat down in the plane her nervousness was obvious to the passenger next to her. Max had no choice but to help her through the experience, especially when she got sick. They became friends before they realized Jase and Eden had set them up. But then they discover their love of cooking and the fun began until secrets Max was keeping complicated their relationship.
The subplots in the book move the reader closer to the Christiansen family, helping us understand how the family dynamics influenced Grace’s life, her fears, her relationship with God, and her life goals. Owen has become angry and bitter after the accident that destroyed his career in hockey. Hurting people hurt people; so when Owen met Raina Beaumont, Grace’s culinary assistant, at his brother Derek’s wedding, he took advantage of her then callously left her. Soon after, Raina meets Casper, the middle son of the Christiansen boys. She realizes the two men are nothing alike and is attracted to Casper. Just as she thinks she can trust Casper, he finds out she has a secret and leaves her. Her friendship with Grace is the only thing keeping her from running away herself. But because Grace understands how devastating keeping secrets can be, she is determined to help Raina.
Relationships and family are an important ingredient in this book. There is back history, deep secrets, internal battles being waged against fears. It is those fears that are preventing many of the characters in the story from the joys and triumphs of even simple victories. All in all, it is a complex yet satisfying story to read. The author has written this book in a contemporary voice, populating the story with people who could be our family or friends. The issues they face could be ones any of us may have to experience. I was drawn to care about Raina’s and Casper’s relationship as much as I cared about Max and Grace’s future. And during this journey, I was given the opportunity to ponder some important facets about love, life and our relationship with God.
In addition to its contemporary draw, I couldn’t help loving the humor the author injects into Grace’s friendship with Max, her sister Eden, and her three brothers. It’s well balanced with some of the more serious moments and issues some of the characters have to face. As a reader, I just knew that Max and Grace’s romance would survive the hurdles thrust before them, because their relationship just sparkled with humor and wit. I enjoyed this author’s writing style so much that I’m looking forward to finding and reading the rest of the Christiansen Family series.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. through their Blog Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”