I have been captivated with the Christiansen Family series since the first book I have read. I’ve read and reviewed several of the books in the series since then and every one of them is superb in character development, family dynamics, incorporating faith into the characters’ lives and personalities. Always on my Mind is one of the best in this series I’ve read so far. It goes on my book shelf with the other keepers because I’m going to read them over and over.
The book is about Casper Christiansen and Raina Beaumont. We actually meet them in the previous book of the series: When I Fall in Love (Book 3). That book was about Grace Christiansen and Max Sharpe. Raina was Grace’s culinary assistant. She was living temporarily with her aunt in Deep Haven, Minnesota, a town near Evergreen Resort. The resort is the setting around which most of the books in the series revolve. Raina met Casper the previous summer when she delivered a pizza to some of his friends. Casper was in charge of a competitive rowing team and managed to rope Raina into participating. That is how their romance began. But she was carrying a secret that was unfortunately revealed at Casper’s sister’s wedding (Eden Christiansen and Jace’s story is another book in the series), near the end of the book. Casper was hurt and secretly jealous. He decided to bury his rage by following a dream of his, working for an architect’s team down in Roatan, Honduras.
But while Casper was down in Roatan searching for artifacts and hidden treasure, he couldn’t get Raina out of his head. He cut his adventure short and flew north to try to make up with her. He arrived in Minneapolis where Raina was living with Grace just in time to take her to the hospital where she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Casper didn’t even know she was expecting, and the baby certainly wasn’t his. But when she decided to place her baby up for adoption, he quickly got angry again. He knew who the father was, and was having difficulty wrapping his mind around the turn of events. Thinking Casper was rejecting her again, Raina ordered him out of her life. When he complied without a protest she was devastated.
Raina eventually moved back to Deep Haven to stay at her aunt’s house. She found a job at an antique store that she grew to love. Not knowing about Raina’s plans, Casper decided to stay at the resort to help his brother Darek over the winter. Darek wasn’t able to hire him, so Casper found a job in sales at the local hardware store/ sports shop. Soon, he discovered Raina was back in town. From then on the story became very interesting.
Susan May Warren writes some of the most stirring character development I have ever read. Her characters feel real, as if they were people we know. Their pain and their struggles feel real, and we grapple with their problems right along with them. The author is adept at expressing her characters’ mental and spiritual anguish equally. If we are honest with ourselves, we can see our own belief systems and feelings in their inner battles. You can’t help but empathize with them in their triumphs and failings. Most of us could probably think of someone we know going through the same type of turmoil in their lives.
One of my favorite parts of this story is the intriguing mystery the author has created. Raina becomes involved in solving this mystery as a representative of the antique shop that is evaluating an estate. Casper joins forces with her as a volunteer for the Deep Haven Historical Society when he finds items that offer clues toward solving the mystery. What they learn in their “treasure hunt” becomes an intriguing parallel to their own unique situation. Entries from Aggie’s diary of a hundred years ago
become a valuable object lesson for Raina in the present. Furthermore, a couple of surprises at the end at so much depth to this wonderful story.
I read quite a few book in the Christian genre. Sometimes a book’s inclusion of God, faith in Jesus, and the role of faith in the characters’ lives sound artificial and contrived, while some other books only make passing remarks about God. That’s not the way God operates in my life. He is vital, real, and foremost in my thoughts in most of my waking hours, and His principles influence my way of life because He values me and I value Him. I’m delighted when I discover books such as those of Ms. Warren’s, which reflect a similar relationship in their characters. The characters aren’t perfect, just like me and you. Ms. Warren’s characters don’t preach; they live, love, falter and learn. They grow just as we do. They are three-dimensional. I’m attract to that.
Finally, another aspect about the author’s books I love is how eventually the entire Christiansen family is gathered together and she wraps us in the collective family sense of warmth, belonging, identity and acceptance–warts and all. As readers, we get to see genuine family love the way it’s designed to be, not sappy or saccharine, but one that folds its arms around the newcomer in welcome, even when that person is flawed. I get the sense that a person could only write about that type of family if that is their own experience. Reading these books brought to my mind some great memories of my own.
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.”