Friday, November 5, 2010

CFBA Tour and Book Review: Grace by Shelley Shepard Gray

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Avon Inspire; Original edition (October 26, 2010)
Shelley Shepard Gray


Shelley Shepard Gray is the beloved author of the Sisters of the Heart series, including Hidden, Wanted, and Forgiven. Before writing, she was a teacher in both Texas and Colorado. She now writes full time and lives in southern Ohio with her husband and two children. When not writing, Shelley volunteers at church, reads, and enjoys walking her miniature dachshund on her town's scenic bike trail.


It's Christmastime at the Brenneman Bed & Breakfast, and everyone is excited about closing down for the holiday.

Anna and Henry will be celebrating their first Christmas as a married couple, and for Katie and Jonathan Lundy, it's their first Christmas with baby Stefan. Winnie and Samuel Miller plan to stop by as well for a wonderful two weeks of family and rest.

But when two unexpected visitors show up, hoping to stay for Christmas, the family must test their commitment to hospitality. Levi is a widower who lost his wife four years ago and can't bear the thought of another Christmas alone. And Melody is a young pregnant woman who won't open up about how she ended up on her own at Christmas at almost nine months pregnant.

Anna, who knows a thing or two about keeping secrets, doesn't trust her, and strives to find out the truth about these two strangers who have disrupted their holiday. But as the Christmas spirit descends on them all, as well as snow that traps them in the inn, a healing and hopefulness takes over, allowing new relationships to be built, and the boundaries of family to be extended.

If you'd like to read the first chapter of Grace, go HERE.

My thoughts:

This book has already gotten a few 5-star reviews, and I feel really bad that I can only give it 2 out of 5 stars.  It just fell far below my expectations for Amish fiction.  I have read almost every book written by Shelley Shepard Gray, and while I feel that she can think up a great story, the delivery always seems to fall flat.  Her style of writing reminds me so much of Janette Oke--a simplistic story, maybe a problem or two along the way, but usually a very tidy ending.  It's okay to like that sort of thing--hey, Janette Oke was one of the first Christian fiction authors I ever read--but there are so many more books available now that I've found that can better grab my attention. 

The book had three different story lines, and normally, that doesn't bother me.  In this book, though, there seemed to be a lot of busyness and retelling of the same scenes over and over again.  Maybe that can be attributed to the fact that the story covers a span of 12 days.  One thing I have to mention--the portions of the story featuring Leah and Zack were just a little too weird and almost creepy to me...sharing any more than that would be a spoiler. 

A lot of Amish fans may really enjoy this book, along with the previous three books in the Sisters of the Heart series, but it just didn't do it for me.  I like a story--not just an Amish one--to have depth, and that was missing in Grace.  I think if Ms. Gray focused on making her characters more realistic and with a little more emotion, her stories would greatly improve.  Instead, I think someone at her publishing company may be too concerned with how quickly they can churn out her books....7 books in 2-1/2 years time says it all, in my opinion.

2 Stars

**Many thanks to Avon Inspire through CFBA for providing a copy for review.

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