As a Christian counselor, Sara Wilson has been able to help a lot of people put their lives back in order, but her own personal life is a bit of a mess. She still suffers from a broken heart four months after her long-time boyfriend, Jeremy, left her without warning when she refused to become intimate with him. In all this time, she hasn't heard a word from Jeremy, but still struggles with getting over her feelings for him. Sara's co-worker, Ken Barrymore is a really nice guy who seems interested in her, but then again, so is Darrel Hogan, the handsome new youth pastor at her church. Darrel recruits Sara to help out with the youth which means that she'll be spending a lot of time with him, but then Ken asks her out too. In the meantime, Sara begins counseling a young woman with whom she feels a deep connection. Just when Sara thinks she's finally figured out which man she wants a relationship with, Jeremy returns with an enticing offer, and it may take a life or death situation for Sara to finally realize which man is truly right for her.
A Special Blessing for Sara is a gentle inspirational romance that in some ways is more reminiscent of women's fiction with a strong romantic element. The entire story is told from the third-person POV of the heroine with no male perspective at all (this is pretty rare in romance, but oddly enough, the third one like this I've read in a month). There is also equal, if not more, attention given to Sara's career as a counselor, her volunteer work with her church, and her family life as there is to her love life. With the focus of the novel split there was already limited space for relationship development, but then the author has not one but three men vying for Sara's affections at the same time. I've never been much of a fan of love triangles, much less love quadrangles. They usually take too much space away from the main hero and heroine, and don't allow for enough time to really develop their love. Ultimately, I think Sara chose the right man, but that decision came relatively easily without much depth of thought. Because of this, the romantic content was sweet and tender but only partially satisfying. I think the story holds up better when classified as women's fiction, because it's more about Sara's journey through a short period of her life, in a variety of different aspects, spiritual, emotional, family revelations and romantic choices, more so than a single romantic relationship. Overall, when I think of it in this capacity, I can honestly say I enjoyed it.
Sara is a caring, compassionate young woman who is very good at her job as a counselor but is struggling a bit in her personal life. Jeremy, her long-time boyfriend, who she thought was going to marry her, walked out of her life four months earlier after she refused to become intimate with him, and she's having a hard time getting over him. Sara is attracted to her co-worker, Ken, and he seems to be interested in her as well, but there is also Darrel, the handsome new youth pastor at her church. Then out of the blue, Jeremy comes back, wanting to rekindle their relationship. Decisions... decisions! Sara is pretty much the epitome of a sweet heroine who is simply nice to everyone, perhaps a little too nice at times, but her clients seem to love her, as do the youth at her church and basically everyone else too. I can't say that I really understood Sara's attachment to Jeremy and her willingness to start dating him again when he returned. In my opinion, he was very disrespectful of Sara and her feelings, and without making some serious changes in his life, he was clearly the wrong choice. That said, Sara's decision to go out with Ken if he asked her (before Jeremy returned) seemed a bit abrupt, considering it was Darrel who appeared to be showing the most interest in her at that point. It was also a little odd that she welcomed Ken into her home to visit but didn't really want Darrel there. Additionally, even though Sara and Ken had known each other through work for quite a while, I still thought that some of the information they shared about themselves on their first two dates was a little too personal for a couple who was just getting to know one another. Overall though, I liked Sara and two out of three of her men, as well as where the romance ultimately led.
There were a couple of things in the story that lacked credibility for me. First was Sara giving out her personal cell phone number to her clients and allowing them to call her anytime they needed assistance, as well as acting in a friendship capacity to a client while actively counseling her. I've known a lot of counselors in my life and this type of behavior would definitely be crossing the counselor/client relationship line and could possibly even get the counselor in trouble with the licensing board. However, I realize that some of this was done to set up a plot twist (which I actually figured out really early in the story), so I suppose I can forgive the use of artistic license. The other thing was that for young 20-somethings, the main characters have interests that, in my opinion, are too "old" for their age group. They listen to oldies or easy-listening type music, only seem to watch old black and white movies, and don't watch anything on TV except the news. Not to say that there might not be a few amongst the younger generation who enjoy these things, but I certainly don't know any who do, at least not on a regular basis. Even a middle-aged, 40-something like myself rarely does these things, so I would have preferred to see the characters act a little closer to their age. Lastly, and this isn't really a credibility issue so much as a critique, I felt the author's word choices were sometimes a bit too formal and stilted, and especially stood out when used in dialog.
In spite of a few small criticisms, I did enjoy A Special Blessing for Sara. Sara's close-knit family is very heartwarming, just the kind of family almost anyone would love to have. The multiple romantic connections that occur for the other single characters in the book was cute, and at least left me with a good feeling about no one really getting left out in the cold. I especially loved the way the people of the church reached out to help those in the community who were without power during the storm, particularly ones who were the most vulnerable, like the elderly. Readers who are averse to religious themes may not care for this one, because the faith message is ever-present throughout the narrative. I found it to be a gentle, organic part of the story and therefore, not off-putting in any way, but others may feel differently. Overall, this was one of those really sweet, super-easy reads that makes you feel like you've wrapped up in a warm blanket with a hot cup of cocoa on a cold winter's day. I would recommend it for anyone looking for a simple, uncomplicated story to relax and unwind from the stresses of life.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
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