Contemporary Romance: Couples-to-be seek love and romance in this uplifting four-story collection. Vanessa is surprised to feel her heart beating madly when a father and son with matching soulful brown eyes enter her pet store. Valene is startled to realize that handsome Navy fighter pilot, Jordan, shows a strong interest in her, despite social disparities. Della realizes that fairy tales come true when Brandon wanders into her bridal shop, and Tessa learns that even when pride and unforgiveness have torn a marriage apart, love can make a comeback. Will these couples find the key that unlocks lasting love? couples find the key that unlocks lasting love?
A quick rundown of the interconnected stories themselves:
"Love Is Patient" and "Love Worth Finding" are written by Cathy Hakes while Joyce Livingston contributes "Love Is Kind" and "Love Worth Keeping".
The stories, in the order they appear:
"Love Is Patient" : Pet shop owner Vanessa gets involved with widower / single dad Nathan after his young son visits her shop and becomes interested in a dog.
"Love Is Kind" : Remember Vanessa from the first story? Well, now her twin sister, Val, gets the spotlight. Val's neighbor, Jordan, accidentally hits her dog with his truck. The dog survives, Jordan steps up and offers to help cover the cost of the dog's post-op care (as well as lending a hand with the dog's in-home recovery process as well). Spending so much time with Val, Jordan starts to see himself developing deep feelings for her.
"Love Worth Finding" : The story of a romance between "always the bridesmaid, never the bride" type bridal shop owner Della and former Navy SEAL Brandon Stevens (of course, these romances seem to almost always feature a SEAL somewhere nowadays!) who now works in construction. The bridal shop is located next to Vanessa's pet shop (from "Love Is Patient") and Brandon's construction job has him working with Vanessa's love, Nathan. This story is also set about a year and half after Vanessa's story takes place.
"Love Worth Keeping" : You met Vanessa's twin sister, Val, in "Love Is Kind". Now Val's best friend, Katie, is in the process of planning her own Christmas Day wedding. Katie's parents have been separated for 8 years now and even now are not on the friendliest of terms. Still, Katie hopes she can bring them together and get them to get along for her special day.
Having been born and raised in San Diego County myself, I'm naturally always curious to try out stories set in my home turf. Deciding to pick up this collection prior to a trip back home this summer, I was sadly let down. These were SO not my cup of tea.
I somehow missed the fact that these were Christian romances. It's not all that advertised on the covers, though looking back on the back cover synopsis after finishing the stories, I do see one of the story blurbs makes one mention of "God's love" but I guess my eyes glanced over that part in my excitement to get into San Diego stories. Guess I should've taken a clue from the titles of the stories themselves (a nod to the famous "Love is patient, love is kind," etc, etc Bible quote used at nearly every wedding I've ever been to, including my own LOL) but it escaped my notice until I finished the book. These stories having a Christian theme generally wouldn't deter me from enjoying them. It's just that every one of these was SO heavy-handed with the preachy tone (IMO) that it was off-putting! That, combined with the fact that I just honestly didn't find the stories to be all that well-written made this whole collection a general NOPE for me. And what was up with Nathan knocking Vanessa's love of Doris Day movies? "Great woman but her taste in movies stinks." Seriously? You're going to fault your girl for liking some of the cheeriest movies on the planet? So she likes her some solid HEA in her life. Catch of a guy right there.
The banter between the couples was often of a very boring, vanilla quality and the romance aspect was ruined for me when SO MUCH EMPHASIS was being put on getting the "non-believer" one in a couple to pray more or start attending church. Having strong faith is an admirable quality, I just get annoyed at this idea that you have to walk away from someone you otherwise find absolutely perfect for you JUST because their spiritual beliefs might be a shade different from yours. And this idea came up repeatedly in these stories.
I don't mind a beautiful story of someone coming to find faith if it has a natural flow to the process. These characters were just too strong-armed in their methods for me to like them. Val's story especially illustrated this. Val's parents came off pretty hypocritical, the way they said they raised their girls to only be in relationships with Christians, even though the father started out as a "non-believer". Also, Val basically using blackmail to get someone to attend church was unbelievably messed up.
The last story, "Love Worth Keeping", (for me) had the most warmth to the writing, but that's not saying much, given how little I liked the rest of the stories. This one won't be a keeper on my shelf of hometown stories.