"Softly and Tenderly" by Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck is a work of romantic fiction. It is the second in the Songbird series, following "'Sweet By and By," which I would have liked to read before this book. Perhaps my perspective might have been different if I had gotten to know the characters before the 2nd book. But I did not realize it was part of a series when I ordered it. "Softly and Tenderly" is not a fluffy, feel-good story! It's like life and there are lots of ups and downs and bumps and bruises along the way. The characters seem realistic and the situations they find themselves in - secrets, pain, sadness, joy, caring for relatives with cancer, infidelity, in-laws, death - are similar to the many things that fill every day, modern life for many people. It offers reminders or lessons of hope and leaning on the mercies of God and not on one's own understanding.
For some reason, "Softly and Tenderly" by Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck was not a book that I enjoyed. It took me forever to finish it because I did not enjoy it. I would pick it up and read a few pages and then put it down because it did not hold my interest. I do enjoy romantic fiction but this book did not grab or keep my interest. I am not sure if it was the location in which the story took place or the characters themselves, but it was not a story I would want to read again and I have no desire to read the other three books of the series.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I am not expected to always give a positive review, just an honest one. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Why would anyone write a "Christian" book that is so immoral? These people are suppose to be strong, upstanding Christian people both in their church and community. They are nothing of the kind - they are instead very immoral. I would not recommend it to anyone. I only gave it a one rating because there is nothing lower.
Jade Fitzgerald Benson is married to a prominent lawyer with a powerful family name in a small town. She has admitted her past to her husband, but feels like she is continuing to pay the price as she waits month after month for a successful pregnancy. Max, her husband, has struggled with pill addictions since high school, and continues to see the ramifications in his own life and marriage. In addition, he has kept a secret from Jade that may be what tears them apart. June and Rebel, Max's parents, have their own past and present mistakes that are coming to light and changing the way everyone in the family thinks about each other. Beryl, Jade's mother, is dying of leukemia, and wants to die in her own hometown, where Jade grew up. When Max's and Rebel's most recent faults come to light, June and Jade decide to make a roadtrip of taking Beryl home to die. There, they have to each examine their pasts and decide which path to take for their future.
When I first started Softly and Tenderly, I thought "this has been done before." The story of the illegitimate son showing up on the doorstep of a couple who's having struggles has been written several times. However, even with the somewhat stale initial plot line, the story progressed in new ways, and the characters were well-written enough for me to become engrossed in their lives and become invested in the outcomes.
Additionally, the book seems to be part of a series, which I did not confirm until the end of the book, where it advertises the next part of the "Songbird Series." Although the book stands fairly well on its own, there were several places within the story where I felt like I was supposed to know some background information that I did not. The story probably would have felt more complete had I read the previous installment.
Overall, I would give this book 3 stars. I enjoyed the characters, and the storyline, but between the familiar storyline and the missing pieces from not having read the first book, as a stand-alone book, it could have been better.
In Softly and Tenderly, Sara and Rachel had me from the first sentence to the unexpected end! The story starts in spring in Whisper Hollow, Tennessee, with Jade and her mother-in-law in a favorite old pickup along a rough road. This sets the scene for a turbulent, fast-paced novel. It seems most novels I read these days are about women and relationships, and I am not sure if it is what's out there, or what I am attracted to. Having said that, this one stands out from the rest. Many issues are covered, from barreness, to infidelity, illigemate child(ren?) to big business ethics, but all interconnected in the way life is, and through it all God's mercy is underlying and sure.
These ladies have a way of drawing in the reader with words, and I could feel the jostling of the vehicle, the anger, the pain of a loved one suffering from cancer, the hopelessness, but also the peace. The scenes came alive and when the doe and her babies jump out in front of the truck, your heart about stops together with the women in the truck. When baby Asa calls for his Mom, the heart contracts with sympathy.
The reader will be anxiously waiting for the sequel, and not all issues are resolved in this first of a series.
I received this ebook free from ThomasNelson Publishers through their Booksneeze program for the sole purpose of writing an honest review. I was not required or asked for a positive one. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.
Softly and tenderly is a story about two families all connected by one woman, Jade Benson. She is in her thirties, married to Max, a Lawyer. She lives near her in-laws June and Reb who are well-to-do Southern folks. Jade owns two businesses and is trying to care for her ailing mother, Beryl who is dying of leukemia. Jade and the family members around her have to grapple with enormous life issues in this 289 page story. There is infertility, abortion, divorce, infidelity, adoption, pre-marital sex, drug addictions, death, deception, abandonment issues and social climbers. Frankly I was overwhelmed. I had a hard time relating to the main character. I couldn't believe with everything on her plate she was still standing. If I wasn't reading this book for a review I would have shelved it. But I didn't and by the end I was glad I kept going.
I really wanted to like this book. I liked the edgy feeling to the book, the very natural and casual voice of the authors. Yet, I found it did not follow a â€˜typical' Christian format. I do not want to open a whole new can of worms, but for a story about all believers but one in the main cast, the issues of sin were handled so lightly. A few characters felt their indiscretions were no big deal. That is fine on page ten of a story but by the end as a reader I want to see restoration. I want to believe that my God is bigger than ALL the stuff Jade is dealing with. And He is, but the story doesn't actually say that.
I struggled to keep engaged with the plot until almost 100 pages. Then I reached the point where I wanted to find closure. I needed some form of redemption for the weary sinners. This is something I never fully received. There is an undercurrent of Christian themes but not woven in as much as I would like. The characters seem to come back to Christ but there is no actual outward repentance. They simply decide to keep trying. Some of the characters have no resolution at all (June and Reb).
Despite my concerns with the book I still feel it is a good read. The authors have done well in creating authentic issues that real women face. I only wished they had taken a few of them and delved deeper into the heart of those issues instead of cramming them all into one story. Jade does â€˜crack' before the end of the book which helped me tremendously in believing her. However, then suddenly the book jumps to a semi-sorted out "happy ending". It was too soon. It felt like there were chapters missing. If this young woman has been dealing with some of these issues most of her adult life and some of them intensely for several weeks you can't just say, â€˜okay, I'm feeling better and everything is going to work out fine'. The spiritual journey she was on seemed stunted. Again this is something I feel would be eliminated if the issues were fewer.
After reading other reviews I discovered this book is number two in a three book series. Perhaps the characters would have felt more real to me if I had some history with them. When I read the discussion questions at the back I learned a little more about where the authors wanted to take me as a reader. I only wished I had arrived there before the end of the book.
I will pick up and read the third book by these two authors in hopes of a little easier ride.
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneezeÂ®.com <http://BookSneezeÂ®.com> book review bloggers 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