1. The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck - eBookeBOOK
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    The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck - eBook
    Bethany Turner
    Revell / 2017 / ePub
    $9.29 Retail: $13.99 Save 34% ($4.70)
    4.5 out of 5 stars for The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck - eBook. View reviews of this product. 52 Reviews
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    Stock No: WW91368EB
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  1. ReviewsByErin
    2 Stars Out Of 5
    Some things you should know before you read the book
    May 11, 2020
    ReviewsByErin
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 3
    This review was written for The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck.
    Stories about writers will always be interesting to other writers, so I was excited to check out this 2017 release by Bethany Turner. It's the tale of Sarah, who used to write graphic and steamy romance novels, and how her conversion to Christianity caused her to leave behind her tawdry past and start a new life as an author of clean Christian fiction. She faces a lot of challenges along the way, including how her new church views her life before Christ, as well as her agent and publisher telling her she'll never make it in the Christian market.

    This book is full of literary and pop culture references, which make it easy to read and quite funny -- if you get the inside jokes. Not everyone is familiar with these things, based on their background and personal preferences. Pop culture is one of those things that will draw one reader in yet push another away, so its effectiveness varies widely.

    I'll go ahead and proceed frankly with this next subject, but I've never read a book where sex was such a main subject unless it was actually a book about sex. That said, it's not done in a gratuitous fashion, and there were very few places I thought it crossed any lines. However, I would definitely recommend this for adult readers only, and many conservative readers would take issue with the amount of time dedicated to this topic. You should be aware of this ahead of time.

    My main issue with this novel was not its content in terms of culture or sex, but the way it handled the church and the people involved in the ministry at Sarah's new church, Mercy Point. She immediately gets involved in a romantic relationship with Pastor Ben, who doesn't read like a real human and especially not a minister of the gospel. Other people at the church are mean-spirited and cause many problems through lies and gossip. It's not a good look for Christians, and a lot of the plot points in this part of the novel don't make sense. I recognize that Christians often fall far short of where we should on many things, but this took it to a ridiculous level.

    Because Sarah became a follower of Jesus Christ and also started dating her pastor in the same week, she also has a hard time differentiating between her relationship with God and her relationship with Ben. There's also a lot of weird beliefs or assumptions about Christianity that Sarah holds which would be natural for a new convert, but there's little to no growth shown where she recognizes her misconceptions and adopts a proper view of God.

    I enjoyed this book on some levels, but on others found it vastly wanting. I can see why some people love it and some people did not finish it. Maybe a review like this will help you decide whether or not to add The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck to your To Be Read list.
  2. firequeen
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: female
    3 Stars Out Of 5
    Not fan of the beginning
    November 18, 2019
    firequeen
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: female
    This review was written for The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck.
    As with the last book of Bethany's which I read, this book tackles the issue of sexual tension between a couple before marriage. However, this one starts with a woman who wrote adult romance (with sex) before becoming a Christian as a means of fulfillment and attention. And afterward, she had to find a way to live out her Christian principles when most everyone judged her for either her past or her present.

    That first part, before her conversion, plays out rather rapidly with most of it being a direct address from Sarah to the audience. She starts with her divorce, runs down how she got into writing romances, the life she had doing that, and then quickly ties the backstory up with her conversion. The narrative slows down quickly after this point, letting the reader in on her relationship with Ben, her friendship with Piper, and the tumult of convincing her agent (and her audience) to let her write clean romance.

    However, it was that first portion of that book which made it difficult for me to dive in. I didn't like the summary of years of her life or the suddenness in which she decided become a Christian after getting in a fight with her Christian friend about the kind of books she wrote.

    I like that Bethany portrays real life situations that Christians can find themselves in. She doesn't shy away from topics that we wouldn't have seen years ago, and I know that there are many authors who have gone through just the kind of experience which she described. I just wish the story had been told a little differently.

    I have provided an honest review after receiving a copy of the book through JustRead's Blind Book Tour.
  3. Carol Gehringer
    Raleigh, NC
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    3 Stars Out Of 5
    Slightly disappointed. Liked the premise, but not the book itself.
    October 30, 2019
    Carol Gehringer
    Raleigh, NC
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    This review was written for The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck.
    Bethany Turner's book is engaging and witty. One understands the tension in Ben and Sarah's relationship because they are strongly attracted to each other. They seek to honor God and each other in their relationship by waiting for marriage for sexual intimacy, and communicate their desire in passionate kisses. When a member of the congregation threatens to ruin them, they learn to put their trust in God and in their love for each other. I liked the book's premise better than the book itself. However, it was a good debut novel, and I would consider reading the next book by this author.

    Disclaimer: Book reviews are my honest opinion of books I either purchased or received free of cost from the publishers, publicists, and/or authors. I am not required to write reviews, nor to even post positive reviews.
  4. GB WI
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Awesome Christian Fiction Rom Com Book!
    October 29, 2019
    GB WI
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    This review was written for The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck.
    I read this book in one sitting! Bethany knows how to keep readers entertained while also having a meaningful plot line. Although some might view this book as too "edgy" for the Christian Fiction genre, it was a fresh take on it! The issues the characters face are the reality in today's society. As you read the book you feel like you personally know the characters and the struggles they are going through. The humor in this book is FANTASTIC! Well done, Bethany!
  5. Faye
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: female
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Fresh Take on Christian Romance
    June 2, 2019
    Faye
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 3
    This review was written for The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck.
    Sarah Hollenbeck married her high school sweetheart, and spent her life supporting him in his career. But when she finds her beloved Patrick with another woman, her world comes crumbling down and she finds solace in book clubs, inspiring her to write a steamy romance that makes her a best-seller.

    But her life pivots again when she gives her life to the Lord, and starts dating the new pastor at her church.

    A fun-filled read from the very start, it was sugary sweet like a Hallmark movie, but it also had some really great in depth discussions on faith. There were moments that had me laughing out loud and and others that had me grinning a stupid grin ear to ear. It was an absolute delight, there were moments that might have been a bit cheesy, but its cheeky self-awareness was a strength.

    I loved Sarah's best friend Piper, she is a long time Christian who helps Sarah navigate the ropes of her new faith, as well as a encouraging her positively and supporting her under tough circumstances. I wouldn't mind a sequel where Piper finds someone amazing! I love how Piper is honest, and tells Sarah the things that she needs to hear, not the things that she wants to hear. She is wonderfully human, and makes her mistakes too, but is honest with herself as well.

    Ben is a pretty much a knight in shining armor, he is honest and upfront about some of his struggles, but he stands with Sarah and supports her through everything. They have an instant chemistry and his daughter is just the sweetest! I loved his close relationship with his in-laws and his sense of priority.

    Overall, an absolutely thoroughly enjoyable read from beginning to end. I loved the pop-culture references to Dr. Quinn! Sarah was a lovable character, and one of my favorite things about this book was her friendship with Piper. Her romance with Ben was pretty hot too. I loved how this book had really great relatable Christian role models, as well as how the fun romance is balance with Biblical truth as Sarah learns to step out in faith and what it means to trust God. Utterly delightful!

    Books reviewed are checked out from my local library or purchased with my own money, unless otherwise noted.

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