Secrets over Sweet Tea

( 80 )

Overview

Secrets can be funny things. We think they keep us safe, but more often than not, they spill out when we least expect and make a mess out of everything. It’s a truth Scarlett Jo Newberry knows all too well—a truth Grace Shepherd and Zach Craig are about to learn the hard way. As the lives of this boisterous pastor’s wife, polished news anchor, and beleaguered divorce attorney intersect in the tree-lined streets of Franklin, Tennessee, scandal threatens to topple their carefully constructed worlds. Grasping at ...
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Secrets over Sweet Tea

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Overview

Secrets can be funny things. We think they keep us safe, but more often than not, they spill out when we least expect and make a mess out of everything. It’s a truth Scarlett Jo Newberry knows all too well—a truth Grace Shepherd and Zach Craig are about to learn the hard way. As the lives of this boisterous pastor’s wife, polished news anchor, and beleaguered divorce attorney intersect in the tree-lined streets of Franklin, Tennessee, scandal threatens to topple their carefully constructed worlds. Grasping at survival, they embark on a journey of friendship and courage, desperate to find a way back to laughter, love, and life. Tyndale House Publishers
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Editorial Reviews

Romantic Times
TOP PICK! 4 ½
Jones can distill the heart of a woman better than most authors. This novel is a wonderful treat that women of every stage and circumstance of life can treasure. There’s no judgment here—just the love of God and the love of true friends.
SUMMARY: Scarlett Jo Newberry is a pastor’s wife in the South, and she isn’t afraid to pray for others or attempt to get in their business if she thinks they need her. Grace Shepherd just moved into the neighborhood, and although she has some secrets, Scarlett Jo is there to help when things fall apart. And when Zach and Caroline Craig’s marriage implodes, the connection continues in unlikely ways.
Romantic Times Tyndale House Publishers
TOP PICK! 4 ½
Jones can distill the heart of a woman better than most authors. This novel is a wonderful treat that women of every stage and circumstance of life can treasure. There’s no judgment here—just the love of God and the love of true friends.
SUMMARY: Scarlett Jo Newberry is a pastor’s wife in the South, and she isn’t afraid to pray for others or attempt to get in their business if she thinks they need her. Grace Shepherd just moved into the neighborhood, and although she has some secrets, Scarlett Jo is there to help when things fall apart. And when Zach and Caroline Craig’s marriage implodes, the connection continues in unlikely ways.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781414366845
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/1/2013
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 477,305
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Read an Excerpt

secrets over Sweet Tea

a novel
By DENISE HILDRETH JONES

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2013 Denise Hildreth Jones
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4143-6684-5


Chapter One

SCARLETT JO NEWBERRY'S lime-green flip-flops smacked the sidewalk loudly as she walked through her neighborhood. Her prayers were sometimes just as loud—or sometimes she prayed them in her head. Sometimes she'd hum gently, and other times she'd belt out a song at the top of her lungs.

She didn't mind the stares or the comments. She was used to both. Some folks had trouble with her love of bright colors. Some disliked the noise her five children could make. Some thought she strolled the streets talking to herself. But Scarlett Jo hadn't simply survived her life. She had learned how to live in spite of it—and not to worry too much about the perceptions of others.

This early morning routine of part prayer, part recalibration was pretty much a daily occurrence. Every day except the rainy ones. Rain messed up her hair. But with her hectic household, she needed a set of new mercies as often as possible.

She started humming that old song again, the one from The Sound of Music that listed "my favorite things." Watching the sun rise was one of her own favorites. So was walking. And praying. And with all those things in this one beautiful morning, she had that song on her mind.

If anyone had been listening, they might have hummed along. But most people weren't listening. If they were jogging, they passed her by with things stuck in their ears, pumping music in so fast and furious that she didn't know when they'd last heard all the beautiful music that life made right around them.

She passed Sylvia Malone's house and prayed for her. Sylvia needed a lot of prayer. Sometimes Eugenia's house next door wouldn't even get prayed over because Sylvia needed so much. But Scarlett Jo tried to cover every house if she could, including her own. Talking with her Father that way made all of life better. And so would the pastry she'd grab from Merridee's Breadbasket over on Fourth Avenue South when she was done.

Scarlett Jo reached beneath her double-Ds and adjusted her underwire. Then she reached into the pocket of her hot-pink terry-cloth shorts and pulled out the small pencil and notebook she kept stashed in there for moments just like this. For distractions.

She wrote, Visit Victoria and get a new secret. She giggled. Jackson would like that. A lot. That special connection of theirs had helped make her the wife of one good-looking preacher and the mama of five amazing boys.

She stuck the notebook back in her pocket and continued on her morning walk. Franklin, Tennessee, was just starting to come alive. But Scarlett Jo Newberry had been marvelously alive for years.

Despite what many believed, she'd never been out for attention. Her oversize personality just seemed to attract it. And Scarlett Jo didn't mind because she knew she'd eventually earn entry into people's hearts. Experience had taught her that many who initially disapproved of her would eventually want her on their committees and include her at their functions and parties. Maybe the fact that she wasn't the skinniest or the quietest girl in the room helped them feel better about themselves.

But Scarlett Jo thought it was something else. It was because, for the most part, she was nothing but herself. What you saw was what you got. It had taken her a long time and a lot of pain to get there. And people responded to that.

Not everybody, of course. A lot of those she knew weren't quite there yet. And she was trying to learn patience about that. Trying to learn when to speak up about what she saw—she was pretty good at that—and when to shut her mouth and wait—which was still a challenge. She knew she stepped over the line a lot, that people weren't ready for her to let it all hang out. Every day she asked God to show her the fine line between being herself and simply being too much—and to please keep her from hurting Jackson's ministry by saying the wrong thing.

Not that Jackson would ever tell her to do anything for the ministry's sake. He was crazy about her just the way she was. But Scarlett Jo had been involved with churches long enough to know that folks could be as bottled up and closed off and easily offended in church as anywhere else. Maybe more so in church than anywhere else. Which meant the state of Tennessee must be chock-full of the bottled up, closed off, and easily offended because churches were as plentiful here as ants at a Sunday dinner on the grounds. Why, right here in Scarlett Jo's little part of Franklin you could find Church of Christ, Presbyterian, Methodist, nondenominational, and Catholic. Probably more.

Sometimes she wished their church had confessionals like the Catholics did. With a confessional, at least for a few brief minutes, you had a soul vulnerable, available to the kind of honesty that could heal. And if they weren't being honest, you could simply jump out of your side of the curtain and grab them before they got away.

The nondenominational church she and Jackson had started two years ago didn't have confessionals. What it did have was people hungry for something real. That was evident by how quickly the church had grown. But though Jackson tried with all his might to get their people living out of their "authentic selves," it hadn't been as easy as he'd expected. It wasn't easy for people to be authentic—or appreciate authenticity—when they hadn't seen their authentic selves in decades.

Still, Scarlett Jo had hope. She was a woman on a mission for her city whether they knew it or not. So each morning after her walk, and after all five of her boys got out of the house and on their way to school, she'd curl up in her hot-pink robe on the small sofa in her sunporch, sip a glass of sweet tea, and watch men and women as they scurried up the streets with their coffee. Or ran behind baby strollers. Or walked like half drunks with their eyes glued to a screen no wider than her big toe as if everything in life depended on reading the latest tweet. She'd watch them all and pray a little more.

What she really longed for was to be the kind of person who, when people wanted prayer—the real kind of prayer that reaches down to soul places and up to heavenly places—they'd know to come straight to her. Unfortunately that had only happened one time in the two years she and Jackson had lived here. Proving that sometimes denial is a strong-willed companion. Or that she still had some growing to do. Probably both.

"Scarlett Jo, seriously. I've told you—no woman your age or your size should be in hot pink. You look like an overgrown bottle of Pepto-Bismol."

Scarlett Jo walked to the edge of Eugenia Quinn's yard, two houses down from her own. "Eugenia, if those aren't the loveliest peonies I have ever seen."

"Well, they would be if Jeremiah would quit messing with them. I told Gray if he started sending that man to me, he'd spend the rest of his life all up in my business. I'm a prophet!" Eugenia used the back of her wrist to push at her bleached-blonde locks, the palm of her gardening glove almost as black as the soil. Her bob bounced right back into place. Good hair was about the only thing she and Scarlett Jo had in common.

"Well, it's good you have Jeremiah taking care of things for you now that you're going to DC so much." Scarlett Jo leaned in. "I heard the White House is beautiful. Is it beautiful, Eugenia?"

Eugenia bent over her peonies again and swatted at Scarlett Jo. "It's big and it's white and it has pictures of dead people everywhere." Her tone softened. She couldn't help it. She was about to speak of the people she loved most. It always shifted here. "But my family is there in Washington. And my grandbabies need their Gigi."

"They sure do. How are they adjusting?"

"They're the smartest children you'd ever find. And very well-mannered." Eugenia raised her eyebrow at Scarlett Jo.

Scarlett Jo got Eugenia's message and completely ignored it. Her five boys burped, passed gas, and rode skateboards and bikes all over the place. They were loud. They fought. And they were totally and completely alive, just the way she liked them. "And how are Sam and Lola?" she asked Eugenia. "The pictures I've seen look like they're growing like weeds."

"And jabbering up a storm. I'm crazy about them."

"Of course you are, Eugenia."

"I see you killed those trees I gave you for your front porch."

The little potted trees had been Eugenia's welcome gift when Scarlett Jo and Jackson moved into the storybook stone cottage up the street. Scarlett Jo twitched her nose and pushed out her lips. Her weight rocked slightly on her flip-flops. "If your thumb is green, Eugenia, mine is—"

"Hot pink! You spend more time focused on looking like a neon sign than taking care of plants. Heaven knows I should have gotten you silk ones. But then the town would be downgraded from the twentieth best place to retire to number twenty on the tacky meter."

"I told you when you gave them that I'd do better with some cinnamon buns."

Eugenia raised her eyebrow again and opened her mouth.

"Don't say anything! I'm going to go back to praying. Anything special you need today?"

Eugenia looked at Scarlett Jo, obviously thinking. "I need life to slow down. My friend Dimples to speed up. Jeremiah to leave me alone. And God to keep the cicadas from hatching. Got that?"

Scarlett Jo nodded. "Got it. Are those cicadas really as bad as everyone says? Swooping from the air? Screaming in your ear?"

"All that, baby girl. All that."

Scarlett Jo shivered and finished her prayer with an added bonus for the cicadas.

* * *

Jackson came up behind Scarlett Jo and wrapped his arms around her waist while she stood with her nose almost touching the glass pane of their sunporch. She noticed his hands didn't make it quite as far around as they had twenty-five years ago, when she was eighteen and he was twenty. But neither one of them minded. It hadn't been their figures that had attracted them to each other in the first place.

She patted his hand. "Morning, sugar. Rest well?"

He breathed his words across the base of her ear. "I'd recognize that Mississippi drawl four states over."

His breath gave her chills. She tried to squirm free. "Jackson, you just made the hairs on my legs grow."

He laughed. "I know." He finally leaned back, patted her rear, and came around next to her. "Who are you spying on now?"

"New neighbor. Four doors down." She motioned with her fingers in the direction of the house as if she were engaged in some covert mission.

He played along. He always played along. "Well, that does happen when people move out. Usually someone moves in. Think they're terrorists?"

She slapped at him without turning his way. "I think they're from up North somewhere. They drive one of those Prius cars." Sylvia Malone could be the neighborhood watch committee all by herself, but Scarlett Jo couldn't resist helping her out now and then.

"They do sell those now in the South, you know."

"I know that. But I watched them take in most of their clothes too." Her sigh came out heavy. Did this man not pay attention?

"Of course you did. And you started this surveillance activity when?"

"Two days ago. They started Saturday. And had everything in by yesterday." Her next words came out in a whisper. "Their clothes were mostly black. Only people from New York or California dress in all black." She took a long sip of her tea.

"We'd better hide the good china." He shivered as he spoke. "Plus, all this time I thought you were out there praying in the mornings."

"Don't mock me, Jackson Newberry. Northerners are a different breed, baby. They don't like you to touch them. They don't want to be called sugar or sweetie or honey pie or darlin'. They've never heard of lard. They have no clue on God's green earth what fixin' to even means. And if you say y'all, they look at you like you probably marry your second cousin or something."

His phone rang from his pocket. He leaned over and kissed her before he pulled it out. "I've always wondered about your cousin Thelma Lou."

She swatted at him, and he laughed. "What I know about you, Scarlett Jo, is you can make even Northerners fall in love with you. I'll see you tonight. And please, don't take them anything at least for a week. Let them get settled first. Visit them next weekend."

She started to protest, but he shook his ringing phone in front of her and walked from the room. She sighed. People thought pastors were like God—needed to be accessible at all times. She turned back toward the house down the street that seemed quiet after yesterday's busy activity. She breathed a prayer for the hearts that would now live inside. Then her mind began to rummage through the selection of baked goods at Merridee's. She'd find out what these Northerner newcomers were really like. And she had every intention of finding that out today.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from secrets over Sweet Tea by DENISE HILDRETH JONES Copyright © 2013 by Denise Hildreth Jones. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 80 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(46)

4 Star

(22)

3 Star

(6)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 80 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 21, 2013

    Denise Hildreth Jones has long been a favorite author. I've been

    Denise Hildreth Jones has long been a favorite author. I've been patiently anxiously waiting a new book for TWO YEARS, so I was STOKED when I received a copy of Secrets Over Sweet Tea for review two months before it was "technically" available!

    Denise starts by introducing readers to a fantastic—and diverse!—cast of characters. I immediately connected with Grace—feeling both sorry for her situation and frustrated that she wouldn't stand up for herself. She seemed like such a feisty, independent woman, except in her marriage. I suppose we all have our secrets and "masks" that we slip on and off depending on where we are and who we're with.

    And Scarlett Jo! She was gregarious, hilarious, and outrageous! But her love for the Lord and for the people around her was palpable. I loved her habit of praying and walking every morning and actually think it's something I'll try in my own neighborhood. She's a force to reckon with, but her compassion for Grace and Zach (and others) really drove the story. Of course, Scarlett Jo has her own secrets as well, and I really loved how the roles reversed between Grace and Scarlett Jo. I thought it was a great picture of the give and take in relationships.

    Denise has outdone herself with this emotional yet hopeful story. Tackling such a bevy of heart-wrenching topics (divorce, reconciliation, adultery) could have taken over the story and/or left readers in despair. Instead, the author used these subjects to move the story along and show God's grace in life-like circumstances.

    Secrets Over Sweet Tea is a beautiful story about friendship, hope, and grace. My recommendation? Rush out and purchase a copy as soon as it becomes available next month! I believe you will be as touched as I was by this incredible book. [5 stars]

    I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale in exchange for my fair and honest review.

    13 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 4, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Secrets Over Sweet Tea is saturated in Southern comforts and Chr

    Secrets Over Sweet Tea is saturated in Southern comforts and Christianity-that's not a bad thing, but at times both topics get a little heavy handed in this book.
    Set in the South, the book follows the lives of a handful of characters whose lives continue to cross paths-in church, as neighbors and friends.
    Although a little preachy- the stories are entertaining, especially the character Grace.
    Her relationships and career are pretty interesting.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 11, 2013

    Involve yourself with the characters in the book ~ read to find

    Involve yourself with the characters in the book ~ read to find out what takes place, but not wanting the book to end because you have grown to enjoy these "cast of characters". Engaging; enter the world of Franklin, TN and be ready to sit down with your own glass of sweet tea as Denise Hildreth Jones takes you on a journey to reclaim your own heart. I can't wait for Ms. Jones next book, as her gift of writing is EXCEPTIONAL!


    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2013

    O

    Please, plot spoilers, do not tell everything about the book, then brag how you got the book for free for your 'honest ' review. First, it wont be an honest review in my opinion, and second, we have to buy our book. You got yours for free. Dont ruin it for us by spoiling the story. We can read, and contrary to your belief, we would like to read it for ourselves and be surprised by what we read, not have you read it and regurgitate it back for us, so in the future, please do not rewrite the book. Just state if you like the book or not. That is a true review.

    4 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 5, 2013

    I've said it before and I will say it again: Denise Hildreth spe

    I've said it before and I will say it again: Denise Hildreth speaks my language. :)  I'm willing to bet she speaks yours, too....so you'd better hurry up and get this book to find out.  "Secrets Over Sweet Tea" managed to make me laugh out loud numerous times - and cry, too.  I cannot recommend it enough.  While you're at it, get one for you and your bestie, too.




    Unconventional Pastor's wife Scarlett Jo Newbury is gifted in that she can sense hurt in others that they may think they have covered well; and she is willing to love them where they are.  Her new neighbor, news reporter Grace Shepherd is deep in grief over a long-time-coming divorce and isn't sure what her life should look like next.  Divorce Attorney Zach Craig seems like he has it all together - but his secrets run so deep, even he doesn't have it all figured out.  These three main characters come together in the town of Franklin, Tennessee and share a story with us that is life changing.




    One of the things I love best about Denise's writing is that nothing is sugar coated and very little is sacred...her characters are just plain real.   The choices they are faced with are more common in conventional "Christian circles" than one might think. Her characters don't always make the "right decision"....but grace shines through.




    Please read this book.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 1, 2013

    I loved this book! Jones did an excellent job in developing the

    I loved this book! Jones did an excellent job in developing the plot carefully and slowly and an equally excellent job peeling back the layers of the characters. The characters were believable and I could see a little of myself in each of them and the struggles they have with vulnerability, being authentic, opening their hearts, and owning their secrets. Although it was a fictional book, I got the idea while reading it that it could be a how-to manual on how to develop deep, meaningful relationships.

    I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoy reading about the multiple facets of relationships and the struggles between private selves and public selves. I also think the glimpse into the culture of the South was interesting. I can't wait to read another book by Jones!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 16, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I expected to love this book¿and I did. The story takes place in

    I expected to love this book—and I did. The story takes place in Franklin, Tennessee, which is a huge plus for me since I love Tennessee, and southern fiction is my favorite kind of read.

    Scarlet, the preacher’s wife, is the central character and what a character she is! Actually, all the characters are believable and well developed. Though they are Christians, they’re human, and make mistakes, which is another thing I loved about this book. It isn’t a fluffy tale with fairytale-like issues. It delves into realistic faults, situations, and emotions. 

    Oftentimes, throughout the story, I could picture people I know stepping into the characters. It’s uncanny how an author can do that. And entertaining as well. ¿ I loved being exposed to the misfortunes, trials of friendship, and art of forgiveness in this book. 

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 26, 2013

    I really like this book. It was uplifting and had just the right

    I really like this book. It was uplifting and had just the right amount of humor.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2013

    Martha

    This book is so good! I loved every thing about it and hated it when I finished it because I just wanted more. The story really made me think about how my life has been similar to some of the characters. This book not only made me happy but it shows how our faith can always make things right for us. I have found a great new author to add to my reading list,and she may just be my favorite! Please read this book , you will love it. Thank you Denise for making me see some things I needed to remember. I hope there will be a sequel because I loved all the characters and want to see how their lifes continues.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2013

    Great

    What a great book this was! One of those that made me feel horribly sad when it was over. I can't wait to read Ms. Jone's next book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2013

    Wjdvdkwer

    J hv brg

    1 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 29, 2013

    Read as part of the Tyndale House summer reading program and lov

    Read as part of the Tyndale House summer reading program and loved it! It's very witty, real, and relatable. I read it in a couple days because it was so entertaining. Highly recommend!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2013

    Beautiful book, full of lives with numerous problems and how you

    Beautiful book, full of lives with numerous problems and how you should and should not deal with them. It had you so sad for the characters at times, then laughing out loud and snorting with them at others. I want some of these broken, people of God to be my friends.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 10, 2013

    Scarlett Jo has a secret, and so do others in town, including Gr

    Scarlett Jo has a secret, and so do others in town, including Grace and Craig. As a pastor's wife, Scarlett Jo seeks to help those in need, like Grace and Craig.

    I really liked this book. Scarlett Jo is funny and crazy, something others don't always appreciate. She is friendly to those in her neighborhood and church, wanting to help those who are struggling, like Grace. Other characters in the book have their quirks as well, which makes for a great read.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 8, 2013

    Three different people with three very different secrets. Secret

    Three different people with three very different secrets. Secrets they may not like, but as they discover each other they realize that they can help each other heal through Jesus. The author did an awesome job painting a picture of what life is like when we have a relationship with Jesus, one that may not be easy, but filled with hope. I am looking forward to reading more books by this author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 5, 2014

    Good Christian Fiction

    Sweet story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2013

    Highly recommend

    I loved this inspiring book.!!! It was totally awesome book and I laughed and cried on some parts. You should read this!!!

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  • Posted November 30, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Scarlett Jo Newberry is as outspoken and flamboyant as her name,

    Scarlett Jo Newberry is as outspoken and flamboyant as her name, but her unique personality and good heart have also make her a dynamic part of her minister husband's ministry.  So no one is surprised when Scarlett decides to find out more about the newest neighbors in Franklin.  Never did she expect to find beautiful news anchor Grace Shepherd, who along with her hockey star husband, has made yet another move, to yet another strange house.  Little does anyone suspect that within weeks, Grace will find herself the client of another nearby neighbor, divorce lawyer Zach Craig, and that both Zach and Grace will face a summer of scandal, survival, and the deepest desire to find a lives that honor themselves and God.




    The secrets that the title refers to are the secrets that we keep from even ourselves -- the secrets that dishonor the person we were meant to be, the secrets that can weave themselves so deeply into our lives that we lose almost  every sense of joy in our lives.  These secrets dictate how we treat others and decisions we make.  For both Zach and Grace, the decisions have led to shattered marriages and lifeless careers.  And it is perfectly clear that as each secret gains strength and power, it has led the owner further and further away from the life and person God has created.




    Even though entertaining, some Christian fiction books read like fiction from the first sentence to the last.  Not so Secrets over Sweet Tea.  At times it was almost too painful to continue reading, especially if you've watched someone deal with broken dreams and shattered hearts recently.  Denise Hildreth Jones writes in her author's notes that book comes from her own struggle out of a broken place.  She also writes that this fiction book is a counterpart to her nonfiction book Reclaiming Your Heart: A Journey Back to Laughing, Loving, and Living.  I have not read that title, but plan to investigate it further.  

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2013

    Great book!

    Loved this story! Can't wait to read more by this author!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2013

    Kathy's opinion

    Loved this book. The characters were so like friends by the time the story is over. Worth the money. Kathy

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