“Fans of Karen Kingsbury’s tender family stories will love this southern-flavored tale of triumph and grace.” —Lisa Wingate, national bestselling author of Tending Roses and Larkspur Cove
The second book in the Songbird series from country music star Sara Evans and New York Times bestseller Rachel Hauck!
Happily married and owner of two successful boutiques, Jade longs to begin a family with her husband, Max. But when she discovers that Max has an illegitimate son—who he wants her to help raise—Jade’s life is turned upside down.
She flees to her childhood home, a rambling Iowa farmhouse, with enough room to breathe. There—while her mother’s health grows fragile, and the tug of her first love grows stronger—Jade begins to question everything she thought she knew about family, love, and motherhood. In the wide-open landscape, Jade begins to see a future that doesn’t rest on the power of her past, but in the goodness of God's tender mercies.
"Hang on for an emotional ride as a woman who 'married into a Southern soap opera' learns to forgive and trust again." —Booklist
"Enter the magic of Whisper Hollow and open your heart. Like Sara Evan's bittersweet songs, the notes and melody of Jade Fitzgerald's past sing a new future. In a world of wounded souls, forgiveness and redemption are the lyrics of this enchanting story." —Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author
“Exquisitely written, an achingly beautiful story about lost and found relationships that made me ponder my own. This story is not to be missed.”—Susan May Warren, RITA award-winning, bestselling author of Nightingale
About the Author
Multi-platinum recording artist Sara Evans has garnered such honors as ACM’s Female Vocalist of the Year, CMA’s Video of the Year, one of People Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People,' and the first country star to compete in ABC's Dancing with the Stars. This is her first fiction series.
Rachel Hauck is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA TODAY bestselling author of The Wedding Dress, which was also named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times and was a RITA finalist. Rachel lives in central Florida with her husband and pet and writes from her ivory tower. Visit her online at RachelHauck.com; Facebook: RachelHauck; Twitter: @RachelHauck; Instagram: @rachelhauck.
Read an Excerpt
Softly & Tenderly
By Sara Evans, Rachel Hauck
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2010 Sara Evans
All rights reserved.
Whisper Hollow, TN
Along the first of spring, when winter began to ease its grip on Whisper Hollow mornings, the word barren began echoing over the shadowy recesses of Jade's mind.
"You're quiet." Her mother-in-law peered at her from the passenger side of Jade's truck. She looked out of place perched on the faded red, torn vinyl seat wearing a haute couture pink suit.
"Thinking." Jade forced a smile just as the tires hit a bump in the road, jostling the passengers from side to side.
June grabbed the dashboard. "Mercy me."
"Sorry ..." Jade urged the truck up the hill to Orchid House, her husband's childhood home. "You feel everything in this truck. No matter how new the shocks."
Truck shocks aside, Jade had managed to hit all the holes today. Holes in the road. Holes in her business. Holes in her heart. With a slow exhale, she propped her elbow on the door and pressed her fingers against her forehead.
Today it seemed that every woman, every woman, who came into Jade's downtown shop was pregnant. Nearly picked clean her retro maternity clothes. She'd been folding and hanging the remaining items when June called and asked Jade to give her a ride home.
"It's beyond me why you still drive this old bucket of bolts, Jade. Why don't you just buy a new truck?" June brushed a piece of foam from the crumbling ceiling off her skirt. "You're a Benson now. A successful business owner in Whisper Hollow and riverfront Chattanooga. Surely you can afford a vehicle better than this. Max would buy you one if you asked. I'm quite sure he—"
"Your pink suit is beautiful. Did you get it on your girls' shopping trip in Atlanta?"
June cut Jade a glance. "Paris, last spring. I figure I could risk wearing it another season."
"Do I get dibs when it's out of season in twenty years?"
"Shug, this thing will be completely out of vogue in three months. And by the end of summer, sold at the club auction." June ran her hand along the three-quarter sleeve, finally smiling. Ever since Jade had picked her up from the Read House Starbucks, she'd been fuming beneath a stone face.
"So Rebel got tied up with a case or something? Couldn't bring you home?" Jade asked. June had yet to say why she was stranded at Starbucks, and so steamed.
"Oh, who knows? That man. He can be so self-focused. I specifically told Rebel that Honey Andover could not drive me up to the house when we returned from Atlanta. Her granddaughter's birthday party is up in Knoxville, so she wanted to get back on the road. So ..." June fiddled with the air-conditioning vents. "Rebel agreed to meet me at Starbucks."
"The truck doesn't have air, June."
"Well, why not? Mercy, Jade, buy a decent truck. What's this thing, a hundred years old?"
"Thirty-eight. So what happened with Honey? What's got you riled?"
"Nothing happened with Honey. She dropped me off at the Read House Starbucks like we planned, right by Benson Law, right by my husband's office, where he agreed to be. But Rebel's nowhere to be found."
"You tried his cell?"
"I'm angry, not addled, Jade. I called his cell and his office. Gina didn't know where he was—and if she doesn't know, he's gone. Vanished into thin air." June twirled her hands in front of her.
"Maybe Reb hit the golf course, taking a break from the class action suit the firm's been handling. That case has Max preoccupied and bleary-eyed."
"Nice try, Jade, but Reb hasn't worked a case in years. He just oversees. Charms. Asks a few tough questions in court when they want to intimidate someone." June snatched her handbag from the seat and stuffed it into her lap. "He's probably schmoozing someone in the governor's office, hoping he'll get a special appointment should one ever open up."
"Reb has political aspirations?" Jade crested the hill and rounded the bend toward the Bensons' white brick estate.
"Jade, have you learned to tune out his ramblings already? Reb wants to run the universe from his throne on the moon."
A fawn suddenly leaped onto the road from the cluster of trees tucked into the curve of the bend. Jade hammered the clutch and brake.
"Sake's alive." June smacked the dashboard with her Gucci bag.
Stiff-arming the steering wheel and mashing the brake, Jade winced as the truck drifted into a blinding patch of sun. Anticipation drilled a hole between her ribs.
When there was no impact, breath exploded from her lungs. Just beyond her windshield, a black-eyed doe and her two spotted fawns crossed the road into the woods on the other side.
"My heart is thumping in my throat." June spanked the dash grit from the smooth leather of her handbag. "Can you imagine if you'd not seen?"
"I wouldn't have been able to sleep for a week." Jade watched the doe as she led her young to the other side, her head high, her steps neat and sure. Jade pressed the clutch and shifted into first with a final glance at the creature.
In the grass, just beyond the trees, the doe turned and fixed her polished gaze on Jade. Yes, I know ... A motor roared, and the doe dashed into the tress the moment a car whizzed around the bend.
"Farrel Lawrence," June said. "She's got a lead foot."
Run, girl. Run. Jade eased off the clutch, and the truck chugged up the last few feet of the hill, the heart of the doe and the sensation of beauty resonating within her.
* * *
The Bensons' foyer was cold. Jade shivered as she followed June inside, carrying a few of the bags and boxes her mother-in-law had collected from three days of shopping in Atlanta with Honey.
"Constance?" June clicked on the table lamp. The soft yellow light caught the gloss and glimmer of the polished mahogany. The wood grain matched the banister of the sweeping, curved staircase that spilled from the second floor into the Italian marble foyer. "You here, Constance?"
Jade dropped the packages at the base of staircase, rubbing the bend of her arm. "What did you buy? Bricks?" She peered into the Neiman Marcus bag. "Christian Louboutins? Don't you have, like, four pairs already?" Jade sat on the bottom step and lifted the lid off the shoe box, inhaling at the sight of dark red patent leather heels. "Wow."
"And now I have five pair." June scouted the formal living room for signs of life. "I bought them for the club's Christmas ball. Reb? Constance?"
Barely emerging from winter's gray, and June was already planning for Christmas. Jade could learn something here ... What, she wasn't sure, but the moment sure felt teachable.
"How much?" Jade dug around for the receipt.
"Didn't your mama teach you it's impolite to ask how much? Get your nose out of my bags." June gazed into the family room on the other side of the foyer. "Well, the place looks tidy."
"Six hundred dollars?" Jade dropped the shoe back into the box and let the receipt go, fluttering into the bag. "You can buy a lot of food for the poor with that kind of money."
"For Pete's sake, Jade, don't preach to me. Reb and I give plenty to the poor." June turned for the kitchen, her low heels beating a rhythm against the marble. "Why don't you call Max and have supper here? Run quick to pick up your mama too. Mercy, I pay Constance for a full day's work and I want a full day. Whether I'm here or not. Constance!"
"Max is working late." Jade sauntered into the kitchen. "Mama's still recovering from the last round of chemo. Why don't we try for another time?"
"Well, if you're sure, fine ... another time." June stood in the middle of the arching, stainless steel kitchen looking disconcerted.
Jade leaned against the ivory and green island. The kitchen was like a structural hug, cozy with June's Southern hospitality and dabbled with yellow and gray Smoky Mountain sunshine dripping through the skylight.
"How about we get Reb to fire up his grill this weekend?"
"He'd love that ... We can thaw the kobe steaks." June opened the fridge and then closed it without looking inside. "I am sorry Beryl's not feeling well. Tell that mama of yours I'll be over tomorrow for a game of hearts."
"She'd like that. June?" Jade peered into her pinched eyes. "Are you okay?"
"Of course I'm okay. I've just been shopping for three days. Now, how about some hot tea? The house is freezing." June walked over to the basement door. "Constance?" June shoved the door closed. "That girl ... I'm docking her pay a whole day."
"Why don't you hear her out first?" Jade slipped onto one of the island chairs and watched June fill a kettle with water and drop it onto the stove with a clank.
It was nearing five. Jade would have to leave after this cup of tea to get Mama's dinner. The latest round of chemo had zapped her energy more than the previous treatments. She slept most of the day, eating only when Jade urged her. Leukemia was a cruel taskmaster.
June set two mugs in front of Jade. "So what's new with you in the three days I've been gone? Have you and Max made any decisions?"
June never hesitated to dig around in Jade's life, prying open internal windows. Didn't Honey empty June of all her idle words? Didn't the woman just want to relax in a hot bath, order a Mario's pizza, and curl up with Rebel and a good TMC movie?
"A decision? In three days? I've hardly seen him." Her sorrow over the plethora of pregnant shoppers at the Blue Two this afternoon surfaced, gasping for air.
Perhaps June had a right to know if she would ever be a grandmother. Or not. Jade's private life with Max was private. And if Jade was ... barren ... then she needed to deal with that first, on her own, without her mother-in-law peering into her heart.
"What about a surrogate? The Bidwells had great success."
Or without offering myriad unwanted solutions.
"June, please, Max and I have talked ad nauseam about the options." Jade pressed her fingers into the taut muscles along her shoulders and propped her elbows on the light-kissed granite countertop. "I can get pregnant; I just can't stay pregnant. And I'm sorry, but I'm not open to using another woman's womb. It would be like ... like having an affair, inviting another woman into our marriage. Either Max and I make a baby together, or we don't have a biological child."
"Then you'll adopt." June set tea bags and sweeteners on the island.
Jade exhaled. "If and when we decide. You can't just pick up a child like a Jiffy Mart stop for a gallon of milk and loaf of bread." Didn't she just have this conversation with Max the other night? His response and tone had been almost identical to June's. Matter-of-fact, devoid of an emotional response or commitment. But the Bensons made things happen. There was a fix for everything. "Why can't a family just be a man and his wife? Do children validate us? Prove we make love? Make us more complete? What if we're happy ... just Max and me?"
"Are you?" The kettle rumbled from its perch on the gas flame. June reached for it and filled the cups. "If you're happy, then I'm happy." She smiled. "But every time we talk about children, I can see the pain in your eyes, hear the longing in your words. You want what you never really had growing up. A family."
"I have a family. You and Reb, Mama, Aiden and Willow." Jade tore open a packet of sweetener and dumped the white powder into her tea.
"Is that good enough? Max wants children, Jade. He doesn't care if they're biological or not."
"June." Jade fired her name with a caustic edge. "We'll have children if we are meant to have children. Maybe Max and I aren't meant to be parents. What if God doesn't find me trustworthy? Why would He give a child to a woman who ..."
"Why would God decide you aren't ..." June dipped her head to see into Jade's downcast eyes. "Oh, I see." Her spoon tapped out a beat against the ceramic mug as she stirred her tea. "You think God would choose you out of all the women in this world who've had abortions to say, 'No baby for her; she blew it'?"
"Feels like it sometimes." Jade sipped her tea to hide her emotion. She ignored the yearning most of the time. But it had been stirred today, by the pregnant women, by the doe with her fawns. If she could finally carry a baby to term, not miscarry again, she'd feel like her past was truly forgiven and God was smiling.
"You're young, Jade. It'll happen." June's words brought little comfort.
"Sure, I know." Jade sipped her tea.
"I've got just the thing for you." June motioned for Jade to pick up her tea and follow.
Jade carried her tea up the stairs behind June, whose narrow hips swung from side to side. She'd spent her entire marriage, the past two and a half years, trying to convince herself that children didn't matter. Max completed her. God, as she was beginning to know Him, completed her. But a child ... one of her own. Jade could imagine the joy.
She'd lost their honeymoon baby after ten weeks. It was a long eighteen months before she got pregnant again, only to lose the baby last summer, two weeks before Mama came down for a short visit.
But her August visit never ended. Mama's leukemia symptoms had intensified since Jade had seen her the Christmas before, so she refused to let her return to Iowa to live in the old farmhouse, alone.
Between managing the shops, the Blue Umbrella in Whisper Hollow and the Blue Two in downtown Chattanooga, Jade cared for Mama, driving her to doctor appointments and chemo treatments.
Into the crisp, golden fall and blustery holiday season, the busyness of the shop and town celebrations kept Jade's yearning for babies at bay. When she discovered she was pregnant at Thanksgiving, she laid awake that night in bed, pools in her eyes, crunching her fingers around Max's fisted, sleeping hand. The God of mercy bestowed favor on her.
"So, June, where are we going?" Then she had her third miscarriage in January. "What's this thing you have for me? Stuffing envelopes for the club's Spring Life Auction and Dance? Or licking stamps?"
"Jade, really, no one licks stamps anymore."
At the top of the stairs, June stopped short. Jade nearly sloshed her with tea.
"What's wrong?" Jade peered around her mother-in-law's shoulder. The pink hue of her suit brightened the dim light of the landing. The media room door was ajar with an eerie blue tint emanating from the flat-panel TV screen. "Is someone here?"
"Constance?" June thudded toward the door, a matronly authority in her stride. "You best not be napping. I warned you ..."
"June." Jade hurried behind her, hoping to cushion the clash between Constance and her mistress. "So what if she fell asleep? It's not like she ignored her chores. The house is immaculate."
"I don't pay her to sleep." June raised her voice as if giving Constance one last chance to wake up and feign dusting before June crashed through the door and flipped on the light. "Constance Filmore?"
Jade hung back. Constance didn't need an audience when June reamed her out. Be awake, Constance ...
"Oh my, oh, oh?" June crashed backward into the door, her teacup toppling to the plush cream and beige carpet. The golden-brown liquid spread through the fibers, sinking into the pile, creating a sprawling stain.
Jade surged into the room, accosted by the pungent scent of day-old cologne and sweat. As she stooped to pick up June's mug, her gaze strafed a topless woman standing on the other side of the U-shaped sofa. Her tangled, bleached hair stood high over her head and her unfastened jeans rode low on her hips. Surprise shoved the woman's name through her lips.
Wasn't she one of June's best friends? What's going on? Jade averted her eyes from Claire's form and glanced at June.
Her mother-in-law's high, rosy cheeks faded beyond pale, her eyes fixed, and for an insane moment Jade wondered if she was even breathing. "June," Jade whispered, gathering June's cup by the tips of her fingers.
"June ... we didn't know ..." Claire Falcon tugged on her cotton top, then hunted around for her shoes. "We thought you were—"
"We? Who's we?" June's blank, unblinking gaze matched her monotone.
"I gotta go." Claire peered down at the sofa before darting for the door, her bra, socks, and shoes clutched to her chest. A sour bile burned at the base of Jade's throat as she moved aside for Claire to exit.
Suddenly, there was Rebel, standing, smoothing his hair, fixing his belt, and fastening the bottom buttons of his blue shirt.
Jade dropped June's mug, barely having the presence of mind to set hers on the edge of the wall table just inside the door. Rebel? Her knees buckled.
"Maybe you should go, Jade." Rebel stepped around the couch. "I'm sorry you had to see this."
"In my own home, Rebel?" June's tone sent chills over Jade's skin." My. Own. Home."
Excerpted from Softly & Tenderly by Sara Evans, Rachel Hauck. Copyright © 2010 Sara Evans. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Love it!!! I can not put it down when I start. Lovely story line that everybody can follow. Wish she would write more books. I love the Iowa connection.
I read and reviewed the third book just this month, and was pleased with it that I went out and searched for the rest of the books in the Songbird Series. I am very grateful to Booksneeze for having the second one in their list of books to review, and immediately grabbed the chance to read and review it. Softly, Tenderly is about the struggles that Jade had to go through prior to being the woman she was when I met her in Love Lifted Me. Her in-laws are having marital problems, and her mother is sick with cancer and longs to go back to her hometown to rest. On top of all these, she still could not conceive a child with her husband, Max. And as if all of these are not enough to tear a woman apart, a woman from her husband’s past dies and leaves a motherless child on her door—her husband’s illegitimate child, nonetheless. How does Jade cope with all of these challenges hanging over her head? She runs away, with her mother and mother-in-law. But this action proves to be for the best since it gives her time to think and sort things through. This is an easy enough book to read, but the emotions in it really tugs at the heart. Jade’s struggles mirror what women today go through—some of them, if not all—and this book thus serves as a relatable guide to forgiveness and faith in both love and the divine powers that be. It’s not all smooth-sailing for Jade for the most part of the book, but I think that what makes the book compelling since it feels real—both heartbreakingly and heartwarmingly. Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck make a good team when it comes to writing this series. I hope to read the first book really soon. ¿
I like the writting style very much. It is what I would consider a cozy read. If you like a good clean book that relates to everyday issues, this is a good one. I will continue to read books by Sara Evans. I think she keeps things real and keeps me wanting more.
What a phenomenal book! I finished this one in a single day. I read the first one in the series over 2 years ago and was anxiously awaiting the next book. We pick up the story 2 years into Jade and Max's marriage. They are trying to conceive and Jade has had a few miscarriages. Jade's mother, Beryl, is living with them while she's in the last months of her battle with leukemia. Jade's life immediately makes a few sharp turns when she finds out some information about her family members that she never expected. She learns how to deal with her 'new' life and how God fits into the picture through all of it. This is definitely a page-turner. I couldn't put it down and was riveted until the very last page. The story definitely makes a lot of sense after the first book, but if you haven't read the first one, you'll still be able to understand the story and read this one. Definitely worth your time to pick up this book, SO good and I highly recommend it!
This is probably one of the most emotionally charged books that I've read in a very long time. If you were to lump it into a genre, it is Christian Chicklit. It is very heavy on "Faith" but never comes across as preachy, which I liked. This is the second book in the Songbird series. (Oh do I wish I had read the first one..but I'll go back and get that one later). It reads like a soap opera. Jade has her issues, she thinks she's barren, her mother is terminally ill. Her husband Max is addicted to painkillers and has kept a child he had with his ex-fiancee from her. Then there's Max's parents...more secrets and infidelities there. It really is hard to believe that this is Christian fiction, well, except that they seem to try to work things out, though at the end of the book the two marriages in jeopardy haven't been superglued back together. The most likable character in the book is actually Jade's mom, Beryl. She's everything you'd expect an aging hippie to be; feisty and lovable, and repentant of some of her wild ways but with no regrets. She's not the mother you want to have, but she's the mother you want one of your friends to have. I found myself wishing she'd hang on, but it was obvious she wasn't going to make it. Her death was truly the climax of this story. I could understand Jade and June and the way they dealt with things, but at times, Jade came across as a little to sanctimonious. There was a little "do as I say and not as I do" thing going on with her. But then again..she found her father-in-law with another woman and then learned her own husband had a fling with his ex, at his bachelor weekend that resulted in a pregnancy. Yeah...can you say drama and angst? I can really picture Jade, June and Beryl making the trip in the pink Caddy to Iowa..that is until Jade breaks the top! This book really showed how these women started to make peace with themselves and God...and all their past choices. I really enjoyed Softly & Tenderly...I'm going to pick up the first book, so I can be totally up to speed with the final book in the trilogy comes out this year.
(I received this as a free e-book from Booksneeze, and was not required to write a positive review). There is a prequel to the book which I haven¿t read, but I was able to read this book without being confused. It is about a woman named Jade who learns a shocking secret about her husband that causes her to doubt where their relationship is headed. Her husband¿s parents are going through similar relationship issues, and Jade and her mother-in-law, June, connect over it. I wasn¿t sure what to expect in the book, but overall I would give it a 6 out of 10 stars. It had a good but not overly exciting plot, but sometimes the writing seemed to jump all over the place. The characters weren¿t super developed and sometimes their interchanges seemed strange and unlike them. However, it was an entertaining novel and it would probably be more interesting if I had read the first book. So if you¿re looking for an easy read with some twists and romance, this may be for you!
A wonderful sequel that lives up to the first book and even more! After reading the first book, I was hestitant because I loved it in so many ways - can the second live up to how much I loved the first. It did and even more, it made me excited that there are rumored to be two more books in this series. As the first book centers solely around Jade, the main character, I think the strong suit for this book was to share the central focus on Jade, her mother and her mother-in-law. Each of these three women had a journey in this book and there were similarities in each of their struggles. The reader was able to get to go both mother figures in a deeper way - some of the story was even told from their perspective. A wonderfully heartfelt book that made me cry as I journeyed through the days with all three women. I am calling this the perfect series to curl up with this winter. The third book will be arriving early after the new year, I will definitely be looking for it.
Softly and Tenderly is a very powerful book. It deals with many heartaches, tragedy, deception and lies. In the story Jade, the main character and a wife of Max, has these problems in her life within a short time. Jade had Faith in God, which helped her to hold herself together, mostly. At the very end of the story when Jade's mother dies, she loses herself for few minutes. Jade soon fell in love with the son Jade never knew he had until now. This is the second book in the series Sara Evans had written. I LOVE this book, I believe if a person read this book who had some of the same problems of her could better relate to this story. The story line I loved because It was unique with its character. While I was reading this story I felt like I was REALLY there with the characters during her struggles, but also when she was having a great day. I think if a story makes you think about your life it is honestly a book that everyone needs to read.
A very powerful book. Dealing with heartache, tragedy, deception and lies. Jade has them thrown at her all at once. She has her Faith in God to hold most of it together, but she still falls apart toward the end when her mother dies. Needing space from her husband who has a son to another woman she comes to grips with things in her own way and time. Falling in love with his son, she realizes that he is her son also.I was so moved by this book. It was deep and intense, and you could feel every part of it. The pain, grief and sorrow were not glossed over.You will cry reading this book and a lot will associate with Jade. Very realistic, and encouraging. God¿s grace was apparent throughout all circumstances, though not necessarily seen in the moment. His power of forgiveness is strong. A powerful book to help women in situations such as these. I was a little disappointed by the ending as I would have liked a little more insight on future events. I could guess and get a good idea, but it ended kind of abruptly. It has to be one of my better books though as I could not put this book down. I give it 4 & 1/2 Stars.
Softly & Tenderly is the second book in the Songbird series. I didn't know that when I requested the book. I had no problem reading the book and understanding what was going on without reading the first book. The book started out a little slow for me. Jade is a married woman who is having trouble having a baby. Jade is also taking care of her mother who is battling cancer. Jade's world continues to be rocked when she discovers more secrets about her family. The worse being her husband has fathered a son that she did not know about until another tragedy strikes, which causes her husband to be honest. Softly & Tenderly reminds me of a Soap Opera set to print. There is a lot of drama and tragedy in the book. In my opinion too much drama and tragedy. The books ending was very good and left me wanting to read the next book in the series.
This book surprised me. First, it dealt with subjects not typically addressed in Christian Fiction: adultery, deception, divorce, etc. Secondly, Sara Evans is a surprisingly good writer. Jade and Max have a seemingly perfect marriage. They are dealing with infertility and miscarriage, but everything else appears to be wonderful. Until Max has to come clean to Jade that shortly before their wedding, he fathered a child with another woman. He just assumes she will forgive and forget, but Jade is deeply wounded by this revelation. On top of everything else, Jade's mother is dying, and her in-laws' marriage is crumbling. Her mother longs to die at home in Iowa so Jade, her mother, and her mother-in-law embark on a road trip to her hometown. While there, she re-connects with her first love and finds herself in a position of having to make some difficult choices. This is a story of love, hope, forgiveness, redemption, and faith. This book kept me interested enough that I read it in two days. I liked the fact that the characters all had flaws...deep flaws. I found myself confused at times - typically during Jade's flashback sections - but I think that may be because I never read the first installment of this series. Other than that, this book was very easy to read and quite enjoyable.
"Softly and Tenderly" is the second book in the Songbird series by country star Sara Evans and talented novelist Rachel Hauck. Jade Fitzgerald Benson has married into what she calls a "Southern soap opera", with a husband who is a high-powered attorney and a recovering addict, a father-in-law who is angling for a political appointment and a mother-in-law who is travels in high Southern society and expect Jade to do the same. Yet Jade has a family soap opera of her own, with a terminally ill hippie mother and siblings scattered from Alaska to Guatemala, not to mention her own personal crises of multiple failed pregnancies and two antique stores with issues. If that's not enough soap opera content for you, don't worry, there's more coming as you get deeper into the story. Unlike soap operas, however, the characters in this book are capable of making decisions, facing their problems and working to solve them, leaning on their faith and growing as people and as Christians. This is a great read, and well-deserving of the starred review that Booklist gave it. I have not read the first book in this series. The book stands complete on its own, and there is plenty of background in this book so that it is enjoyable without reading the first. However, that same background information may have spoiled the first book for me. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze 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.
Jade is settling into a happy marriage. Though struggling with infertility and her mother's leukemia, she's a successful boutique owner, has left her uncertain child-of-a-hippie childhood to be embraced into an established, southern family, and has her loving husband... Then everything begins to fall apart. The next thing she knows she's jumping in a pink Cadillac with her mother and mother-in-law and heading across the country to face family, life, and death. This was an unusual fiction book. Apparently, it is the second in a series. I didn't realize this when I began reading this, and felt I was missing something and checked it out. I was still able to get into the plot, but I did feel I was lacking vital backstory. I would assert this book is not just the story of Jade, but also the story of Beryl, her mother, and June, her mother-in-law. Both of them are also facing very difficult things and struggling to make it right. While having slight Christian tones, it is mainly focused on the lives of these women, not on Christ in their lives. I did enjoy this story, but it wasn't what I thought it was from the description. Because it is one in a series, I also didn't feel like it was finished when it was over. I felt somewhat satisfied with Jade's part, and definitely satisfied with Beryl's part, but what about June? I felt like her future was a question mark. I also admit the affluence of June's family turned me off a little. I came to relate to her, but the book started off with her complaining about her daughter-in-law's choice of trucks because "You're a Benson now... surely you can afford a better vehicle than this" while clinging to a Gucci bag and wearing haute couture clothing (p. 2). I know it's my own bias, but I have trouble with relating to a person who is supposed to be a Christian pillar in her family, but insists on expensive luxury in own home. I was also afraid the book would be a soap opera of the rich and regionally famous. While there was definitely some soap opera-like twists, I felt like the authors delved into the real heart and flaws of the character of June, despite not resolving her story to my satisfaction. While I don't have a feeling of "This was excellent" when I finished, I also think I'd be interested in reading the next book in the series, coming out in January, to see what happens next. I received this book from the booksneeze program for free in exchange for my unbiased review.
This book, at least for me, didn't draw or pull. It just was. There wasn't the profound Christian experience I had hoped for nor was it devoid of Christian life. It was a book about three women, but mainly Jade, dealing with the choices they've made and trying to move forward with them in the way that God wants them to.
Jade has finally gotten everything she has wanted - almost. Having reconciled with the mother who abandoned her as a child and is currently struglling with terminal cancer, she has married the man of her supposed dreams and runs a successful business. The only thing missing is a child in her arms. After numerous miscarriages, her world feels like it is falling apart. When she learns of her husband's illegitimate son, conceived teh night of his bachelro's party, it finally comes crashing down. As she struggles with this new revelation, her husband's drug addiction, her mother's imminent death, and the dissolution of her in-laws' perfect marriage, Jade must decide what it is she is really looking for in life. The religious aspect of this book wasn't as profound as many others of the genre, which I appreciated. However, I found Jade to be rather lacking as a character. It seemed as though all of her desires were fictional ones based in what she was "supposed" to want. When faced with real life dilemmas, her character floundered. The best part of the book was the strength exhibited by her mother and mother-in-law, as they road tripped to take her mother home to die. Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher.
Jade Fitzgerald's hope for a perfect marriage shatters when her husband confesses he has an illegitimate son. What's more, he wants to raise the boy in their home. Hurting and confused, Jade embarks on a road trip to Iowa to take her sick mother to her childhood home. In the comfort of the old homeplace, Jade struggles with her fears and the tug of her first love. With the help of her family and her faith, she comes to understand her future doesn't rest on the power of her past, but in the goodness of God's mercy. My thoughts... Jade Benson's attorney husband is a recovering addict, her mother has cancer, her sister is in Guatemala and in constant danger and this is only the beginning. This is a lot for one person to carry on their shoulders.How will Jade make it through? WILL she make it? This is an easy to follow storyline with lots of drama that keeps you guessing what will happen next. Intense and emotional, you feel a part of it. There's heartache, infidelity, and much more totally believabe incidents. God is in the midst and He does get the glory....eventually. I highly recommend this book, it's realistic and the ending is much better than the beginning. An excellent read. I give it 5 stars. I received an e-copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Title: Softly and Tenderly Publisher: Thomas Nelson Pub Date: 01/04/2011 ISBN: 9781595544902