The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

by Bethany Turner


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The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner

Becoming a Christian is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Sarah Hollenbeck. Best because, well, that's obvious. Worst because, up to this point, she's made her very comfortable living as a well-known, bestselling author of steamy romance novels that would leave the members of her new church blushing. Now Sarah is trying to reconcile her past with the future she's chosen. She's still under contract with her publisher and on the hook with her enormous fan base for the kind of book she's not sure she can write anymore. She's beginning to think that the church might frown on her tithing on royalties from a "scandalous" book. And the fact that she's falling in love with her pastor doesn't make things any easier.

With a powerful voice, penetrating insight, and plenty of wit, Bethany Turner explodes onto the scene with a debut that isn't afraid to deal with the thorny realities of living the Christian life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780800727666
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/03/2017
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 1,193,031
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Bethany Turner is the director of administration for Rock Springs Church in Southwest Colorado. A former VP/operations manager of a commercial bank and a three-time cancer survivor (all before she turned 35), Bethany knows that when God has plans for your life, it doesn't matter what anyone else has to say. Because of that, she's chosen to follow his call to write. She lives with her husband and their two sons in Colorado, where she writes for a new generation of readers who crave fiction that tackles the thorny issues of life with humor and insight.

Read an Excerpt


The Next Emily Dickinson

If you're willing to admit it, you probably know me as Raine de Bourgh. Yes, that Raine de Bourgh. Did you blush at the mere mention of my pen name? Yeah. So did I.

Three and a half years ago, I certainly had no intention of ever becoming Raine de Bourgh. I was simply Sarah Hollenbeck. Or maybe I was still Sarah McDermott? No. Sarah Hollenbeck. Sarah McDermott was the product of an empty, loveless marriage, and I was doing all I possibly could to prove — at least to myself — that I wasn't the shell my marriage had reduced me to. But did I even remember Sarah Hollenbeck? The girl I was before I met the guy? Could I become her once again?

The answer had to be yes, so that Monday evening in June, three and a half years ago, I hoisted my Kate Spade messenger bag a bit higher on my shoulder, straightened my Stella McCartney blazer, wiggled my toes in my Christian Louboutin pumps, and took a deep breath. As I reached for the doorknob of the high school library, I noticed a slight tremble in my hand. I didn't understand what was causing the reaction. I'd been faithfully entering that library each week for two months, and it was, after all, just a book club.

Until a couple of months prior, my life had consisted of the duties of a trophy wife, proudly — though often resentfully — supporting my husband on his rise to the top of a Fortune 500 real estate conglomerate. His Fortune 500 real estate conglomerate. But suddenly, from the moment Patrick sent me a text message that said "Bringing Dan for dinner. He's gluten-free" followed by a thumbs-up emoji, my life as I knew it was over. Well, I suppose that wasn't the moment. The moment came later that evening when I caught Patrick making out with Dan's wife, Bree, in the room I had dreamt would someday be a nursery.

The dissolution of my marriage left me with a lot of free time. There were no gluten-free dinners to plan, no charity events to attend, no bigwigs to schmooze. We had been together since high school, and while the last few years certainly hadn't been fulfilling or happy, I didn't recognize my life without Patrick by my side. I didn't recognize myself without Patrick by my side. All of our friends were actually Patrick's friends, it turned out. I couldn't blame them, really. They were social-ladder-climbers, and I was most definitely a woman whose social status was experiencing a free fall.

Every job search came up empty. Apparently no one in the tough Chicago job market was interested in hiring someone who hadn't worked since college, where she'd earned a degree she'd never once put to use. I'd had one career and one career only, and I'd been forced into early retirement — and I never was able to figure out how to list my job experience as "Mrs. Patrick McDermott" on my resume.

I was a social pariah desperately in need of something to do, but for a depressed, newly divorced woman with more money and time than talent or skills, finding the right hobby is a surprisingly tricky thing.

Traveling meant traveling alone, and that wasn't something I knew how to do.

Quilting took too much patience.

Community theatre took too much confidence.

Painting took too much effort.

Book clubs? Book clubs could work.

I joined seven book clubs in the Greater Chicago area simultaneously. Seven. And that meant I was reading seven novels simultaneously. I thought that was the perfect solution — after all, doing that much reading, when would I have time to think about the shambles of my life? Yeah ... that sounds good in theory, but every book reminded me of what I'd lost — or worse, what I'd never had. A fulfilling marriage.

A life with someone who considered me his best friend. Children.

Every book, from The Picture of Dorian Gray to Eat, Pray, Love, from Lord of the Rings to The Hunger Games, somehow reminded me of my misery. When my Dark American Romanticism book club started reading The Scarlet Letter, I knew I'd had all I could take. I quit all of the book clubs except for the one on Monday night, because that was the one that met closest to my house. I decided that Monday night book club would be my primary hobby and exclusive social circle.

And I approached that social circle the only way I knew how — with all of the rules and safeguards that had been so necessary for self-preservation in the highfalutin world of the snobs and blue bloods, into which I had made every effort to feel as if I belonged. I would dress for success and speak only when I had something monumental and memorable to contribute. I would hide my scars and shortcomings, and only put forth the most impressive version of myself. I would keep everyone at arm's length so that if I eventually fell out of favor with them, I would not be impacted.

It would be just like any other social gathering I had ever attended, apart from one striking difference: my last name was no longer McDermott, so I wouldn't be viewed as nothing more than an accessory from the moment I was introduced.

And with all of the extra time, once I had whittled the book club list down to one, I would write a book of my own. Then I could be in control of the content. Then my emotions wouldn't be putty in the hands of authors who had probably written to escape their own misery, with nary a care given to the feelings of the miserable divorcée who would one day read their work while attempting to bury her pain beneath enough cheesecake to bestow diabetes upon a small village.

I'd never written anything before, but I'd certainly done more than my fair share of reading.

How hard could it be?

My first attempt was a book of poetry, and while I waited for the call from the president asking me to accept the post of Poet Laureate of the United States, I decided it was time to share my gift with the world. Or at least the Monday night book club. Though I couldn't ever remember their names, the ladies in that circle were, after all, my closest friends. No, I hadn't known them very long, and yes, our conversations had never plunged any deeper than whether we'd preferred Jim Caviezel as the Count of Monte Cristo or Jesus, but they were the constants in my life of upheaval, and I knew that our bond was true and indestructible.

I'd been walking into that high school library every Monday evening for two months, but that first Monday evening in June was the beginning. That Monday evening represented a fresh start.

That Monday evening was the first book club meeting of the rest of my life.

"Excuse me." I raised my hand and smiled as the ladies began gathering their things to go, having exhausted all possible thoughts, feelings, and debates over Northanger Abbey.

"If you could all spare just a few more moments of your time, if it's not too much to ask." I blinked sweetly, conveying humility so well in that tried and true manner I had watched Patrick employ for so many years.

I rarely spoke in book club, so I wasn't surprised that everyone stopped in their tracks.

"Of course, Sarah. What can we do for you?" asked the leader of the book club, whose name had slipped my mind.

And by "slipped my mind," I mean I hadn't bothered to learn it.

"I value each and every opinion in this circle. You each present such witty and insightful views, and that, I believe, is what I as a budding poet need in order to develop my craft."

I saw them take in my rehearsed speech, and they responded with enthusiastic support. Once I was fully convinced that they were the eager demographic I was seeking, I meekly proceeded. "You are all just the best. If no one would mind ... may I?"

I opened the leather-bound binder in my hands and pulled out the crisp linen stationery on which I had lovingly transcribed each poem by hand over the course of the past several days and began to read.

Lights flicker. Kerosene?


The man in suede wishes me well, But I doubt his sincerity.

Never you mind.

Suede and kerosene. The two don't mix.


I read poem after poem after poem and, as expected, I was rewarded with stunned silence. They were clearly overcome with emotion and overwhelmed by the power of the lyric. I smiled at them all and gave them a moment to collect themselves. I cast my eyes downward, not wanting to impose upon their deeply intimate moment.

"Thank you, Sarah," Book Club Leader Lady said after clearing her throat. "That was truly ... something."

"Yeah ... wow ..." random women in the circle said in unison.

I was so very full of myself that I took it as true, sincere praise.

"Thank you all so much." I beamed condescendingly. "It was an honor sharing my work with you."

"I'm sorry," a woman I had never noticed before said softly.

"Can I be honest?"

You want me to take over the book club? You think I'm the next Emily Dickinson? You're a Hollywood producer who wants to adapt "Lavatory Purgatory" for the screen?

"Of course." I smiled and gestured to indicate I would allow her to proceed. "Please."

"Well, I don't want to be rude, but this group is about honest analysis of the quality of what people write, and it's also about the way what we read makes us feel. So, I just have to say, I have some issues with your poetry that I would be happy to elaborate on if you would allow me to do so." Convinced that she couldn't possibly be referencing anything more than a rhyme she didn't like or, more likely, a long-buried emotion within herself that my words had unwittingly brought to the surface, I nodded that she had the floor.

"Okay," she began, sitting up a little straighter. "I think there is a pretty decent chance that you've actually got some writing talent, but let's face it — poetry isn't where you need to be. And what's with the subjects? It's like you just flipped through the yellow pages until something jumped out at you. What's next? Exterminators?"

I looked down at the papers in my hands and sheepishly shuffled "Insecticide Nuclear Winter" to the bottom of the stack.

The critic pressed on. "Look, I didn't feel any emotional connection to any of it, and that's fine. I don't feel any connection to Jane Austen, either." Every other woman in the room gasped, which made her smile, I noticed. "But the problem is, I don't think you felt any emotional connection to any of it. That is what it is, I suppose, and if you're running from something or trying to avoid feeling, well, that's your decision. But please don't subject the rest of us to it."

The others in the circle seemed not to breathe, anxious for, and yet dreading, my reply. I knew she was right. Of course I knew she was right.

And that was the moment. The depression and the hole in my heart and the suffocating sadness couldn't be pushed to the background any longer. I started crying like in an old Looney Tunes cartoon — you know, where the tears shoot out horizontally with the force of a garden hose. Actually, I think it was kind of a combination of Looney Tunes and I Love Lucy, because I think I actually made that "Waaaaa!" sound.

All of the women in the group — the nameless women for whom I hadn't taken the time or made the effort to develop true respect or affection — gathered around me and hugged me and said generic things like "There, there" and "It's going to be okay." I was so touched by that moment. So much so that I told myself I was going to make brownies for them all and bring them to next week's meeting. They may be the only thing I know how to bake, but my brownies really are amazing, so that was a big gesture for a social pariah allowing herself to feel again.


Excerpted from "The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Bethany Turner.
Excerpted by permission of Baker Publishing Group.
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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The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 35 reviews.
Anonymous 29 days ago
I needed this book. I'm in awe of the witty humour placed at just the right times. The words flow so naturally that it was like I wasn't even reading it. I can't wait to recommend this book to many. This book was a great escape and a very quick read. I was definitely left wanting more Ben and Sarah's heartwarming story.
MFurumasu 8 months ago
Fun Fun Book! Have you ever felt like your life wasn't what you thought it would turn out like; or that there were secrets in your life others wouldn't understand? Sarah Hollenbeck's life was full of these things until she decided to join a book club and met her best friend. Then her world changed in more ways than one. This book was so fun to read. I was laughing in many places. I loved all the banter and dialog between the main characters. Bethany Turner has a wonderful way of writing. It's fresh and delightful even when it was dealing with some difficult issues. She gave her characters spunk and yet they also had depth. Some of the word choices were so unique and humorous, and some were powerful and very inspirational. One quote from the book stuck with me, "The past has absolutely nothing to do with the future God has in store for the two of you. Our past shaped us and our past prepares us, Sarah, but our past does not define us." There's hope and love in this story and these are something we can all use. I highly recommend you read this book and enjoy a wonderful story of love!
TrixiO 9 months ago
“I wanted to explore the temptations that Christian men and women experience while in the pursuit of a Christ-honoring romantic relationship.” (Sarah Hollenbeck) ~ pg. 81 Bethany Turner is a fresh new voice for me and boy did she blow me away with this story! First off, if I were to judge this by my four unlikely-to-read-this-book scenarios, I would have never picked it up. Only curiosity of why my most trusted reader friends were raving about did I even consider placing it on by TBR pile! It’s reviewed as women’s fiction (strike one), chick-lit (strike two), contemporary (strike three), and lastly it’s strictly from the first person point-of-view (strike four); whereas 90% of my “normal” reads are historical and from multiple points-of-view. So for an author to completely enthrall me in spite of all these strikes against the book is saying a whole lot! I think it’s safe to say, she made a forever fan out of me. I read a lot of romance, and by that I mean every single book I read has romance in it. So I know a thing or two about what it’s “suppose” to be like. Well, throw that theory out the window right quick, because surprisingly, it’s not your typical boy meets girl, fall in love and gets married type romance. No, this is so much more than all that! Not that I ever watched the movie “It’s Complicated”, but that’s how I’d describe this story. It has a whole lot of factors to it that the characters have to deal with on a daily basis. Falling in love with a Pastor sounds complicated enough, right? Well, try being like Sarah who is a newly created, born-again Christian woman who also used to be a steamy romance writer in her old life. Pure and clean meets sordid past trying to reconcile that new life into a whole new set of rules & regulations. It’s like trying to not to throw the baby out with the bath water! And can I just add that Bethany Turner must have gotten into my head and lived there because almost every single thought Sarah had was exactly what I would have thought? Oh my word, but I LOVED that, even as scary as it was! I absolutely cannot describe the emotional depth of this in any semblance of sense to convey how much I think every reader needs to read this one. I loved how Ben and Sarah fought within themselves to remain true to God and at the same time fight their overwhelming attraction to each other without crossing a line that would mar their characters. It’s quite evident from the get-go how much these two are drawn to each other, and I absolutely admire them for keeping each other accountable, as difficult as it was. Who hasn’t struggled with passion and attraction towards a person of the opposite sex while trying to keep their thoughts pure and in line with God’s parameters? “I never would have imagined that there could be something more powerful than the desire I felt for Ben in that moment, but the desire to not tarnish the love God was building between us was overpowering.” ~ pg. 160 And I absolutely had so much fun with the humor packed in every page. Laughter is good for the soul, or so they say, right? If you like spiritual depth, you’re going to be in for a treat. You can definitely call this a Christian fiction and know you can read it without feeling embarrassed or ashamed for picking it up in the first place. Lastly, I loved this story of how God can take our not-so-good pasts and shape it into a future that is more enriched because of the things we’ve been through and how, if we surrender to Him t
Abby1219 10 months ago
Hand down one of the funniest and inspiring books that I've ever read! The situations that we find ourselves in aren't the end of the road, they're just a stop on the way to where we're supposed to be. Seasons come and go, so the painful circumstances will change as well. It may not be in our timing or how we imagined it to be, but God is faithful and His dreams are beyond anything we could ever comprehend. The challenge is to find humor in the heartache, beauty in the darkness, and hope for the future no matter what.
BrittanyMc More than 1 year ago
This was such a fun story! The author had me laughing out loud many times. The first few chapters built a bit slowly for me, but I persevered and things really picked up. It was an adventure to read about Sarah’s broken marriage, rise to fame, and ultimate decision to follow Jesus. And that was where the story really picked up the pace. There was attraction galore between the two main characters and the author did a good job of illustrating the feelings and actions between Sarah and Ben, while still keeping things clean. I would recommend this book for adults, as a huge focus was on intimacy issues and situations. This novel was packed with great characters and I loved the chapter headings. (4.5 stars)
bsnksmom More than 1 year ago
From trophy wife to divorcee, Sarah Hollenbeck is searching for something but doesn’t know what. She believes it is validation for her writing, until one of her book club friends leads her to the Lord. Becoming a Christian is both wonderful and awful. Wonderful because she loves the acceptance she feels and awful because, up to now, she has made her very comfortable living writing steamy romance under her pseudonym, Raine DeBourgh. Her first day in church, Sarah makes an immediate connection with a man in the hallway. She’s never had such a strong reaction to any man on first meeting him. All indications are that he feels exactly the same way about her. Their attraction is “off the charts.” She is a little horrified, then, when the worship service starts and her new crush gets up to deliver the sermon. She feels like she can never live up to his pastoral purity but Ben convinces her that, he may be her pastor but he’s still just a man. As Sarah and Ben get to know one another, her secret life becomes an issue with Ben’s congregation. Can they really accept her tithe when they KNOW what kind of books she writes? And, is she really pastor’s wife material??? (Because, these two have chemistry that jumps off the page – there’s no doubt that marriage is going to be their next step.) I LOVED this book!! The main character, Sarah, could have been writing humor books judging by her voice in “The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck.” It was so fun to read about how she convinces her publisher to let her give Christian publishing a go. It made me wonder if some of the authors I currently love (that I know wrote for the secular market at one time) had much the same conversations with their completely clueless agents when they got saved and made the switch. Bethany Turner’s first foray into the contemporary romance genre wins on so many levels, in my opinion, and it made me think about the many ways I judge people on what I know of their pasts. I think Ben’s response to Sarah’s fear gets to the heart of the book: “Our past shapes us and our past prepares us but our past does not define us.” If you are looking for a new author to check out, I highly recommend Bethany Turner. I know I couldn’t put it down!
DM_Lunsford More than 1 year ago
Have you ever read a book, and at different points throughout, then definitely once you finish, you experience this difficult-to-put-into-words sense of giddy contentment that makes you want to hug the book because you enjoyed it so much? The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck is one of those books for me. I love that it's written in first person. (I tend to think that's a bit more of a challenge for an author to get just right, and Turner nails it.) The main characters are delightful and believable. The friendship between Sarah and Piper is fantastic, unique to their personalities, yet with traits that make it ring true as a "best friend relationship". Watching Sarah's faith develop was joyful. I appreciate the way the author communicates it at time in subtle ways, such as those tidbits thrown in at the right moment to let you know the character is developing spiritual discipline habits such as reading and studying scripture, praying, and growing in her friendship with an accountability partner (Piper). That, mixed with Sarah's choices and actions as she faces the curve balls of her life, offers an authentic portrayal of both the struggles and glories of trying to live as a Christian. As for the romance - wowza! Yes, people like me want to read good stories, involving characters of faith who legitimately experience sparks, chemistry, and sexual tension all while striving to remain true to the Christian principles they've chosen to follow. Turner offers this in her narrative in a realistic way that made me both swoon over the sheer beauty of it and consider needing a fan to deal with the heat. Admittedly, as wife of a pastor, I'm a sucker for a minister as a romantic lead. Turner has created a great portrayal of a character who is 100% man, simultaneously striving to be a Christ-follower, who must deal with the ups and downs of being a pastor too. Bravo! This one will definitely be going in to the re-read collection, for when I need a sure bet feel-good romance read.
NatalieRae More than 1 year ago
I'm so glad I ended 2017 and began 2018 with this book!! This is another book I picked up purely off all they rave reviews I was seeing and it lived up to its hype! Unique in its plot, The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck turns Christian fiction upside down and inside out in a humor filled, steamy (but not too steamy) contemporary romance that I couldn't put down. I enjoyed the narrative voice and found myself eagerly turning pages see what else could go sideways in the life of the main character, Sarah Hollenbeck. I found myself laughing out loud to the confusion of those around me not immersed in the humorous albeit cringe-worthy moments Sarah put herself into and all I wanted was a good friend to share this witty story with. *NOTE TO READERS-Read this book with your best friend-you'll thank me later!
WildflowerMom More than 1 year ago
Not your usual light romantic comedy for sure, but one filled with truth and grace. A very honest, down to earth story with a diary feel to it as Sarah lets the reader in on her personal transition from a trophy wife to divorcee to successful novelist to baby Christian in love. It is a romantic story with frank and honest discussions about her struggles that come with each stage, especially in the area of physical desires that come with an adult relationship. This would be a better read for mature readers, especially ones who desire to live in obedience to God's plan, and don't mind mentions of sex. Piper is a great example of a friend who speaks the truth in love. I enjoyed being a fly on the wall to their conversations over coffee. The humor and fast pace of their interactions are fun to read. She is a true friend. The reminder that God works all things together for those who love Him, and that He doesn't hold our past against us when we become new through faith, were uplifting themes. All of Sarah's references to the Sound of Music were funny as she tried to figure out what direction to go. I liked how there were more solid faith discussions later on. The topics of infidelity, grief and finding identity in Christ were dealt with well in the characters' struggles. Recommend for mature readers looking for a contemporary story with humor and honesty. Fans of Beth Moran, Sandra Bricker, Courtney Walsh, and other Christian romances with more weight will probably enjoy this one. 4.5 stars (An e-book was provided by NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.)
BethErin More than 1 year ago
Attraction, dating, evangelism, grief, loss, gossip, LIFE and FAITH... it's all packed between those adorable covers! Sarah Hollenbeck is a hilariously authentic brand new baby Christian and her honest navigation of this crazy thing we call life will appeal to unbelievers, encourage new Christians, and remind seasoned believers to keep hold of that "first-love" faith. I highly and enthusiastically recommend this story and eagerly anticipate future works by this author. I requested the opportunity to read this book through the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.
Moonpie72 More than 1 year ago
Sarah had it all…well she thought she had it all. She was married to her high school sweetheart, she was a famous writer of sleazy romance novels, and extremely wealthy, then her marriage begins to fail. Her world falls apart when she finds her husband cheating on her in their home. After her divorce she feels confused and unhinged. Her friend, Piper, reaches out to her and leads her to Christ. On her very first visit to Piper’s church she meets the minister, Ben. They are both are instantly smitten with each other. A bit of a complicated situation considering he is a man of God and she is the writer of X-rated books? She is a new creature in Christ and wants to follow Him in all areas of her life including her writing. This book’s story line is unusual in several ways. First, I have never read Christian fiction about a newborn Christian and their spiritual growth. Many of us as believers may have forgotten the newness of our walk with God and total dedication to the Lord. Sarah’s new life is a reminder of that sweet season and also how easily we can lose that focus as time goes on. I enjoyed watching her learn God’s ways and strive to change when He convicted her of sin. Her hunger to learn and obey the Lord was so wonderful! The story addresses passion and physical desire between a single man and woman that honor God’s guidelines for purity before marriage. The author handles this in a very tasteful way. The temptations and difficulties faced were so true-to-life. Being attracted to the opposite sex is a natural part of how we are created. What is important is how it is handled according to God’s Word. I loved the cleverness and humor throughout the book. I understand what the author was trying to convey, but was disappointed that Ben and Sarah’s relationship seemed rather one dimensional, focusing on the physical and not the other aspects of a healthy relationship that grows toward marriage. In addition, Ben as a pastor didn’t seem interested in discipling his new convert. I found the book unusual and entertaining. I received this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.
Heidi_Reads More than 1 year ago
I loved this book for the humor and the various perspectives on modern mainstream Christian life, from the new convert (Sarah), to the lifelong member (Piper), to the young pastor (Ben). It was written in a way that had me hooked to not just the story, but the characters, and how they dealt with the drama in their lives. The romance between Sarah and Ben developed quickly but I enjoyed the time we got to spend *in* the romance, not just leading up to it, and all the great and important conversations and interactions that took place. A great debut novel! (I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)
Virginiaw More than 1 year ago
Very good romance. This tells the life of a writer. Sarah Hollenbeck is a writer better known as Raine de Bourgeois. She starts to write after she divorces her husband. This book has humor and romance and some twists and turns. Sarah grows as a person and learns many lessons. I received a copy of this book from Revell for a fair and honest opinion that I gave of my own free will.
Ryebrynn More than 1 year ago
Every once in while, I get a little sick of a lot of different bookish flavors overlapping and I need a palate cleanser. This book worked perfectly for that. It wasn’t super light that it had no heart, but it wasn’t so heavy that it couldn’t palate cleanse. I’ve seen several steamy writers pass over to Christian romance writing so from the beginning I was very interested in the premise of the story. One thing that I didn’t really feel was the romance. I mean, they had a great spark, but I feel like it went a little too quickly for me, propelled by their sexual needs and the fact that they wanted to remain celibate until marriage. This, of course, leads me into my next point. I didn’t love Ben? He felt very one dimensional at points, more man candy than husband material, if that makes sense? I really did enjoy seeing someone come from a very drastic side of atheism to Christianity, Where the story finds a bit of a rut is in it's driving point. I found the book to flirt between different purposes. In certain areas, we saw the romance forming between Sarah and Ben, but also the story flirted with being a women's fiction story, as Sarah delves into what it means to be Christian. The story reads like an essay on what Christian fiction romance should be, without sex, without cussing, but with the sexual tension that is found in real life. While that driving point is admirable, and has some successful moments in the story, incorporating all three into the book resulted in a choppier novel. There are spaces where added info could have helped it as a women's fiction novel(details on Sarah's budding Christianity, diving into romance writing, pulling away from Ben). There are times where we need dialogue to help with the romance, but the first-person voice of Sarah tells us the feelings rather than showing them in the novel. There's also blog-like rants as the characters try to teach readers what Christian romance fiction should be. I think overall this wasn’t a bad book, but it’s not like my new fave or anything, I took quite a bit to read it, which lead the me forgetting a lot, and processing it very choppily. It was a very good palate cleanser, but not a book I got overly attached to.
jebsweetpea More than 1 year ago
hat it's about: Sarah Hollenbeck has it all. Prestige, money, a perfect marriage to a well-known husband, the perfect house, the perfect life. Except it isn't all perfect. It's anything but. Her marriage is love-less, money can't buy happiness and she's a shell of a person. She finds herself a divorcee from a cheating husband and has a lot of time on her hands. She decides she is going to write a book, that low and behold, launches her in to the lime light with it's steaminess throughout the pages. Then she meets Jesus. And the pastor of the church she begins to attend. And she loves both. How does she put away her past and move towards the future with the baggage she carries and the stories she has written? Will it even work? What I thought: I loved this book. It was such a different romance than I have ever written. So much of it is written as the what is going through the main character's head that it gives a fantastic insight as to how much happens in one's thoughts! I could relate all to well with letting the imagination get away from you. I found myself smiling throughout this book with the humor and the realness of the characters. I really didn't want it to end! Such a great, honest read that has you feeling all sorts of good at the end. Would you read it? If you enjoy light-hearted will love this book. The romance is so different than the suspense thrillers in that it's brutally honest. Bethany Turner is on to something with this book of raw, honest thoughts and possibly what it's like to live inside someone's head. Revell sent me this complimentary copy to review for them. All opinions expressed are my own.
LannieM More than 1 year ago
I recently finished reading The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner.  You guys. I think Christian fiction has turned on its head. I seriously have never read a book like this in my entire life. How many books--especially Christian/inspirational romance books--have I read? Hold on, let me check my Goodreads... 459, people! 459 books! I have never, in 459 books, read one like this. I am not exaggerating when I say that this book will change how I view the inspirational romance genre for the rest of time.  Where do I even begin? It was so relatable. You know all those moments in Hallmark movies that make you roll your eyes and cringe? There was none of that. In fact, I think Bethany Turner even gave those cheesy romances a clapback or two! It addresses all the complexities of relationships that most books ignore or simply gloss over. Not here! The romance, although very much love-at-first-sight (hey, despite my cynicism, I somehow still believe it exists), was perfectly executed. There was not a single campy moment. Every issue the characters experienced was genuinely beneficial to the story and made them and their relationship stronger. It wasn't useless drama-for-your-mama just for the sake of drama. I loved the format of the book, almost like Sarah was telling us her own story from a more mature and wise point of view. Which reminds me, all of these characters were fantastic. Every single one added depth and richness to the story and served it incredibly well. I wish I could go over every bit of the plot with you, but for the sake of time and spoilers, suffice it to say that I loved every second. As soon as I finished it (which was in one sitting), I turned around and read it a second time. It was that good!  As I'm sure you can tell, this is definitely a new favorite for me, and it's definitely one of the best books of 2017, without a doubt. I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever watched a Hallmark movie and died a little inside at the absurdity of it or for the person who has read countless (459) romance novels and yet still believes (hopes) in love-at-first-sight. You will not be disappointed. I received this book from the publisher, but I was in no way required to leave a positive review. All opinions are my own.
joyful334209 More than 1 year ago
The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck in the very complicated story - oooooooohhhhhhhh boy is that complicated and that is an understatement. Sarah has done the most amazing thing, THE most wonderful thing in the world - she became a born-again Christian - she found CHRIST - but, and admitted y'all you knew with me there was going to be a but - she is an accomplished author a certain kind of author though - and explicit author - One that a Christian would not go near with a ten-foot pole- weird enough I just read a book that was this very thing that just happened to the author who just wrote their very first Christian book although it was so awesome - Sarah is having a time of it have you to write one way or what? Not? What should she do? She can't write as a Christian, that goes against all she is being taught. Will she stay with CHRIST or to the world and money? I received a copy of this book from the Publisher and Netgalley; all the opinions expressed in this review are all my own.
amybooksy More than 1 year ago
The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck is my first introduction to Bethany Turner’s work. I thought the book was okay. I liked Sarah but I felt her story was a little rushed. Did not find it as a believable one. What I did like the most, was the humor. That is what kept me reading on. I, also, like the element of how to move on from one’s past and learning to forgive yourself. I would give this book 3 stars. I received this book from the publisher. This review is 100% my own honest opinion.
Teadrinker More than 1 year ago
The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner is quite obviously the story of Sarah Hollenbeck. As the book starts out, Sarah isn't a Christian. Instead, she is living a rather interesting and comfortable life after having become the bestselling author of well-known steamy romances. As the story unfolds, Sarah accepts Christ and then must figure out how to live life after becoming a Christian and figuring out how to live for God after writing a "scandalous" book. It also doesn't help that Sarah has started attending a new church and a whole new set of struggles. I laughed out loud more than a few times while reading The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck. I don't think humor is easy to write and can sometimes come off sort of canned in fiction books--but not in this book. I am not sure I found Sarah Hollenbeck's life to be quite believable in a couple of places, but I did enjoy the story all the way through the book. It was a different sort of romance and I especially liked that. I didn't know what was coming next and the unpredictability kept me wanting to know what happened next. I needed something lighter to read as I think many of us do with all the stresses in the world today. This would be a fun read to take your mind off of the evening news and holiday stress. Get your own copy of The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, then grab something warm to drink, curl up in your cozy chair and prepare to enjoy the book. I highly recommend it. I received this book from Revell. I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for the book.
HelenM0 More than 1 year ago
Sarah Hollenbeck has recently divorced her husband. He has cheated on her though out their marriage and had not shown affection to her for a long time. She decided to become an author. She wrote stories filled with steamy romance that quickly became very popular. When she becomes a Christian, she attends church with her friend. She bumps into the pastor in the hall and starts to fall for him. He is a widower with a little girl, and he develops feelings for her. Sarah needs to figure out how to fulfill her book contract by writing a Christian novel. And Ben is faced with certain members of the congregation that do not feel his and Sarah's relationship is right. If you are the type of reader that likes to read read about touchy subjects, this book is for you. The story is well written with a lot of humor. I especially liked the part of the rules Sarah and Ben set for when they are dating. The part of the story that really touched me was the pain Sarah endured with her ex-husband. He withheld affection from her while having affairs and would not allow her to have a child. The story is very realistic story of a new Christian who is trying to move from their past past into their future. For these reasons this is a very good book. I have to give this book a 4 as I felt the reference to sex was to overwhelming in this story. I received a copy of this book from Revell Publishing. This is my honest review.
MaureenST More than 1 year ago
From the beginning to the end of this book I could feel that the author had placed God’s hand on the main character, took awhile, but it was heart warming adventure. Forgiveness and turning the other cheek is really shown here, and you are going to be on a wonderful page-turning read once you turn the first page. It isn’t easy to offer forgiveness, and especially when the pain was really offered to hurt someone you love. Great lessons here, from being a new Christian to seasoned, something is about to be learned by all. Be ready for some really good chuckles, and maybe an old fashioned game of telephone, see how the story comes out, and yes it does seem to change, but the last is awesome. I received this book through Net Galley and the Publisher Revell, and was not required to give a positive review.
CameraCourt More than 1 year ago
You know those books that seem to release with a blog and social media craze equivalent to a 7-year-old piñata frenzy? Yes? Well, The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck debut novel by Bethany Turner is one such novel that lives up to its hyped expectations. One search or visit to any of Bethany's social media channels can result in hilarious interviews, videos, and quotes all showing her refreshing style (I highly recommend doing so). This story is a literary TREAT! I was seriously laughing and crying in the span of paragraphs. It's a new take on Christian fiction and a close look at the whirlwind which life (and romance ;) ) can be through the eyes of a recently redeemed heroine. At times, her character's perspective as a new Christian could be a little eye-opening for someone "used to" churchy norms. And I love that. A part of this is "book inception": character Sarah is a writer. Her own intent to write a Christian fiction novel appealing to the masses to candidly address attraction in a way not common in the genre is, in fact, what Bethany has accomplished with Sarah's story. Bethany is not afraid to include the realness of physical attraction and how Sarah's newfound convictions can be upheld while not altering her core (feisty) personality. (Ben is amazingly sweet and all the more #swoony because of his role in all of this.) Apart from the romance storyline, The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck explores the deeper ripple effects of the lifestyle change Sarah is pursuing. From self-worth to forgiveness, jealousy, and even deception, deep truths are delivered in this story that starts out as perky but quickly turns serious and rooted in a journey to understanding LOVE in manifestations of family, commitment, choice, and even instant attraction. Perhaps my favorite part of this story is the pop culture references!!! (You all know I love some good movie/TV references in story). Especially the rabbit trails of 1980s miniseries. Multiple situations referenced AND connected plot points to The Sound of Music ---- they left me giggling more than once. And the chapter titles alone are hilarious ----- "ethical and professional leprosy", for example, and it makes perfect sense. If you finish the very last page and are left searching for a Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman episode on YouTube, let me know, I can direct you to the right one because I found it! At like 2am. Immediately. ;) Thank you to Revell Publishers and Netgalley for the complimentary review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.
SeasonsofGrace More than 1 year ago
I am thinking I may be one of the weird ones, who although I enjoyed the book, didn't necessarily fall in love with it right off. The author has a great sense of humor and the story was interesting and definitely unique! There were many laugh out loud scenes. However, the book kind of felt like it was all about sex, ironically though, there is really no sex in the book. I think this was kind of the author's point, since the book is about a Sarah, who started out writing erotic novels, became a Christian, and then decided to instead become a Christian fiction writer. However, after reading various novels, she felt they weren't true to the realistic feelings going on between the couples. Her goal - to write a clean fiction book that was very steamy and yet contained no sexual content. I liked Sarah as a person, but kind of felt like she was solely focused on one thing - "Ahem"... maybe because her first marriage was lacking??? Piper was probably my favorite of all the characters and I would enjoy reading more about her. She was down to earth, practical, honest, and a wonderful friend. Of course, Ben, was the story's "hero", almost to-good-to-be true guy, loyal, Bible-nerd pastor, who has had his share of heartache, but came out on the other side even stronger. Sarah and Ben seemingly cannot get enough of each other, even at the first hello. At times it was like... enough already! Either go for it, or quit talking about it! Maybe that's just me .... There were also few of those characters you love to hate. For me, it was Laura and Patrick. The story ends with a bit of a twist, that adds dimension to the plot. I enjoyed Sarah's growth in her Christian walk. It was interesting how she seemed to "know" how a Christian should behave, as soon as, and even before she became one; although it was funny to read her "light-bulb" moments, when something clicked. Sarah was a good example of - watching how we walk as believers, because the world is watching us, and often they know how we should walk better than we do. I would recommend this book to mature readers who like humorous fiction, a bit on the edgy side. I received this book from author/publisher to read free. I was not required to review it positively and all opinions are my own.
ARS8 More than 1 year ago
The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck was a story that blew me away. It made me laugh and it made me cry. I enjoyed how the author wove into the story spiritual truths like forgiveness of sins and love that never fails. We first meet Sara before she becomes a Christian. She has hit a really rough patch in her life. Her husband had been cheating on her and they divorced. To find an outlet she joins a book club. What I really liked about that is she meets her future best friend there, Piper. There is a great scene in the book in regards to Piper and Sara and I really think this scene had a profound message to it. I do not want to give it away or any spoilers, but to me it stuck with me the whole rest of the book. Sara begins to write. At first it is really bad, yet funny poems. Then she starts writing steamy romance novels that take off in a big way and makes her pen name famous. Some time passes and Sara eventually becomes a new Christian and decides to go to church only to fall head over heels with the new pastor, who is a widower. The feelings are mutual and we have front row seats of this fast and lovely romance that has bloomed between two adults, with the twist that she is a famous steamy romance author, albeit with a pen name, but still it is a big issue. There is some uproar and pasts come to light and all the while Sarah holds on to her faith in Jesus. The author showed the unfortunate reality of judgmental Christians, but on the flip side Piper was a Christian that really was being salt and light. Was she perfect? No, but she did have something that Sara was wanting and just didn’t know it. If you are looking for a novel that is humorous, heartfelt, and the beautiful message of the gospel is portrayed without being preachy, add in some romantic spice then I really recommend this one. I received a copy of this novel for free. I was not required to post a review and all views and opinions are my own.
connywithay More than 1 year ago
“The past has absolutely nothing to do with the future God has in store for the two of you,” Ben and Sarah discuss a prior conversation in Bethany Turner’s novel, The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck. ~ What ~ This three-hundred-and-four-page paperback targets those interested in contemporary Christian romance. With no profanity but the use of slang words such as heck and crap, topics of premarital sex and adultery may not be appropriate for immature readers. The ending includes acknowledgments and the author’s biography with advertisements. In this tale, Sarah Hollenbeck is known to the world as Raine de Bourgh, a steamy romance writer until she becomes a Christian and realizes all the sex she wrote about was flippant and shallow. When she meets Pastor Ben Delaney, she instantly is captivated by his charm, good looks, and effect on her. Through misconstruing and misinterpreting actions, Sarah and Ben try to tip-toe through their rapidly growing attraction toward each other by establishing seven rules they try arduously to keep and an incorrectly told fable. ~ Why ~ As a debut novel, this read is well written well from a first-person’s perspective. I like how there were no extreme sex scenes, but one could read between the lines the romantic tensions and longing the two protagonists felt toward each other. I appreciated the style of linking novels, authors, movies, actors, and singers to Sarah’s thought process involving how she viewed Mary Magdalene, abstaining from premarital sex, her angelic/demonic thought process, and resentment toward an old flame. ~ Why Not ~ Those who do not like stories of how Christian couples deal with sex, divorce, unwed motherhood, gossip, tithing, and the past will not like this book. Others may find Sarah to be too trite, going from being saved to quoting Scripture within months. I thought Sarah’s eternal salvation was brushed over, her instant change of course in writing a Christian novel that mimicked her life too predictable, and verbiage in her attraction to Ben repetitive. ~ Wish ~ Although I enjoyed the author’s easy-breezy writing style, I found Sarah’s characterization often had clinical reactions to situations by “kiss and make up” techniques that included laughing away the issue. I prefer all pronouns of God capitalized for reverence. ~ Want ~ If you like clean romance between a tawdry writer who becomes a Christian and her pastor that has a bit of sass to it, this will keep your afternoon occupied. I am under no obligation to review this complimentary book.