The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

by Bethany Turner

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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: 9781493411023
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/03/2017
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 12,449
File size: 3 MB

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.
Bethany Turner is the author of The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck and the director of administration for Rock Springs Church in Southwest Colorado. A former bank executive 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 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 45 reviews.
boobookw 5 months ago
Yes , it is that funny! But also chock full of God's grace and love!!!
2074800 10 months ago
Bethany Turner’s book is engaging and witty. One understands the tension in Ben and Sarah’s relationship because they are strongly attracted to each other. They seek to honor God and each other in their relationship by waiting for marriage for sexual intimacy, and communicate their desire in passionate kisses. When a member of the congregation threatens to ruin them, they learn to put their trust in God and in their love for each other. I liked the book's premise better than the book itself. However, it was a good debut novel, and I would consider reading the next book by this author. Disclaimer: Book reviews are my honest opinion of books I either purchased or received free of cost from the publishers, publicists, and/or authors. I am not required to write reviews, nor to even post positive reviews.
Voracious4Veracity More than 1 year ago
Romantic comedy isn't a genre I read much (ok, ever), but I kept seeing recommendations for this and it sounded intriguing. I took the plunge and came up laughing and crying. Superb storytelling with unique, lovable characters and an engaging narrative voice. I didn't entirely buy the romance storyline, and the love scenes were more intense than I care for, but nothing offensive, explicit or inappropriate. And though Piper was a definite favorite, she'd be a stronger character with a life of her own, rather than only appearing as Sarah's satellite. But I loved the book anyway, staying up WAY too late because I had to read "just one more chapter," laughing so loudly I startled myself, weeping because the people were just SO beautiful, even in their mess, and feeling deeply moved and encouraged by the masterfully handled faith elements. This will definitely not be my last of Ms. Turner's books!
Nicole_C More than 1 year ago
Bethany Turner's debut novel The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck is such a fun romantic comedy that readers will love. This is unlike any Christian fiction novel that I have read before. She explores the messy, real-life issues that Christian couples face and aren't often discussed in other Christian fiction books. She is not afraid to push the boundaries in her writing, and I love her honest portrayal of the difficulties and temptations that Christians face. She includes many references to pop culture, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Bethany Turner knocked it out of the ballpark with this one! I can't remember the last time I have laughed so hard when reading a novel before. She brings a refreshing, powerful voice to Christian fiction, and I can not wait to read more from this author!
debhgrty More than 1 year ago
Deb’s Dozen: Writer Writes Trashy Novels. Becomes a Success. Becomes a Christian. Now What? Sarah Hollenbeck’s husband divorced her for another woman. Now what can she do? All she knew involved being a wife and hostess. Quilting takes too much time and energy. Traveling meant alone and lonely. Sarah decides to join a book club—and to be a writer—of poetry. Having narrowed her work down to one club, she sets off to share her poetry—dreadful poetry. To try and atone, she brings brownies the next week and realizes the ladies in the group pity her. Embarrassed, she rushes out of the room, but one of the women, Piper, who becomes her good friend, follows her. After telling all her woes to Piper over coffee, Sarah rushes home to write what she knows. What she knows, the book tells us in streaming consciousness fashion, is adult romance. At the book club the next week, Sarah accidentally dumps her tote bag and out fall the pages of Stollen Desire—the ladies help her pick up the pages. They read them, enthralled by the smutty romance. They want to feel guilty but can’t stop reading. Embarrassed again, Sarah says a friend wrote the book. Pushed for a name, she comes up with Raine de Bourgh. And she takes off on a path she never dreamed of traveling. Her streaming consciousness romances become wildly successful, make Sarah a ton of money. Her ex is about to be married again, so she decides to go public—on the Tonight Show, no less! Piper, her friend, disapproves of the smut, and over coffee tells Sarah why—and leads her to Jesus. Then the fun starts. Sarah realizes that Christians aren’t supposed to write this stuff, but all she knows seems to be this—and beside, she has commitments to keep—with her publisher. She goes to church with Piper one Sunday, bumps into a man in the hall and feels instant chemistry. Smiling secretly to herself, Sarah goes to sit with Piper only to discover the man is their new pastor. All this is told in her streaming consciousness fashion. As you can tell from what I’ve written, the book rambles on and on. I kept waiting for the point of the story, but Bethany Turner has written a rambling, streaming consciousness-type book that follows Sarah’s thoughts and feelings as she stumbles through this new lifestyle. She could be somebody we know and she’s very funny. We see her naked thoughts and are in turn amused and embarrassed by them. However, the book turns out to be a cozy romance, so you can guess the ending almost from the beginning. The situations along the way make you keep reading to see what Sarah can do to embarrass herself next. Not my kind of book, nevertheless, I finished it because I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I’d rate the book three and a half stars, but I bet most will rate higher because of the unusual style. Bethany Turner, a new-to-me author, works as the director of administration for Rock Springs Church. She’s a three-time cancer survivor and was formerly VP/operations for a commercial bank—all before she turned thirty-five. However, God directed her to write; therefore, she chose to follow the call. Bethany, her husband, and two sons live in Colorado. Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, gave me The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, but I was in no way obligated to write a review.
EmilyBoyMom More than 1 year ago
I can understand how this book has been one of the most talked about in 2018! This was an unabashedly honest portrayal of someone whose life experiences a HUGE shift once she accepts Christ. I laughed more than 90% of the way through the story of a romance novelist who has to reconcile her life thus far with the one ahead. Along the way, you meet a plethora of characters who enrich the story in ways I didn't expect. I also loved the integration of a fable woven throughout that is misinterpreted until almost the end of the book. It was really a poignant way to connect the times and places that lead up to the very dramatic conclusion. Sarah is someone I would love to share coffee with, which is what most of this book reads like! As a pastor's wife, this gave me some laughter as I remembered what it was like in the beginning when my husband and I were dating. Some of the funnier scenes are ones that are quite familiar to my hubs and I, so much so I had to read him some snippets. While I read this on Kindle, I think I am going to get a couple of hard copies- one for myself and one for a friend. The beginning of the book was a tad slow, which is why I gave this book 4 stars. ( I do understand that this is the author's first book, so there's grace there!) Once you get into the well written characters, throw in some relational drama and jealousy, the book takes off and you won't want to stop reading. I enjoyed the many pop culture references and how she worked contemporary life into the book. This story is a great interpretation of how someone who is not a Christian might traverse the journey to faith. (I could read into it a bit with the Saul/Paul conversion story.) With that said, I think those who may or may not be a Christian could easily relate to the characters in the book. As the story went on, I found myself zoning in on finishing the story, much to my laundry's dismay. ;) Sarah and Ben are lovable characters and I already find myself thinking of what their story would be like a few years from now. This book doesn't fit a specific mold of CF, and I actually think that's attractive. While you get a good ending, it certainly doesn't unfold how you might expect! Funny, heartfelt and gut-wrenchingly honest, I look forward to reading more from Bethany Turner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BookLoverinFlorida More than 1 year ago
Oh my goodness - Sarah battles similar issues it seems that every Christian may face - sometimes you don't always follow in the ways preferred but what you are doing is not necessarily wrong either. Battle of conflicts - then Sarah falls for her pastor LOL Way too funny! A delightful weekend read!
JanineRos More than 1 year ago
It's hard to miss all the awards and nominations this book has gained since its release. The hype (and Bethany Turner's engaging social media presence) led me to buy this book. I was NOT disappointed. From page 1, I was hooked. It was everything I didn't expect to find in a Christian book. I love Christian fiction, but I also applaud Ms. Turner for breaking the mold with this story. Sarah, at first, comes across as unlikable. But after I took some time to get to know her, I realized she is all of us who have ever suffered at the hands of another and done all we could to just keep going, even if it garnered shame from those around us. The amount of judgment Sarah faces is sadly relatable to anyone who has ever made an unpopular choice in life. Ben is the everyday hero that every community and church needs. One who will speak up when he sees wrong. One who will see past who someone WAS to allow them to change into who they COULD BE. This was the kind of book that had me in tears halfway through, smiling giddily at the conclusion, and pressing it against my chest with a contented sigh for the half hour afterward. Thank you, Ms. Turner, for writing a story that gives hope to those who were once stained, broken, and bruised. I look forward to the next book you write!
NanceeMarchinowski More than 1 year ago
Surprisingly witty and humorous, but open to some steam in the romance department. I thoroughly enjoyed this page turning adventure where a non-Christian suddenly discovers faith, and embraces it in every way. Told in the first person, Sarah truly reveals her deepest thoughts and desires, and lays them out in a truthful and amusing manner. I loved the fact that I could just relax with this book and relate to her life stories. Great story of love and new found faith.
Anonymous More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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.