Sometimes the most unexpected love can be exactly what a heart needs...
When a Lost Child warning blares over the mall's PA system, Carly Mason finds the little girl playing with a stuffed rabbit. Something about Penny Tremaine is different. An ex-social worker, Carly recognizes that the child suffers fetal alcohol effects, and a piece of Carly's past suddenly confronts her. Never again will she become personally involved with a client. The risks are far too great. But something about Penny--and Penny's handsome father--tugs at Carly's heart.
Dr. Ryan Tremaine is trying to put his life back together. With his ex-wife remarried and on a trip far away, his two teenage sons and Penny are living under his roof full time. Ryan has put his faith in his Sink-or-Swim list, a plan to reconnect with his children. The first step: recruit Carly Mason to be Penny's nanny.
Ryan never anticipated being so drawn to Carly, an attraction Carly seems to fight as much as he does. Could Carly be the missing piece that helps his family stay afloat, or will their blossoming romance only complicate things further?
Known for her realistic and engaging characters, Victoria Bylin delivers an emotion-packed story reminiscent of The Sound of Music, one that reminds us all to believe in the power of faith and love.
|Publisher:||Baker Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)|
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Together With You
By Victoria Bylin
Bethany House PublishersCopyright © 2015 Victoria Bylin
All rights reserved.
The clerk at McGill's Sporting Goods, a sandy-haired college kid, pushed a button to feed the paper tape through the register, but it jammed for the third time. Scowling, he tossed the crumpled receipt in the trash. "Sorry, sir. I know you're in a hurry."
"Yes, I am." Dr. Ryan Tremaine spoke through gritted teeth, but he didn't blame the clerk for his predicament. He'd been a fool to let his two youngest children, Penny and Eric, out of his sight, but he'd lost patience with Eric for pouting and Penny for pulling the tags off rugby shirts. Expecting to be right behind them, he'd allowed them to go to the food court for ice cream while he paid for the baseball cleats for Kyle, his oldest son.
It was a bad decision, and Ryan knew it. The mall, crowded on this Saturday afternoon in June, was a dangerous place, especially for a little girl with special needs and a thirteen-year-old boy who had what a family therapist called "issues."
Kyle slung the bag holding the shoebox over his shoulder. "This is taking forever. Maybe I should check on Eric and Penny."
Ryan was about to agree when the register spit out the mile-long receipt. The clerk tore it off and handed it to him with a flourish. "There you go, sir. Sorry for the delay."
Snatching it, Ryan spun on his heels. With Kyle at his side, they sped out of the store to the main mall. He'd given Eric a twenty-dollar bill and instructions to buy whatever treats he and Penny wanted, then to wait in front of the ice cream place. Striding toward it now, he scanned the counter, empty except for a trio of giggling teenage girls. His gaze zipped to the tables in front of the shop, also empty, then to the sea of half-filled wooden chairs and gray Formica tables.
"Do you see them?" he asked Kyle.
Ryan focused on one face at a time. An ophthalmologist by profession, he had better than 20/20 vision, which made his failure to spot Penny and Eric even more alarming. In spite of the icy air conditioning, droplets of perspiration beaded on his neck and dripped down his spine.
Kyle pointed to the far side of the food court. "There's Eric."
Ryan spotted his son coming out of a video arcade filled with shadows, flashing lights, and kids who looked as rebellious as Eric in his zombie T-shirt and baggy pants. Eric had no business in that place, especially with Penny. She was five years old and a victim of FASD, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, a condition that affected her in myriad ways, including sensitivity to noise, light, and smells. If Eric had taken her to the arcade, anything could have happened—a meltdown, her running away, maybe hiding. She had done that a couple of times at the house, and Ryan had battled panic until he found her.
Five steps beyond the arcade, Eric ground to a halt. Panic glinted on his face like sunlight on a mirror, ricocheted back to Ryan, and blinded him with a terror so fierce he stopped breathing. There was only one explanation. Penny was missing.
It was Ryan's fault, not Eric's. The FASD was his fault, too. Penny had been conceived in the affair that wrecked his marriage—a byproduct of impulse and enough gin to drown his conscience, at least for a time. When Penny's mother had died six months ago, he'd taken custody and made a solemn vow to never fail his daughter again. It was a promise he broke daily, it seemed. No matter how hard he tried to connect with her, she still called him Dr. Tremaine instead of Daddy.
His relationship with his sons wasn't much better, but his ex-wife was away on a mission trip, and he had the boys under his roof for three months. Determined to rebuild their trust, he'd written out what he called the SOS list—things a family did and enjoyed together, things that made them close. Traditionally, SOS stood for Save Our Souls, but Ryan didn't believe in God. For his purposes, SOS stood for Sink or Swim, which is what he and his kids would do this summer.
With Penny missing, they were sinking hard and fast.
Eric spotted him and broke into a run. Behind him, a uniformed security officer gave chase while speaking into a microphone clipped to his collar. It didn't make sense, unless the man knew something about Penny.
Terror shredded through Ryan like a riff on an electric guitar, though no one would know it to see his face. Carefully blank and in control, he shoved aside the rising panic in spite of the mental picture of Penny lost in the mall. With her blond ponytail and blue eyes, she was a beautiful little girl. And vulnerable ... more vulnerable than most children because of the way fetal alcohol affected her brain. Instead of being naturally shy, she would go to anyone, especially a nice man with candy ... a nice man who would take her for a nice ride in his nice car.
Stay clinical, Ryan told himself. Get the facts. But he couldn't turn off the ugly pictures or the fear, and when he swallowed, acid burned the back of his throat. Forcing down the bile, he called to Eric over the rumble and clatter in the food court, "Where's your sister?"
Eric's chubby face wrinkled into a knot. "I told her to stay in the arcade."
Kyle caught up to them. "I don't see her anywhere."
"Where is she?" Ryan repeated to Eric.
"I don't know."
Frantic, he scoured the line at the candy store and the island of bubblegum machines. He looked everywhere, but there was no sign of Penny.
"Sir?" The deep voice came from over Ryan's shoulder. Turning, he saw the security officer with his thumbs hooked on a thick black belt.
"Is this your son?" the man asked.
"Yes, it is."
"I'm Officer Lewis, and I'm here about a shoplifting incident." Before Ryan could react, the officer lowered his chin at Eric. "You were at the prize counter, weren't you?"
Eric looked down at his shoes. "Yes, but—"
"The manager saw you take two candy bars. You put them in your pocket and ran for the door."
Ryan's mind spun with frightening implications, but Penny was in the greatest danger. "Officer, wait. My daughter is missing."
The man's attention snapped to Ryan. "How old is she?"
Chin down, he spoke into the microphone clipped to his collar. "Code Adam. Repeat. Code Adam. Roger that."
As a choir of voices responded in the affirmative, Ryan flashed to the famous picture of seven-year-old Adam Walsh, wearing a red baseball cap. The child had been abducted at a mall much like this one, murdered, then decapitated. No. No. No. Terror screamed through his brain, drowning out logic, hope, everything except the gong-like echo of yet another failure.
Officer Lewis focused on Ryan. "Would you describe your daughter, sir?"
"Blond hair. Blue eyes." He held out his arm to show her height, saw his shaking hand, and pulled it back. "She's about forty inches tall." He knew, because she'd just been to the pediatrician.
"What is she wearing?"
"Denim overalls and a pink T-shirt." Both wrinkled because the fourth nanny had quit yesterday, leaving him to add Find a new nanny for Fenny to his SOS list. He'd planned this day so differently ... just Kyle and himself shopping for baseball cleats and grabbing burgers for lunch. Now, instead of happily crossing Buy cleats for Kyle off the SOS list, he silently berated himself for the bad judgment that put his daughter in danger and his younger son in the middle.
Officer Lewis repeated Penny's description into the radio, then explained a Code Adam to Ryan. The outer doors of the mall were being locked as he spoke, and no one would leave without being observed by a designated mall employee. Penny's description would go out on the PA system, and managers would walk the aisles of their stores. If Penny wasn't found in ten minutes, law enforcement would be called, the doors would be opened, and the alert canceled.
Ryan nodded, his face carefully blank, but his heaving lungs revealed his panic. He blinked and imagined Penny in a nondescript sedan, clawing at the windows, calling for help. He blinked again and pictured her frail, broken body in a shallow grave, then in the morgue, covered in a white sheet, lost to him before he could make up for how she was conceived.
Most people blamed the mother for fetal alcohol exposure, but Ryan considered himself as accountable as Jenna. He'd bought the gin and wine they'd consumed. They had made this child together, told lies to each other and to those they loved. What a fool he had been. One impulsive fling and Penny had paid dearly.
So had Jenna.
And Heather, his ex-wife.
And his sons.
That snowball of damaged lives needed to stop. Heather had found God and was at peace, but the rest of his family was a mess. It was up to Ryan alone to rebuild the family he'd destroyed, and that's what he intended to do this summer by using every ounce of his intelligence, will, and heart.
Officer Lewis clicked off the microphone and pulled a notepad and pen from his pocket. "What's your daughter's name?"
"Penny Tremaine." Except she didn't like her new last name and refused to learn it. "Or Penny Caldwell. It's complicated."
Officer Lewis scribbled on the notepad. "We don't broadcast the child's name. It could give a predator an edge. It's for the female officer checking the restrooms." Turning slightly, he spoke again into the radio.
Ryan faced Kyle. "Keep looking for her."
When Kyle took off with a nod, Eric moved to follow him. "I'll help."
"No." Ryan stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. "You saw Penny last. How long has she been gone?"
Eric shook off the touch. "I don't know."
"Take a guess."
"I said I don't know!" Eric's face pulled into a doughy knot that made him look younger than he was. "We went to the arcade. She saw the purple horse and wanted to ride it."
"I told you to go for ice cream." Ryan's voice shook as badly as his hands. "Eric, this is serious. Penny's in danger."
Eric tried to look tough, but his gaze shifted to the floor. Shoulders hunched, he looked as lost and vulnerable as Penny.
And it was Ryan's fault. In a fit of impatience, he'd heaped the responsibility for Penny on the immature shoulders of a thirteen-year-old boy. If Penny wasn't found, Eric would suffer from guilt he didn't deserve, guilt that belonged only to Ryan.
The security officer ended the call and reported back. "Someone's checking the ladies' room now."
"Good," Ryan said crisply, as if sounding in control would make it so.
"While we're waiting, I need some basic information. Your name, sir?"
Like a prisoner of war giving his name, rank, and serial number, Ryan rattled off his name, address, and three phone numbers—cell, home, and office. Surrounded by noise and strangers, fearful of pedophiles, trapped and smothered with remorse, he heard the most condemning words of his life blast from the mall PA.
"Code Adam. Repeat, Code Adam. The missing child is a five-year-old female with blond hair and blue eyes...."
* * *
The instant Carly Jo Mason heard Code Adam on the Animal Factory PA, she locked the cash register and prepared to walk the aisles of the stuffed animal boutique where she worked as assistant manager. Furry creatures lined the shelves, along with outfits that turned them into everything from ballerinas to soldiers, anything a child could imagine. Carly loved it—except when a Code Adam blasted over the mall's public address system. Children went missing everywhere, but it happened a lot more in Los Angeles than it did in her hometown of Boomer, Kentucky.
How she, a girl from Boomer, ended up in Los Angeles was a painful story, one she didn't like to tell. Maybe someday she'd put the trouble in Lexington behind her, but it wouldn't happen today—not with a Code Adam reminding her of Allison Drake, an FAS teenager nicknamed Allie Cat. It had been two years since Allison had vanished from Sparrow House, the home for troubled teens where Carly had been employed as a counselor, two years since Carly had thrown a vulnerable seventeen-year-old girl to the wolves.
She still searched for Allison online and hoped the girl would send her a text out of the blue, even call the phone number Carly would keep forever, or until Allison was found, dead or alive. The old pain congealed in her throat, thickening until she swallowed it back. The Bible said she was forgiven by the grace of God, but how did she forgive herself?
Pocketing the register key, she headed for the front corner of the store, scanning the aisles even before she started the Code Adam protocol. The first leg of the search took her past the Bear Pit, crowded today with a birthday party. She studied the group but didn't see a girl fitting the Code Adam. Jungle Land came next. There were only boys in the aisle, paired with two watchful adults.
With only the Friendly Forest left to check, she sent up a prayer for the lost little girl, for lost children and teenagers everywhere, including Allison. Carly's heart thudded sluggishly, maybe from caring too much for too long, but then she spotted a little girl playing with the stuffed rabbits, and her pulse sped into a gallop. With a blond ponytail and denim overalls, the child matched the Code Adam perfectly. Carly needed to call Mall Security, but she didn't want to leave the child for even a minute. She had slipped away once and could do it again. With her coworker supervising the birthday party, Carly decided to take the girl to the front counter where she could use the phone.
Children this age were typically shy and suspicious of strangers, so she snagged a lion off the endcap, ambled to the girl's side, and crouched down. Using the stuffed animal as a puppet, she spoke in her growliest voice. "Grrr. I'm Lance the Lion. Who are you?"
The child broke into a smile. "I'm Penny. I have a dollar, and I'm going to buy a rabbit."
"Excellent," Lance declared with a shake of his tawny mane. "I'll lead you to the cash register."
"Okay, but I have to pick which one." Penny turned back to the bin and resumed her hunt for just the right rabbit.
Every second was an eternity for a worried parent, but Carly didn't want to frighten the child by rushing her. There was something oddly intense about the pinch of her eyebrows, the careful way she inspected each rabbit before hurling it to the floor. With a BA in biology, a masters in social work, plus a year of PhD work at UCLA, Carly knew kids. Something about Penny's expression struck her as atypical.
Hoping to nudge the girl along, she picked up a brown rabbit with a white tummy and black button eyes. Wiggling the rabbit's head, she made her voice squeak. "I'm Tiffany Rabbit, and I need a home."
Penny's blue eyes lit up. "Me too."
"You do?" Tiffany asked.
"I do," Penny repeated. "My mommy's not here."
The poor woman had to be worried sick. Using Lance again, Carly spoke in his voice but with more authority. "Come with me, Miss Penny. I'll help you find her."
"She's in heaven."
No ... No ... Not this sweet child. An old wound split open, and Carly swallowed a familiar lump of grief. She'd been fourteen when her mother died of a fast-moving cancer, leaving her to be raised by her father and older brother and sister. The gold locket hidden under her red polo shirt, warm from her skin and memories, had belonged to her mother and was Carly's most treasured possession. She made Lance dip his head in a kind of prayer. "I'm sad for you, Miss Penny."
Penny nodded solemnly. "I'm sad, too."
"Do you have a daddy?" Lance asked.
"Sort of." Penny heaved a very adult sigh. "Mostly I have nannies. Dr. Tremaine—he's my daddy—he works all the time. Kyle is nice, but I hate Eric. He took me to the arcade, and I hate the arcade. It smells bad." Her lower lip popped out, stiffened, and trembled with the threat of tears.
Tiffany Rabbit hippety-hopped to the rescue. "I need a mommy, too. Can I come home with you?"
Penny raised her skinny little arm and patted Tiffany on the head. "I want this one."
Tiffany turned to Carly, who looked at Lance, who did another puppet shake of his mane while speaking to Carly. "We both want to go home with Miss Penny. Is that okay?"
Carly finally used her own voice. "I think we can work something out." She had already decided to buy both animals for Penny, who probably didn't understand the price tags. Every dollar counted for Carly, but she could live on Cup O' Noodles a few extra days. Aware of the Code Adam and the ten-minute limit, she tucked Lance under her arm and reached for Penny's hand. "Let's go pay."
Excerpted from Together With You by Victoria Bylin. Copyright © 2015 Victoria Bylin. Excerpted by permission of Bethany House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Together with You is an excellent, emotional book. It deals with a child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. There are many twists and turns along with romance, faith and love. Family plays a strong part in this book. I received this book from the Book Club Network in exchange for my honest opinion.
This was a wonderful story! Reading it I felt like I was reading a modern day Christian version of the Sound of Music. Come to find out that was quite intentional which just made my love for her writing grow even more! No, it was not based off of anything from the sound of music, but it held the same spirit. A story filled with mistakes, bad decisions, growing pains, hope, love and forgiveness. Carley, a preachers daughter who left her home to get away from a mistake she made comes to find herself as a nanny for a little girl with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) after reuniting her with her all too severe and unsmiling, yet handsome, father in the mall toy store where she worked. Ryan has a list he wants to accomplish with his family over the summer while his ex-wife is on vacation with her new husband, but things aren't going well when he loses his daughter in the mall. Thankfully, she is returned safe and sound with Carley. When he finds she is familiar with FASD, after having just lost his last nanny, asks to hire her on the spot! One of the things I loved about this book was reading from Penny's point of view. Rarely do I get to read and see how that character perceives and processes's the world they live in. It pulled on my heart and helped me to understand what Penny was going through then if I had just read it from Ryan or Carley. I also loved that the story wasn't just about Ryan and Carley falling in love, it was about the whole family! Ryan's two sons played a fairly big role in this story. Carley connects with them and even and helps bring them together as a family and as individuals. There was so much more to this book than I can put in a single review, but I couldn't put this book down when I read it and so I highly recommend it. I give this book a 5 out of 5! I received this book for free from the publisher’s in exchange for this honest and unbiased review as part of Bethany House Review program.
This is a wonderful story about how a family and a nanny deal with a child with Fetal alcohol Spectrum Disorder.. This is a story of a man trying to raise his two sons and a daughter who has FASD. They hire a nanny , Carly Mason, who has dealt with other children with this disorder. She and the father , Dr. Ryan Tremaine fall in love but are not sure how to handle it. This is a wonderful romance and it is great how the disorder can be worked out and dealt with. Lots of love in this story. I received a copy of this book from Bethany House for a fair and honest opinion.
This is the first Victoria Bylin novel I have read and I was impressed. She is a good author and I enjoyed the plot as well as how she portrayed the characters and her inclusion of some very touchy matters. The book is about a family whose father has made his share of mistakes. Dr Tremaine has many regrets and is trying hard to make up for lost time and bad choices. He is attempting to remedy those with his SOS list and a summer with his children. While his efforts are worthwhile, it isn't exactly going as planned. The story begins with Penny, his daughter, getting lost in the mall. Enter Carly, ex-social worker, with regrets of her own. Carly is in LA strictly for the purpose of studying and getting her degree, but her heart is still back in Kentucky where she grew up. She pretty much dislikes everything about LA - the rush of life, the smog, the traffic, and the people are not quite like they are in Kentucky. But God has a plan for her and a purpose for her life, and when she finds Penny in the mall, she can't help but wonder what path He is leading her on. There were several characters in this book I could relate to. The story line tugs at your heart. I was also able to relate to some of the situations those characters had to deal with. The relationship between Carly and Dr. Tremaine was an interesting twist. Although, I wouldn't necessarily label this book a mushy romance. Dr. Tremaine is not a believer and Carly is, and does her best to share her faith with those around her. Carly has very good convictions and morals based on how she believes God wants her to live. I like Victoria's approach to the whole save-yourself-for-marriage concept. She also addresses Penny's condition of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and how it affects families, children, and caretakers. I definitely gleaned a lot of insight from this book. If any of this has peaked your interest, you'll have to read the book. :-) I received this book from TBCN in exchange for my honest opinion. All opinions are my own and no other compensation was provided.
This novel opened my eyes to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). I have actually heard of this, yet really knew nothing about it. Victoria Bylin really opens your eyes to this disorder and the problems it can cause not only for the child who is suffering but for the entire family and caregivers. Without a proper understanding of this disorder, which could be prevented by the way, would be extremely hard to comprehend and have compassion for. Carly Mason is a strong woman looking for a fresh start and a way to truly forgive herself. She is a preachers daughter who is strong in her faith, yet when put to the test will she really be able to stand in her faith? Carly is well educated in FASD yet because of a trauma in her past she is trying to forget her education and her experiences and start over far from home. When she finds the missing girl from the mall all the signs of FASD glare her in the face. Can she ignore the pleas of her father for help or will she be the blessing he so desperately needs? Ryan Tremaine is struggling connecting with his family. After a terrible mistake he is dealing with the consequences of that mistake, yet can he find forgiveness and ever connect. Ryan is a strong, determined, agnostic whom always has everything in its place. When learning how to cope with his FASD daughter can he ever find someone who understands her? Will Carly be the answer he so desperately needs? With Ryan and Carly working so close together can they find common ground or will their religious differences be enough to keep their feelings at bay? I enjoyed this novel and the way the characters came to life. They are full of problems, conflict, choices and dealing with consequences of past decisions. Victoria Bylin did an excellent job dealing with all the problems this book encompasses and opened my eyes to FASD. I was given a copy of this book from net galley for my honest opinion.
Together With You by Victoria Bylin is a refreshingly sweet romantic novel that quickly engages the reader. Dr. Ryan Tremaine is trying to get his life back on track after his poor choices ended his marriage and caused the child from his indiscretion to live with fetal alcohol effects. His ex-wife has since forgiven him and happily remarried. The child’s mother died, leaving her in his care. It was a huge challenge to maintain his ophthalmology practice and cope with a young daughter with FASD, but he loved her deeply. He had immediately faced his responsibility in all that had happened and set out to restore his relationship with his two sons. Carly Mason, an ex-social worker, employed at a mall toy store, has issues from her past that haunt her. She feels responsible for the disappearance of a troubled young girl from her last position. She is rather adrift in her life, twenty-eight and not yet settled in a career or in a loving relationship. Her pastor father has raised her with Christian beliefs and morals. She wants to honor God with purity until her wedding night. A shopping trip to the mall and a lost, little girl bring Ryan Tremaine and his family into Carly’s life. She seems to be the perfect fit for the nanny position, once again open due to the challenges of his five-year-old daughter. Because Carly sees herself as a failure due to the missing teen at her last job, she is quite reluctant to accept a nanny position with Ryan’s family. Yet when she does accept, she soon becomes an invaluable member of their household. Two people with different backgrounds and life views, very attracted to each other, struggle with the possibilities of a future together. The characters are very realistic and appealing. Their story is emotional and heart-warming. I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading more works by this author. I received this book through TBCN in exchange for an honest review.
Carly Mason is an ex-social worker with a history in helping kids with fetal alcohol effects. When she finds little five year old Penny Tremaine in the stuffed animal shop where she now works at, she is determined not to get involved. But something about Penny tugs at Carly’s heart. When Ryan, Penny’s handsome father, offers Carly a job as Penny’s nanny, Carly is shocked! She except, albeit rather reluctantly. But soon she is a part of the family., having been accepted not only by Penny, but Ryan’s sons, Kyle and Eric as well as Ryan himself. When disaster strikes this family that Carly has grown fond of...maybe she even loves them...will she, with the strength of the Lord, be able to keep them from falling apart? This book… oh my word. I cannot express in word how drawn into it I was. As the author’s bio says, it did have a Sound of Music feel to it. I am a SoM fanatic, so this book hooked me! I honestly had little knowledge of Fetal Alcohol Effects before reading this book and it was a real eye opener to see how much these kids, and in the case of the story, there parents struggle. I give this book a four star review! I loved it, but the fact that CArly fell in love with a non-believer and still had a happy ending made me go “eh?” just a little. That doesn’t usually happen and heartbreak can come from falling in love with non-believers. I definitely say this book is for older teens (+15). Otherwise, great book! I was given this book from the Book Club Network for my honest review.
When I first heard of Victoria Bylin's debut novel, Until I Found You, I jumped at the chance to read it because I love debut novels. It was so extremely good (read my review here) that when I was given the opportunity to read her second book, Together With You, I jumped at the chance. Carly Mason is an ex-social worker, working as a manager in a toy store while going to school for her PhD. in Social Welfare. When the story begins a young girl with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) has been reported missing somewhere in the mall. When Carly hears the "Code Adam" over the Mall PA system she finds herself going back in time when one of her charges ran away and still hasn't been found. At a heightened alert she begins the Code Adam protocol in her store and finds Penny, a young girl who matches the Code Adam description. Soon Penny's father, ophthalmologist Dr. Ryan Tremaine shows up with his two sons to claim Penny. While talking with Carly, Dr. Tremaine explains to her that Penny suffers from FASD, but before he can explain what it is, Carly explains it to him. Dr. Tremaine is in need of a nanny. Someone who understands Penny's disorder would be icing on the cake. He asks her to come for an interview and at first Carly tells him no. But she soon changes her mind and accepts the interview. This book explains a lot about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and the reader is shown what the outcome can be and how children need be handled. Ms. Bylin treated the subject with sensitivity and care. Ms. Bylin created very believable characters and I found myself wanting to reach out and hug little Penny. I know Ms. Bylin did her research and wouldn't be at all surprised if she observed children with FASD over a period of time. This story was about forgiveness, trust, and learning to believe and trust in God. While it is a love story between Dr. Tremaine and Carly, it is also a love story between Dr. Tremaine and his kids. There is also a small suspense thread in the early part of the book. If you enjoy a good contemporary inspirational novel you will love this one. On a 5-Star scale = 5 Stars!!!!! I would like to thank Bethany House for my free copy of Together With You. I received my copy for free in order to read it and give my honest review, which I have done.
Together With You is a complex story that deals with multiple issues, most notably Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. This disorder carries through the story, as five-year-old Penny suffers from FASD and its effects are felt by those around her. This unique story line is interwoven with family drama and a blossoming romance. I must admit that I opened this book expecting more of a love story. However, it is primarily a dramatic narrative with romantic elements. Written with great characterization, Together With You is a heartfelt story that’s full of emotion! I received a complimentary copy of Together With You through The Book Club Network. I appreciate the opportunity to read this book and share my honest opinion.
This book really touched by heart. I am a retired Special Education teacher and I worked with students with special needs. I understand the compassion and love that Carly feels in this novel. The author portrays it so beautifully. This is the story of a young child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and how this affects those around her. The author did a great job of showing how a family is affected when someone has a disorder. I think everyone that deals with disorders should read this book, no matter what the disorder. This book is such a touching and well-researched book, I loved it. I thank Bethany House publishers for allowing me to read it for a free review. Everyone should read this book.
Together With You by Victoria Bylin is such a beautiful and well told story. First off I think the cover is stunning and one of my favorites. Second the author wrote about a birth defect called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder in a very educational and emotional way, especially when a small part of the story was told through Penny’s eyes (the little girl who has that birth defect in the story). I thank the author for the notes at the back on how she personally came across a child with the disorder. The love story was between the nanny and her boss and I felt the romance was done well and showed how and why each struggled with their feelings. There were a few unexpected twists that took place that shocked me and had me riveted to this book. I especially enjoyed how this book was not preachy, yet it did have the Gospel message and it was told in a very relevant way. And yes, it can be that simple and profound. I highly recommend this one and I look forward to more of Ms. Bylin’s stories. I received this book for an honest review from The Book Club Network, Inc. (TCBN) and the opinions are my own.
My attention was grabbed right off the bat when the background to Ryan's daughter Penny was explained. I didn't expect his character to be so flawed, but at the same time I admired his resolve and determination to be a better father and improve his family dynamics as best he could. I also didn't expect there to be such a huge focus on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I definitely learned some new things in that regard. It was a brilliant move by the author to have a few scenes from Penny's point of view since it gave me a deeper understanding of her thought process. Carly could have come across as too happy and perfect, but instead she showed depth, compassion, intelligence, and even inner conflict. I felt like the emphasis on the relationship and interactions between the children and adults overshadowed the romance, and the foundation of friendship Ryan and Carly built was glossed over during the time lapses. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it, because I did- this book is excellently written, but I did miss that aspect of Ryan and Carly's relationship. The drama is somewhat gritty but the characters' reactions and struggles come across as realistic and true-to-life. (Thank you to Bethany House Publishing for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)
With a cover like that, how could a romantic-at-heart not be drawn in? I confess, it hooked me. It whispered of a story full of hope and healing from the past. In beautiful subtlety, it hinted at new love and even freedom. And that’s just what I found as I read through Together With You. It introduced me to several characters who – each in their own way – were eager for a fresh start at life and living well. You can’t help but admire them. Before this book, I was not really familiar with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). I learned a lot through young Penny’s story and that of her family’s. To me, those details created a strong and unique backbone for the rest of the book. Their delicate struggles felt believable and realistic. And so did the past regrets both Ryan and Carly had to face. Their love grows softly, but it feels true. The story held my attention throughout and read very smoothly; however, I’m still not sure I was the ideal reader for it. There were, at times, too many pieces of the present-day, modern world for my preference. Remember, I’m more of a historical fiction fan myself. I definitely recommend it for contemporary readers, though. It has emotional depth and some surprising twists along the way that made it feel unique. I especially liked Carly’s strength in her convictions and her endearing ways with the children. This book focuses greatly on the importance of family and faith. I may prefer the historical genre, but I still enjoyed Together With You and appreciated the story it had to tell. Thank you to Bethany House and the author for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Another great book from the book club!! This book had me from page one. If you have children you know the fear and panic that happens when your child is missing in a mall or when you think about your child being separated from you in a mall or large place with lots of people. That is how this book starts. It moves quickly from there into a plot that talks about taking responsibility for our actions, forgiveness, loving people the way they are and finding good in everyone. It is a great read especially if you like a bit of romance, hearing how God forgives us and love. Ms. Bylin also has also educated me more regarding the effects of Fetal Alcohol Effects and what it does to children throughout this book.
I so enjoyed Victoria’s first novel as I was excited to read this one. My excitement wasn’t in vain. This is a wonderful story about how God can use our brokenness to draw us closer to Him. The character of Carly was so well-developed. I loved how she handled issues that came up in the Tremaine family. But she wasn’t perfect. She had her past mistakes that she needed to deal with. Ryan was a great character as well, distant yet not. I couldn’t wait to see how he would come to know Jesus, how his heart would soften and how God would draw his family together. I loved that Victoria allowed to see the world from Penny’s perspective. Wow. That was a real eye-opener and made me realize how the things we say can mean something totally different to a child who learns differently then we do. Overall, a wonderful story that will have you thinking and remembering how good our God is. A copy of this book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I just finished together with you by Victoria Bylin. The characters were so captivating that I was hooked by the first few pages. I loved Carly. I saw bits of myself in her and that drew me into the story for sure, but I loved her love of life and loving to serve others. I loved the way the author described the family - full of flaws but willing to work hard at overcoming what they could, forgiving what they couldn’t, and continually fighting for better than what they had. The storyline flowed effortlessly, the characters were realistic, and I was totally engrossed in the story itself. I even loved how it ended with the epilogue. There was closure and I was smiling when I turned the last page. I loved this book and know many others who will love it as well. I received this book for free from The Book Club Network in exchange for my honest review. .
The story was captivating and the characters were believable. The author certainly has a talent for writing an entertaining story line. What I particularly liked about this book was the fact that not only did I have an enjoyable story to read but I also felt that I learned something. I had heard of Fetal Alcohol syndrome, but I really didn’t know anything about it, how it effects the child, and the disabilities and struggles the child and family might face. While there were one or two things that I personally didn’t care for in the story, I think overall it was very good and I would give it five stars! I would definitely read other books by this author. Bethany House Publishers gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my writing a review.
My, oh my! This is not your typical romance. When I began reading the book, I was actually unsure of how much I would be able to connect with, or even like, the hero of the book. Ryan is coming from a place of so much hurt, has caused so much pain to those in his life, carries enormous guilt, and has no belief in God at all. But I loved the path that he walked through this story and I quickly realized that I desperately wanted things to work out for him and his family. His journey (as well as the heroine’s) is not easy or smooth. There is much work to be done to heal this family and help this little girl. The heroine of the novel, Carly, is so knowledgeable and caring. She has the skills necessary to help with his daughter Penny, who has special needs. The whole family is in crisis when Carly arrives and she is such a huge help to them all. But, this book is definitely not a rainbow and roses type of story. There are some serious issues to get through and things do not just fall into place. I could hardly set this book down for want of knowing what happened next! One of the things I really enjoyed in Together with You is that the reader gets to experience the story from Ryan’s, Carly’s, and even Penny’s perspective. It was simply amazing to read her thoughts and see what she was struggling with. Then, I had to sit back and watch the adults scramble to figure out what was wrong or what she needed. My eyes were really opened to what children who suffer with Fetal Alcohol Effects and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome are up against. This story was superb and the first that I have read by this author. I look forward to reading more of her books. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.
This was a great read! Carly Mason is an ex-social worker who is now working in a toy store. She finds a lost, little girl in the store. Carly recognizes that the little girl has fetal alcohol effects and this brings bad memories of another girl Carly helped who had the same symptoms. The little girl's father, Ryan Tremaine, is very impressed with how Carly can handle his little girl. He asks her to become the little girl's nanny. Carly wrestles with whether she wants to accept the position and possibly bring back past demons. Carly and Ryan also wrestle with a possible romance. This was a very easy to read and interesting book. Victoria Bylin is a very good author, and I look forward to reading more books by her. I would recommend this book to everyone! I received this book from bookfun for my honest opinion.
My first takeaway from this book was how much one person can make a difference! Carly makes a huge difference in the lives of so many people in this book, and her own life is changed in the process by the end of the book! As others have stated, a young girl goes missing in a shopping mall in the beginning of the book and she finds her way into Carly's store. Penny suffers from Fetal Alcohol Effects and I really learned a lot about this disorder throughout the book. I give high marks to the author for her research and bringing this to our attention! Penny's father is Ryan and he is so complex! I really enjoyed his character! He's made a lot of mistakes but he is trying so hard to make up for them and be a better person & father. He recruits Carly to be Penny's nanny and by doing so, changes his entire family & himself. Carly is also haunted by some mistakes in her past but is determined to take care of Penny better than she did another girl. In the process, she falls in love with Ryan's family and helps them heal from a lot of past baggage. She also falls in love with Ryan but he doesn't believe in God and that's the very foundation of her life so she's stuck in a difficult place! As Ryan and Carly join forces to help Penny, battle with a meddlesome aunt and other issues, maybe they can solve their dilemma!!! I received this book from the publisher for an honest review, which I have done.
Not everyone is perfect... and this book clearly focuses around this point. The characters in this book makes mistakes and the book revolves around how they deal with the consequences. Dr. Tremaine has an affair and ends up having a child. This child--Penny, who has FASD--ends up tearing up Dr. Tremaine's family. His wife divorces him, leaving him with an estranged relationship with his two sons. Carly Mason, who has regrets of her own, becomes the nanny for Penny. She tries to look after Penny while battling her own fears and attraction to Dr. Tremaine. Carly, however, ends up being the perfect person to help pull the Tremaine family closer together. I loved how realistic this book was. This book could have gone in any direction, but the author chose to have it evolve around a famiy who did not know how to communicate with each other. Through the helpful guide of Carly, the family was able to build a relationship with eachother. This makes the book a perfect and memorable family book. I also enjoyed the author's writing. Though the writing is not outstanding in any ways, it did have these beautiful moments where the text was able to describe the scene perfectly. There were also many other moments where the sentences were average for a while before a beautiful line is dropped. One of my favorite quotes from this book is on page 139: "The long strands of her hair wisped against his hands and tickled, but what overwhelmed every other sensation--the heat in the room, the smell of her skin--was the tremble passing from her aching heart into his." I also enjoyed how the author wove her faith into the storyline. In the beginning of the book, we do not get a sense of the charcter's (as in Carly's) faith. Though it was stated, there wasn't really any emphasis on it. However, as Carly becomes closer to the Tremaine Family, she starts to slowly unravel and shares her faith with the people around her. I really liked how God was interwoven into helping this family. Overall I thought that this book was a very enjoyable read. It was filled with many moderate events but it was able to captivate the reader. I recieved this book from Bethany House Publishers for a honest review.
An emotionally moving story with themes of forgiveness, healing and redemption, Together With You was a wonderful book. The story also delves into Fetal Alcohol effects, and I thought the author did a great job of informing in a manner that was part of the story and didn't bog it down with details. Plot: Ryan Tremaine has made his share of mistakes, having an affair that resulted in a broken marriage, two teenage sons that he can't connect with and a young Special Needs daughter, Penny, who suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. With his ex-wife on an extended trip out of the country and Penny's mother's death, all three of the kids are under Ryan's care for the summer. Seeing it as his chance to unite his broken family, Ryan creates a 'Sink or Swim' List of things to do with the kids. When Penny goes missing at the mall, she turns up in the store where Carly Mason is working. When Ryan arrives and sees how well Carly relates to Penny, he knows she's just the person he needs for Penny's nanny. Convincing Carly of that is going to be a little harder, as Carly's made mistakes of her own that leave her wary of getting involved. To be honest, I didn't like Ryan very much at first. After all, he'd cheated on his wife and he was a little pushy with Carly, trying to hire her as a nanny. As the story progressed, the genuine love he felt for the kids and the sincerity of his effort to be the dad they need helped him worm his way into my heart. Carly, on the other hand, was immediately likeable, as she had a great manner with all the kids and quickly shows she's smart and there's a lot more to her than first meets the eye. This is the first book I've read by Victoria Bylin, and I'll definitely be looking for more of her stories. Together With You was very enjoyable reading, full of substance and conflict. The characters were flawed, hurting and made mistakes, but they learned their lessons and grew throughout the story. It's told mostly through Carly and Ryan's perspectives, but the author shows a few scenes from Penny's point of view, which I thought really helped to show the effects of FASD and how differently Penny thinks. Recommendation: I'd strongly recommend reading this book to anyone who enjoys fiction with a deeper message. There are so many lessons to be learned from this story. It really made me think about how quick we are to judge children's behavior and blame parents, when often, as with Penny, the behavior stems from deeper issues that can't be seen. Rating: 4.5/5 stars I received a copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.
Enjoyable Romance I’d only read one of Victoria Bylin’s books (a Love Inspired Historical) when I requested this one, so I wasn‘t sure what to expect from a contemporary novel. I found that I really enjoyed it, though it did leave me with a few mixed emotions. Victoria does an excellent job of bringing all of the characters to life and definitely made the Tremaines realistic. I was quickly engrossed in the story and didn’t want to put it down. I’m honestly not sure what drew me in so easily, other than her writing. The plot is a little unusual, with the care of one of the children, but otherwise, we all know how it’s going to end. Despite that, I found myself turning pages late at night, wanting to know what was going to happen next. She also does a wonderful job with the descriptions, using all of our senses at different times to paint a picture of the setting. Carly Mason is an interesting heroine and I fell in love with her quickly. She is so sweet and kind with Penny, even though it’s hard at times, and she gives her heart away so easily - I almost wanted to warn her to protect it. She is definitely realistic though, with good days and bad days, failings and fears. Though she is a Christian and believes God has forgiven her for her mistakes, she is still tied to them by her inability to forgive herself. She has doubts and questions, she doesn’t like the pat answers people have given her - I loved that about her. It made her come alive for me, because she isn’t perfect. I also loved that she stood up for what she believed, even though her faith may not have been that strong at first. Ryan Tremaine was a harder character for me to like, perhaps because he is so real. He isn’t like your typical Christian fiction hero - he has some pretty big failings. He has addictions he battles, failures that keep him chained, and doubts that try to bring him down. He isn’t much of a prize when we first meet him, though he’s trying so hard to be worthy. I think that’s where I started to like him - when we saw behind his façade to the hurting, angry, confused man he really is. He doesn’t know what to do anymore, though he wants so badly to be there for his kids. He wants to make up for past mistakes, even though he can’t. Despite his own beliefs, he still respected Carly’s - that’s where I fell in love with him. He put her first. Now for the mixed emotions part. The romance was definitely realistic, to the point I became a little uncomfortable at times. Ryan, being an agnostic, writes the attraction off as “nature,” Carly just tries to avoid it and not become anymore involved than she already is. There are definitely sparks, some flirty comments, and Victoria shows them both struggling to control it. They have a very blunt conversation about premarital sex and where they both stand on the matter. That was a bit awkward for me, though I did appreciate seeing Carly stand her ground, despite the attraction between them. There are some thoughts they both have throughout that kind of touched that gray area of “possibly inappropriate,” for Christian fiction. On one hand, I have to applaud Ms. Bylin for staying the course and pushing me a bit out of my reading comfort zone. She wasn’t being raunchy or coarse, simply truthful. On the other hand, I wouldn’t recommend this book to someone who is very conservative. I also appreciated the realism of the spiritual side. Carly’s faith drives her view of relationships and life in general, but she also has doubts and questions. I rather liked how the author handled them, giving them full impact and allowing me to feel them with Carly. My only negative comment here, is that Ryan’s “conversion” was rather abrupt. It’s kind of thrown into the ending as a way to remove the final obstacle in their relationship. I would have liked there to have been a bit more build up to it, though it would have drawn the story out more, I think it would have had more of an impact. As it is, it felt rather helter-skelter. I found the epilogue a nice edition, as it rounds out the rather abrupt ending. It is a little longer than some and neatly pulls together any lingering loose ends, while also giving us a glimpse into the characters’ future. Overall, I would say I enjoyed this book - it was a delightful way to spend a few hours - though I don’t imagine I’ll be reading it again. *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review, which I have given. I was not required to write a positive review and have not been compensated for it in any way. All opinions expressed are my own.
TOGETHER WITH YOU by Victoria Bylin is possibly the best book of 2015, in my opinion, and yes, I know it's only April. Bigger than a romance, bigger than a book with a cause, it's the story of a single father dealing with a child a severe medical problem, and the woman who comes into their lives to help make them whole again. Though Penny, the child in this story has fetal alcohol syndrome, a pattern of mental and physical defects brought on by a mother who drinks during pregnancy, the story is never weighed down by this handicap, nor is Penny's late mother solely blamed for her child's problem—the father takes his share too. How Carly, who has dealt with this problem before, enters Penny and Ryan Tremaine's lives and makes them better makes for a page-turning, heart-warming story. It's not a simplistic remedy—Carly's joining the family does not instantly make life perfect, nor is Carly perfect—but it's a story I very much enjoyed. The element of Christian faith added great dimension to the story. My only complaint is that now I'll have months to wait until there's a new Victoria Bylin book out again. I love her books! My review copy was furnished to me by her publisher, Bethany House. Laurie Kingery
Dr. Ryan Tremain has a daughter, Penny, with Fetal Alcohol Effects from an extramarital affair which ended his marriage. With Penny’s mother dead, he is raising her on his own along with watching his two teenage sons while his former wife is on a mission trip. He is absolutely overwhelmed, especially when no nanny can last more than a few days. Carly Mason is an experienced exsocial worker working on her PhD at UCLA. When they meet in an emergency situation, Ryan desperately begs her to help him out. Carly is not sure about becoming so personally involved, especially after how it turned out at her last job. As she is drawn to Penny’s needs and her own living situation becomes too dangerous, she agrees to become a live-in nanny. As they become drawn into each other’s lives Ryan and Carly realize they will have to face their stark differences in faith or lack of faith. It might take a potential tragedy to help them figure it out. This was a wonderful book. It was full of faith, forgiveness, redemption, and so much information on a little known subject Fetal Alcohol Effects and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I loved the way in which the author switched points of view, giving much insight in to the characters. One might think this would be confusing, but it was a wonderful way in which to get to know each of the main characters. I particularly loved Penny’s voice. My only criticism is the cover. It is reminiscent of a Harlequin Romance, rather than the lovely story of one family’s journey into redemption. Hopefully, this is not off putting for too many as they will miss out on a terrific read. I received this from The Book Club Network in exchange for my opinion.