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By Mary Manners
Pelican Ventures, LLCCopyright © 2012 Mary Manners
All rights reserved.
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
She'd tried to kill him.
Jake swallowed an oath and cut the motor on the mower he wrestled through overgrown September grass. His heart thundered like a runaway semi as his gaze locked on the woman's startling green eyes, framed by a wisp of sun-kissed blonde hair. She was shorter than he was — quite a bit shorter — and willowy as a ribbon in the wind, but the strappy sandals hugging her feet added a bit of height.
"Have you lost your mind?" The words tumbled out before Jake could get a hold on them. "I might have run over you, hacked off a few of your toes." He quickly regretted his harsh tone when her smile wilted. Her gaze lowered to her feet, and she wiggled her pink-polished toes.
"But you didn't, and I'm still in one piece. So ..." She had a slight Southern accent, a soft lilting voice that he imagined could flash to a bite in an instant.
Jake drew a long, calming breath laced with the sweet scent of freshly mown grass as he swiped a forearm across his brow. Sweat trickled down his back, making his T-shirt cling to damp skin. "Don't you know you're not supposed to sneak up on people when they're working with dangerous equipment?"
"Of course." Her gaze narrowed as she crossed her arms and lifted her chin. He imagined her lack of height was no deterrent to getting her way, and her tone might have scalded the first few layers of skin from him. "But I didn't sneak up on you."
"Could have fooled me." He huffed out a breath and wished he wasn't feeling so short-tempered. It gave the wrong impression, especially here at church, and with someone new. He tugged the collar of his T-shirt and hoped for a cool breeze, trying not to think about how he was in a hurry to pick up Corey, and that he didn't have time for chit-chat. But he'd make time ... he always did. It was part of his job. "I sure didn't hear you coming."
"I called to you, but you're mowing." She enunciated the word as if she thought he might be a few cards short of a Pinochle deck. "That's most likely why you didn't hear me."
"Yeah, that's just my point." Jake's restraint was sorely tested by the smug gleam in her eye. His gaze grazed her crisp linen jacket over a flowered sundress that caressed a lithe figure. She looked graceful and cool under the blistering glare of the sun.
Jake, on the other hand, was sweltering to the point of self-combustion. He hadn't intended to mow the grass, but when Bill Rogers, the church caretaker, called in with a sick daughter, there wasn't time to find help. So Jake stepped in to pick up the slack. He brushed prickly blades of mulched grass from his faded jeans and gestured toward the mower. "Care to give it a go?"
She took a giant step back. "No thanks. I'm not ... properly dressed." She surveyed him, shielding her eyes from the sun that burned from a cloudless blue sky. Her other hand disappeared into the tote slung over one shoulder. "Drink?" She offered him a bottle of water. "You look like you can use some cooling off."
Jake reached for the water. His pulse rate was beginning to ease, and thirst won out over pride. "Thanks."
She gaped as he uncapped the bottle and guzzled the cool water in little more than a gulp then swiped stray droplets from his mouth with the back of his hand.
"Do you need to sit down for a minute? You look ... winded."
"No. I'm almost done." Jake wouldn't have chosen jeans that morning if he'd known he was going to have to mow; cargo shorts would have been a better choice. The thick denim held heat against his skin like a sauna. "Ahh, that's good. Do you make it a habit to carry bottled water with you?"
"Nope ... it's your lucky day." She adjusted the tote over her shoulder, and he saw it was filled with papers bundled neatly together by an array of colorful, plastic-coated clips. "Who knew I'd stumble across a hot groundskeeper in need."
Jake did a double-take when her smile turned down and her gaze flashed complete mortification at the unintended double meaning. He tugged his ball cap low over his eyes and crossed his arms as she stuttered through an explanation.
"I-I mean, you're hot from mowing ..." she gulped, shading her eyes from his gaze. "Because it's so hot out here, and you need —"
"Wow." Jake burst into laughter. He fought hard to regain his composure as tears stung his eyes and mixed with the sweat on his brow to blur his vision.
"Hey." Her cheeks flushed and blonde curls bobbed haughtily as she crossed her arms, threw her shoulders back, and gave him a seething look. "Don't you know it's not nice to laugh at someone else's expense?"
Jake coughed into a hand and dipped his head to hide his grin. "Sorry, but you stepped right into that one."
A crimson splotch crept up her neck and crawled across her face. "OK, I guess I did. Anyway —"
"I'm Jake." He wiped his hand on his jeans in an attempt to brush off some of the sweat and dirt before extending it to her.
"Carin." She grasped his hand and gave it a tentative shake. The scent of sandalwood perfume clung to the humid air, and Jake inhaled deeply, his pulse easing down another notch.
"So, what brings you here today, Carin?"
She tucked a stray curl behind one ear and trained those pretty green eyes on him. "I need to speak with the pastor of this church. I was hoping you could help me locate him."
"Maybe I can." Jake leaned lazily against the mower. She was neat and tidy, all business, while he stood sweaty and covered head to toe in mulched grass that had been swept up on a breeze. Maybe it was the heat, or her smug expression, or perhaps the fact he was in a bit of a foul mood and only human, after all, but he decided to have a little fun. "Which pastor are you looking for — youth or senior?"
"I ... um ... I don't know." She caught her lower lip between her teeth, gnawed for a moment and then let go. "I didn't think to ask. I suppose he must be the youth pastor. Senior pastors tend to be older, I assume."
Jake stifled a groan. She'd conveyed the typical sentiment. By all accounts, he should be a balding, stooped over, crotchety old man. The thought raised his ire even more. "Well, the youth pastor stepped out for a while. Meetings and planning sessions ... you know how pressing church matters can be. Was he expecting you?"
"No, but ... I was hoping to speak with him, confidentially."
The disappointment in her gaze caused Jake a slight prick of guilt. His voice softened, and he remembered why he was here at the church in the first place. "Is what you need to speak about an emergency of some sort?"
"No!" Carin emphasized the word. "I mean, no, I wouldn't want to worry him. It's not pressing. I just need to ..." The words died in her throat.
"Are you sure it's not an emergency?" He couldn't leave her hanging if it truly was a pressing issue.
"Sure, I'm sure."
Jake debated. It wasn't an emergency, and she'd be back in a day or so if he played his cards right. Then he wouldn't be in a hurry to get Corey, and he'd have all the time in the world to talk with her — a better prospect, all the way around.
"Tell you what," Jake coaxed. "Why don't you come back Sunday morning for the ten o'clock service, when both pastors are sure to be here, and I can personally guarantee that following the service whichever pastor you need to speak with will give you his undivided attention for as long as you'd like."
"You're positive?" One eyebrow rose into a smooth little arch. "What I need to speak about could take a while."
She jostled the bag on her shoulder and sighed, her gaze scanning the steps that led into the church. "Well ... that's just the day after tomorrow. I suppose it can wait until then. Ten o'clock, you said?"
"For the service, yes. And you can do your talking afterwards."
"I don't want to divulge the details." Her forehead creased as her eyebrows knit together. "But perhaps I should leave a short message in the office, maybe a note with the secretary."
"No need." Jake tried not to glance at his watch. Corey would be waiting at the ball field, and who knew what kind of mischief he'd get into if Jake was delayed too long. "Besides, the secretary's gone home for the day. But you have my word; the pastor will be OK with you showing up."
Jake eyed her ... abundant ringlets of soft blonde curls, tidy appearance, and eyes that said she didn't think he could possibly know anything about the pastor. The slight prick of guilt he'd felt fled. "I'm sure."
"Well ..." Carin wound a strand of curl around an index finger. "Thank you ... I guess."
"No problem." The late-afternoon sun silhouetted her figure. She had to be a runner — or perhaps a dancer. Though her figure was slight, Jake noticed the definition of supple calf muscles below the hem of her skirt. He drew his gaze away. "I'd better get back to work now ... unless you'd care to stay and help."
She pressed a finger to the forehead crease and gnawed her lower lip again while readjusting the tote. "No. I've ... um ... got errands to run."
Yeah, right, Jake thought as she backed away. You wouldn't want to dirty those freshly-manicured nails.
"Well, the invitation's open ... anytime." He swept a hand across the clipping-littered sidewalk. "There's always plenty of lawn to mow."
"I'll ... um ... remember that."
The mortified look on her face was priceless, and Jake grinned as she hastily retreated to her car. "Thanks for your help."
"See you Sunday?" Jake called.
"Of course ... if you're here."
"Oh, I'll be here."
"Me, too." The way she said it, her voice lilting with a biting edge to it, made Jake wonder exactly what was up. Now he had no choice but to wait to find out. Guess that was the price he'd pay for letting the heat — and a bit of temper — get the best of him.
He thought about going after her, but the compact sedan's engine rumbled to life before he had time to make up his mind. As the car puttered from the lot, Jake checked his watch and quickly turned his attention back to mowing. He crushed the empty water bottle and stuffed it into the back pocket of his jeans before double-timing it through the last section of lawn. Then he wrestled the mower back into the shed, brushed off his jeans, and went inside the church long enough to wash grass from his hands and check his voicemail. The last bit of mowing gave him time to reflect, and guilt gnawed at him.
He wondered what Carin wanted. He shouldn't have run her off without asking. What kind of pastor was he, anyway? What if it was important? What if she didn't come back?
* * *
Who on earth does he think he is? The arrogant, filthy, grass-covered bohemian. Why, I'll —
The shriek of a horn startled Carin, and she slammed the brakes, skidding toward oncoming traffic. "Oh!" She held her breath as tires squealed over pavement and her car came to rest mere inches from the pickup truck in front of her. The odor of burning rubber coupled with fear made her gag. "Sorry," she gasped, as if the driver of the truck might hear.
Oh, why on earth had she allowed Hailey to talk her into moving from her job helping her dad at his law firm in Nashville to take a teaching job at East Ridge Middle ... and seventh grade, to boot? Middle school kids were a far cry from the affluent adults who came into her dad's upscale firm to seek his advice on everything from basic living wills to complicated estate planning and civil suits. But she had a degree in English, and East Ridge Middle needed a qualified English teacher when Mrs. Baldwin, a thirty-five year veteran, decided to retire. So when Hailey called and suggested the move, Carin had jumped at the chance to take over. She'd always loved the Tennessee Valley and the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, and there wasn't much anymore to keep her in Nashville.
Except for her dad, and he was pretty much busy at his law firm all the time.
Besides, she needed a change to get away from the memories ... the grief of losing her mom and then Cameron, and of the turmoil that had followed with Phillip, too. Nothing else she tried seemed to work. A change of scenery — a bit of distance — was the answer for her troubled heart.
But it wasn't easy being the new kid on the block at East Ridge Middle, especially when she demanded the absolute best from her students. During the first few weeks, chaos nearly choked her, but she finally had a handle on things — a routine and a plan she was more than satisfied with.
Except for Corey Samuels. Apparently he reigned as King of Chaos.
The kid had a chip on his shoulder the size of Montana, with an attitude to match. To say his grades and effort were underwhelming put it mildly. But his records showed top test scores and well-above-average ability, and something in his eyes told her there was more to the story. He reminded her of her younger brother, Cameron. As she tamped the urge to throttle Corey when he blew spit wads at her white board and made rude comments under his breath, something about him tugged at her heartstrings.
No one had been able to help Cameron, and the end result was nothing less than heartbreaking. She missed her brother, gone nearly a year now. The pain of his death never left her.
When she asked Hailey for guidance concerning Corey, her friend mentioned that a talk with Corey's brother might help. So on the way home she'd swung by the church where Hailey said he was a pastor, but confidentiality had kept her from searching for him past that behemoth caretaker.
Carin expelled a long breath and released her hands from their death grip on the steering wheel. She wouldn't allow that poor excuse of a caretaker get to her, even if he did almost run her over with the hulking, dilapidated piece of junk-metal he called a mower.
A second horn blared, and Carin sprang to attention as traffic began to flow southbound toward the outskirts of town.
Just wait until Sunday, Mr. Lawnmower Man. I'm tougher than I look. I'll show you ...CHAPTER 2
Jake pulled into the ball field to find Corey gathering his football equipment and stuffing it into an oversized duffle bag. The sun was a sinking bronze glow in the late-afternoon sky, and most of the other middle-school players were gone, but Jake knew Corey always hung around longer to get in all the practice he possibly could. He'd live at the ball field if Jake would allow it. And some days Jake considered this, just for the chance to restore short snippets of quiet to his life.
"Hey, how'd it go?" Jake called as he slid out of the Jeep and loped over to toss a scuffed football into the battered bag.
"Pretty good." Corey swung around to face him. His forehead was smudged with dirt, his cheeks painted with eye-black that he insisted blocked out the glare of the sun. The scents of damp earth and grass clung to his uniform. "Coach McCrosky asked me to demonstrate some plays today. He says my throw is really improving."
"Well, that's certainly good news. The extra practice is paying off, huh?"
"Yeah." Corey nodded, and shaggy black hair hid his cobalt-blue eyes. He had their mom's eyes, wide and sensitive, while Jake looked more like their father. "He says with a little more practice, I'll have the whole package."
"The whole package, huh?" Jake grinned and ruffled Corey's matted hair. At the rate Corey was growing, Jake wouldn't be able to do that much longer. He could hardly keep the kid in jeans ... and forget about tennis shoes. They'd set up a frequent buyer account at the Nike outlet and were on a first-name basis with the owner. "Coach McCrosky wouldn't, by any chance, be alluding to both excellent grades and outstanding athletic abilities as part of this whole package, would he?"
"Please don't start on my grades." Corey groaned as he zipped the duffle bag and swung it over his shoulder, then reached for his helmet. "I still have a headache from last night's lecture."
"But I'm your big brother. I'm supposed to hassle you about your grades."
"I know. Like you'd ever let me forget."
"I'd be dropping the ball if I did." Jake smacked him on the back. "Couldn't do that now, could I?"
"Sometimes you're a real pain in the neck, you know."
"Uh-huh." Jake twirled his key ring on an index finger and the metal jangled. "It's a big brother's job to be a pain in the neck."
"Then you must be the CEO of big brothers, big brother."
Excerpted from Wisdom Tree by Mary Manners. Copyright © 2012 Mary Manners. Excerpted by permission of Pelican Ventures, LLC.
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
I had the privilege and pleasure of an advance read of this wonderful story about a very human pastor, Jake Samuels, and the woman he falls in love with, Carin O'Malley. When the lives of Jake's parents are claimed in an auto accident, he is left with the reponsibility of raising his teenaged brother, Corey. As you can imagine, such an accident created havoc on both their emotions and the two are trying to put the pieces of their lives back together when in steps Carin. She's Corey's English teacher, and when she and Jake meet for the first time it's a blend of comedy and heart-tugging desire. What happens next is a series of twists and turns that made me laugh, cry and want to throw things. There's not a single scene in the entire book that's not completely engaging. The 31-day devotional--one month's worth of reflections--included at the end of the book is an added bonus. The anecdotes tugged at my heartstrings. Wisdom Tree has a home on my keeper shelf!
Wisdom Tree is like a slice of heaven. Jake and Carin make for characters that keep the reader pulled-in. I just couldn't put this beautiful story down!
Oh my goodness, Wisdom Tree is an amazing story full of characters that are so believable that I hurt and cheered for them. Jake and Corey have a relationship that we can all empathize with. Carin is the kind of teacher everyone wishes he had. I still think about this book, and I finished reading it days ago. Wonderful!
Heartwarming & Sensive Jake Samuels, pastor of a church in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains is raising his younger brother Corey, after their parents were killed in a freak automobile accident. Carin O'Malley has taken on a 7th-grade English teaching position in the local middle school, with the hope of overcoming her own insurmountable losses. Young Corey is a student in Carin's class, and has assumed the role of class troublemaker and underachieving student. Carin visited the church where she had hoped to speak with the pastor regarding his younger brother, and mistakenly believed him to be the groundskeeper. It couldn't have been worse timing for Jake, but he arranged a meeting with Carin for after church on the following Sunday with the goal of discussing ways to improve his younger brother's predicament. Jake has a strong faith in God while Carin has lost her faith as a result of her painful circumstances. Jake, Corey and Carin agree to work together to improve Corey's attitude and lack of effort in school, resulting in a budding attraction between Jack and Carin. Mary Manners is an artist with language, creating detailed portrayals both in character definition and settings. Her usage of descriptive details is both eloquent and authentic. In Wisdom Tree Ms. Manners portrays realistic characters who are likable and believable, and her addition of biblical references is appropriate to the circumstances, adding a beauty to this multilayered story of tragedy, loss, heartache and healing. I was disappointed to have the story end. I'd love to see a sequel to Wisdom Tree. Ms. Manners has also added a daily devotional in the back of the book, which is helpful for those whose faith may not be as well developed, as well as seasoned Christians. I highly recommend this Christian fiction romance. This book was provided by Mary Manners for the sole purpose of my honest review. All opinions stated are my own.
What a refreshing read!! A real life story about how a young pastor struggles not only with everyday situations but also with the hard task of raising his teenage brother. The story is real-life not sugar coated and unrealistic. The 31-day devotional is full of opportunities to be reflective. Wisdom Tree is not only a keeper but one to re-read and share with others!
Carin is a young teacher trying to move forward after the deaths of her mother and her younger brother. She's making a fresh start in a new town and all is going well with the exception of one unruly student. After losing his parents in an accident less than a year ago, Jake is spread thin pastoring his church and raising his kid brother, Corey. Carin goes the extra mile to help Corey change his behavior and turn his grade around. The Wisdom Tree is a sweet romance with some mystery and suspense sprinkled in and a healthy dose of faith. I was happy to see a nice variety of ages among the characters, the inclusion of kids and seniors really made the story come to life. Carin struggled with her relationship with God and with an overbearing ex-boyfriend. Jake wanted to protect both Corey and Carin. I enjoyed the book and appreciated the elements of grief, freedom, forgiveness, faith, and family. I had the opportunity to read and review this book through NetGalley. The opinions expressed are my own.
From an inauspicious introduction, Jake and Carin trudge the murky waters of relationship. Jake is trying hard to be the parent his brother needs, only to find his advice and disciplinary efforts ignored. Carin feels a bond with the troubled Corey even before she discovers their similar grief. Mary Manners brings these characters to life in Wisdom Tree, and I found myself involved in their efforts to overcome the difficulties facing them, bringing them close, and pushing them apart. With a strong faith message and even a bonus devotional, Wisdom Tree is a story of redemption and hope. I received this book as a gift from the author, and it earns four stars. Recommended.
A wonderful warm loving story which weaves tragedy, faith and healing through the lives of the main characters. The story is well written and very easy read you will find yourself turning the pages quickly to find where the journey will lead. The author has also provided a wonderful 30 day devotional to allow the reader a journey to their own personal wisdom tree.
A variety of individuals dealing with grief and life in general, all brought together by their faith in each other, and God. When people look at Christians there is an expectation, and PTL the ministers in this great read lived up to and surpassed what was expected, by holding tight to Him. Fun read, with interesting twists and turns, and nice to see a love story without all the sex so many authors think books need. Also a real bonus is the devotions included at the end of the book to encourage readers to spend time daily with Him as well. I would highly recommend this book, especially for a break from life, and for new Christian women. I was sent this book by Pelican Book group in exchange for a review. Thanks, thoroughly enjoyed this read.
It was good clean reading. Taking Wisdom to another level. I enjoyed Mary Manners I will now look for her writings.
Wisdom Tree is a gentle story of Jake, Corey, and Carin, wounded souls struggling to find their way while dealing with the debilitating emotions of grief, guilt, anger and confusion. The characters are believable and likeable; and, as their lives unfold in the sweet and often humorous narrative, the reader sees the amazing hand of God in bringing the three together. It is a story of pain and healing, faltering and trusting, doubt and faith, loss and redemption—just as the story of most of us. This book is a refreshing reminder that God has a perfect plan for our lives, whether we understand it or not, and will work things for good if we will just trust and lean on Him. A month of devotional entries accompanies the book. They are short, anecdotal and pertinent. I received the book from the publisher through a giveaway on TBCN in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed
I enjoyed reading this book. The characters ran into some major issued but dealt with them in a realistic manner. I wish it had been longer :)
I just finished reading The Wisdom Tree by Mary Manners. It is an excellent inspirational romance story. I love stories that involve children and families; this one does not disappoint. I will not give a synopsis because other reviewers have done that; however, I thoroughly recommend the book.
This was a good book and I thought the story was very sweet, but I felt that the end of the book was rushed and there was something lacking with the story. I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review from TBCN.
The Wisdom Tree by Mary Manners is a heart-felt story of family tragedy and its results. After the sudden death of his parents, Jake, a single adult and full-time pastor, finds himself taking on the role of parent to Corey, his middle school aged brother. Both the man and the boy are dealing with their grief and current situation in different ways. Jake is trying to find the balance between being brother and parent while Corey is acting out in negative ways making the situation difficult. The author weaves Carin, Corey’s young, yet tough English teacher, into the mix to bring about many interesting events. Carin has also suffered recent tragedy in her family. Because of the guilt she carries regarding her own family, she desires to help Corey. Shame, secrets, forgiveness, doubt, and faith all crisscross throughout the story. It’s a book that everyone can identify with in some way. An added bonus is the wonderful set of devotionals that Mrs. Manners placed at the end of the story.
In The Wisdom Tree, Mary Manners shows how faith and time can turn tragedy into something beautiful. The main characters, two brothers, Jake and Corey, and a middle school English teacher, Carin, all hurt from recent family deaths. Each of them has to grieve, grow, and learn that God’s wisdom really does make a difference in everything. I appreciated how the author wove their three lives together into a story that I couldn’t put down.
Wisdom Tree by Mary Manners What can I say, I love this book. Pastor Jake is raising his orphaned younger brother Corey. When he struggles in Carin’s English class she turns to Jake for help. All three have suffered great loss. God uses Jake’s strong faith to help Carin reclaim hers. While Carin uses her experiences to help Corey she finds more than she bargained for in a relationship with Jake. Mary Manners has brought the characters to life. She found a way to give hope to the hopelessness, faith to the unfaithful and healing to the hurting soul. Her style of writing is believable and shows her strong faith. I especially love the devotional at the end of the book. I highly recommend this book and any other she has written.
This Book Will Touch Your Heart! The loss of a loved one is never easy to handle. Imagine losing your parents at a young age. How do you cope with the pain? How would you feel being raised by an older sibling? Would you act out? Would you be angry? Pastor Jake Samuels has his hands full trying his best to Pastor his church as well as make a good home for his brother Corey. The loss of their parents is great. Carin O'Malley is suffering loss herself. First her Mother and then her brother Cameron. Will she ever stop blaming herself for her 17 year old brothers death? Can she ever trust God again? This is the first book that I have read by Mary Manners. I loved Wisdom Tree because this book was God centerd. Also, the characters in this book were real, meaning they were believable. This same situation could very well have been taken from a life experience. I could relate to what some of the characters were going through. I've experienced a death of a husband, I've been in an abusive relationship, and I have wondered if God was even hearing my prayers. I wish to thank the author for making this book so real. Putting our faith and trust in God can bring us through tough issues that face us in life. I'm looking forward to reading other books by Mary Manners.
What a beautiful story of heartache and loss, of love and healing...and of the slow, steady, sweet growth of spiritual wisdom. WISDOM TREE is one of those books the reader doesn't want to end. I rooted for Jake and Carin--and young Corey, of course--from page one. My entire being yearned for a happy ending for these three angst-ridden souls, but as the story unfolded and I felt the approach of that very thing, I wanted to scream, "No, no! Not yet! I'm not ready to say good-bye!" I was so reluctant to part company with these characters that I kept reading all the way through the 31-days of devotions at the end (and found them as lovely as the story itself). Nothing is more beautiful than love when it arrives right out of the blue--no plans, no reservations, no phone call to say, "I'm on my way." It just shows up, and has to be dealt with. This is especially true when that first, delicate bloom has to push through multiple layers of pain, regret, angst and sorrow before it can finally unfold its petals. Mary Manners paints this scenario with delicate, painstaking pen strokes (green ink, of course!) that dance across the page and into the reader's heart with an unforgettable, life-altering touch. Read WISDOM TREE. It's time well spent. Just know that when you close that last page, you will not have reached the end. This one will be in your heart for a long time to come.
Jake is a young pastor struggling to gain the respect of his congregation while his younger brother, Corey, seems to do his best to destroy it. In steps Carin O'Malley, and what happens next is a lesson in courage, hope and faith.
Mary Manners' Wisdom Tree was well written with very human portrayals of the young minister, Jake Samuels and his love interest, English teacher, Carin O’Malley. So often we put clergy on a pedestal and fail to allow them to come down to earth with the rest of us mere mortals. Ms. Manners approached the couple’s blooming courtship and the problems brought to the relationship from a very realistic perspective. Overcoming grief is a major theme of the book. While coping with grief, the protagonists must also come to terms with issues of guilt, faith and trust. I was not ready for the ending. I expected the villain to rear his head again as so often happens in contemporary drama, perhaps to pose a more ominous threat to Carin or her father. Instead Carin’s ex fades into the sunset and all live happily ever after. While I felt the ending was somewhat abrupt, I was pleasantly surprised by the devotion at the end of the book, the very first of which was as though it had been written especially for me.