Tuesday, February 25, 2014

It Had to be You {a Tyndale House review}

Every time I write a review of a book by Susan May Warren, I end up gushing about how she is my favorite author.

This time is no exception.

It Had to be You is the second book in the Christiansen Family series, another series that takes place in the fictional northern Minnesota town of Deep Haven.  I love, love, love when Susan writes stories based in Minnesota.  This one is even better, for me, because while Eden Christiansen is from Deep Haven, and portions of the novel do take place there, most of the story happens in the Twin Cities.

The book opens with Eden on a date at "Stub & Herbs, a restaurant located a couple blocks from the offices of her old haunt, The Minnesota Daily newspaper."  Susan had me hooked, as I would describe the same place as "Sturbs, a bar (well, it was more of a bar back in my day) located a couple of blocks from my old office at The Minnesota Daily."

Eden's occasional references to her time at the Daily had me guessing that Susan May Warren probably worked there when she was a student too, but that was probably a year or two (not much more than that) before my stint there.  It also got me wondering just where I stashed my bright red Minnesota Daily sweatshirt.  But I digress.

The point of all of the above rambling is that Susan writes Minnesota fabulously well.  Her descriptions of places most certainly ring true -- even the places that are "fictional" like Sammy's Bar and Grill in St. Paul.  I know it is a pretend place, owned by a character in this story, but nestled in among real sights on real streets, it just fits in.

The publisher has this to say about the story:
Eden Christiansen never imagined her role as her younger brother Owen’s cheerleader would keep her on the sidelines of her own life. Sure, it feels good to be needed, but looking after the reckless NHL rookie leaves little time for Eden to focus on her own career. She dreamed of making a name for herself as a reporter, but is stuck writing obits—and starting to fear she doesn’t have the chops to land a major story. If only someone would step up to mentor Owen . . . but she knows better than to expect help from team veteran and bad-boy enforcer Jace Jacobsen.

Jace has built his career on the infamous reputation of his aggressive behavior—on and off the ice. Now at a crossroads about his future in hockey, that reputation has him trapped. And the guilt-trip he’s getting from Eden Christiansen isn’t making things any easier. But when Owen’s carelessness leads to a career-threatening injury and Eden stumbles upon a story that could be her big break, she and Jace are thrown together . . . and begin to wonder if they belong on the same team after all.
What did I think?  Well, besides loving that this was set in places I know reasonably well, I really enjoyed learning more about another member of the Christiansen family.  Eden was likeable, alternating between being really confident and floundering, unsure of herself at all.

The greatest part, of course, is all the other issues that come up in the story.  Organ donors, following your dreams, snap judgments, violence in sports (this is, after all, a hockey story!) and much more.  Susan May Warren always gets me to think.

The only downsides, which I probably notice just because of some of the other things I've been reading lately, are that everyone is always drop-dead gorgeous and a bit "unreal" in that aspect, and sometimes I feel like the kid in The Princess Bride, asking "Is this a kissing book?"

Oh, and before I forget, a bonus in this book is a few-chapter novella at the end that tells the story of the Christiansen family parents -- John and Ingrid.  It made me feel old though!  Reading about their summers in Deep Haven in the 70s with 8-tracks playing The Bee Gees.  Happy Birthday to me (yes, I read the novella on my birthday) with a reminder that I'm old enough to be the mom of all these Christiansen kids.

I loved the book.  And the novella too.  Check it out.  Of course, you can read about the first Christiansen Family novel, Take a Chance on Me, from when I reviewed it before.  I'd start with that one, but these books do stand alone.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.

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