Randall Beiler is doing his best to put his family and the farm’s needs first, even forsaking love. But though he tries, Randall knows he needs help caring for his younger siblings and keeping the house together.
When his brother offers pretty Elizabeth Nolt a job taking care of the house and cooking for the family, Randall is furious—and guilty about the way he once broke Elizabeth’s heart. But when he learns that Elizabeth and her grandmother are struggling to make ends meet, he knows the offer, no matter how painful, is the right thing for everyone.
Elizabeth wants to refuse—to stay far away from the man who hurt her—but she needs the money. Though she vows to protect her heart, spending time in the Beiler household makes Elizabeth realize that, while she’s older and wiser, her love for Randall still burns strong.
Randal, too, seems to want something more. But does he want Elizabeth because he truly loves her—or because he needs a housekeeper? If Randall sincerely wants something more, he must find a way to show Elizabeth—or risk losing his chance at love forever.
I love Gray’s writing style. Smooth and dramatic, with clear, vivid descriptions, Gray’s stories play out like a movie inside my head. I can see everything happening, and it pulls me into the story.
Unlike the other books in this series, however, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Usually I’m cheering hard for Gray’s characters, but this particular pair was a bit different. They were particularly … well … thick, it seemed, right from the beginning. The obstacle to their love didn’t feel like much of an obstacle to me, and instead felt as if it should have been the answer to their problems.
As the story developed, however, Gray added more depth to the choices that Randall made at the beginning of the story. She made his decisions more understandable and easy to relate to. While I still don’t think I would’ve made the same choice that he did, I could finally see his position – and that made all the difference in the world when it came to being able to connect to the characters.
As for Elizabeth, she didn’t have the same type of confusing decisions to make as Randall, but she did need to do some growing up, and the depth that the in-between years give her make her a much more likeable character.
Gray really used nuance and tone in this story, more so than any of her others. The characters had a much more emotional and dramatic journey than in others, and the wisdom contrasted between Elizabeth’s grandmother and the young romantics really highlighted this.
Generally, I prefer to read about people I like, and I didn’t like Randall in the beginning; but despite his orneriness, Gray kept me engaged with this story from Page One. It takes an extremely talented writer to make emotional drama interesting and exciting, and that’s exactly what Gray is.
If you want to read a romance that’s more than butterflies and cupids, this is the book for you.
Shelley Shepard Gray is a two-time New York Times bestseller, a two-time USA Today bestseller, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time Holt Medallion winner. She lives in Southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail.
Find out more about Shelley at http://www.shelleyshepardgray.com.
I received a free copy of Joyful from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.