Reviewed by Lisa Lickel
Love, Charleston by Beth Webb Hart
"Readers who like stories of broken people put back together again with the help of family and friends will find ample heartache and faith in Love, Charleston."
From the publisher: Family, friendship and faith converge in a beautiful story about how God’s transforming love works in the Holy City of Charleston.
If you tend to pick a story based on the back cover and the first chapter, and don’t much like to be surprised, you’ll find Love, Charleston, rather a surprise.
The back cover claims a Jan Karon-esque story line about a lonely Episcopal priest, Roy Summerall, sent to Charleston and encouraged by his friends and family (which includes a precocious daughter) to find a new soul mate. Spinster Anne has long dreamed of love…and so on. Unfortunately, Anne’s sister Alisha has more than “issues” with her husband’s ambitions and hijacks the story early on, forcing all of the characters to revolve around her. Anne and Alisha’s cousin, Della, is the one with “issues,” and what should have been the pivot, the fact that these four people have a history, is shunted aside by only passing mention.
Love, Charleston is really the story of two marriages: one seemingly weak and one apparently strong, and how they eventually change places. The reader is present for the conception of the third marriage between Roy and Anne, but we never get to know Anne. Roy and his daughter are beyond too good to be true; although for me, the best parts of the book were Roy’s country-boy attempts to fit in with the high-society crowd.
For Alisha, Anne’s sister, and Della, their cousin, painful and disturbing medical and emotional troubles bubble to the surface. Lish and her husband, the “doctors Sublime” in Della’s view, have it all—the house Della was raised in, plenty of money, two children with a third on the way and no worries, while Della and her husband, who is currently out of work, can hardly make the mortgage and barely afford one child, let alone the houseful that Della desires. Even though the cousins are close, they are not close enough to see the warts under the skin, and when Lish’s world crumbles, it threatens to take Della and Anne with it.
Anne, who is the faithful one of the girls, Roy, and Della, who has had a long-standing argument with God, rally to help Lish, with all four of them conquering their demons.
Although the story was lovely, it felt like a series of vignettes instead of a cohesive entity. I would have been content with a meatier tale tackling at most two of the stories instead of threads of all three. Anne was a fascinating character who deserved more, as did the city of Charleston, which felt more like a travelogue than a setting. Readers who like stories of broken people put back together again with the help of family and friends will find ample heartache and faith in Love, Charleston.
Lickel lives in Wisconsin with her high school teacher husband in a 150-year-old
Great Lakes ship captain's house. She is active in more than one historical society,
belongs to writing and reading clubs and is the editor in chief of Creative Wisconsin,
the magazine of Wisconsin Regional Writers. A graduate of the Christian Writer's
Guild, she has written newspaper features and magazine articles, radio theater,
and authored several inspirational novels. Find her online at http://lisalickel.com,