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Summer Breeze
by Catherine Palmer & Gary Chapman

Reviewed by Sheryl Root

"...a realistic, heart-warming, and humorous look at the ins and outs of marriage."

Summer Breeze is the second book in the Four Seasons series written by Catherine Palmer and Gary Chapman. The novels, based on the ever-changing cycle of relationships detailed in Dr. Chapman’s non-fiction book, The Four Seasons of Marriage, take us to Deepwater Cove and the delightful cast of characters first introduced in It Happens Every Spring.

Kim and Derek Finley, happily married for three years, are the couple focused on in Summer Breeze. For Kim, who escaped an abusive first marriage, Derek has been the perfect husband and stepfather to her 10-year-old twins, Lydia and Luke. He is considerate, supportive, and gives her frequent, sincere compliments. Kim couldn’t ask for a better husband.

However, when Luke is diagnosed with diabetes and Derek’s mother comes for an indefinite visit, their seemingly ideal marriage begins to unravel. Kim realizes that Derek doesn’t talk to her about anything truly important in his life and he seems to have no inclination to share in the faith that is so vital to her. Derek feels caught between his wife and his mother, and just wants to have his peaceful, loving home back. When Derek reveals a hidden part of his past to Kim, it seems to be the last straw. Can their marriage survive the truth and this time of testing?

While Derek and Kim are going through their struggles, the other inhabitants of Deepwater Cove each face their own challenges. Patsy Pringle, owner of the Just As I Am beauty salon, continues to battle her feelings for Pete Roberts, the bear-like proprietor of the Rods-n-Ends bait and tackle shop next door. Then there’s the new resident in Deepwater Cove, Bitty Sondheim, who opens the Pop-In take-out restaurant on the other side of Patsy’s salon. While the tourists love Bitty’s omelets and wraps to go, she has a harder time convincing the local men that her lighter, California-style offerings are “real” food. And without local support, her business has no chance of succeeding.

Cody, the once homeless wanderer who captured the hearts and support of Deepwater Cove residents in It Happens Every Spring, has bloomed under their loving attention. Cody’s heart is stirred to look for his own biological family when an unknown woman’s body is found drowned in the lake. His search to find family takes him away from those he loves in Deepwater Cove and, in the end, helps him to realize there is more to family than biological ties.

I enjoyed this book even more than I did the first. Partly, because I empathized more with Kim and Derek than I did with Steve and Brenda Hansen (the main couple in the first book); and partly because, as in most books with a large cast of characters, I feel I am getting to know them better over time. A major challenge in books like this is giving sufficient depth to each character—so that the reader cares about what happens to them—without sacrificing the flow of the storyline. While I can’t say I know the residents of Deepwater Cove as much as I would personally like, Palmer and Chapman do a more than capable job of sharing enough tidbits into their character’s lives to entice me to read further.

The third book in the series, Falling for You Again, is Charlie and Esther Moore’s story and will be released in fall 2007. The brief excerpt included at the end of Summer Breeze tells me it will be a heart-tugging page-turner; definitely a book I will be adding to my to-be-read list.

Sheryl RootSheryl Root is Partner Database Manager at OneHope, a non-profit organization whose mission is to reach every child with God’s Word. She’s also a writer and a reader of everything she can get her hands on … books, blogs, magazines. In other words, she’s both a data geek and a book nerd. She loves to be able to support Christian authors and spread the word on great books and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, a wonderful community of published and yet to be published writers. You can follow her on Twitter at @Sheryl_Root.