Judith D Collins
Down By The River
By Lin Stepp
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 5/27/2014
Series: Smoky Mountains Series
My Rating: 5 Stars +
Set against the backdrop of Tennessee’s breathtaking Smoky Mountains, Lin Stepp’s Down By the River is a warmhearted novel that proves it’s never too late—or too early—for a fresh start…
While on a visit to the Smokies, Grace Conley makes a stunning decision: she’s going to walk away from her busy life in Nashville to move to tiny Townsend and open a bed-and-breakfast. There’s a beautiful old inn for sale along the Little River that will do perfectly.
Of course, Grace’s family is scandalized. After all, she’s a middle-aged widow! And as a career homemaker, she’s always been available for babysitting, chauffeuring, and generally being the peacemaker among her grown children. Has Grace lost her mind?
She begins to wonder the same thing once she finds herself attracted to the local ladies’ man. But the surprises don’t stop there…To further complicate her move, Grace’s daughter, Margaret, has grudgingly come to live with her.
Having just graduated from college, remote Townsend is not where she envisions her future. Yet the handsome young minister next door is convinced he and Margaret are meant for each other. As life choices abound, soon both women will discover that the biggest decisions require confidence, a sense of humor—and a deep, abiding faith.
A special thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley, for an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
I am a sucker for a charming trendy bed and breakfast read-a passion of mine, as a professional innkeeper, having facilitated all aspects of online and traditional marketing for B&Bs, inns, and hotels for over 25 years. (Always a good story; therefore, a lengthy review). The B&B theme originally caught my attention, the inviting front cover, and the intriguing summary of a middle aged woman (grandmother) Grace, leaving her life behind and demands of her selfish grown children and grandchildren, to finally have “her time” to experience her passion, after raising her family. Of course at age 49 she did not want to go into a retirement community – her life was just beginning- GO GIRL! However, “Down by the River” was so much more than a sweet nice and charming small town Tennessee southern read. I absolutely loved everything about the storyline from beginning to end, as was hard to put it down. This was my first read by the author, Lin Stepp, and so look forward to reading more from this talented author! I absolutely loved the characters, as the author did an outstanding job of offering unique and strong personalities to each of the main characters, sharing their flaws, strengths and weaknesses. . .and oh, so LOVED the banter between Grace and Jack! You will fall in love with these two from the beginning – two people, so different, with such an attraction for one another, the flirting and humor, and wit. . . DESTINED to be together. There is so much to this engaging and inspirational book; words cannot adequately describe. You get to experience such growth in love and abiding faith especially with Grace, Margaret, and Jack. You will laugh and cry along with these realistic characters, their struggles, insecurities, obstacles, challenges, and warm hearts. By the end of the book, you will feel so connected, and have a strong desire to be a part of this close knit small town community. (I want to visit)! I especially enjoyed the widowed talented Grace, with four grown children, and no real support for her as a real person, only as a wife and mother. To them she was a cook and a babysitter with no mind of her own. She never got to really experience a life of her own, or a career. Many women will relate, especially if they are young mothers who never experienced life as a single person before marriage, to see Grace’s character evolving with her new venture, life, and potential romance possibilities. Was so applauding and going, “Yeah Grace”, when she made the decision at age 49, to sell the family house and move to another city to buy a bed and breakfast and run it herself, without asking any of her family. This was not accepted well by her family, especially her younger daughter Margaret. And oh, the mean Jane, mother-in- law, which had controlled her life since she married her son. Could so relate to this book, as was 49, grown children, and divorced when I moved to a different state, with a fresh new start and career-quite refreshing! Enjoyed the book as it unfolded, observing Grace, as she grows with fearless, courage and independence as she steps out on her own, making the inn, her business, the community, and friends her own with her own special touch and style. Lots of fun and eccentric secondary characters with a little mystery, as well as romance. In addition to the fun romance going on between bad boy, realtor, father, and good-looking womanizer, Jack (I adored him), there were many touching experiences with Christian faith with Vincent, the pastor and author, as well as Jack’s twin daughters, relationships, family, friends, and the growing and maturing of Grace with her past, siblings, and especially the dynamic change in her daughter Margaret, and Jack from the beginning of the book to the end. Set in the breathtaking Great Smoky Mountains, “Down by the River” gets a 5 Star rating, for so many reasons in my opinion. (read it to find out why, as no spoilers here). A heartwarming and inspirational read, you will want to treasure and tell all your friends, reiterating theme, “it is never too late to start over”! It is ideal for men and women of all ages, and book clubs/discussions. There are many takeaways, emotionally and spiritually with life lessons and insightful-- with hopes the characters will live on, in a future series - definitely in, as hooked. I noted several reviews mentioning similar style as Jan Karon’s Mitford Series; however, I thought this was much better, more depth, romance, trendy, engaging, and fresh with a light Christian tone. Looking forward to reading more from this insightful storyteller, who lets you see the characters from inside out, as you grow to love and cherish them, with flaws and all. Goodreads