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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Betsy St. Amant: Love Arrives in Pieces

By Kelly Bridgewater

From Amazon
Back Cover Copy:

For so long, Stella was known for her beauty. Now, with her heart stripped bare, she must discover who she really is.

Former pageant queen Stella Varland doesn’t trust beauty anymore after her divorce. Her appearance betrayed her and led to her brokenness—so instead of being beautiful, now she tries to make beautiful things, but always falls short. So she keeps her passion for her secret art to herself and focuses on her interior design work. But if she doesn’t get another job soon, she’ll be stuck living with her parents.

Contractor Chase Taylor is determined to live a life of no regrets after losing his fiancĂ©e in a car crash. Now he lives life at full speed, striving to see how much he can accomplish. He knows if he slows down, he’ll fall apart. So he returns home to Bayou Bend to renovate the town’s old theater, and is shocked to learn former flame Stella is the designer for the project.

Forced to work together, Chase and Stella battle their chemistry and their pasts as they struggle to compromise and come together on a vision for the theater. Chase doesn’t understand why Stella is such a subdued version of herself, while Stella doesn’t get why Chase thinks he understands her. Their wills clash as they attempt to hide their brokenness—and their unresolved feelings for each other—until Chase discovers the hidden parts of Stella, losing her trust in the process.

A near catastrophe, a fire, and a small-town gossip mill finally force both Stella and Chase to realize that they have a choice—to hold on to the shards of their pasts, or surrender their fragmented pieces to the One who makes a beautiful masterpiece from the broken.

My Thoughts:

I wanted to try one of Betsy St. Amant’s books. I met her at the ACFW conference last year when checking her in, and she is such a friendly and welcoming person that I vowed to read one of her books this year. The cover with the out of focused couple in the background invited me into the story. As a contemporary romance piece, this story did a good job.

Love Arrives in Pieces is told from two point of view characters: Chase Taylor and Stella Varland. Through their eyes, I saw their pain, scars, and brokenness. Personally, of the two, I liked Chase more than I did Stella. Chase is a hero or knight who saves Stella emotionally and spiritually. I truly felt like Amant spent more time developing Chase into the type of hero she wanted, and it is evident with every element of Chase. On the other hand, Stella, the heroine, is not one of my favorites because she is constantly depressed, sad, and mopey. I like my heroines to be strong and can stand on their own two feet. The strongest point of Stella’s character is the focus on her healing. Stella is very hard on herself but is trying to work past some serious issues from her past. I felt like I was there—experiencing her anguish, and feeling the excitement and questions of a blooming relationship.

While Amant may not have developed Stella into a strong character, her writing is great. I felt like I was watching Stella and Chase as they interacted and argued over the reconstruction of the theater. It is realistic with an even amount of thoughts, actions, and dialogue. The opening chapter does have Stella volunteering at a homeless shelter where Stella mopes around, thinking of her former glory days. Even though the story starts out kind of slow, it picks up after Chase and Stella officially start working together.

While the setting is important to any story, Amant allows me to use my imagination by not filling the pages with description of what the theater looks like. I believe Amant understands that her readers have been in a theater and could picture one while we were reading. It didn’t stop me from interacting with the characters. It enhanced my joy of reading.

The story’s tension is driven by external and internal conflicts. The external conflict is the betrayal of the past relationship between Chase and Stella. The story is driven by their struggles and allows them to develop internally. As for the pain in Stella’s background, Amant allows Stella to tell Chase what happened, but she skipped over allowing me to hear her tell Chase. Still confused on what went down with Dillion, Stella’s ex-husband, and Stella. Internally, Chase and Stella have to deal with the hurts from their past and figure out a way to move forward. Amant does a good job at showing the depth of Stella and Chase’s emotions, page by page. I felt like I was struggling through the same issues. I empathized with Stella as she is literally shoved to her knees. As for the spiritual side, Amant is not preachy in mentioning the aspects of God. She uses a couple of trusted mentors to help guide Stella and Chase back to God.  

Love Arrives in Pieces is an original story with a predictable ending. As standard for the romance genre, the hero and heroine must make amends and fall in love, which Amant does. There is no questionable content, so anyone could enjoy this sweet read. Fans of Becky Wade, Beth K. Vogt, Melissa Tagg, and Janice Thompson would devour this book. Love Arrives in Pieces is a fun read.

Overall, Betsy St. Amant’s Love Arrives in Pieces has a strong hero and a weak heroine, but Amant redeems herself with Stella’s growth from her past.

I received a complimentary copy of Love Arrives in Pieces from Zondervan and the opinions stated are all my own.  

My Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars

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