Disclaimer: I received a free copy from the author. All opinions are my own.
My rating: 2/5
Refuge at Pine Lake is a contemporary romance novel with Christian undertones. Matt is a professor and writer on sabbatical at a lake house; Robin is the owner of the lake house who is staying there to be closer to the local fishing guide, Caleb. The story proceeds exactly as you might expect.
I have mixed feelings about the novel as a whole. I was excited at first because Matt is portrayed as a grumpy, out-of-shape professor and it’s nice to see a male love interest who isn’t Mr. Handsome and Perfect. My enthusiasm waned a bit once he gets a haircut, gets back into shape, and becomes less grumpy, as it’s then immediately noted how handsome he is. Robin, too, is Miss Perfect—the male character immediately notices how good-looking she is, becomes immediately attracted to her, etc. I probably wouldn’t have minded so much if the entire book wasn’t so insta-love focused. I mean, Matt and Robin exchange a handful of conversations, but most of it is simply “You’re good-looking and I love you even though I’ve barely talked to you.” To be honest, Caleb and Robin’s relationship seemed much more realistic, though Caleb as a character was incredibly up-and-down—was I supposed to like him or hate him? He switched back and forth from being a possessive jerk with an apparent fear of commitment to a nice guy who genuinely loved his girlfriend. So, basically, the romance aspect depends entirely on tired tropes, insta-love, and handsome and perfect people.
I also had a few issues with the writing style, though I’m very picky in that regard. Was it necessary to detail every single meal the characters ate, complete with how Robin made each thing? I’ve never felt more like I was reading a recipe book disguised as a romance. Also, I had many questions about how Robin was affording to spend such a leisurely time at the lake house, buy all of the food, and pay all the bills without a job (she was only working on her children’s book—she hadn’t published anything yet, so there was no money from that quarter). Did Matt’s rent pay for all of that?
Lastly, if you’re going to market your book to Christians, can there be more Christianity in there than casual, brief references to God and prayer? Don’t cheese and preach it up, but at least give more than sparse prayers and mentions. I can’t even recall if the characters went to church or not, or if they had Bibles and read them.
I guess my mixed feelings turned more negative as I wrote this review. I know lots of people would probably enjoy Refuge at Pine Lake, especially if they don’t over-analyze or want specific things. But since I do, it wasn’t the book for me.
Genre: Realistic, Christian
About the Book
Series: Pine Haven
Genre: Christian, Contemporary
Publisher: Chanson Books
Publication date: March 7, 2019
Robin Lancaster, a twenty-six-year-old former kindergarten teacher, has her summer and her life all figured out. She’s ready to be on her own, writing and illustrating her children’s stories at her family’s beloved lake house. Once there, she intends to rekindle a romance with Caleb Jackson, the area’s top hunting and fishing guide, and bag him for herself. Complications arise from the start when Robin finds out her mother has rented the lake house to a man they know nothing about. Matthew McLaughlin, forty-year-old widowed university professor and author from California, shows up at Pine Lake in crisis. A sabbatical might be his only hope to save much more than his career. He needs a place of refuge. Sharing the lake house with a lighthearted young woman and her dog is the last thing on his mind. Caleb Jackson has his own plans. He’s used to things going his way, but a man staying in Robin’s house presents unforeseen challenges. When paths unavoidably entangle for these three, hearts are on the line.
About the Author
Rose Chandler Johnson is known for her heartwarming, inspirational writing. In addition to works of sweet contemporary fiction, her devotional journal, won the Georgia Author of the Year Finalist Award in 2014.
In her novels, Rose brings to life fascinating characters with compelling relationships embracing family, community, and faith. In distinctive southern settings, Rose creates memorable stories that will stir your heart. Readers often say her writing warms the soul as it reaffirms belief in love and wholesome goodness. Don’t be surprised if you sigh with pleasure as you savor the final pages of her stories. Rose has lived in a suburb of Augusta, GA for thirty plus years. Before retiring from Georgia’s school system, she taught English, French, and ESOL. Currently, she is an English instructor at a community college. In addition to reading and writing, Rose enjoys cooking, sewing, gardening, and spending time with her six children and her beautiful grandchildren.
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