The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck
Becoming a Christian is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Sarah Hollenbeck. Best because, well, that's obvious. Worst because, up to this point, she's made her very comfortable living as a well-known, bestselling author of steamy romance novels that would leave the members of her new church blushing. Now Sarah is trying to reconcile her past with the future she's chosen. She's still under contract with her publisher and on the hook with her enormous fan base for the kind of book she's not sure she can write anymore. She's beginning to think that the church might frown on her tithing on royalties from a "scandalous" book. And the fact that she's falling in love with her pastor doesn't make things any easier.With a powerful voice, penetrating insight, and plenty of wit, Bethany Turner explodes onto the scene with a debut that isn't afraid to deal with the thorny realities of living the Christian life.

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck Details

TitleThe Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseOct 3rd, 2017
PublisherFleming H. Revell Company
ISBN-139780800727666
Rating
GenreChristian Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Christian, Fiction, Womens Fiction, Chick Lit

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck Review

  • Heidi Robbins (Heidi Reads...)
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this book for the humor and the various perspectives on modern mainstream Christian life, from the new convert (Sarah), to the lifelong member (Piper), to the young pastor (Ben). It was written in a way that had me hooked to not just the story, but the characters, and how they dealt with the drama in their lives. The romance between Sarah and Ben developed quickly but I enjoyed the time we got to spend *in* the romance, not just leading up to it, and all the great and important conversat I loved this book for the humor and the various perspectives on modern mainstream Christian life, from the new convert (Sarah), to the lifelong member (Piper), to the young pastor (Ben). It was written in a way that had me hooked to not just the story, but the characters, and how they dealt with the drama in their lives. The romance between Sarah and Ben developed quickly but I enjoyed the time we got to spend *in* the romance, not just leading up to it, and all the great and important conversations and interactions that took place. A great debut novel!(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)
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  • Susan Snodgrass
    January 1, 1970
    I really tried to like this book. I truly did. I had heard loads of good buzz about it and thought that it sounded very interesting, so I wanted to read it. I realize I'm the odd man out here, so to speak, because the reviews are generally good. But I was very disappointed in this book. The book is marketed as Christian fiction, but I didn't really find all that much inspiration in it. Sarah Hollenbeck has just been divorced from her cheating husband and is not sure of her identity anymore. She I really tried to like this book. I truly did. I had heard loads of good buzz about it and thought that it sounded very interesting, so I wanted to read it. I realize I'm the odd man out here, so to speak, because the reviews are generally good. But I was very disappointed in this book. The book is marketed as Christian fiction, but I didn't really find all that much inspiration in it. Sarah Hollenbeck has just been divorced from her cheating husband and is not sure of her identity anymore. She joins a book club and decides she could become an author and she does. Sarah writes steamy romance books, very steamy, in fact, and becomes a hit sensation. Personal appearances, TV interviews, etc. She is quite popular. Then she becomes a 'Christ-follower', in her own words (first person POV) and she decides she wants to write Christian fiction. An admirable goal. I know several true life authors who wrote for the secular romantic market before coming to Christ and they have written awesome novels, honoring Christ. So, I found no fault with that premise.This book starts out with Sarah going full tilt, like she's on speed. I mean, boom, boom, boom, goes everything. I nearly missed her conversion! She goes to a new church, bumps into a man in the hallway, who happens to be the pastor, unbeknownst to her, and almost immediately she begins to have the hots for him. Really, she begins to lust after him. In fact, all through this book, both she and he think almost constantly about sex. I was very put off by that. I'm not a prude by any means and don't mind edgy fiction in Christian books, but really, that was too much. It seemed as if it was the main theme of the book. Almost always when I read Christian fiction, I come away with a spiritual theme that I can look back on and grow in my own spiritual walk. I couldn't find one of those here. Not one. It just seemed so shallow to me. Just a fast track shallow road to run. I was very disappointed because of all the buzz about this book. * I was given a preview copy of this book by the publisher. My review is entirely my own opinion.
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  • Toni Shiloh
    January 1, 1970
    Bethany Tuner’s debut novel is the quintessential rom com. I laughed out loud so much my husband questioned my sanity and of course the actual hilarity of the book. And I smiled so many times I was pretty sure my cheeks were going to get stuck in that position.This is such a great Christian rom com and it touches on sooo many issues. For one, what’s next after praying the salvation prayer. The other talks about Christian fiction and what readers want. The struggle of staying pure before marriage Bethany Tuner’s debut novel is the quintessential rom com. I laughed out loud so much my husband questioned my sanity and of course the actual hilarity of the book. And I smiled so many times I was pretty sure my cheeks were going to get stuck in that position.This is such a great Christian rom com and it touches on sooo many issues. For one, what’s next after praying the salvation prayer. The other talks about Christian fiction and what readers want. The struggle of staying pure before marriage. The struggle of divorce. Seriously, I can go on. But even though there are so many issues, the book is no way weighed down by it or preachy. It’s just…awesomeness.I can’t wait to see what Bethany Turner writes next because she’s made me a fan for life. Sarah Hollenbeck has everything you want in a rom com. The heart stopping, cheek-splitting grins filled with quotable lines and happily ever afters. And the comedy…seriously epic! It’s a book you want to read again because it’s just that great. I’m praying someone turns this into a movie because it would be AWESOME!If you haven’t read this book, go buy it. If you can’t afford it, bug your library to buy it. It’s worth it my friends!*I received a copy from the publisher. This is my own honest, opinion.**First posted at: https://tonishiloh.wordpress.com/2017...
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  • Sarah Monzon
    January 1, 1970
    I wish I were better at writing reviews so I could do this book justice. First off, I have to say, I LOVE IT SO MUCH! I love the voice of the author. I love the unique premise (seriously, I'm tired of reading the same plot over and over again). I love the humor in it. I love watching how someone stumbles around figuring out "how to be Christian." I love the bravery of the author and Revell (the publishing house) for stepping out of the "box" of Christian fiction and tackling an honest, real subj I wish I were better at writing reviews so I could do this book justice. First off, I have to say, I LOVE IT SO MUCH! I love the voice of the author. I love the unique premise (seriously, I'm tired of reading the same plot over and over again). I love the humor in it. I love watching how someone stumbles around figuring out "how to be Christian." I love the bravery of the author and Revell (the publishing house) for stepping out of the "box" of Christian fiction and tackling an honest, real subject matter. *whispers* Guys, sex isn't a dirty word and we as Christians *can* talk about it. One of my favorite books of the whole year and one I will reread many times in the future.
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  • Rachel McMillan
    January 1, 1970
    I LOVE THIS AUTHOR and I WILL READ ANYTHING SHE WRITES FOREVER --- fyi. And she deserves a space in the Inspy writing and publishing world and she will continue to teach us about ourselves and encourage us to hold up a lens and look inside...I read this book basically in one sitting (well two sittings on two different flights and over a layover) en route to Michigan to speak and sign and speak. ( best weekend ever).And I should preface by saying this is not Rachel catnip material --- at least wh I LOVE THIS AUTHOR and I WILL READ ANYTHING SHE WRITES FOREVER --- fyi. And she deserves a space in the Inspy writing and publishing world and she will continue to teach us about ourselves and encourage us to hold up a lens and look inside...I read this book basically in one sitting (well two sittings on two different flights and over a layover) en route to Michigan to speak and sign and speak. ( best weekend ever).And I should preface by saying this is not Rachel catnip material --- at least when it comes to love story--- but it IS Rachel catnip material in that the author is a brilliantly competent one I can learn things from. Reading as a writer is essential and there was so much that Turner can teach writers in any genre on plotting, pacing and interweaving backstory.But, it wasn't a Rachel catnip book and isn't that wonderful and awesome!?? Because what may not be my cup of tea is EXACTLY WHAT YOU LOOK FOR IN STORIES AND ROMANTIC TROPES and that is why I think it is important for me to write about---- what I spell out may be your very favourite devices starring your very favourite kinds of romances and that is wonderful and that is why reading is diverse and taste is diverse and preference is diverse and that is the way it should be.Also, I am being critical of these aspects from MY PERSONAL TASTE PROFILE --- so I cannot really say anything negative about them OTHER than from my personal preference. The joy of individuality.I am not at a position of any type of expertise --other than a long time reader. And what I find might be limiting in the book for non Christian readers; you might think could act as a gateway. So we need to talk about this book. It is a great stepping point for a lot of dialogue --especially for readers of inspirational fiction. And it is the best type of book to talk about because it was penned by a dizzyingly talented writer.I also have faith based and non faith based readers and 60 % of my life is in a non-faith-based world, so I have to point a few things about this book as a general heads' up. I personally feel this book is best enjoyed by people within a church setting or background because of its intense peer into Christian culture and the rules and restrictions therein. Without ill-intention, I can see how the rules meted out by the heroine's friend Piper and Sarah's new church community might be seen as a point of judgment to readers though my personal opinion is that the author did not intend this. This story, its publisher, its author are products of an environment where this is the norm. I also point out that the word "butch" is used in a derogatory way and I was surprised that the editors of the novel didn't catch and edit that word which is becoming (thank heavens) quickly obsolete. In the spirit of full disclosure, I also have to mention that in Sarah's journey, the conversion to Christianity finds her on the receiving end of advice that motivates her to reassess her writing in the secular romance world. While reading, I thought of my many many many romance writing friends on the other side of the Christianese fence and the many romance books I love and the many authors I follow and found this could be read as polarizing. The usual abstinence talks and alcohol free living talks followed and poor Piper almost made me roll my eyes with her initial holier than thou moments ushering the searching Sarah into the fold. But Piper is a plot device and a portal and so I cannot quite fault her for being the mouthpiece for the more conservative sect of Christian culture in which this book dwells. I also found that some of the issues in the novel might ostracize non-Christian readers beyond some of the rules and metrics laid out (and very very prevalent in many churches--- ). One ostracizing moment comes in the vernacular of tithing. It is cute and funny and winsome that Turner explores the smutty novelist tithing her smutty novel's royalties; and beyond Ben's judgmental response ( throw something at him, women), I thought this was one instance of the rhetoric of one world that might not be accessible to all readers.All right, disclosure time over, let's dive in!To begin, I loved the heroine ---- I really didn't like the romance. It isn't my type at all. But, as I mention later, it is integral to the construct of Turner's larger perspective and it works really well for the story she is trying to tell. And while I didn't like the romance, I loved the romantic world and construct--- I loved the clash of secular and Christian romance and the open-eyed Sarah choosing to read CBA romance and pen her own. This is the world so many of us read in and publish in and it is a safe space for me and I loved reading about it ( But, I also love chugging cab sauv and reading Tessa Dare and Elizabeth Hoyt so ...SO not the target reader of this book )I hate insta love tropes and I never felt once I got to know Ben DeLaney--- but I did through his appearance get to know Sarah and sacrificing his dimension gave me more time with her---she was my love of this book. Her voice, her perspective, her passion to find a way to patch up her life. Her terrible poetry. Her stream of consciousness. Even though we view the world differently. Another non-Rachel-catnip thing (and yes I know it is scriptural, bring it up to me as the Marriage Supper of the Lamb), is the obsession of a wedding and children. Ben and Sarah just want insta family like their instalove. In what is the first ever usage of this term I have ever seen in a lifetime of reading Inspy romances he wants to "knock her up" and they'll have a ton of kids..... For a lot of readers, that is going to be the happy ever after, and of course, it is an easy and safe way for an inspy romance writer to bring sex into the conversation. For a reader like me it is all: WHAT? but you have money and live in Chicago and are a great writer and .... ugh! you can still have sex without kids! Again, PERSONAL PREFERENCE--- my feminism radar was tingling. .... but then it was just MY radar that was tingling. I don't want to spend my life cleaning up after eight rug rats --- But isn't feminism about choice? And shouldn't a woman decide that this is her preference? Reader and Sarah alike? She wants a passel of rugrats and to ascribe to the more traditional approach to life with Ben and I am all for that because she wants it! Choice, people. Choice!I didn't ever feel like I got to know Ben at all: beyond "hot pastor who likes to kiss in the parking lot" (Which, FYI, is tantamount to scandal in the Christian sphere). And I sure as heck don't want a wedding where Song of Solomon is the theme du jour but that is me having a strong reaction to the world I grew up in where this is part and parcel of the game. What Turner does well is finally shine the spotlight on the woman. In church culture, women are physically the stumbling blocks. The tight shirts, the yoga pants (insert eye roll and cursing here), the purity culture holds the woman to such a high platform. If a man stumbles it is nature, if a woman stumbles it is a reflection of her character. Sarah slices through this prevalent double standard by having a healthy sexual appetite even as she tweaks its perimeters to fit into her new Christian world. And yes, when Ben and Sarah write out a list of rules about kissing and dating and time together ( we Christians have a lot of rules-- some Biblical-- most just ours ), I was saddened but also understanding. This is the culture. This is a look at a very real culture. Sarah's experience clashes with the instinctive norm of the culture because she very legitimately wants as many sexy times as he does ( of course post -marriage...let's not get too crazy here ;) )What I found on a deeper level is that the Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck shows how susceptible a messed up person can be when looking for a quick fix. Her insta conversion pairs with her insta love and her beguiled look at Christianity leaves room for the author to show that nothing is perfect on either side of the stained glass. Indeed, by the end of the novel, a smart twist gives the reader a peek into the Secret Life of Ben Delaney: with its own secrets and fallacies, the first time we truly see him is human and imperfect and not just the hot pastor with the pretty eyes.And the motif of platform and visibility and congregational judgment is one that will resonate with anyone who has been in the public eye: either at the front of the pulpit or as a writer. The double standards, the insta judgment .... how we hurt each other intentionally or not -- all in the name of Christ.Its treatise on passion comes with a price as lust and sparks don't give us a chance to ever see Ben and Sarah falling on any deep or complex level. For a reader who loves the gradual build and friction of chemistry borne of something stronger than just physical heat, I felt I was deprived a beautiful love story. By the end, I still never saw connection between them beyond their passion and desire for a Von Trapp passel of children. But as a reader and lover of the inspirational market, I must point out how deeply I enjoyed a contemporary-set romance that really worked in the thesis of physical love within the meted restrictions of the church's purity culture. And while we can easily cite Deanne Gist and Julie Lessman in the historical sphere for pursuing the metrics of physical passion as far as they would go within the context of the inspirational trope, I enjoy that Turner broadened these lines.I had the best strong reactions to this book: on one level it took me back into my formative years as a pastor's kid learning all of the rules and regulations of the evangelical world -- -"that sex leads to drinking" (I was Pentecostal, yo!) that romance is a stumbling block and sets unrealistic expectations ( it might be a stumbling block for you---each reader has their own journey and I don't believe in one prescriptive for all believers in many of these ( get it?) hot (snicker) topics). And I had a strong reaction to Piper who reminded me so much of the girl we ALL tried to be --doling out scriptural advice as we tugged people into the fold. Having a strong, visceral reaction ( she leaves the room) when someone we like is caught doing something we don't feel fits into our Christian world. Luckily for Sarah, she moves beyond the Piper and navigates Christianity on her own. And one of the major draws to the church is a man-- Ben--- with all of the tingles and stolen looks. This is real life and why wouldn't a woman whose heart has been broken by a man of the world not fall immediately for a man of the cloth? As mentioned earlier, Ben is a symbol for the road Sarah is trying to cross however imperfect it is on the other side.To add, I love that she married two distinctive publishing spheres and how they clash. For those in the Inspirational industry, a constant conversation is about blurring lines, crossing over, finding secular readers ---- this book made me step outside the world and traditions I know well and really think beyond the veil of my time in a stricter Evangelical setting. What would my usual readers think? What might they perceive as judgmental? What am I feeling about connecting far more with the Sarah pre-conversion then nothing at all with the Sarah post-conversion? Maybe that is the point of the book...this book with the fresh, surprising, one-of-a-kind voice, with a ton of awesome possum Thorn Birds references....I loved thinking about this book. How irked I was by it. How incensed I was by it. No...not it--- the world it reflects. How it forced me to take a step back and really revisit the world I tried to leave. For while I remain a Christian, I happily sneak into the back of an Anglican church and am nowhere near a service that sings bottomless Chris Tomlin songs. Where I recognize that I cannot be responsible for being a man's stumbling block, where a healthy curiousity about sex and intimacy should not force a woman to cringe and blush until she blends into her pew. And it left me confused and riled and surged--- surged as a writer with the appreciation of voice and structure. This story may not be my jam but the author IS--- isn't that the best experience? And for those of you looking for this type of romantic comedy, you will just hit A + after A + across the board, because Turner has an inimitable voice. Turner has a brilliant sense of humour and a knack at peeling back the layers of the world and peering at the vulnerable places therein in a poignant shroud of grace and talent. Turner does backstory and perspective and deep POV like a pro. Turner should be used as an example of how to write first person that wraps around the reader and holds them close. She is an expert. She is one of the strongest debut voices I have ever encountered and the strongest most original voice I have seen in the CBA (inspirational publishing world) in years.And whether intentional or not, Secret Life exposes the fallacies, the contradictions, the parts of the inspirational world and culture we are still trying to patch up and sew.....Maybe the confusion and the inability to find answers allows us to find ourselves in the mess with two imperfect people meeting in an imperfect world stretching for perfect---the church--what should be a hospital but is seen as a cloistered and often judgmental space. And maybe the confusion is in the funny. There is nothing more Christian-y than a church wedding with a basement reception where Song of Solomon is quoted. Circle of hell for me, the dream for so many--- neither of us is wrong --- like Sarah, we just have to carve out a place to belong.
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  • ☆Dani☆ ☆Touch My Spine Book Reviews☆
    January 1, 1970
    I LOVED this book! It was a hilarious christian fiction novel. I am glad I picked this one up because the characterisation was on point, the plot was well paced and this book was beyond hilarious! I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. To find this review and others please visit touchmyspinebookreviews.com
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  • Teri-K
    January 1, 1970
    I really struggled with this book and how to rate it. I've saved my notes made part way through below. I'll add to them that I decided if I'd picked this up without the hype and just read it as a Christian romance I wouldn't have disliked it as much and might have given it 2 stars. But because it was supposed to be a new-type of more realistic romance, telling it like it really is, I was quite disappointed. I still wouldn't have loved it, though, because it's so totally unrealistic and full of c I really struggled with this book and how to rate it. I've saved my notes made part way through below. I'll add to them that I decided if I'd picked this up without the hype and just read it as a Christian romance I wouldn't have disliked it as much and might have given it 2 stars. But because it was supposed to be a new-type of more realistic romance, telling it like it really is, I was quite disappointed. I still wouldn't have loved it, though, because it's so totally unrealistic and full of coincidences and problems that disappear in hours. I also didn't see much of a true Christian message anywhere. Looking back I see I was also really disappointed because the premise of the book appealed to me. When an adult becomes a Christian, how do they deal with the sins of their past? How do they reconcile to people they may have hurt and explain their change in behavior to those who know them? How do you walk in your new life if the world insists on seeing you as the person you used to be? Unfortunately this book didn't deal with any of that. Our heroine didn't ever have to make a hard decision or explain anything because Mr. Wonderful did it all for her. So many opportunities missed with this book.Here's what I've already written:OK, I'm about 60% of the way through this book and here's what I've learned so far.(view spoiler)[1. As soon as you get saved God will send an incredibly attractive, educated, spiritually mature man down the right hallway to meet you your first day in church.2. You and said man - who is head pastor of the church - will fall instantly in love.3. Such love will be so profound he's willing to give up his pastorate for you, if only God would let him. Considering getting fired, he'll just shrug and say he's glad you could support them both.4. Nothing in your background bothers him or causes him concern.5. Your one Christian friend doesn't think perhaps you should slow down with her pastor and get to know God first. Instead she says "How great! He can teach you everything you need to know about your brand new faith!" 6. Your insta-love is so strong he will fight your battles for you without a qualm. 7. His daughter will instantly love you.8. Your publisher's contract is so lax they're paying you millions to write anything - apparently a guide on raising pygmy goats would qualify, so of course you don't have to pay back a penny of that advance now that you're changing from erotica to Christian romance.9. Your agent is wonderful but clueless and doesn't care what you write, either.10. You don't actually spend any time writing but you do spend your advance.11. You and your guy are so in tune you both love sushi and everything that comes up in life. (hide spoiler)]I'm so disappointed in this book. There's nothing realistic here at all. This is not how real Christian lives work, which would be fine if it wasn't being touted as "telling it straight". It's as much a fairy-tale as any other pure romance. So it admits that Christians think about sex now and then. Big deal. I can't decide if I should keep reading in hopes it somehow improves or just quit now.NB - I did keep reading and actually thought it was getting a little better when some problems and disagreements popped up. But they were resolved so quickly and with everyone so "happy, happy, happy" I quickly became disgruntled again. :( Sometimes it's hard to be Christian and do the right thing. You'd never guess that from this book.
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  • Chautona Havig
    January 1, 1970
    The Secret Confessions of a disappointed reader:By chapter six, I was done. Seriously. I did not like the character, I didn’t like the plot, I didn’t like any of it. I couldn’t see where it was going. But I kept reading because I really wanted to love this book.Here’s what I discovered (minor spoilers).This really is kind of a modern telling of Sense and Sensibility. Sarah Hollenbeck is Marianne Dashwood. Her practical friend who says it like it is (my favorite character), is Elinor. Sarah’s ex- The Secret Confessions of a disappointed reader:By chapter six, I was done. Seriously. I did not like the character, I didn’t like the plot, I didn’t like any of it. I couldn’t see where it was going. But I kept reading because I really wanted to love this book.Here’s what I discovered (minor spoilers).This really is kind of a modern telling of Sense and Sensibility. Sarah Hollenbeck is Marianne Dashwood. Her practical friend who says it like it is (my favorite character), is Elinor. Sarah’s ex-husband would be Willoughby, and Ben (the hunky pastor who has the same insta-love for her that she has for him) is Colonel Brandon.Except in this book, I don’t get what Colonel Ben sees in Sarah Marianne.This book, written in the first person, has a very authentic voice that helps you get to know the character well and quickly. And Ms. Turner does not shy away from the grittier areas of living in this fallen world through that character.I just don’t like Sarah Hollenbeck. Trust me, I want to. I feel like there’s an interesting person behind that insecurity. For the record, I like flawed, unlikeable characters.I really do. Usually. I just don’t like this one. And it’s not because she wrote erotica novels before she became a Christian at the end of chapter 5 ish (Don’t have the book with me). Speaking of erotica… ish. The second half of this book is dripping with sex.Not played out on the page, but it's still there in every one of Sarah’s thoughts. Every. Single. One. I’m sure of it.Look, Ms. Turner made an important point. Christian men and women are not immune to attraction and desire simply because the Holy Spirit dwells within them. Sometimes, Christian fiction acts like marriage turns on a switch that is otherwise completely shut off. I’ve been guilty of that, okay?Choosing to address that was brilliant—important. But honestly, when did she address the lust and a Christian’s responsibility to avoid that little thing? Because there was a whole lotta lusting going on, too.Somewhere around the three-quarter mark, I thought I might like it better.I didn’t. Instead, I ended the book feeling like a deflated balloon and walked away one disappointed reader.What SLOSH has going for it:Great writing. Seriously, the author has a brilliant, authentic voice that gets you into the head of the character right away.Ms. Turner addresses real problems not only in the church today but in Christian fiction. She makes her characters be sexual creatures—as we were created to be!!! And she does have some good humor in it. I laughed out loud in a few places. Honestly, the funny bits, if I could have liked other parts a bit more, might have made me bump my star rating up. Unfortunately, two stars were the best I could do.And I feel guilty about that.
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  • Melissa
    January 1, 1970
    Debut author Turner has an incredibly unique voice that draws readers into the story and won't let them go until the gorgeous conclusion. This is a modern Christian novel that touches on realistic subjects and themes and shows how any situation can be directed back to God. The romance is both scorching-hot and completely appropriate, which is a difficult task to pull off, yet Turner does so amazingly. The novel is filled with humor, stellar characterization and conflict balanced with faith and l Debut author Turner has an incredibly unique voice that draws readers into the story and won't let them go until the gorgeous conclusion. This is a modern Christian novel that touches on realistic subjects and themes and shows how any situation can be directed back to God. The romance is both scorching-hot and completely appropriate, which is a difficult task to pull off, yet Turner does so amazingly. The novel is filled with humor, stellar characterization and conflict balanced with faith and love. Readers will definitely want to put this on their "to buy" list.After going through a divorce, Sarah Hollenbeck searches for a way to express her emotional state. She tries her hand at poetry, but stinks at that, and decides to write a cheesy, steamy romance novel under a pseudonym. It becomes a hit and Sarah writes two more, rocketing herself to the top of the bestseller charts. Then, under the mentorship of her friend Piper, Sarah becomes a Christian and her outlook on life and writing changes. On her first day at church, she meets Ben Delaney and the attraction is present from the first moment they meet. All seems great, until Sarah discovers that Ben is the new pastor. How can she reconcile her career with her budding relationship? https://www.rtbookreviews.com/book-re...
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  • Staci
    January 1, 1970
    This debut had me laughing out loud multiple times. Yes, out loud and multiple times. Main character Sarah is wealthy and divorced and looking for something to do. She turns to both reading and writing.The other main characters are Ben and Piper. While they were both great, I simply adored Piper. She's that friend that will give it to you straight even if the truth is painful.I related to the references in the novel such as The Thorn Birds, Stevie Nicks and Touched by an Angel. While some reader This debut had me laughing out loud multiple times. Yes, out loud and multiple times. Main character Sarah is wealthy and divorced and looking for something to do. She turns to both reading and writing.The other main characters are Ben and Piper. While they were both great, I simply adored Piper. She's that friend that will give it to you straight even if the truth is painful.I related to the references in the novel such as The Thorn Birds, Stevie Nicks and Touched by an Angel. While some readers may not be familiar with any of these, I am well versed in all three of the references listed which added to my enjoyment.This unique novel was delightful and I look forward to Bethany Turner's sophomore release. My gratitude to author Becky Wade for a complimentary copy of the novel. I was not required to post a review and the opinions expressed are my own.
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  • Amy
    January 1, 1970
    Everything happens too fast (boom - a best friend, boom - a Christian, boom - love at first sight, boom - engaged & married. The End.) The story idea was an intriguing one, but just very little character development.
  • Pamela
    January 1, 1970
    Delightfully good! Funny . . . Clean yet Sexy . . . Unique . . . and Romantically Charming. Perfect book to tuck in your tote bag for the beach or lake. Review to come . . . .In the meantime, know this: I'm not a fan of chick-lit or romance, per se. BUT this delightful gem gets FOUR STARS!
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  • Kav
    January 1, 1970
    My cheeks hurt from grinning so much! Funny, awkward, goofy... and frank. This book has garnered quite the controversy as readers deal with that verboten subject -- desire. Dare I say we seem to be a passionate lot when it comes to passion in our Christian fiction?If you aren't into romance novels, this isn't the book for you because The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck is pure romance. It's toe-curling and swoon inducing, making a fainting couch a very real necessity for the duration of the read My cheeks hurt from grinning so much! Funny, awkward, goofy... and frank. This book has garnered quite the controversy as readers deal with that verboten subject -- desire. Dare I say we seem to be a passionate lot when it comes to passion in our Christian fiction?If you aren't into romance novels, this isn't the book for you because The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck is pure romance. It's toe-curling and swoon inducing, making a fainting couch a very real necessity for the duration of the read. But it also examines aspects of Christian culture - both good and bad -- as well as the foibles of human nature that left me grinding my teeth and hurling insults at certain characters. Which is all good, because I love to get totally immersed in a story.Told completely from Sarah's first person point of view, Turner takes her readers on a rollicking roller coaster of a ride. I love Sarah soooo much! Self-deprecating humour masks some deep insecurities as she tries to make sense of her life after divorce. At first, she might seem to be self-absorbed but it's really self-preservation as she struggles to emerge from the shadows of her dysfunctional marriage.Going from steamy romance author sensation to born again Christian is a bit of a cultural shock -- especially when Sarah falls for the pastor her first Sunday at church. Loved that immediate attraction -- a tangible, inexplicable link that sets both their worlds on a giddy tilt-a-whirl of emotional ups and downs. And physical attraction is very much a part of their developing relationship. Turner doesn't shy away from writing about that yearning but it's in a celebratory Godly way."I never would have imagined that there could be something more powerful than the desire I felt for Ben in that moment but the desire to not tarnish the love God was building within us was overpowering." (p 160)Ben and Sarah don't hide from these feelings - but they do control them by putting God first in their relationship. My only hesitancy over their romance came from their spiritual inequality. Pastor Ben is a life-long Christian with a Divinity degree while not only is Sarah a new Christ-follower, but she doesn't have a clue what that actually means. And it does create some problems, but I love the way Sarah grows in her faith and actually ends up encouraging and guiding Ben through a tough situation. I love the way Turner shows how the Spirit can work when our hearts are open and receptive..The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck is not your Granny's Christian romance! But if you have an adventurous reading spirit and enjoy a God-centered love story with flawed characters saved by grace, you'll definitely want to give this one a try.
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  • Emilee
    January 1, 1970
    It has been really hard for me to decide on a rating for this book. I went with 4 stars and here's why. First the writing is lovely. The characters are well developed and the story very compelling. The romance is steamy without crossing the line, in my opinion. So why did I take off a star? I had a lot of personal issues with the pastor falling for a women he barely knew who had only become a Christian basically the day before. Now, I don't have a problem with"insta-love" (love at first sight) b It has been really hard for me to decide on a rating for this book. I went with 4 stars and here's why. First the writing is lovely. The characters are well developed and the story very compelling. The romance is steamy without crossing the line, in my opinion. So why did I take off a star? I had a lot of personal issues with the pastor falling for a women he barely knew who had only become a Christian basically the day before. Now, I don't have a problem with"insta-love" (love at first sight) because it is a very real thing for some people and when two people are attracted to each other and have great chemistry love happens quickly and love is always choice. But in this book it just felt wrong to me. But overall great read. I would not recommend this to readers who do not care for romance. I would like to read more from this author.
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  • Tito
    January 1, 1970
    I'm a picky reader. I'm picky about characters, I'm picky about plot, and I'm picky about writing. In order for me to enjoy a book, those three things have to be done to my satisfaction. With this book, it was. I. Loved. It. It's funny too because I ordered it online last minute, but didn't have any high expectations. Well all I can say is, I was impressed. The writing was solid, and I laughed quite a few times throughout the novel. There wasn't much of a huge plot, but that was okay because the I'm a picky reader. I'm picky about characters, I'm picky about plot, and I'm picky about writing. In order for me to enjoy a book, those three things have to be done to my satisfaction. With this book, it was. I. Loved. It. It's funny too because I ordered it online last minute, but didn't have any high expectations. Well all I can say is, I was impressed. The writing was solid, and I laughed quite a few times throughout the novel. There wasn't much of a huge plot, but that was okay because the characters were absolutely delightful. Sarah is an amazing protagonist and I was totally rooting for her the entire time. And Ben. How amazing is he? Just great. Their relationship was pretty insta-lovey so for those of you that don't enjoy that, you might want to skip this one. However if that doesn't bother you, and you're in the mood for something sweet funny and cute, this is definitely the book. 4.5 stars for me, so I'll round up to 5 starsNote: Can we please have another book about Piper? (Sarah's BFF for those of you who haven't read it). Honestly, that would make my day.
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  • Madison
    January 1, 1970
    Hilarious. Honest. This novel takes everything you think you know about Christian fiction and totally shakes it until you have something so wonderful, delightful, surprising, and authentic, something that captures the agonising (and sometimes embarrassing) beauty of life and love.Newly divorced, Sarah Hollenbeck turns to writing to fill the gaps in her life. When poetry doesn't work out, she tries romance. And surprisingly has huge success. Now a hugely successful author of three very steamy rom Hilarious. Honest. This novel takes everything you think you know about Christian fiction and totally shakes it until you have something so wonderful, delightful, surprising, and authentic, something that captures the agonising (and sometimes embarrassing) beauty of life and love.Newly divorced, Sarah Hollenbeck turns to writing to fill the gaps in her life. When poetry doesn't work out, she tries romance. And surprisingly has huge success. Now a hugely successful author of three very steamy romances, her life is again shaken when she becomes a born-again Christian. Trying to reconcile her life and writing with her newfound faith, everything becomes more complicated when she meets and falls in love with Ben Delaney - her pastor. The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck is written almost as if Sarah is sitting with you, a dear friend, and taking you into her confidence, sharing with you her story. The book begins just after her divorce and explains everything, from the first few lonely months, to her transition to writing, the rise of her success, her conversion to Christianity, and her falling in love. It is all written in this conversation, recollection-like format. It does seem like a lot of telling rather than showing, but it works incredibly well for the story. Not only does it give the reader a clear view of everything that has happened to Sarah, but it also explains her personality. It lets readers get inside her head - a truly hilarious place to be. At first, Sarah is lost, hurting, and totally judgmental. Through her story it is so very easy to see the development in her character. While her decision to become a Christian might be sudden, the changes I could see over the course of this story were not so dramatic. She isn't suddenly less judgmental, but she makes an effort to not be quite so closed minded. And slowly, gradually a complete change is made, all seen through the little things, all displayed through her consistent sense of humour and a unique Sarah-ness that is hard to put into words. The book doesn't tell us how Sarah becomes a Christian, instead this book shows Sarah becoming a Christian.With such accuracy, this novel captures that wonderful journey of faith, life and love. I loved that it never shied away from some tough topics. Everything from divorce, sex, dating, adultery, death, churches, and family are up for honest and open discussion. It is real! Never sanctimonious or perfect in its unattainability. There are also heaps of various literature and movie references (a lot of which, apart from the Sound of Music ones, went totally over my head).There are so many, many things I loved about this book. The friendship between Sarah and Piper really shines. Piper is the one to confront Sarah on the atrocity that is her poetry. Piper is the one to lead Sarah to Christ. Piper is there for Sarah through all the bumps of new Christianity, with love, understanding, brutal honesty, and really good humour. This book also carries strong themes of family, grief, and relationships. And then there is the romance. Ahhhh, the romance. Wow. Ben and Sarah connect from the minute they meet. Literally. It might seem sudden, insta-love like, but there is absolutely no denying their chemistry, connection, or the time and effort they put into their relationship on a soul level. I loved that their passion was never brushed over. I loved that they talk about their desire, that they actively put into place plans to ensure they stay within the boundaries they have set. It's not easy and they don't portray it as such and that makes it all the more real and relatable to the average human. But their romance is so incredibly sweet. At times I found myself rereading lines a couple times just to soak in the sheer brilliance of it all. I adored this book. Upfront, honest, and so very hilarious, it was a delight to read. I can't wait to share this with my friends, with readers who love modern, clever, and funny Christian romance. I also can't wait to read whatever Bethany Turner next gifts us readers - it is sure to be just as surprisingly wonderful. But for now, I will content myself with rereading this delightful novel. The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.Find more reviews, reading age guides, content advisory, and recommendations on my blog Madison's Library.
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  • Alyssa
    January 1, 1970
    Bethany Turner has made a fan for life. The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck tells the story of an author who becomes a Christian all the while still having a contract with a publisher that wants her to write what is described as a scandalous novel. A novel she thinks she can't write now. Sarah also begins to attend a new church where she meets the Pastor and immediately has feelings for him. The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck touches on many issues long time believers and new believers struggle Bethany Turner has made a fan for life. The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck tells the story of an author who becomes a Christian all the while still having a contract with a publisher that wants her to write what is described as a scandalous novel. A novel she thinks she can't write now. Sarah also begins to attend a new church where she meets the Pastor and immediately has feelings for him. The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck touches on many issues long time believers and new believers struggle with. A new believer trying to figure out her new life and deal with what in reality are lustful thoughts towards another believer. That is something believers new and old struggle with and it's not often that I see this issue touched on in Christian fiction and I really appreciated it. Bethany Turner's debut is a funny, romantic, and poingant novel that young women and older women will devour.
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  • Mikal Dawn
    January 1, 1970
    Review to come. But believe me. Just go buy the book already. I DIE. 😍❤😍❤
  • extraordinary ordinary whimsy
    January 1, 1970
    Hold on to your cellphones 'cause I'm about to make a strong claim. This is the Christian Fiction I wish all other contemporary Christian Fiction books were like. It's de-lightful. Funny and real. The characters love God but they also struggle with attraction and desires. Hallelujah! And let's go back to funny. Y'all it is SO funny. I swear I smiled and chuckled through the entire book. Case in point: "And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father."" Piper recited those words from Romans 8 to me, and I could Hold on to your cellphones 'cause I'm about to make a strong claim. This is the Christian Fiction I wish all other contemporary Christian Fiction books were like. It's de-lightful. Funny and real. The characters love God but they also struggle with attraction and desires. Hallelujah! And let's go back to funny. Y'all it is SO funny. I swear I smiled and chuckled through the entire book. Case in point: "And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father."" Piper recited those words from Romans 8 to me, and I couldn't help but laugh when she explained to me that "Abba" was Aramaic for "Father" and that the apostle Paul hadn't actually been in the mood for a little "Dancing Queen." "You don't know that he wasn't." I smiled. "You don't know that he and Timothy, or Barnabas, didn't occasionally release a little tension among the Corinthians by belting out 'Super Trouper.' You see what I'm about talking about? SO funny.So yeah, stop reading this review and go order this book. Right now. While you sing Super Trouper to yourself. I am going to follow this author and henceforth try any book she ever releases.And recommend her book to everyone.
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  • Jocelyn Green
    January 1, 1970
    A very light, fun read, which made it a very unusual one for this die-hard historical fiction reader. I laughed out loud several times at the heroine's first-person stream of consciousness point of view. Can't wait to see what Bethany Turner writes next. She seriously cracks me up.
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  • Raechel
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars (really good, but would recommend for ages at least 18 and up for content). Review:This book was adorable. The writing style was truly so great, and I was just drawn right in by the first chapter. It was so...readable. :) The style felt so unique and yet still so familiar to my own. And the story - oh my goodness, I had so many giggles throughout it. This was a book where I literally laughed out loud. Which then caused my family to question my sanity a tiny bit, but more so they wanted 4.5 stars (really good, but would recommend for ages at least 18 and up for content). Review:This book was adorable. The writing style was truly so great, and I was just drawn right in by the first chapter. It was so...readable. :) The style felt so unique and yet still so familiar to my own. And the story - oh my goodness, I had so many giggles throughout it. This was a book where I literally laughed out loud. Which then caused my family to question my sanity a tiny bit, but more so they wanted to know what I was laughing at. So yes, I had to read some parts out loud, and they giggled right alongside me! Sarah was hysterical in so many ways. From her crazy "What if??" scenarios, to her panicked reaction to things. And very relatable in those instances. Her character really was a gem to read.Piper! Oh Piper, I loved her so much. Will she get her own story, Bethany? Please? She was like *the best* friend. So grounded, so joyful, and so loyal. Yep, loved her.Ben. Um, yeah he was kinda perfect. Not like unrealistically perfect. But Bible-Nerd cute perfect. You can see why she fell for him right away.The characters were all so well-written, and like-able (except Patrick...and one or two others that are supposed to be unlikeable. :D). This book was just a lot of fun to read.So, the only "downside" to this book, what made this a 4.5 instead of 5 for me was Sarah's obsession with sex. Yes, I expected a bit of that, seeing the plot of the story. And for the most part, it was handled really well and tastefully (going from a "steamy romance" novelist to a Christian...tricky transition that would be! But like I said, it was handled well!). And there wasn't the "shame" that often comes when Christians have to deal with anything sex-related. However, that seemed to be Sarah's driving point - when could she be together sexually with Ben? It couldn't be soon enough for her, and sometimes that seemed like the only reason she wanted to be with him. No, I know that's not true - she was in love with him for more reasons than that, but that was definitely a focal point that got stronger towards the end. There was nothing really inappropriate, but it was...edgy? That's why I would recommend only for mature readers, because well, there's a fair amount of sex talk. And for me personally, I don't think it was all totally necessary. No, sex is not a shameful thing, and like I said, I was impressed that the author didn't make it so, but I also don't think it needs to be the focal point of a book, if that makes sense. And I know everyone's preference on this one is different. I'm just stating this for others who feel as I do. :)But that aside, it was a really adorable book, and I dearly loved it, enjoying it so very much. Author Bethany Turner writes with such wit, you can't help but smile and laugh along, and it still deals with tougher aspects of life.Oh, and the cover...!!! I can't end my review without saying something about that. The cover for "The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck" is superb. Spot on. Brilliant. Amazing. Basically, I'm in love with it. As soon as I received my copy, held it in my hands, I was practically drooling over it. So beautiful! <3
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  • Brittany
    January 1, 1970
    This was such a fun story! The author had me laughing out loud many times. The first few chapters built a bit slowly for me, but I persevered and things really picked up.It was an adventure to read about Sarah’s broken marriage, rise to fame, and ultimate decision to follow Jesus. And that was where the story really picked up the pace. There was attraction galore between the two main characters and the author did a good job of illustrating the feelings and actions between Sarah and Ben, while st This was such a fun story! The author had me laughing out loud many times. The first few chapters built a bit slowly for me, but I persevered and things really picked up.It was an adventure to read about Sarah’s broken marriage, rise to fame, and ultimate decision to follow Jesus. And that was where the story really picked up the pace. There was attraction galore between the two main characters and the author did a good job of illustrating the feelings and actions between Sarah and Ben, while still keeping things clean. I would recommend this book for adults, as a huge focus was on intimacy issues and situations. This novel was packed with great characters and I loved the chapter headings.(4.5 stars)You can read this review on my blog:https://brittreadsfiction.wordpress.c...
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  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    THE SECRET LIFE OF SARAH HOLLENBECK is a first-person, chicklit style book. Reeling from her divorce, Sarah is struggling to find her identity apart from her ex-husband's trophy wife. So she joins book clubs. And in the process discovers she can write. And she begins to make friends. Unfortunately, her best friend is judgmental and drops her like a hot potato when she learns Sarah writes steamy romances. But Sarah's friend returns. And leads her to Christ. Which means that Sarah is losing it all THE SECRET LIFE OF SARAH HOLLENBECK is a first-person, chicklit style book. Reeling from her divorce, Sarah is struggling to find her identity apart from her ex-husband's trophy wife. So she joins book clubs. And in the process discovers she can write. And she begins to make friends. Unfortunately, her best friend is judgmental and drops her like a hot potato when she learns Sarah writes steamy romances. But Sarah's friend returns. And leads her to Christ. Which means that Sarah is losing it all, it is falling apart right and left, but yet there is this hot new man and... he gets drawn into this drama which ultimately is going to cost him everything too. Okay, if you read any chicklit, you know the score. And I've read and LOVED chicklit. I cried when the genre sort of died. But while I've read some really really good chicklit, this wasn't it. Ouch, right? I wanted to love it. I was over-the-moon excited when I saw this hot new debut that was chicklit. YES! I honestly wanted to love it. But I didn't. This book was blah. I didn't care one ounce for Sarah. Piper had more personality though I didn't understand her. And some of it seemed rather contrived. More conservative readers will have issues with a lot of the book. Divorce. Affairs. Sex with minors. And more. This is like a soap opera. Really. But it also touches on the very real tendency of Christians to be judgmental without knowing all the facts. Shoot their wounded instead of supporting them. A hard-hitting book that will leave the reader hurting but thinking. And for that, maybe I will give it more than the amount of stars I'd planned. Maybe. Or maybe not. Because the faith message was zilch. I was given a free copy. All opinions are my own.
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  • April
    January 1, 1970
    ~Wonderfully romantic and sweet!~Happy sigh! This novel was an absolute delight to read! Turner hooked me early on and held my attention all the way through. I enjoyed her writing style, wit, humor, and insight; as well as the delicate balance of romantic tension and Christian values she wove throughout the story. A story well done; I look forward to her next!
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  • Alysha (For The Love of Christian Fiction)
    January 1, 1970
    I’m not gonna lie...I was not going to finish this book. While the idea was cute, unique and fun, I just felt it was leaning HEAVILY towards mainstream fiction. The romance was SO fast, and I normally never complain about that. But something about it felt wrong, even though they were technically doing it right. It got a bit steamy in a few places...I did enjoy how they kept God as the forefront of their relationship, and the characters had some serious flaws and insecurities. It made them human. I’m not gonna lie...I was not going to finish this book. While the idea was cute, unique and fun, I just felt it was leaning HEAVILY towards mainstream fiction. The romance was SO fast, and I normally never complain about that. But something about it felt wrong, even though they were technically doing it right. It got a bit steamy in a few places...I did enjoy how they kept God as the forefront of their relationship, and the characters had some serious flaws and insecurities. It made them human. And I was excited to see that the book was based in Chicago since that’s where my daddy grew up, and my grandparents actually used to pastor a church in Algonquin, IL. Will I pick something up by this author again? I honestly don’t know...I’ll just have to watch and see.I give this a 2.5/3 out of 5 stars.I don’t think I would recommend this book to friends or family.Side note: (not a deal breaker for all, but I kept noticing and was a bit bugged) The “h’s” and “y’s” when referencing God were not capitalized.
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  • Janet Ferguson
    January 1, 1970
    What a fresh style! I enjoyed every second of reading this book and laughed almost the entire time. It's very different for inspirational fiction in that it deals with physical desires in a funny but realistic way.
  • Paula Shreckhise
    January 1, 1970
    The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner is an unusual book in the Christian Romance genre. I enjoyed it very much! A divoree who used to write steamy romance books turns her life over to Christ. She falls for her new pastor who is a widower. Then the fun begins! Can she still be a writer? Will the congregation accept her? Who is friend and who is foe? Many complexities arise. Sarah is a quirky lady and the scenes with her Christian mentor and best friend, Piper had me laughing out The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner is an unusual book in the Christian Romance genre. I enjoyed it very much! A divoree who used to write steamy romance books turns her life over to Christ. She falls for her new pastor who is a widower. Then the fun begins! Can she still be a writer? Will the congregation accept her? Who is friend and who is foe? Many complexities arise. Sarah is a quirky lady and the scenes with her Christian mentor and best friend, Piper had me laughing out loud. The references to old movies, songs, TV shows and music videos were priceless. Bethany addresses some very thorny issues. So this might not be pleasing to some. But it is very realistic and works out well. It does not get explicit. She shows that we are all not perfect and that our past lives can haunt us but they cease to define us when we are new creations in Christ. We are still human. But there is forgiveness and newness of life. *I received this ebook in a contest from Inspy Romance blog. I was not required to give a favorable review. All opinions are my own.*
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  • Maureen Timerman
    January 1, 1970
    From the beginning to the end of this book I could feel that the author had placed God’s hand on the main character, took awhile, but it was heart warming adventure.Forgiveness and turning the other cheek is really shown here, and you are going to be on a wonderful page-turning read once you turn the first page. It isn’t easy to offer forgiveness, and especially when the pain was really offered to hurt someone you love. Great lessons here, from being a new Christian to seasoned, something is abo From the beginning to the end of this book I could feel that the author had placed God’s hand on the main character, took awhile, but it was heart warming adventure.Forgiveness and turning the other cheek is really shown here, and you are going to be on a wonderful page-turning read once you turn the first page. It isn’t easy to offer forgiveness, and especially when the pain was really offered to hurt someone you love. Great lessons here, from being a new Christian to seasoned, something is about to be learned by all.Be ready for some really good chuckles, and maybe an old fashioned game of telephone, see how the story comes out, and yes it does seem to change, but the last is awesome.I received this book through Net Galley and the Publisher Revell, and was not required to give a positive review.
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  • Varina Denman
    January 1, 1970
    A sweet romance with spunk. I love Bethany Turner's voice and writing style!
  • Courtney Clark
    January 1, 1970
    You know those books that seem to release with a blog and social media craze equivalent to a 7-year-old piñata frenzy? Yes? Well, The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck debut novel by Bethany Turner is one such novel that lives up to its hyped expectations. One search or visit to any of Bethany's social media channels can result in hilarious interviews, videos, and quotes all showing her refreshing style (I highly recommend doing so).This story is a literary TREAT! I was seriously laughing and cryi You know those books that seem to release with a blog and social media craze equivalent to a 7-year-old piñata frenzy? Yes? Well, The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck debut novel by Bethany Turner is one such novel that lives up to its hyped expectations. One search or visit to any of Bethany's social media channels can result in hilarious interviews, videos, and quotes all showing her refreshing style (I highly recommend doing so).This story is a literary TREAT! I was seriously laughing and crying in the span of paragraphs. It's a new take on Christian fiction and a close look at the whirlwind which life (and romance ;) ) can be through the eyes of a recently redeemed heroine. At times, her character's perspective as a new Christian could be a little eye-opening for someone "used to" churchy norms. And I love that.A part of this is "book inception": character Sarah is a writer. Her own intent to write a Christian fiction novel appealing to the masses to candidly address attraction in a way not common in the genre is, in fact, what Bethany has accomplished with Sarah's story. Bethany is not afraid to include the realness of physical attraction and how Sarah's newfound convictions can be upheld while not altering her core (feisty) personality. (Ben is amazingly sweet and all the more #swoony because of his role in all of this.)Apart from the romance storyline, The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck explores the deeper ripple effects of the lifestyle change Sarah is pursuing. From self-worth to forgiveness, jealousy, and even deception, deep truths are delivered in this story that starts out as perky but quickly turns serious and rooted in a journey to understanding LOVE in manifestations of family, commitment, choice, and even instant attraction.Perhaps my favorite part of this story is the pop culture references!!! (You all know I love some good movie/TV references in story). Especially the rabbit trails of 1980s miniseries. Multiple situations referenced AND connected plot points to The Sound of Music  ---- they left me giggling more than once. And the chapter titles alone are hilarious ----- "ethical and professional leprosy", for example, and it makes perfect sense. If you finish the very last page and are left searching for a Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman episode on YouTube, let me know, I can direct you to the right one because I found it! At like 2am. Immediately. ;) Thank you to Revell Publishers and Netgalley for the complimentary review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.
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