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
GenreRomance, Christian Fiction, Christian, Contemporary, Fiction

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck Review

  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • Mikal Dawn
    January 1, 1970
    Review to come. But believe me. Just go buy the book already. I DIE. 😍❤😍❤
  • 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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  • 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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  • Alyssa
    January 1, 1970
  • 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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  • Carol
    January 1, 1970
    From the moment I read the back cover blurb, I knew I’d love this book. I was right. In fact, I’m putting The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck on my top ten book list for 2017. The story is original, honest, funny, heartwarming, angsty, and oh-so romantic. Being an author who has written content I’m not proud of, I could relate to Sarah and her situation. I truly enjoyed this book from start to finish! Bethany has mastered the art of writing in a unique voice. I also have to commend Bethany for d From the moment I read the back cover blurb, I knew I’d love this book. I was right. In fact, I’m putting The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck on my top ten book list for 2017. The story is original, honest, funny, heartwarming, angsty, and oh-so romantic. Being an author who has written content I’m not proud of, I could relate to Sarah and her situation. I truly enjoyed this book from start to finish! Bethany has mastered the art of writing in a unique voice. I also have to commend Bethany for dealing with an edgier subject, yet handling it with grace, never crossing boundaries and keeping a Christian perspective. I’d love to see more Christian fiction out there like this, with characters who straddle the line between worldly desires and holding on to faith. And to write all this with humor – that takes talent! Please keep writing, Bethany!*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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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.
  • Fiction Aficionado
    January 1, 1970
    If making people laugh was prohibited by law, Bethany Turner would be on Interpol’s Top Ten Most Wanted list. Come to think of it, causing people snort with laughter SHOULD be prohibited by law, in which case I’m going to have to report her anyway, because the humour in this book occasionally took me so much by surprise that my laughter kind of exploded involuntarily. And I don’t necessarily mean through my mouth . . .Sarah Hollenbeck is a totally adorkable character. She’s random and has a penc If making people laugh was prohibited by law, Bethany Turner would be on Interpol’s Top Ten Most Wanted list. Come to think of it, causing people snort with laughter SHOULD be prohibited by law, in which case I’m going to have to report her anyway, because the humour in this book occasionally took me so much by surprise that my laughter kind of exploded involuntarily. And I don’t necessarily mean through my mouth . . .Sarah Hollenbeck is a totally adorkable character. She’s random and has a penchant for dramatic hyperbole, but she’s also genuine (even when she’s misguided!) and refreshingly honest. It's impossible not to love her, as Ben Delaney very quickly discovers! And Ben is just . . . well, it’s impossible not to love him, too. He’s warm, funny, and just as genuine as Sarah—and so in over his head!I know ‘love at first sight’ often gets a bad rap—and it’s a difficult trope to pull off successfully—but I think that’s for two reasons. (1) The connection between the characters is often shown purely through superficial physical attraction; and (2) Most authors overlook the unique challenges that come from such a strong attraction to someone you really don’t know very well. Bethany Turner avoids both of these pitfalls.There is certainly a strong physical attraction between Sarah and Ben (and I loved the mixture of humour and sincerity in the way this was portrayed), but it was the totally adorable conversation they have when they first meet that won me over to this relationship. I could feel the emotional connection being forged and how well suited they were to one another, and that sense only grew as their relationship developed. But the fact remains that it takes time to really get to know someone, and Ben and Sarah encounter several bumps along the way as they get to know one another and work at building the kind of openness, understanding, and grace that gives their attraction a lasting foundation.And that brings me to Sarah’s unique circumstances—responsible for the majority of the bumps they encounter as their relationship develops, but probably not in the way you anticipate. Even before I started hearing all the rave reviews for this novel, I knew I wanted to read it, because, let’s face it: just because we become new creations in Christ doesn’t mean our old creations aren’t still around to haunt us. And the premise of a woman famous for writing steamy romances converting and falling for her pastor in quick succession had ‘read me’ written all over it.I’m so glad I did read it. It was hilarious and heartfelt at the same time, and constantly surprised and delighted me. This isn’t just for the keeper shelf; it's for the books-I-could-read-over-and-over-again shelf!I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.
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  • Kate
    January 1, 1970
    Turner writes with a strong first-person voice that will keep readers involved in the protagonist's life. It owns moments of insightful spark, particularly through the voice of Sarah's best friend, Piper. Through the friendship, Sarah is encouraged to make difficult decisions rooted in her new-found faith. In the particularly difficult life-moments, Piper is a refreshing force that doesn’t shy away from wise counsel that is delivered, often, with wit and sass.The story is also novel in its incor Turner writes with a strong first-person voice that will keep readers involved in the protagonist's life. It owns moments of insightful spark, particularly through the voice of Sarah's best friend, Piper. Through the friendship, Sarah is encouraged to make difficult decisions rooted in her new-found faith. In the particularly difficult life-moments, Piper is a refreshing force that doesn’t shy away from wise counsel that is delivered, often, with wit and sass.The story is also novel in its incorporation of full-disclosure in a romantic relationship. In the world of fiction, relationship plots are often furthered by hidden facts and agendas, relying significantly on misinterpretation and poor assumptions that occur between the love interests. Turner does not fall into the same traps, but spends her time writing two characters whose aim is to have a healthy (albeit super-fast) romantic relationship.Where the story struggles is in its ultimate aim. I found The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck to see-saw between several different purposes. In parts of it, we see moments of a romance between new-Christian Sarah and Pastor Ben. We also feel drawn into what might be considered a women’s fiction story, as Sarah contemplates all the implications of her faith and what that means for the actions she takes in life. Finally, the story also reads like a discourse on what Christian fiction romance should be – without sex, without foul language but with hints of the sexiness that is present in real life.While all those aims are admirable (and each has some very successful moments in the novel), incorporating all three into the story ultimately resulted in a less than fluid story. There are gaps where added information could have made it more of a women’s fiction story (more details on Sarah’s conversion, her dive into the world of romance writing, her moments of pulling away from Ben, etc). There are moments where we lack dialogue that would help with the romance (often, the first-person voice of Sarah summarizes feelings instead of demonstrating the action that led to them). And there are also moments when the criticism of Christian fiction takes on a bit of a blog-like rant as the characters “teach” readers what Christian romance fiction should be.In the end, The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck provided shining glimpses of beauty. Its aim for authentic truth amid authentic struggle is both admirable and worthwhile. It will find a following with those who know the struggle of trying to honor Christ in a passionate relationship, and her humor and wit will delight romance readers. Turner has a voice that makes her one to watch as she continues to hone her craft.
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  • The Book Posh
    January 1, 1970
    Will falling in love with your pastor complicate your life? In The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck we join steamy romance novelist turned Christian, Sarah Hollenbeck, on this journey to find the answer. I enjoyed the idea of this book and appreciated the "wholesomeness" of it, but I felt that the story moved too fast. I love to read a story that is built upon a solid foundation and this story was lacking in that area. In this book Sarah goes to church and boom, she is a Christian and totally ded Will falling in love with your pastor complicate your life? In The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck we join steamy romance novelist turned Christian, Sarah Hollenbeck, on this journey to find the answer. I enjoyed the idea of this book and appreciated the "wholesomeness" of it, but I felt that the story moved too fast. I love to read a story that is built upon a solid foundation and this story was lacking in that area. In this book Sarah goes to church and boom, she is a Christian and totally dedicated to Christ (which can and does happen). Next, she bumps into the handsome pastor of her church and boom, they are in love. Boom, boom, boom, is how the story continued. Every significant event was rushed. Everything was unrealistically rushed. Now, I must admit that I'm not a fan of romance novels general, so I can be a tad bit biased. I'm glad that I read this book and I plan to dip more of my toes toes into the Christian Romance genre and hopefully I can find some story lines that are more authentic and touch on real issues that a new Christian may encounter in his/her personal and/or private life.
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  • JaneReads
    January 1, 1970
    Review can be found here .The first person point of view telling made me feel like I was sitting down having coffee with Sarah as she was personally telling me her story. I really enjoyed this perspective. Sarah is in a transition period in her life trying to figure out to go from a steamy romance novelist to a new Christian and how to transition her writing with her new life. She then literally runs into Pastor Ben and feels an instant attraction to him. How does she deal with this attraction a Review can be found here .The first person point of view telling made me feel like I was sitting down having coffee with Sarah as she was personally telling me her story. I really enjoyed this perspective. Sarah is in a transition period in her life trying to figure out to go from a steamy romance novelist to a new Christian and how to transition her writing with her new life. She then literally runs into Pastor Ben and feels an instant attraction to him. How does she deal with this attraction and what does she do about her past? Could a possible relationship ever work between them? And will he be able to accept her past? I loved the characters. Sarah kept me so entertained. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at some things she said or thought. Ben was a true swoon worthy guy, wholesome, honest, cute, and a loving father. He may have been naive to some things around him, but he was a caring guy who tried to treat everyone with love. But Piper was my favourite. She was the best friend everyone wants/needs to have. She was the one that told Sarah directly how she felt about what Sarah was doing, no darting around the bush. But she was also the one that was there for Sarah. She kept Sarah grounded, she loved Sarah and stood by her and up for her. She was also very entertaining. I did feel like there was quite a bit of discussion about getting to the intimate physical relationship between the two main characters. Yes they were waiting to get married before taking that step, but they couldn’t wait to get there and it was talked about quite a bit. A little too much for my liking, it was more edgy than most Christian fiction I have read. At times it felt like this was the main reason for the wedding rather than the fact that they really loved each other and couldn’t wait to start their life together. That being said the relationship was adorable and I loved that they were completely honest right from the beginning and made a point to follow the rules they had put in place for themselves. There were many moments that I was smiling as I read. I loved that the climax moment brought them closer and stronger as a couple rather than tearing them apart. The ending had my heart a fluttering. (I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell through NetGalley; opinions expressed in this review are my honest opinion and completely my own.)
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  • Rachael
    January 1, 1970
    I wouldn't call the entire book laughing-out-loud funny, because there's way too much thought-provoking and seriously moving moments throughout the story, but there were moments I laughed so hard tears were leaking out of my eyes. And moments when my eyes were leaking for entirely different reasons.What impresses me most about the book is the very honest feel to it--you have a woman who is lost and unloved, who is trying to find herself again. After some crazy detours, she eventually finds God a I wouldn't call the entire book laughing-out-loud funny, because there's way too much thought-provoking and seriously moving moments throughout the story, but there were moments I laughed so hard tears were leaking out of my eyes. And moments when my eyes were leaking for entirely different reasons.What impresses me most about the book is the very honest feel to it--you have a woman who is lost and unloved, who is trying to find herself again. After some crazy detours, she eventually finds God and is needing to reconcile her new life with the choices and consequences of her past that won't just go away. She is just learning how to be a Christian, including things that so many of us grew up with, like basic bible stories, and tithing, and all the "rules" that "good Christians" have had drilled into them from birth. Her transformation is genuine, which leads to--in spite of her comparative ignorance--convictions that she chooses to follow. But that doesn't mean that living the pure life she wants to live is remotely easy, and almost immediately she encounters blatant Pharisaical attitudes in the church. And the fact is, in real life it's really hard to avoid the temptations of the flesh, and the church is full of broken, imperfect people who need Jesus as much as you do.I think everyone can find something in Sarah to relate to--whether it's the fear of opening oneself up to friendship or love and risk being hurt again, or the temptations of a wordly lifestyle that doesn't want to let go, or the disillusionment of following one's convictions only to be blasted by the people who should agree with your choices, or just the insecurities almost every woman faces when in a relationship. But just as easily, I think people can relate to her self-deprecating humor and ability to laugh at herself. It's the perfect balance between humor and gritty, real-life issues.And as a side note, I would love to read Piper's story--she's the best kind of best friend!Thank you Revell and Netgalley for a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.
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  • Traci Sanders
    January 1, 1970
    Full disclosure: I received an ARC copy of this book. Let me preface this review by saying that I was first introduced to this author's work in her adult romance series, Abigail Phelps. I fell in love with her writing from there. Her quirky sense of humor and ability to write an steamy scene without actual sex was quite impressive to me. So, when this author sent me a copy of this book and informed me that she was moving in a different direction with her writing, into Christian fiction, I was a Full disclosure: I received an ARC copy of this book. Let me preface this review by saying that I was first introduced to this author's work in her adult romance series, Abigail Phelps. I fell in love with her writing from there. Her quirky sense of humor and ability to write an steamy scene without actual sex was quite impressive to me. So, when this author sent me a copy of this book and informed me that she was moving in a different direction with her writing, into Christian fiction, I was a bit taken aback. I knew she was a talented writer; of that there was no question in my mind. But, I had no idea of what to expect when I opened this book. Right away, I connected with her writing style that I loved so much. Her signature humor shone through in the first few chapters as well. It was nostalgic for me.One of my favorite parts was where Sarah (the main female character) was in the confessional booth talking to the pastor. "God doesn't believe in you either." Hilarious! You'll just have to read it to see what I'm talking about. After Sarah meets the book club members, things get a bit slow in the story, but... the author is good at building suspense in her stories with this style of pacing. So, I knew to hang in there. The characters were well developed, even though some of their lines were a bit cliched and redundant sometimes. But, hey, that's what you get in women's fiction sometimes. It's not always a bad thing. I have to say, the ending was worth every moment of reading this book. The plot twists that were thrown at the readers--wow! I had no idea those were coming.I must admit, I do prefer her adult romance novels but I commend this author on following her heart and venturing into a new realm of writing. She will succeed no matter what she writes about, because she's a truly talented author. The characters stay with you, the editing was superb, and the author's soul comes through in every word. I will be reading more by Ms. Turner... Yes, even her Christian fiction. She's that good.
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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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  • Trisha Robertson (Joy of Reading)
    January 1, 1970
    The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck is written in first person point of view. The beginning build-up, for me, was a little slow. The part where Sarah decides to be a Christian and give her heart to God in one brief paragraph and was so sudden, I had to go back and read it again, because I glossed over it the first time.I enjoyed the friendship between Sarah and Piper. Piper is such a level-headed, character, she really adds to the story and gives some stability to Sarah, who at times tends to le The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck is written in first person point of view. The beginning build-up, for me, was a little slow. The part where Sarah decides to be a Christian and give her heart to God in one brief paragraph and was so sudden, I had to go back and read it again, because I glossed over it the first time.I enjoyed the friendship between Sarah and Piper. Piper is such a level-headed, character, she really adds to the story and gives some stability to Sarah, who at times tends to let her imagination run away with her. On Sarah's first visit to the church, she literally runs smack into a man who she feels an instant and surprisingly strong attraction to. She is surprised to find that he is the new pastor of the church, and thus starts the comedy as Sarah struggles to navigate her way through a relationship that she never saw coming.When it's all said and done, I enjoyed reading this debut story from Bethany Turner and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.(I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)
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  • Nicole
    January 1, 1970
    Wow,wow, WOW! THIS IS GOOD STUFF! I opened up this book expecting a cute contemporary romance, but this book put into words some very real struggles that many authors avoid in the Christian fiction market.We are introduced to Sarah, who having been betrayed by love, turns to writting explicit romance novels. She comes to know the Lord, and is now conflited by how she will keep the contract with her publisher and not go against her new faith. She walks into (literally) the new pastor at church an Wow,wow, WOW! THIS IS GOOD STUFF! I opened up this book expecting a cute contemporary romance, but this book put into words some very real struggles that many authors avoid in the Christian fiction market.We are introduced to Sarah, who having been betrayed by love, turns to writting explicit romance novels. She comes to know the Lord, and is now conflited by how she will keep the contract with her publisher and not go against her new faith. She walks into (literally) the new pastor at church and is instantly drawn to him.While this may sound as cliche as Christian romance gets, hang on to your hats!This is not one of those books where the couple keep secrets right from the beggining then it blows up from their own doing. I loved how the author had the couple be open with each other, and tackle life issues with honesty. Issues like rules in dating, divorce, temptations, and loss.She not only tackled this with solid biblical backing but with laugh out loud humor as well. She made her point that love stories can have tension without being trashy, passionate but pure, and sexy without smutt. There are a handful of authors in the Christian market that can write tension and develop a story well. This author is definitely one to watch.I highly recomend this for anyone who is ready to read something refreshingly new.I received this book through Netgalley for my review.P.S. Bethany Turner of you are reading this Please, PLEEEEEEASE write Piper's story next, I am daydreaming about how you could bring that Austen critic her true love.
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  • Suzie
    January 1, 1970
    This is not your grandmother’s (or even your mother’s) Christian fiction. The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck is a book for the new generation of readers.As Sarah’s story unfolds on the pages, I laughed. She’s got a subtle sarcastic streak that resonated with me, but it’s her naivety when it comes to the Bible and Christianity that endeared this character to me. I mean, her confusion about Mary Magdalene along had me laughing out loud. And then there’s Sarah’s agent who bases Christian fiction o This is not your grandmother’s (or even your mother’s) Christian fiction. The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck is a book for the new generation of readers.As Sarah’s story unfolds on the pages, I laughed. She’s got a subtle sarcastic streak that resonated with me, but it’s her naivety when it comes to the Bible and Christianity that endeared this character to me. I mean, her confusion about Mary Magdalene along had me laughing out loud. And then there’s Sarah’s agent who bases Christian fiction on his understanding (mostly given to him by Sarah) of The Thornbirds. Throw in all the pop culture—movie and music—references and the book just got better and better.Sarah’s journey of becoming a Christ-follower is followed quickly by meeting and falling in love-at-first-sight with a man whose first desire is to do God’s will—a pastor, for goodness sake—and my heart melted a little along with a loud sigh that sounded an awful lot like “awww.”But Sarah and Ben’s journey is not without challenges, disagreements, misunderstanding, and even a bit of scandal. And plenty of sizzle!Bethany Turner delivers it all in fresh, fun, and fulfilling package. With humor, heart, and heat, The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck should jump to the very top of TBR lists everywhere. If this is what Turner debuts with, we’ve got great things to look forward to from her.***I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including NetGalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
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  • maryreads
    January 1, 1970
    Bethany Turner writes with honesty, humor, and wisdom. She's able to openly talk about realistic themes without being vulgar or making the reading feel uncomfortable but also without trying to soften the struggles, the pain and how we easily we can mess things up just because we are human. And from the first page, the author beautifully composed a story of grace and growth, full of characters that will make you laugh, want to strangle them some (many) times, as well as fill your heart with compa Bethany Turner writes with honesty, humor, and wisdom. She's able to openly talk about realistic themes without being vulgar or making the reading feel uncomfortable but also without trying to soften the struggles, the pain and how we easily we can mess things up just because we are human. And from the first page, the author beautifully composed a story of grace and growth, full of characters that will make you laugh, want to strangle them some (many) times, as well as fill your heart with compassion.** I received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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  • Courtney Clark
    January 1, 1970
    This story is a literary TREAT! I was literally laughing and crying in the span of paragraphs. This is a new take on Christian fiction and a close look at the whirlwind life (and romance ;) ) can be through the eyes of a recently redeemed heroine. Longer review to come.
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  • Kara Peck
    January 1, 1970
    I was so excited to read this. The synopsis sounded hilarious. I wasn't wrong! I know debut authors are approached with trepidation but this delivers. Funny and charming, I couldn't bring myself to put it down. Shenanigans, hilarity, and quotable lines are woven throughout. I enjoyed my afternoon of reading. I devoured this and have zero regrets. A heart warming read I have no issues recommending. Oftentimes the Christian genre takes itself to seriously. This is just perfectly balanced between r I was so excited to read this. The synopsis sounded hilarious. I wasn't wrong! I know debut authors are approached with trepidation but this delivers. Funny and charming, I couldn't bring myself to put it down. Shenanigans, hilarity, and quotable lines are woven throughout. I enjoyed my afternoon of reading. I devoured this and have zero regrets. A heart warming read I have no issues recommending. Oftentimes the Christian genre takes itself to seriously. This is just perfectly balanced between real life and that reverence and grace. If you plan to loan this to an unsaved friend, just know that no gospel is presented. That may or may not effect your recommendations. * I was gifted a copy of this book. My thoughts and words are my own as is my decision to leave a review *
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  • Amanda
    January 1, 1970
    **I received this book for free from the publisher through Netgalley. My review and opinions are my own.**Sarah Hollenbeck is an author who writes super sexy romances...until she becomes a Christian and falls in love with the pastor at her new church. It's an interesting premise, and the book is genuine and funny, a truly entertaining and engrossing story.Except, it fails at the job it wanted to do - be a Christian romance that stays "wholesome" while still being "hot." The Bible is clear that s **I received this book for free from the publisher through Netgalley. My review and opinions are my own.**Sarah Hollenbeck is an author who writes super sexy romances...until she becomes a Christian and falls in love with the pastor at her new church. It's an interesting premise, and the book is genuine and funny, a truly entertaining and engrossing story.Except, it fails at the job it wanted to do - be a Christian romance that stays "wholesome" while still being "hot." The Bible is clear that sex is not the problem, lust is. This is why we counsel teens to not try to find the line on the "how far is too far" question. Not having explicit sex scenes while intentionally writing a steamy romance isn't the same thing as writing a wholesome book.
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  • Crystal
    January 1, 1970
    About the Book:The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck is a delicious little tale about love at first sight, reconciling our past with the beautiful future God has in store for us, and taming intense physical attraction within the confines of a Christ-honoring relationship. After her marriage dies a slow and painful death and she catches her husband cheating on her, Sarah Hollenbeck finds her voice as a trashy romance novelist catapulting her into both fame and fortune. But when she accepts Christ a About the Book:The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck is a delicious little tale about love at first sight, reconciling our past with the beautiful future God has in store for us, and taming intense physical attraction within the confines of a Christ-honoring relationship. After her marriage dies a slow and painful death and she catches her husband cheating on her, Sarah Hollenbeck finds her voice as a trashy romance novelist catapulting her into both fame and fortune. But when she accepts Christ as her Savior, she chooses to reinvent herself as a Christian romance novelist as her newfound faith creates a strong desire to show women that love, passion, and desire can fit into God’s plan for love while still honoring Him. When sparks fly after a chance encounter with a dashing man at her church, Sarah is convinced she has found her soul mate. The only complication is that her dream guy just so happens to be her new pastor! As Ben and Sarah pursue the unexpected love growing between them, they face many challenges growing both personally and in their relationship with each other. Chief among the challenges are the awkward and very public nature of a pastor dating a reformed trashy romance novelist along with Ben and Sarah’s intense physical chemistry. When both of their pasts collide, a storm rages that tests their commitment to one another, their faith, and their futures.My Thoughts:First, let me address the “realness” of this book- THANK YOU Bethany Turner for tactfully addressing the very real struggle of sexual attraction within a Christian romantic relationship. Christians don’t hide in caves- we very much experience the same desires as anyone else. Turner has set the record straight that these intense desires are not only normal but were created by God and can be shared between a man and woman within the boundaries that He has set. She also makes very clear that God’s boundaries for sex are designed to be shared between a husband and wife. Ben and Sarah’s struggle- and triumph- of keeping their intense physical attraction for each other under control demonstrates that Christian couples don’t have to bend to pop culture’s version of romance, but can instead seek to glorify God while still expressing love physically in appropriate ways. In addition to the sizzling chemistry between these two, I also appreciated the maturity displayed in other ways in their relationship. Ben’s admission of his vulnerability and weakness during a tempting encounter showed the depth of trust he had with Sarah, and her response of “being his strength” in that moment showcased the spiritual maturity- and love for Ben- that Sarah was developing. Likewise, the multiple trials they experienced were handled with both realism and grace keeping their commitment to each other and to Jesus at the center of it all. This will be a book I take off my shelf to read again and again! Loved it!I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. However, this review reflects an honest view of my own thoughts and opinions regarding this book.
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  • Gloria
    January 1, 1970
    What a delightful and refreshing book told from the first person point of view. We see everything that Sarah thinks about her situation in a sometimes humorous and self deprecating way--sometimes in a sad way. We see someone learning what it is to a Christian from her viewpoint. Those of us who have always gone to church sometimes take our upbringing for granted.Sarah Hollenbeck's life has been turned upside down since she discovered her husband cheating on her in the room of her home that she h What a delightful and refreshing book told from the first person point of view. We see everything that Sarah thinks about her situation in a sometimes humorous and self deprecating way--sometimes in a sad way. We see someone learning what it is to a Christian from her viewpoint. Those of us who have always gone to church sometimes take our upbringing for granted.Sarah Hollenbeck's life has been turned upside down since she discovered her husband cheating on her in the room of her home that she hoped would be a nursery one day. Her marriage wasn't great; her husband's life revolved around his job instead of her and their marriage. He put her down and made her feel that marital problems were her fault. After the divorce, she is struggling to find her place and footing. She doesn't have a job or a career and needs to find a way to spend her time. Money is not a problem. She joins a book club and after trying her hand at writing, she becomes a bestselling author of steamy romance novels. But it is not enough. Piper, a friend from the book club sees that Sarah is searching for a meaning to her existence and leads her to Christ. The first time she visits Piper's church, she literally ran into Ben before the service started. They are instantly attracted to each other. But when the service started, she finds out that Ben is the minister. And she is the author of steamy romance novels even though at this point she has decided to quit writing novels of this genre. Sarah and Ben have a lot of stuff to deal with if they want to start a relationship together. How can a minister date a person who has written books that are not what would be acceptable to God? We are all a new creation after we accept God into our heart and so is Sarah but how will the congregation see her if they find out? Sarah and Ben are humans who have to fight their attraction to each other in a Godly way. How honest and refreshing to see how Bethany Turner shows that Christians are normal people who desire the loves of our lives. Sarah also has to overcome her feelings of unworthiness, insecurity and guilt while learning what it means to be a follower of Christ. Her journey as a new Christian is funny, rocky and humbling but she is determined to change her life for God's glory and become a Christian fiction author. But there are people who want to see Sarah judged by her past and see her relationship with Ben fail. This is an absolutely great story of a person who begins a new life with the wonder of what it means to live for Christ and to be dependent on Christ's strength to get us through temptation and problems, not ours. I loved the characters of Sarah, Ben and Piper as well as others. I hope that Piper gets her own story. Kudos to Bethany Turner for a new and refreshing way to write Christian fiction.Thanks to NetGalley and Revell for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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  • The Books and Biscuits Blog
    January 1, 1970
    The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck – Bethany Turner (3.5-4 Stars)Ms. Turner makes her debut with The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck. After Sarah’s marriage with her high school sweetheart ends, she turns to her book club and newfound passion for writing to reestablish her life as an independent woman. Her hobby soon leads her to become a bestselling author of a trilogy of very steamy romance novels. However, a life-changing conversation with her best friend leads Sarah to become a Christian. W The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck – Bethany Turner (3.5-4 Stars)Ms. Turner makes her debut with The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck. After Sarah’s marriage with her high school sweetheart ends, she turns to her book club and newfound passion for writing to reestablish her life as an independent woman. Her hobby soon leads her to become a bestselling author of a trilogy of very steamy romance novels. However, a life-changing conversation with her best friend leads Sarah to become a Christian. While attempting to acclimate herself to a new church, Sarah must also decide how to fulfill her contract with her publisher for another book in keeping with her old writing life, which has brought her great wealth and acclaim. Fortunately, Sarah benefits from the knowledge and experience of her best friend, a young pastor, and others who come to support her on her journey from a lonely, divorced romance writer to a much-loved friend and Christian author. Told almost entirely from Sarah’s perspective, The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck brings a quirky situation to life. Readers of contemporary Christian fiction will find this novel to be a unique addition to this fall’s releases. Overall, I thought that The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck offered a witty and unique perspective to the genre. The concept of the book is really interesting, as it stands out from quite a few other novels in the field. However, some aspects of the story come across as being more similar to a character analysis or case study than a well-rounded novel. Most of the story is written from Sarah’s perspective, which leads many of the other characters to appear very one-dimensional. Personally, I liked some of the secondary characters much more than the primary ones, even as they felt under-written in this particular story. Also, I found the author to take up some interesting and unique themes, including what makes for a Christian relationship. However, the amount of focus on the “sex” question became burdensome, even to the point of impacting the novel’s pacing and this reader’s general interest in the story. Special thanks to NetGalley and Revell for the advanced copy of The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck!Thanks!Brittany at the Books and Biscuits BlogPS. To see the full review, please visit http://booksandbiscuits.com/blog/2017.... Thanks!
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  • Deana Dick
    January 1, 1970
    I wasn’t sure where this book was heading as I first started reading it. It didn’t take long to get so engrossed in the story, I read the book in a few hours. There are authors that write in different genres and Sarah is no excepti.She may wri a little spicer books that mnot like, but she has become a favorite of many. She has hidden her identity behind an assumed name . She doesn’t go out on tours but her books are so well liked, they sell themselves. Her friend Piper is not thrilled to find ou I wasn’t sure where this book was heading as I first started reading it. It didn’t take long to get so engrossed in the story, I read the book in a few hours. There are authors that write in different genres and Sarah is no excepti.She may wri a little spicer books that mnot like, but she has become a favorite of many. She has hidden her identity behind an assumed name . She doesn’t go out on tours but her books are so well liked, they sell themselves. Her friend Piper is not thrilled to find out that she is behind the sizzling books and it puts a strain on their friendship. I have to say that Piper was a bit disappointing to me at first. She rushed to judgment and decided she didn’t like her friends books. So she just cuts her out of her life. The great news is that they make up and Piper shared Jesus with Sarah. I know that the first time Sarah was in the church, all she could think about was the books she had written. But slowly she realizes that God loves her and she wants to write a different genre. I laughed as she told her agent the news. Can you imagine being a best selling author and suddenly decide that you are going to write something completely different? I applaud the author by writing a character that is flawed but can still hold her head up and be determined to do what is in her heart. When she meets the pastor of the church she is attending, I know sparks were flying. Pastor Ben is humble, well liked and has a heart for people. The author slowly develops their relationship and makes for some great scenes between them. Sarah realizes that Ben has issues of his own, but between them they make a great match. What happens when Sarah is exposed as a steamy romance author? Will the church turn their back on her. The biggest scandal to shake the foundation of the church is based on a vindictive person. Who will people believe? I loved the story and thought the author did a great job showing how gossip can destroy lives. Will Sarah and Ben overcome obstacles and be happy together? Don’t miss this wonderful story of forgiveness and acceptance.I received a copy of this book from The Librarything Early Review Program. The review is my own opinion.
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