Monday, June 25, 2012

Review: THE WIDOW OF SAUNDERS CREEK by Tracey Bateman

When Jarrod Saunders gave his life for his country he left an old abandoned family home to his wife, Corrie. Six months after his funeral, Corrie comes back to live in the remodel-in-progress, hoping that by coming back to the place her husband grew up she can find a little bit of Jarrod to give her comfort. But what she thought she would find — and what she discovers — are not as comforting as she had hoped. In fact, some things are scary enough that she spends more nights on the porch swing than in the upstairs bedroom.
Jarrod's cousin Eli knows the house's history and fears for Corrie's safety — as well as her soul. Corrie's loss and longing make her a prime target for members of Jarrod's (and Eli's) extended family to recruit into their practice of Ozark folk mysticism and Eli feels the need — and a growing desire — to protect her.

Eli knows it's not Jarrod that keeps knocking over his thermos, slamming doors and causing the temperature in the master bedroom to drop; but how can he convince Corrie, who so longs for evidence of her husband's presence, that she's keeping company with something much darker than what she thinks? Especially when Eli himself is busy fighting his attraction to his cousin's grieving widow?
This story is engaging on so many levels that I found it quite hard to put down. It portrays a sweet and lovely romance, but also has moments that are so creepy in their realness that you might want to consider leaving the lights on — for a few hours — after spending time reading this novel.
Corrie senses that even though Eli, a down-to-earth contractor and part-time pastor of a small church, is a compassionate and caring friend, he would warn her off believing that Jarrod is still with her. Therefore, she doesn't confide to him many of her otherworldly experiences in the house. I loved that our hero wasn't the only person to serve Corrie's needs and that, in this delicate way, the author put the right Person (and, yes, that's a capital "p") on the white horse.
I enjoyed the romance of this story every bit as much as I appreciated the demonic details that shivered the dial of my creep-o-meter. And believe me, there were several times that sucker was pegged! My only complaint was the romantic timeline. At the risk of sounding like a scolding granny by harping on the lack of a longer, more traditional mourning period for a soldier's wife, I must admit that every time "six months" or "seven months" was mentioned, it made Corrie and Eli's attraction to each other a little less sympathetic to me as a reader. But I still couldn't help but bite my lip and hope they got together in the end. Since Corrie and Eli were both quite cognizant of the awkwardness of their attraction given the time table and the family ties, however, … I can live with it.
Fresh, compelling, romantic and a little bit scary, The Widow of Saunders Creek is a creepy but well-written contemporary gothic romance. With two fully realized leads, a colorful cast of characters and some surprising activities that might normally be seen as "taboo" for lead characters of a Christian novel to engage in, Bateman proves, to her merit, that the devil truly is in the details.
(This review originally appeared at USA Today's romance fiction blog, Happy Ever After)


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