My rating: 3 stars / I liked it
For so long, Stella was known for her beauty. Now, with her heart stripped bare, she must discover who she really is.
Former pageant queen Stella Varland doesn't trust beauty anymore after her divorce. Her appearance betrayed her and led to her brokenness so instead of being beautiful, now she tries to make beautiful things, but always falls short. So she keeps her passion for her secret art to herself and focuses on her interior design work. But if she doesn't get another job soon, she ll be stuck living with her parents.
Contractor Chase Taylor is determined to live a life of no regrets after losing his fiancee in a car crash. Now he lives life at full speed, striving to see how much he can accomplish. He knows if he slows down, he ll fall apart. So he returns home to Bayou Bend to renovate the town s old theater, and is shocked to learn former flame Stella is the designer for the project.
Forced to work together, Chase and Stella battle their chemistry and their pasts as they struggle to compromise and come together on a vision for the theater. Chase doesn't understand why Stella is such a subdued version of herself, while Stella doesn't get Chase's constant need for productivity and speed. Their wills clash as they attempt to hide their brokenness and their unresolved feelings for each other until Chase breaks through Stella's walls and convinces her to enter her mosaic tile art in a contest.
A near catastrophe, a fire, and a small-town gossip mill finally force both Stella and Chase to realize that they have a choice to hold on to the shards of their pasts, or surrender their fragmented pieces to the One who makes a beautiful masterpiece from the broken.
I had mixed feelings about this book. It's definitely well-written, but it was hard for me to relate to and feel the chemistry between the main characters. In the beginning the history between Stella and Chase was alluded to as scandalous, but details were not shared which kept me guessing... and then later in the book it was only ever referred to vaguely, leaving me unsatisfied. Stella is recovering from anxiety and still experiencing some symptoms which she attributes to her dysfunctional marriage and divorce, but again, the details of her history are vague and it made it more difficult for me to fully connect with her. Perhaps it would have slowed the pacing down to include too much, but for me it was not enough.
My favorite thing about the book is Stella's secret talent as an artist and how she relates her emotions to this outlet. When she isn't a falling apart mess she and Chase do have some fun banter and friendship, but both allow the past and the animosity of Stella's family to prevent a romance from developing again. The project of renovating the movie theater was a great setting- it provided a unique backdrop and challenges for the characters to deal with. I loved the insights of Dixie, a local homeless woman in tune with some spiritual realm, who shares little nuggets of wisdom with Stella.
(Thank you to Litfuse Publicity and Zondervan Publishing for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)