I have a list of authors whose writing I love and I am always on the lookout for their new stuff because they are not afraid to write about people who are hurting and struggling with real life struggles. They are not afraid to write about the brokenness of people, but they always offer the hope of healing in their books. Author Nicole Deese is one of those authors. Her Love in Lennox series is a great series that shows this. It’s been a while since I read the first book in the series, A Cliche Christmas, so I don’t remember every detail of it, but I do know that it was a good one. I just recently read the second book, A Season to Love and it was amazing. You can check out more of my thoughts on it here if you’d like. And last, but not least, I just finished the third book, A New Shade of Summer and that’s what today’s post is about! (By the way, while the books are a part of a series and some of that background info from the first two books in the series might add a little more insight to Davis, I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to have read the first two books in order to follow what’s happening in the third book.)
As an artist, Callie Quinn relies on inspiration to guide her wandering soul. This summer she accepts a short-term muralist job in her sister’s charming town to spend some much-needed time with her family. After meeting her nephew’s friend, Brandon, she’s eager to draw out his untapped artistic talents—however, it’s the boy’s straitlaced single father who could use a little color in his life.
Davis Carter may be the town’s favorite animal whisperer, but his experience is limited when it comes to understanding his preteen’s rebellious behavior. Desperate for a breakthrough, he follows the lead of a free spirit who claims to know the way into his son’s closed-off world. Soon, Davis isn’t the only one caught up in the hope of a new beginning.
Just as Callie considers trading her unattached existence for a life rich with promise and permanence, an unexpected visit from the past threatens to send her packing once again. Davis and Callie must learn to surrender their fears so they can find a love that will outlast the summer.
I love that so many of Ms. Deese’s stories are of people finding freedom—freedom from fear, freedom from lies they’ve believed about themselves. It’s a beautiful theme and it has the power to resonate with readers. Even when you may not relate to each character’s exact struggle, you can relate to their need for freedom because most of us have been in the place of needing to find freedom from something before in our lives.
In A New Shade of Summer, Ms. Deese, as usual, doesn’t shy away from real life situations and frustrations affecting her characters. For Callie, it’s a lie she believed about herself after a childhood experience, something that would go on to haunt her, in a way, for a good portion of her life, affecting her behavior and how she viewed herself. For Davis, it’s the loss of his wife and eventual frustration with raising a child on his own and trying to relate to that child. Even the supporting characters—from Callie’s sister and her family, to Davis’ son Brandon, and others—all have some struggle they’re dealing with that is so very relatable to real life. They all have something to overcome, some situation in which they need to find freedom or healing. And Ms. Deese walks us through their stories, inviting us in with her words to their lives, as they work through their struggles and begin to find the healing and hope they’ve been needing.
I very much identify with the type of character Davis is—steadfast, straightforward, loyal—which made some of Callie’s thought processes a struggle for me to understand. It helped when I realized where so much of her perception of herself came from, but I still struggled hearing her talk about relationships and how she lived her life all because of some lie she had been fed as a child. It honestly made me want to shake the person that fed it to her, and I so desperately wanted Callie to be able to find freedom from it—to realize that she did not have to live her life like that just because of something someone said to her; to realize that she had a choice, that that lifestyle did not have to be hers. I was so grateful to see her beginning to overcome all of that, to live her life differently, to live how she truly wanted to live, and to not be afraid of herself.
I loved how Davis invested in Callie; how he saw who she really was even when she couldn’t see it; how he boldly, yet lovingly, spoke truth to her about who she is. At one point in the book, Callie talks about how she’d been in love probably “dozens of times” over the years. I felt so much sadness at this statement, especially the more she described those relationships. Those relationships were really nothing but cheap imitations of love, and in reality, were nothing like what it is to experience a solid, steady, deep, and abiding love, a love that endures. By the end of the book, Callie was finally beginning to understand what the real thing looks like, in large part due to Davis and his care of her, as well as through her sister’s relationship with her husband. I loved getting to see that change in Callie’s viewpoint happening. I was also so thrilled for Davis to finally get his happy ending, after some of the things he’d dealt with in his life, to see him also finding some needed freedom to move on and to live life fully.
I had a personal struggle with feeling like I wanted more conversation to take place between some of the characters towards the end. I wanted some things to be a little more fleshed out in some of the relationships of the characters—between Davis and his in-laws, with Callie and her sister about their dad, between Davis and Brandon. Even though some of those conversations didn’t go as in depth as I wanted them to and there were some things that I wished the characters had said in those conversations, the ending was still good. The epilogue helped wrap things up enough for me to be okay with everything. Part of my desire to see things more clearly said and dealt with in those conversations, I think, comes from my personality type that wants to put everything on the table, to really deal with a situation, to work it out, and to not let someone step all over me. Knowing that about myself, I realize that others might not feel the same way that I did about that aspect of the book.
Many of us have some sort of lie we’ve believed about ourselves, that the enemy has whispered to us, maybe even through the people around us, and then perpetuated it until we think it’s true. Thankfully, we have a God who loves us enough to want to see us set free from those lies. A New Shade of Summer is a story of just that—of someone needing that freedom and God providing them with what they need to begin to overcome, of placing people in their lives to lift them up, to speak truth that will combat that lie. It’s a story that offers hope of healing and hope of overcoming.
**I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley. All opinions are my own.