Author Susan May Warren’s latest, It Had to be You (Tyndale
House Publishers), the second in her “Christiansen Family” series, is a
contemporary drama and romance centered on another sibling in the Christiansen
Eden is struggling to find her place in life while
stuck at an entry-level job in a field she loves and holding on to her role as
big sister too tightly. She would love to advance and become a star reporter,
but she cannot seem to achieve a promotion out of the obituary department at
the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She spends her free time as loyal fan, family
cheerleader, and protective sister of her brother Owen, the new star forward
for the St. Paul Blue Ox NHL team. She cannot see that she lacks self confidence
in her own writing or that her overprotectiveness is causing her brother to
Through events resulting from Owen’s immaturity and
recklessness, Eden meets Jace “The Hammer” Jacobsen, team captain and veteran
enforcer for the Blue Ox team. His bad-boy reputation precedes him,
intimidating Eden from the beginning, though she believes he could become the
mentor her brother Owen desperately needs. Jace knows he is near the end of his
career, but his emotional scars and secret guilt over past decisions weigh him
down and keep him from facing the possibility of a career outside of professional
hockey. As Jace and Eden combine forces to help a stranger, Eden gets to know
the real Jace – not the famous celebrity – but the kind, protective, and sometimes
intimidating person. Jace is afraid to let Eden in, thinking that she is just
using him for a story. As their worlds collide and personal feelings come to
the surface, they both must learn lessons in forgiveness, trust, and grace.
A secondary storyline gives depth to the characters
and reinforces the theme of trust. It involves Jace’s best friend, single dad Sam,
and his daughter, Maddy, who is in need of an organ transplant to save her
life. Sam and Maddy’s story intertwines with Eden and Jace’s in unexpected
ways, emphasizing the meanings of sacrifice and love, complete with moments of
Jace and Eden are an unlikely pair: a famous hockey
star and a down-to-earth would-be reporter. Jace has no clue how to approach
her with her honesty one minute and withdrawn demeanor the next. They each
avoid admitting their growing attraction, both convincing themselves that they
are not good enough and that neither would be interested in a romantic relationship
“with someone like me.” As their relationship slowly grows past friendship,
Jace opens up to Eden about his fears and struggles with accepting forgiveness.
Jace sees that Eden’s gift is recognizing others’ potential and encouraging
them. With his support, she starts to find the encouragement she needs to move
past insecurities and become confidant in her role in life.
The closeness of the Christiansen family is
essential to the characters of It
Had to be You, much like the first book in Susan’s series.
Jace’s character has never before experienced this closeness. This poignant
picture of a family grounded by faith and united through struggles serves to
draw the characters closer to each other and closer to Christ.
Fans of pro hockey will be delighted with its
inclusion in this novel, while those not remotely familiar with the game will
not be lost. It provides an element of adventure and danger to the story.
Susan skillfully communicates the idea that God’s
grace and forgiveness is available for anyone to freely accept. Each person has
the potential to impact the world around them every day, with every decision he
or she makes, by offering grace and love even to those who may not deserve it.
That is the message at the heart of It Had to be You.
Courtney Clark is a small-town girl from
Arkansas who loves Jesus, reading, photography, cooking, crocheting, and hot
tea (in any combination). When she’s not doing any of those things,
she’s working at her family’s restaurant or teaching at the
local community college. Catch up with her at her blog,
thegreenmockingbird.wordpress.com, or follow her on twitter @CameraCourt.