In her first book of the Misty River Romance series, Becky Wade opened “Stay with Me” with a nod to “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Sam Turner, the owner of Sugar Maple Farms, found a young woman asleep on a bed in his guesthouse. The intruder, Genevieve Woodward, had been driving to her parents’ house in Misty River to confront them about a strange letter she received about a possible secret they’ve been keeping. A high-profile writer of Bible studies, Genevieve also needed to get away for other reasons: high stress and a secret of addiction. The latter explained why she vaguely remembered how she ended up there.
Sam had been living a regimented life after the death of his first love, Kayden. His routines kept him sane and helped him take the focus off the pain of that loss. Genevieve disrupted that rhythm. She made a bargain with Sam to stay in his guesthouse and get clean.
The inspirational story took place during the fall – perfect timing for a September read. I imagined making a fire in that cottage with tea and a good book, curled up like Genevieve in a robe worn backwards. I’m a foodie and could imagine the food at “The Kitchen”…but I’m more like Genevieve in that I don’t always gravitate to clean eating.
Wade provided several mysteries to solve:
Mystery 1: How did Genevieve turn to drugs? Was it from the injury/surgery or is there more? Genevieve suffered trauma at age 12 when she and 5 other children survived an earthquake while on a mission trip to El Salvador, which brought me to…
Mystery 2: Why are they called the Miracle 5? Wade’s main story had sections with each member of the “Miracle 5” providing details about this major event so gradually the reader pieces together their deep pain and trauma. The event propelled them into the spotlight.
Mystery 3: What led Sam to become so guarded and cut-off? Wade provided the back story for Sam and his first love Kayden, who also suffered from addiction.
Mystery 4: What secret were Genevieve’s parents hiding? The strange letter the publisher received about her parents’ past and her current fame propelled Genevieve back home to Georgia.
Nothing we do will ever pay back God for the gift of His saving grace. Genevieve believed she owed God for saving her life and wanted to serve Him out of gratitude. Her faith became more works-based as she started her journey as a writer and speaker. She lost sight of God when her physical and mental pain became greater than her faith. I love when she finally saw God move in her lie.
We need to forgive ourselves and others or else we will stay chained to the past and stunt our growth in the present. Kayden haunted Sam throughout the novel. He tried to pin the blame on Genevieve for Kayden’s re-appearnace. He also beat himself up for past actions he took to help Kayden. Thankfully, he didn’t entirely let fear determine his actions. He agreed to help her. His routines needed disrupting because he had become closed off and allowed the past to put his future on hold. Two lonely souls began to tear down walls and take off their masks with each other and with God.
Now for the final verdict:
I did have to suspend disbelief when I started reading. I know most people wouldn’t be inclined to rent out a guesthouse to someone who broke in and slept there overnight, but then I thought: “Uh, what about the many Hallmark movies you seen?” lol Sam seemed very consumed by Kayden’s death; in fact, he reminded me of Heathcliff in “Wuthering Heights.” At one point, he did become jealous when he saw Genevieve receiving some male attention while out at a popular restaurant. But then this: “He went stalking into the night in a temper, blacker than Kayden’s coffin” (237). Was he angry because he’s jealous and doesn’t want to be? Was he angry and done with women in general thanks to Kayden’s death? A serious mental war went on between Kayden and Gen in Sam’s head, which made it difficult for me to think of him as a romantic partner.
The pace may have slowed because of the every day actions of the characters as well as the descriptions of some actions — answering a cell phone, taking a key out of the ignition of a car, etc. Most readers can fill that in themselves. Writer Jerry Jenkins would call it “triggering the theater of the reader’s mind.”
Putting those aside, I enjoyed the mysteries. When Genevieve came up empty after asking her parents about the letter, she and her sister, Natasha, turned “Nancy Drew” and began a hunt to find out what they didn’t know about their parents. Without going into this mystery too much (don’t want to spoil it), I will say I was more engaged with this mystery and the story of the Miracle 5 weaved throughout. Definitely read this book for the mysteries.
The growth of the characters and the novel’s themes of love, forgiveness, and redemption were gems in my mind. I could relate to the past struggles of these characters and the ways they coped and survived after trauma. When they allowed God in, they surrendered their burdens and accepted His grace. That was the best part.
I checked this book out of my local library, but should you want to purchase it, you will find it here and here. If you’re interested in visiting Misty River, type in “Misty River, Georgia” and you’ll find great vacation spots. For more information, go to https://beckywade.com/home/stay-with-me/.