Picking up this read was a completely spontaneous decision for me, which by the way, is completely NOT like me. I had heard rumblings about this amazing book coming out that seemed right up my alley and decided to put it on the hold list at the library (I rarely buy new to me authors). Then it came out and it was like my social media world exploded with The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck. I thought I’d have to wait since it was brand new, but lo, and behold, I got the coveted message that it was ready to be picked up. I went as soon as possible.
I then proceeded to read it in almost one sitting.
Becoming a Christian is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Sarah Hollenbeck. Best because, well, that’s obvious. Worst because, up to this point, she’s made her very comfortable living as a well-known, bestselling author of steamy romance novels that would leave the members of her new church blushing. Now Sarah is trying to reconcile her past with the future she’s chosen. She’s still under contract with her publisher and on the hook with her enormous fan base for the kind of book she’s not sure she can write anymore. She’s beginning to think that the church might frown on her tithing on royalties from a “scandalous” book. And the fact that she’s falling in love with her pastor doesn’t make things any easier.
With a powerful voice, penetrating insight, and plenty of wit, Bethany Turner explodes onto the scene with a debut that isn’t afraid to deal with the thorny realities of living the Christian life.
Guys, I will be the first to admit that the subject matter in The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was exactly mine. As I delve more and more into the Christian Fiction world, one thing that can get on my nerves is when authors ignore the realities of attraction and how we, as broken humans, respond to. It’s like sex doesn’t exist (gasp! I wrote the “s” word).
That is where this story is different. It puts it right out there in front for everyone to see and get comfortable with from the start. I mean, what else are you going to expect from a reformed romance writer (as in THAT kind of romance)? But Bethany approaches it in a refreshingly real way that seems more like a friend is telling you a story, imparting the life lessons within, without going into gory detail. I’ve heard many say that it’s about the testimony of God in their story, not the details, and while there are plenty of details, it’s not the kind of details that make your eyes want to burn.
So, while I could go on about great story and swoony heroes, I won’t, because the essence of the story is what got to me at my core and made it relatable in a way that only a few other authors have accomplished.
In my opinion, this is exactly what Christian Fiction should be about; how do I be a Christ-follower while navigating this world I’m living in, but not of?
Bethany is a born and bred Kentucky girl who relocated to Colorado in 2001, three years after meeting the love of her life in a chat room, back before anyone knew that wasn’t always a good idea. Thankfully, it worked out in this case, and she and her husband are the proud parents of two boys. In 2014 Bethany walked away from her career as a bank vice president to step out in faith as a writer. Since then, God has not only opened doors in the publishing world, but has also called her to full-time ministry serving on a church staff. She is an innovative systems administrator for a rural church that is passionate about reaching the unchurched.