Title: Grace Grows by Shelle Sumners
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: A
Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through NetGalley
Grace Barnum’s life is precariously balanced on sensible choices and uncomfortable compromise. She dutifully edits textbooks that, she fears, may be more harmful than helpful to kids. She is engaged to a patent attorney who is steady and reliable. She has a cautious relationship with her fascinating father, a renowned New York painter, and she prefers her mom slightly drunk.
Always a planner, Grace feels prepared for most eventualities. Until the responsibility-challenged Tyler Wilkie shows up. Fresh in town from the Poconos, Tyler has warm eyes, a country drawl, and a smile that makes Grace drop things. Worst of all, he writes devastating songs. About her.
Tyler reaches something in Grace, something she needs, but can’t admit to. Something she wants, but won’t succumb to. Tyler Wilkie loves Grace Barnum and ruins everything. And Grace grows.
More than just a love story, Shelle Sumners’ debut novel Grace Grows is an incredible journey of self discovery and tremendous growth by lead character, Grace Barnum. Grace leads a comfortable, contented life with her long term boyfriend. She rarely takes risks and she goes to great lengths to plan for the unexpected. But all the preparation in the world can in no way prepare Grace for the changes that Tyler Wilkie is about to bring to her carefully ordered and well organized world. With her heart on the line, will Grace choose the familiar and safe life she has made for herself? Or will she take a leap of faith and accept the all encompassing love that Tyler is offering?
Grace Barnum’s cautious approach to life is reflected in both her personal and professional lives. She is complacent in her relationship with her boyfriend Steven and does not seem too concerned there is not much of a spark between them. Her career has become a source of frustration and her dissatisfaction with the arbitrary whims that go along with text book writing and editing is growing. Grace’s relationships with her divorced parents is pretty good but they definitely feel the strain of the emotional baggage from her childhood.
Handsome, sexy and always with a smile on his face, Tyler Wilkie is a carefree, fun loving character that I absolutely adored right from the very beginning of Grace Grows. Irrepressible and charming, he is pretty much Grace’s polar opposite. Well-adjusted with a rather bohemian family, Tyler travels through life with his eye on his destination but with no plan of how he is going to get there. With his innate talent and a natural ability to put his own personal spin on every song he sings, he is quickly on his way to super stardom in the music world. He remains refreshingly untouched by his growing fame and always maintains the exuberance that makes him so unique and appealing.
While it is apparent to everyone but Grace that Tyler’s interest is more than friends, their relationship begins as a friendship. The story takes place over a two and half year time span and it is chockfull of its share of ups and downs. Grace stubbornly keeps her blinders in place where Tyler’s feelings for here are concerned and blithely plans her future with Steven. That is until she experiences a dramatic epiphany about Tyler that quickly becomes a catalyst for some long overdue changes in her life.
As in real life, the road to happily ever after for Grace and Tyler is full of twists, turns and detours. Miscommunications and Grace’s annoying propensity to avoid conflict instead of facing it head on prove to a huge stumbling block in their relationship. On more than one occasion, I wanted to shake Grace in frustration over her inability to make a decision and stick with it. Help for the erstwhile couple comes from an unexpected source and finally provides them with the opportunity to work through their various issues.
Grace Grows is a thoroughly captivating novel that is fast paced and laugh out loud funny. The characters are quirky yet winsome and the storyline is refreshingly realistic and flawlessly executed. Shelle Sumners puts a fresh spin on what easily be a clichéd plot and takes this wonderful romance in an unexpected direction that will delight readers of contemporary romances.
Definitely a novel that should be on everyone’s reading list.