Title: The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter
Chapel Springs Book Three
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Romance
Length: 333 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Living side-by-side, a fledgling chef and a big-hearted contractor find a delicious attraction.
Trouble is, their chemistry could spoil their dreams.
Spirited PJ McKinley has the touch when it comes to food. Her dream of opening her own restaurant is just one building short of reality. So when a Chapel Springs resident offers her beloved ancestral home to the applicant with the best plan for the house, PJ believes it’s a contest she was meant to win.
Contractor Cole Evans is confident, professional, and swoon-worthy—but this former foster kid knows his life could have turned out very differently. When Cole discovers the contest, he believes his home for foster kids in transition has found its saving grace. All he has to do is convince the owner that an out-of-towner with a not-for-profit enterprise is good for the community.
But when the eccentric philanthropist sees PJ and Cole’s proposals, she makes an unexpected decision: the pair will share the house for a year to show what their ideas are made of. Now, with Cole and the foster kids upstairs and PJ and the restaurant below, day-to-day life has turned into out-and-out competition—with some seriously flirtatious hallway encounters on the side. Turns out in this competition, it’s not just the house on the line, it’s their hearts.
The Wishing Season is another heartwarming romance in Denise Hunter’s delightful Chapel Springs series. In this installment, PJ McKinley is trying to realize her dream of opening an upscale restaurant and B&B. But Cole Evans’s unexpected arrival poses a very surprising complication to her plans. A creative solution to the problem forces the two of them to live together for a year as they compete for ownership of the historic home.
Overprotected by the rest of her loving but well-meaning family, a successful business would prove to everyone that PJ is more than capable of taking care of herself. With a track record of choosing the wrong man, her family doubts her judgment in more than just her love life. PJ knows she has what it takes to run a business, but her family’s reservations undermine her self-confidence.
Cole’s reason for entering the competition is a little more altruistic than PJ’s. A former foster child, Cole wants to run a transitional home for foster kids who age out of the foster care system before high school graduation. Despite his very real desire to help these kids, Cole’s tragic history also factors into heavily into his motivation.
The relationship between Cole and PJ is, at first, adversarial as they begin working toward their goals. PJ is determined to realize her dream on her own (albeit with a little help from her family). Since hers will be a for profit business, she has loans to help her build a state of the art kitchen and small dining room. Cole has the funding to run the home, but not enough money to pay for renovations, so most of his remodeling is do-it-yourself. PJ’s prickly attitude begins to lessen as they work on their individual projects, but she is also quick to assume the worst of Cole when she has a few setbacks. After their ventures take off, Cole and PJ become friends, but a surprising attraction complicates their friendship.
Cole and PJ’s romance is very understated and does not begin until fairly late in the novel. There is no mistaking the chemistry between them, but their interactions are innocent and limited to kisses. Their relationship begins before the rivalry for the house is resolved so the contest’s outcome is also cause for concern for both of them. Surprisingly, it is unresolved issues from the past that threaten the couple’s future.
The Wishing Season is a very sweet and engaging romance that has depth and substance. Cole’s portion of the storyline is poignant and at times, very heartbreaking. PJ’s problems with her family are less serious but realistic. Denise Hunter weaves some very important lessons of faith into the novel that will resonate readers who find that faith is sometimes lost in the busy-ness of everyday life.
The Wishing Season is an absolutely outstanding addition to the Chapel Springs series. It can be read as a standalone, but I highly recommend the previous installments as well. Intriguing glimpses of Ryan McKinley will leave readers eagerly anticipating the release of Married ’til Monday, which is due to release in June of 2015.