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  • Heartwarming Christmas reunion story

    No one expects that a short six months into their marriage, they will be tested beyond all expectations. But that's exactly what happens when Mark, a journalist, is kidnapped and held prisoner for over two years, leaving his new wife Sophie to pick up the pieces and try to keep it together, not knowing whether he is alive or dead. When he is finally released, they are strangers to each other once more. Can they recapture the love that guided them to start their married life in the first place? The Willow Park series is an interesting and always thought provoking set of books with a religious feel combined with a sexy contemporary romance (which mean that sex is included). This is the last one in the series, and a bittersweet ending to a delightful group of real and varied characters that have captured my interest. Sophie and Mark have been tested in ways other couples have not, and because of the publicity surrounding Mark's kidnapping, she moved away from the big city to the small town of Willow Park, where she found friends and a faith community to sustain her. For the most part, she just tries not to think of what's happened with Mark as the stress of that constant worry would be too much to handle. Instead she's left it up to God - and he's answered her prayers now, with her husband's relatively undamaged (physically at least) return. But he's obviously changed while being held captive, become quiet and distant, his coping methods with his captivity clearly evident when he is trying to reconnect with his wife. As the days go by, they re-establish a sexual connection, but Sophie still mourns the loss of the communication between them that is so important to sustaining a marriage. The story has a series of ups and downs, setbacks and progress as the two of them learn to trust each other with thoughts and feelings again. It's important for Sophie to realize that she has changed too, no longer the dependent woman that Mark married but one who has had to take charge of her own life, and built a business and a new life with new friends. She doesn't see that until Mark points it out to her, that the change has gone both ways. As they take those first tentative steps toward reconnection, the reader feels their pain and their heartache, but also their joy when things start to come together for them as a couple again. And the Christmas theme of rebirth and renewal is definitely felt. I can't imagine what it would be like in these circumstances, to have the strong faith needed to overcome such a challenge. But I imagine that one would hope it could be dealt with in this loving and heartfelt manner. 4 stars for an emotionally challenging story that succeeds in showing how love must adapt for marriage to succeed.

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