Book Review: The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner

"I'd had one career and one career only, and I'd been forced into early retirement - and I never was able to figure out how to list my job experience as 'Mrs. Patrick McDermott' on my resume." (9)

Title: The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck
Author: Bethany Turner
Publisher: Revell
Release Date:  October 3, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Becoming a Christian is the best--and worst--thing that has ever happened to Sarah Hollenbeck. 

Up to now, Sarah Hollenbeck 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 she's 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 discovering 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 . . . well, let's just say that doesn't make things any easier.

With a powerful voice, penetrating insight, and plenty of humor, novelist Bethany Turner explodes onto the scene with a witty debut that isn't afraid to deal with the thorny realities of living the Christian life. 

Debut authors have a way to surprise you - sometimes good and sometimes bad. Bethany Turner is definitely good. Her debut, The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck is good. It is funny, satirically and crazy good.  Many enjoy "chick lit" for an easy and fun read. When it's all that plus doused with a strange sense of realistic expectations and the exposed imperfections of Christian life, it's not just a fluff piece.

"I would hid my scars and shortcormings, and only put forth the most impressive version of myself. I would keep everyone at arm's length so that if I eventually fell out of favor with them, I would not be impacted." (10)

Sounds eerily familiar? There are the insecurities, but it doesn't mean once one accepts Christ, they lose all that. And the realities of a new believer set forth by our main character, Sarah are just as it is. Realities that living the Christian life can be clumsy, unexpected and hypocritical, but it's the strive to live the life God wants us to live that motivates. I think The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck sparks discussion, not only amongst believers, but also for non-believers. There are some extremes in terms of personalities and beliefs in this book, but in all, I think Sarah's voice married both ends well. There are questions, assumptions and realizations. And just like Sarah, it's a personal journey. Granted, I can see how it can appear judgmental on both ends, but in the end, the story is where it should be.

"I stood up and handed his Bible to him, and then I stopped breathing. And I think he did too." (58)

As to the romance, it was quick. Halfway through the story, I felt that I still don't know much about the "handsome pastor". The pacing overall was spot on, allowing me to continue reading. So it didn't deter me at all because this book is about Sarah and her journey. Then towards the end, we were finally able to know more about Ben Delaney, and it was just right. It gave him depth and made him real, and a formidable match for Sarah without overtaking Sarah's voice.

In all, The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck has a great range of humor and depth. It's gives off the vibe of Bridget Jones' Diary, all the charm without the profanity and sex, and add in a message of life. 

". . . sometimes we have to pass up 'good' in order to get to 'right'" (266)

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author/publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, and have not been compensated for this. This is my honest opinion.

For my review policy, please see my Disclosure page.



Bethany Turner is the director of administration for Rock Springs Church in Southwest Colorado. A former VP/operations manager of a commercial bank and a three-time cancer survivor (all before she turned 35), Bethany knows that when God has plans for your life, it doesn't matter what anyone else has to say. Because of that, she's chosen to follow his call to write. She lives with her husband and their two sons in Colorado, where she writes for a new generation of readers who crave fiction that tackles the thorny issues of life with humor and insight.

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