Foolish Heart
Forbidden Heart
Man of the House
Something to Celebrate
Sweet Accord

Sweet Harmony

Sweet Devotion
by Felicia Mason
(Steeple Hill, $12.95, G) ISBN 0-373-78511-9
Sweet Devotion is the final story in Felicia Masonís trilogy set in Wayside, Oregon. It is the story of Amber Montgomery. She is the cousin of Haley Cartwright Brandon-Dumaine, the heroine of the first book, Sweet Accord. Amber has had short scenes in the first two novels in which both her cousin and Kara Spencer have invited her to attend church with them to no avail.

The daughter of missionaries, she spent most of her childhood traveling throughout the world. Her brother chose to minister to others, while Amber chose a different path. Haley is only family member from whom she is not estranged.

In Wayside, Amber runs a local catering company and volunteers at a local day care center as the storytelling ďCookie Lady.Ē When Sweet Devotion begins, the senior citizens attending the annual Wayside Revelers event have run amok. Amber is at the carving station when a food fight breaks out. The police are called and Amber is arrested when Paul Evans, the new police chief, finds her in the midst of the fray with a knife in her hand.

The misunderstanding is eventually straightened out and Amber is released. However, the incident has caused Amber to have flashbacks about the abuse she suffered during her relationship with a Los Angeles policeman.

Paul has his own troubling memories of his time in Los Angeles. His brother and pregnant sister-in-law were killed by a drug dealer with a vendetta against Paul. The coupleís young children were traumatized as they witnessed the deaths of their parents. Paul is raising the children in Wayside, where he was recently named police chief. Unlike Amber, who turned her back on religion, Paulís faith continues to help him through his ordeal.

Paul and Amber are thrown together in a number of situations that show how small Wayside really is. He is attracted to her and cannot understand why she often cowers in his presence. Amberís anxiety is powerfully depicted. As she begins to separate Paul and what he does for a living with the painful memories in her past, she begins to trust him and becomes more comfortable in his presence.

The main characters are very well developed and realistic. Paul is a hero whose life is grounded in his faith. He is conflicted because he is unable to consider a future with Amber or any other woman who does not believe in God.

In Sweet Devotion, all the elements of a good inspirational come together. The novel takes as its basic text, Proverbs 3:5-6. We are able to see the resolution of Amberís crisis of faith. Amberís private rededication before her public profession of faith is credible. The HEA comes from her commitment to God and it, in turn, opens her up for the possibility of a fulfilling relationship with Paul. Points are made subtly, not dogmatically. Those who have read the first two books in the trilogy are in for a massive case of sticker shock. Sweet Accord and Sweet Harmony were smaller paperbacks priced at $4.75. Sweet Devotion launches the lineís new trade paperback size at a hefty $12.95 cost.

The series is at its best when the lead characters interact with the Wayside Community Christian Church congregation. It is what separates the second book from the others. Sweet Devotion returns to the church and gives the reader a community context through its congregation, its activities, teachings and the pastor and his wife. The series has come to an end, but the author has opened up a very interesting secondary relationship I hope she will explore in another novel.

Sweet Devotion is a strong four-heart read I wholeheartedly recommend.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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