Joel Bennett has always known Serena Hayes as his sister’s gregarious best friend. In the three years since Lacey began college, Serena became a regular houseguest, but lately, she’s absent more than not. When Joel discovers she’s in an abusive relationship, protectiveness from within roars to life.
With only a part-time job to support her and nowhere to go, Serena fears leaving her current relationship would jeopardize her chances of graduating college. After a brutal attack leaves her no choice, she courageously moves out. On her journey toward regaining confidence, self-worth, and independence, Joel falls in beside her, encouraging her. The way he emulates Godly love and compassion draws her close—not just to him, but to the God who can satisfy her longing for love better than any man,
Attraction sizzles between them, but events from their pasts cast shadows of doubt. When the unthinkable happens, can Serena open her heart to a second chance at love, or is she destined to be alone?
I enjoyed reading A Worthy Heart, set in Sacramento, California. Serena is in her final year of college, and she recently left her Dorm to move in with her boyfriend. The boyfriend love bombed her at the start of their relationship, and it wasn’t until Serena was living in his house that she realized she’d unknowingly put herself in a domestic violence situation. Serena isn’t a Christian at the start of the story and, being a student, money is tight.
Joel is Serena’s best friend’s brother. He’s a Christian who works as a bank teller and shares his home with his sister, Lacey. The story opens with Serena driving to Lacey’s birthday party in the city. Serena is involved in a car accident that wasn’t her fault. Joel is travelling behind her, sees the accident, and stops to help Serena. He drives Serena home because her car needs to be towed, and that’s when Joel witnesses Serena’s boyfriend physically hitting her.
I loved how Serena and Joel’s friends to more romance unfolds in the story. It’s not a love triangle. Serena breaks off the relationship with her abusive boyfriend before anything has the potential to happen between her and Joel. Past decisions impact their present relationship, and I liked how Serena’s new faith didn’t automatically fix all the issues they needed to address.
Joel has his own issues to work through, including his relationship with his father. The faith element is strong and an organic part of the story, and includes redemption and forgiveness themes. The story is a clean read and realistically addresses difficult situations with sensitivity. I recommend A Worthy Heart to contemporary romance readers looking for a compelling friends to more and best friend’s brother romance with a strong faith element and tough issues, including domestic violence, addressed in the story.