Loving her is a risk he can’t afford . . . and can’t resist.
When acclaimed Bible study author Genevieve Woodward receives an anonymous letter referencing her parents’ past, she returns to her hometown in the Blue Ridge Mountains to chase down her family’s secret. However, it’s Genevieve’s own secret that catches up to her when Sam Turner, owner of a historic farm, uncovers the source of shame she’s worked so hard to hide.
Sam has embraced his sorrow, his isolation, and his identity as an outsider. He’s spent years carving out both career success and peace of mind. The last thing he wants is to rent the cottage on his property to a woman whose struggles stir his worst failure back to life. Yet can he bear to turn her away right when she needs him most?
I usually recommend books that I enjoyed reading. Stay with Me is a compelling read that I couldn’t put down, and the characters in the story challenged me to go places with them that I wouldn’t necessarily describe as fun or enjoyable.
Every reader who opens a book will bring with them their emotional baggage, life experiences, and values and beliefs that influence how they connect with the characters and the story. The reader’s unique lens will impact how they experience the story. The best stories will engage our emotions, both positive and negative, and bring the characters and events in the story to life in our hearts and minds.
Stay with Me opens with Sam finding a late model Volvo SUV parked outside his guest house cottage on his farm near the small town of Misty River in the north Georgia mountains. He discovers a beautiful woman asleep on a bare mattress on the bed inside his guest house. She’s sleeping on her own pillow and has covered herself with a mismatch of clothes as a makeshift quilt.
When Sam fails to gently wake her, he needs to find out who she is and why she’s trespassing on his property. He discovers the prescription drug, OxyContin, and his stress levels spike. Sam has experienced firsthand in Melbourne, Australia, the pain of losing a loved one addicted to opioids, and old feelings of grief from that time in his life on the other side of the world resurface.
Genevieve is a hot mess and she feels like a fraud. At the age of twelve she miraculously survived being killed by an earthquake during a mission trip in El Salvador, and she became known as one of the the miracle five. Genevieve believes she owes God, and she also believes God must have saved her in El Salvador because he has big plans for her life. Her celebrity status from the earthquake, combined with a failed romance when she was only twenty, inspired her to study the Bible. This set the foundation for her to traditionally publish her best selling Bible studies and nurture her celebrity women’s ministry speaking career.
A year earlier Genevieve was prescribed pain killers for an ankle injury, and it kicked off her shameful and out-of-control hidden struggle with OxyContin. Her perfect and wholesome good girl Christian public persona hides the painful truth of her real life. She has returned to Misty River to find answers to the mystery fan mail she has received concerning her parents’ past, and to detox at her parents’ home. Her mother’s suffocating love and Genevieve’s refusal to share her addiction problems with her parents derail the detox plan, and Genevieve asks Sam if she can detox in his cottage.
Fiction can be a safe place to explore the “what if…” that’s too scary to contemplate in real life. At this early stage in the story, I wanted to tell Sam to run and never look back. It was Albert Einstein who said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. After Sam’s experience in Australia that resulted in him avoiding romantic relationships, why would he take on Genevieve and her problems? And the whole idea of detoxing outside a medical setting without professional support in place is frankly terrifying.
Since this is a fiction story and not real life, and is a romance story where the main characters definitely won’t die, I could put aside my thoughts on these issues and keep reading. And I’m glad I did!
The friends-to-more slow burn romance was complicated, the family mystery intriguing, and the faith element satisfying. I calmed down and settled more into the story when Genevieve starting seeing a counsellor and receiving the professional medical care she desperately needed.
Both Genevieve and Sam grew as people during the story despite the temptation for Genevieve to switch her co-dependency from the pills to Sam. I recommend Stay with Me to contemporary romance readers who are prepared for a wild ride that may challenge their thoughts and ideas on a range of issues.