“Heaven is the ultimate achievement of God’s original plan for us, a plan to create a beautiful place free of sin where He could fellowship with us.”
Any great novel offers a grand story with empathetic characters who find themselves in strong, compelling relationships.
“Summer Storms,” Book One in the Seasons of Faith series by Rebekah Lyn (Julianne) is a text that lives up to the expectation. Lizzie Reynolds is a high profile hotel concierge at the top of her game that is looking to find a new home near her downtown workplace. Her funds limited, she finds an address in sunny downtown Florida. Though it’s in a close knit, family neighborhood, the house is too run down to even be considered an eyesore.
Something in Lizzie’s spirit stirs, however, and she makes a deal with the property manager to live in the house rent free, her investment in the renovations as remuneration. This project is her new adventure.
A bevy of likable characters emerge in support of her transition: Ron and Emma, a childless couple who travels the world on ministry and relief missions; Jeffrey, heir to a real estate empire who has followed his own career path and suffers the death of his beloved fiancée; Ian, a former friend of Jeffrey’s who agrees to help Lizzie repair her damaged floors; Stephen, a young front desk clerk whose potential Lizzie does not miss or misjudge; and Mae, an elder neighbor who welcomes Lizzie to the neighborhood and into her heart and home.
A story filled with opulence, disaster, death, revelations, lovers, friends, and even stalkers, “Summer Storms” seizes the excitement of a new wind, a changing direction and is a credit to the Christian romantic fantasy.
In a time when many Christians feel persecuted politically and socially for beliefs and lifestyle, it is wonderful to delve into a story that honors Christian values without disregarding quality and artistry.
Lyn’s writing is descriptive and alive, humorous and effortless, written as if in homage to the people and locations we visit. It’s almost like being there, sitting with Lizzie watching a sunrise unfold across a brightening sky or experiencing her fear when an intruder attacks.
The dream of a gratifying Christian life is central to the story. It is a world where Christians aren’t judged for preferring service to the night life and where they find community, support, and family, illustrating why it is called a “church home”.
But the key message of peace after tragedy is what drives the reader forward. Lizzie and Jeffrey find a connection because of death. He is unable to move on from his loss, she has turned to God to be delivered from hers. “Summer Storms” is not a tale of going through storms. It is a celebration of coming out of them.
“I always felt God pursuing me, unwilling to let go of me.” Every person struggles, even the faithful. It is a part of life and a part of a walk in the Holy Spirit. Lizzie has suffered greatly and has battled with God. Turning to her Bible and Jesus’ promise Lizzie was able to find comfort and freedom.
The dilapidated house is a metaphor for her new friend Jeffrey. He has been neglected, his mind, body, and spirit broken. Through their friendship and her ministry Jeffrey comes to understand that hope is no more than having the promise of heaven in your heart.
Problems don’t disappear as if struck with the magic of a wizard’s wand, but rather prayers fill Christians with peace so they can face problems as if consumed with the power of God. “Summer Storms” is about the true source of strength, about living beyond pain, being truly saved by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Also a story of amour featuring the ever persistent emotional triangle, Lyn separates her romance from the mainstream by introducing men not by their finances, their physiques, or sexual prowess, but by his heart, his faith, and his aptitude for love. The men are handsome, but they are more than that.
Even in an adventurous Christian fantasy like “Summer Storms” not all is perfect. With the strong Christian language, including the use of many scriptures, it isn’t clear who the target reader is. Is it the devout Christian who needs to see his practices positively reflected in art, or is it the struggling soul who needs a shepherd toward the Lord?
The answer is most likely both, but with the pointedly Christian ideology, more concretely portrayed than in “Julianne,” it seems a reader might have to already believe to understand the depth and weight of the language. A non-believer may find scripture and prayer too easy.
Not only are some of the spiritual struggles too easily determined, but so are some of the general conflicts. Lizzie is such an enjoyable character that we are willing to follow her anywhere. There are times when she encounters a problem and we become invested, but almost immediately the situation is resolved.
One glaring example is the timeline. In this instant Lizzie is worried how she will move into her new house and we are worried with her. The next she is pulling milk from a refrigerator we didn’t even know she had yet.
Also, though adorable, Lizzie may read as too flawless. She is a romantic archetype who is perfect -- sweet, sympathetic, deals with the aggression of strangers like a champ, everyone loves her or is in love with her, and she bakes...good as grandma.
What dresses her bones are her observations, her human desires and needs, her relationships and the potential in them, her past struggles and her transition out of them.
This novel can be characterized by its ability to motivate the reader to ponder the purpose of tragedy. How can it be used to rekindle a relationship with God; how can tragedy encourage a deeper connection with the Father and with each other?
Since we feel it in the words as we read we instinctively know it is because the peace we find swallows the pain. Anyone who has felt that transformation from lost to found, from hurt to healed knows how much that conversion binds us to God.
In “Summer Storms” we can feel both sides of the struggle. Agony -- the past stifling our progress, and the present -- feeling forgiveness flow from a humbled heart. Both crash into a moment of stillness like we never thought possible.
The reader is either Lizzie or Jeffrey -- either someone who has come out of the misery and can testify to salvation, or they are someone still in it, needing a hand. Lyn speaks to both, coaxing Lizzies to reach out to the downtrodden and exercise the strength God placed in them while teaching Jeffries how to open their hearts and release the barriers to hope, let go of the wounds keeping them from heaven.
There is that sad feeling when nearing the end, that slowing down because it can’t almost be over. Something we do when the book is so good. Yet, the excitement returns when we realize this is a series and there is a second installment.
A walk in faith is a living poem, a metaphor awake, a cry of serenity. Rebekah Lyn captures that in the aftermath of “Summer Storms”.