Monday, May 2, 2022

What Matters Most by Courtney Walsh

What Matters Most by Courtney Walsh

Courtney is one of my favorite authors.

Let’s begin with the summary of her latest novel:

Emma Woodson is hoping the cobblestone streets of Nantucket and the charm of her late husband’s family cottage will be the fresh start she and her young son, CJ, need. Securing a dream job at an art gallery is one more step along the path to a new life . . . and away from a piece of her history she hopes will never be revealed. Falling in love with the kind and handsome guy she hires to clean out the rental apartment above the garage wasn’t part of the plan.

Jameson Shaw came to Nantucket for one reason: deliver his letter to Emma and never return. But when he sees an opportunity to help her, he takes a chance, desperate to atone for his past. He never planned to keep his connection to her husband a secret or to fall in love with her. After all, he knows that their new relationship might not survive the discovery of who he really is.

And now, my review:

We get to return to the island in this latest Nantucket Love Story book. Courtney’s bio on Amazon mentions she’s a playwright and as I read this novel, I could see this story playing out in a movie or TV series. It’s a very visual experience.

We care for the hero immediately. He has come to town with big secrets and a heavy burden. He considers himself disqualified from happiness in life. His arrival has one purpose, but life intervenes. I loved how kind, artistic, compassionate, and nerdy he was while at the same time he was strong and competent and loyal. This type of hero doesn’t appear in novels very often, and there was something tender about him that I really liked.

I enjoyed his artistic side, which I found relatable—how he sees beauty in the world and how he longs to both capture it and share his perspective with others. For a long time now he has disqualified himself from pursuing or noticing beauty. This novel’s journey brings him back in touch with that innate side of himself. The author captured this element very well. Artists can only avoid beauty’s draw for so long before we have to give in.

Our heroine has suffered a devastating loss. Mirroring the hero, she’s disqualified herself from joy in life as well, but for other reasons. She’s attracted to the faith of a family member, but isn’t sure how to get there herself. And she can’t ever see a way to forgive herself for past mistakes. She’s also finding her way back to herself after that loss. It’s a long journey, and without accepting forgiveness, she’s in an infinite loop, distanced from healing. Readers who’ve suffered such a loss may relate with this element of trying to get “back to normal” or finding themselves again. The heroine wonders where her previous strengths are now. She’s also trying to return to a sense of wholeness. Recovering readers will likely see themselves in her.

There are many secrets in this novel, and the author leaves hints along the way. Some of the themes include: forgiveness of self and peace with God; all-consuming shame; making personal, penalizing vows in the wake of mistakes; owing penance; misguided understanding of God and His merciful grace.

Courtney is such a pro at writing romance. She keeps things G-rated. With a subtlety that readers will love we are drawn into the romance between these two characters. You may find yourself rereading sections just for fun.

I loved the seaside setting and the artistic elements in this novel. Another great book by this gifted author. Can’t wait for her next one!