You might remember that I took a break from reading fiction for Lent, and that whole time, this wonderful book by Courtney Walsh sat on my desk asking me “When? When will you read me?”
So, I broke my fiction fast with Change of Heart, and could not walk away from the story of Evelyn Brandt and Trevor Whitney, old friends who reconnect after Evelyn’s world falls apart. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my review.)
The wife of a Colorado state senator, Evelyn’s life is full of parties and commitments to the public, orchestrated by her husband and his plans for political stature. He controls how she dresses, how she spends her time, who she spends time with, all in the name of public perception. It has slowly eaten away at Evelyn’s sense of identity, something she doesn’t realize until FBI agents show up at her house and inform her that her husband has been embezzling money for years.
When her friends abandon her, Evelyn finds an unlikely ally in her old friend Trevor “Whit” Whitney, who runs a farm outside of town. Whit whisks her away to his guest house so she can assess her circumstances privately, but her presence on his farm is the last thing he wants. Their friendship ended years earlier when Evelyn married Christopher, but Trevor’s feelings for her are reignited, though he’s tried to douse them all this time.
It’s a story of first love and second chances and reclaiming the identities we so often lose to other people’s perceptions.
I could relate to Evelyn, who thought her circumstances unfair because she had done everything right, everything she was supposed to, and her world still came crashing down around her. And I was drawn to Trevor’s battle to maintain honor as he wrestled with his feelings for Evelyn and the losses he had suffered through the years. Both characters seek to recover something they’ve lost, and Walsh writes their journeys in page-turning fashion.
Change of Heart is set in the same romance-obsessed town of Loves Park as her previous novel, Paper Hearts, and while certain characters are the same, the story itself could be read on its own. (But you really should read Paper Hearts, too, because it’s a sigh-worthy romance!) There are scenes reminiscent of Steel Magnolias as a group of women rally around Evelyn in support, and though I’ve never seen an episode of The Good Wife, the political scandal angle of the book reminded of what we often see on TV drama.
It all comes to a satisfying conclusion, though you’ll momentarily curse the author for the twists and turns. One of my favorite things about Walsh’s writing is that she doesn’t create fluffy circumstances for her characters to walk through. She puts them through hard times and forces hard questions to be answered, and challenges readers to a better, fuller life in Christ.
Also, there’s a really cute book trailer for this novel. Check it out. And then read the book. And rediscover the power of unconditional love.