Sunday, March 29, 2015

Review: "Justified" by Varina Denman

Rating: 5 Stars

Review: After reading "Jaded," the first novel in Varina Denman's "Mended Hearts" series, I immediately began "Justified."  I was so invested in the characters, that I put other books aside in favor of jumping right into the second novel.  Although "Justified" can stand on its own, readers will miss out on the strong character connection developed in "Jaded."

Denman proves to be a very gifted storyteller, creating plots that feel like real life. Trapp is like a snapshot of life in most towns, big or small.  We can probably all relate to the judgmental and gossipy behavior of some of Trapp's townfolk.  Like "Jaded," "Justified" is built on messages of love, acceptance, and forgiveness.  Though the themes and the setting are the same, the details of the stories are unique.  

Denman's character development quickly draws readers into the lives of not only the main characters, but also the secondary characters. For me, the "Mended Hearts" series is the ideal style for a series: each novel has a new story at the center of the plot, but there are subplots and characters that form a common bond throughout each novel. Taking center stage in this novel are Fawn Blaylock and JohnScott Pickett.  JohnScott establishes himself as a loveable character with the thoughtful ways of a southern gentleman.  Anyone who isn't won over by him in the first novel, will certainly become fans by the end of this novel.  Fawn doesn't easily gain favor in "Jaded," but as Denman uncovers the vulnerable side of Fawn's personality, she quickly becomes more likeable. I enjoyed watching her grow into a strong and forgiving young woman. 

Set against the hot and dusty background of northwest Texas, "Justified" is a novel that I highly recommend.  It deals with serious topics like abusive relationships and prejudice, but Denman never allows the plot to become too heavy.  There is a sense of hope that spans the length of the book, and Denman shows that the presence of hope and faith can lead us to beauty and love.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from David C. Cook through NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Summary from David C. Cook: When the privileged daughter of a Texas rancher becomes pregnant by her abusive boyfriend, her small town casts judgment... except for one man who reaches out with tender strength as she learns to forgive herself.

In a forgotten town ruled by gossip, Fawn Blaylock believes others are justified in condemning her sins. Yet a yearning in her soul instills hope for a second chance when the head football coach treats her with gentle respect.

Varina Denman's novel Justified perfectly captures the rhythm and romance of life in a small town. It is the story of a woman searching for renewal, a man looking beyond what others see, and a community struggling to understand them both

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