In 1949, young Jimmy Westbrook built a wedding chapel for Collette Greer, the girl who captured his heart the instant he first laid eyes on her. But then the war in Korea interfered and, by the time he’d returned to Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, everything had changed. Everything, that is, except his love for Collette. He nearly burned it down in bitterness, but his dad compelled him to finish what he started. So there it remains, sixty-odd years later, tucked away on a remote property where it hides its beauty and its secrets from the world. Now a retired football coach, Jimmy decides it’s time to let go when a local realtor sees the chapel’s potential and convinces him to sell.
Taylor Branson carries the weight of a generation of divorces into her elopement with high-school sweetheart Jack Forester. Both fled their hometown of Heart’s Bend to make it in their careers – Taylor in photography, Jack in marketing – and both found their way to New York City and to each other. But Taylor isn’t the only one with baggage; Jack was rejected by his father early in life and shuffled from foster home to foster home. With his inability to communicate the depth of his feelings for Taylor and with Taylor’s old flame intruding on the scene, tensions between Jack and his bride are running high.
As Taylor returns home to Heart’s Bend to photograph Jimmy’s chapel for a popular magazine, she’s not sure if her still-new marriage will last much longer. Mesmerized by the beauty of the chapel’s construction and drawn to something in its spirit, Taylor tries to talk Jimmy out of selling. When she finds a letter from her Granny that provokes more questions than answers, Taylor wonders if the key to the success of her own marriage – and maybe even the key to saving Jimmy’s chapel – can be found in uncovering the secrets that have long lay buried in her family history.
The dual timeline added an element of intrigue that kept me turning the pages and inhaling the words as quickly as possible.
The Wedding Chapel entranced me from the very beginning. The dual timeline added an element of intrigue that kept me turning the pages and inhaling the words as quickly as possible. I especially loved the fact that readers get to see the story from various perspectives as the focus alternates between the four main characters. To me, this kept the plot flowing and the emotional investment strong.
I could have easily set up camp there in Heart’s Bend for quite some time, and that’s in large part a result of Hauck’s talent for descriptive phrasing and depth.
As always, Rachel Hauck writes with grace and heart, her words flowing masterfully across the pages. The vivid characters felt like real people, and I was sad to say goodbye to them when the story concluded. I could have easily set up camp there in Heart’s Bend for quite some time, and that’s in large part a result of Hauck’s talent for descriptive phrasing and depth. The town, the plot and the people wrapped around me like a hand-stitched quilt and refused to let go.
Tucked away between the family history mystery and the wedding chapel is the even more important theme of love. Not just romance. But true love, the kind that lasts for sixty years even when rejected time and time again. The kind that sticks it out when the marriage falters or veers off course. The kind of love that confronts painful secrets and difficult truth and still forgives. The kind of love that accepts the abandoned, the orphaned, the hard-to-love and models the Divine picture of adoption – without manipulation or agenda. In today’s world, this reminder is all the more important and vital, and Rachel Hauck paints it beautifully.
I could not help but think as I read The Wedding Chapel that it would make the perfect book club read – or a Hallmark movie.
I could not help but think as I read The Wedding Chapel that it would make the perfect book club read – or a Hallmark movie. It has all the right elements: emotional tug, compelling characters, an enduring story, and romance (of course). I would easily recommend it to fans of Kate Morton, Katie Ganshert, Susan Meissner or any of Hauck’s previous novels, for that matter. This is a wonderfully uplifting and incredibly engrossing story that will remind you of the power of secrets and restoration … and how the Truth (and the love of a Father) will set you free.
About The Wedding Chapel (from the back cover):
Retired hall-of-fame football coach Jimmy ‘Coach’ Westbrook never imagined anything would come of his labor of love – the wedding chapel he built for Collette Greer, the woman he fell for back in ’49. But now an offer has come to turn the chapel into what it was meant to be – a place for love – and Jimmy sees no reason to hang onto his dream any longer.
Photographer Taylor Branson is trying to make a life for herself in New York. Leaving her hometown of Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, she puts a lot of things behind her, including her family’s abysmal marriage rate. But love surprises her when she falls head-over-heels for Jack Forester, a top ad man. Their whirlwind romance results in an elopement, and a mountain of doubt. Jack, while genuine in his love for Taylor, can never seem to overcome his own demons to find the words of his heart.
When Taylor takes an assignment in Heart’s Bend, the job does more than send her back to her hometown, but into a world of family secrets buried beneath the sands of time.
When Taylor’s journey intersects with Coach’s, they rediscover the heartbeat of their dreams and that the love they long to hold is right in front of them. And worth every waiting moment.
What an intriguing, complex plot line Ms. Hauck has created in The Wedding Chapel! It’s a beautiful love story, spanning three generations, two wars, two continents, and a good dose of forbidden secrets. Unfortunately, the overall effect of the book is less stunning than its individual parts.
What an intriguing, complex plot line Ms. Hauck has created in The Wedding Chapel! It’s a beautiful love story, spanning three generations, two wars, two continents, and a good dose of forbidden secrets.
The technical skill used to write this novel is tremendous. The author’s use of flashbacks is expertly woven into the text, as well as perfect foreshadowing and compelling dialogue. I even learned a few new vocabulary words as I read this tale!
The technical skill used to write this novel is tremendous.
However, there were other, troubling aspects that seemed less appropriate for Christian fiction and more representative of secular writing. The abundant use of slang and “Christian” curse words pricked my conscience. Sin, which I understand is part of everyone’s story, seemed to be excused, justified, and even glorified, but never repented of. Regret took the place of sorrow. And where sin did need to be included, it could have been done much more tactfully. God’s presence was relegated to only a sound, heard by just a few of the characters, and only in a certain place. It felt to me as if God were tacked on at the end of the story in order to make the book fit into the Christian fiction category.
While the characters were certainly real, I had a hard time identifying with any of them. I didn’t sense a desire to champion any one of them, only beg them to turn from their selfish ways and seek the Lord.
I only hope that she can develop her wonderful themes next time in a more appealing manner.
Ms. Hauck had wonderful themes in mind: one’s past does not determine his future, it’s never too late to speak the truth, and communication is the key to all relationships. These were developed nicely, and the lessons clearly taught. I only hope that she can do this next time in a more appealing manner.