#INSPYSundays | Book Review tour feat. “Refuge at Pine Lake” (A Pine Haven novel) by Rose Chandler Johnson

Posted Sunday, 8 September, 2019 by jorielov , , , 2 Comments

#INSPYSundays banner made my Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: I’ve been hosting for Prism Book Tours since September of 2017 – having noticed the badge on Tressa’s blog (Wishful Endings) as we would partake in the same blog tours and/or book blogosphere memes. As I enquired about hosting for Prism, I found I liked the niche of authors and stories they were featuring regularly. Oft-times you’ll find Prism Book Tours alighting on my blog through the series of guest features and spotlights with notes I’ll be hosting on behalf of their authors when I’m not showcasing book reviews on behalf of Harlequin Heartwarming which has become my second favourite imprint of Harlequin next to my beloved #LoveINSPIRED Suspense. I am also keenly happy PRISM hosts a variety of Indie Authors and INSPY Fiction novelists.

I received a complimentary copy of “Refuge at Pine Lake” direct from the author Rose Chandler Johnson in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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IF this is your first time seeing my #INSPYSundays showcases – let me explain why I am putting these together! I shared my first one in June & had intended for these to run weekly. I am thankful to resume them this August and will be continuing to have an inspiring story running on Sundays through the rest of the 2019. Thank you as always for following my bookish journey.

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You might be aware of my 7o Authors Challenge – wherein I am attempting to get to know more Inspirational Fiction authors and their series? I have been wanting to find a way to bring this reading focus into the life of my blog but also, highlight some of the stories I am receiving for review purposes as well – not all of them can be featured on the weekends, but those which can I’ll be highlighting through this new series of posts as I love the idea of showcasing them on a day meant for renewal of spirit & rest.

The short version of “Inspirational Fiction” is INSPY and I have enjoyed using the tag #INSPY on Twitter to talk about the stories which fall under this umbrella of literature. It is far more encompassing than strictly reading Christian based fiction as INSPY is inclusive of all religions and faith backgrounds of interest – which is why eventually I’ll be expounding outwards from my initial wanderings of my reading challenge and seeking out more authors who write stories of INSPY that are from new and differing perspectives. A lot of what I currently have marked to read are traditional Christian Fiction selections as they were found via a fellow book blogger’s blog.

Although I had intended to introduce this featured focus in January, 2019 – I decided the timing wasn’t right for me to do so until June. I look forward to seeing where my readerly wanderings will take me as this will be just as wicked interesting of a feature to follow as my #HistoricalMondays or #SaturdaysAreBookish!

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#INSPYSundays | Book Review tour feat. “Refuge at Pine Lake” (A Pine Haven novel) by Rose Chandler JohnsonRefuge at Pine Lake
Subtitle: A Pine Haven Novel
by Rose Chandler Johnson
Source: Author via Prism Book Tours

Robin Lancaster, a twenty-six-year-old former kindergarten teacher, has her summer and her life all figured out. She’s ready to be on her own, writing and illustrating her children’s stories at her family’s beloved lake house. Once there, she intends to rekindle a romance with Caleb Jackson, the area’s top hunting and fishing guide, and bag him for herself.

Complications arise from the start when Robin finds out her mother has rented the lake house to a man they know nothing about.

Matthew McLaughlin, forty-year-old widowed university professor and author from California, shows up at Pine Lake in crisis. A sabbatical might be his only hope to save much more than his career. He needs a place of refuge. Sharing the lake house with a lighthearted young woman and her dog is the last thing on his mind.

Caleb Jackson has his own plans. He’s used to things going his way, but a man staying in Robin’s house presents unforeseen challenges. When paths unavoidably tangle for these three, hearts are on the line.

Genres: Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, INSPY Realistic Fiction, Introspective Literary Fiction, Women's Fiction

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9780998493312

Published by Chanson Books

on 6th March, 2019

Format: POD | Print On Demand Paperback

Pages: 373

Published By: Chanson Books

Formats Available: Trade paperback and ebook

Converse via: #RefugeAtPineLake and/or #PineHavenNovel
#INSPY w/ #ContemporaryFiction

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about pine haven | pine lake:

Whilst becoming introduced to the characters, you discover Pine Lake is a location where more than one of them is seeking not just refuge from life’s woes but a transitional setting to where they might find the freedom to redefine themselves and emerge into a new chapter where their futures might possibly take root without the hang-ups of the past continuing to burden their souls.

my review of refuge at pine lake:

There is nothing quite worse than a controlling parent, which Robin is soon finding herself dealing with when she learns of her mother’s interference with her plans to retreat to a lake where she remembered the best memories were shared with her father. She’s attempting to put her life back together – having placed it on hold to help her family when her father turned terminally ill but when she starts to show a bit of independence, she notices how quickly her mother recoils from the effort. It isn’t that she isn’t mindful of what her mother went through but she feels this is the right moment for her to break-free and to start to build the life she wants to pursue herself; even if that means dating a bloke her mother doesn’t necessarily believe is a good match. You feel for her on that score – as everyone has to make their own choices in life – in relationships and career; no one can make those choices for you, even if a controlling Mum thinks she can, ultimately its Robin whose going to have to decide who is right for her and why they fit her life in the ways in which they do.

As Johnson points out through Matt’s struggle to forgive himself a tragedy from his past, grief has a way of re-alighting into your life in ways you cannot fully understand until it happens. Matt has taken a trajectory of spiralling despair rather than attempting to seek the help he needed to resolve the emotional baggage and heartache he carries on his soul. The imprint of that tragedy on his life and his conscience is what is preventing him from finding the will to carry-on and be present in the here and now. He went through the motions, sure, but did he really find progress past the hurt, the sorrow and the anguish of what reality had presented to him? He’s on the cusp of not making it – of letting the grief overtake him to the point where he can no longer function and that is where his invention began whilst it continues as he makes his way towards Pine Lake.

I had to laugh. Mostly because it is something I regularly contemplate myself whenever I am observing people locked into their portable electronics! Johnson aptly describes what most of us who lead a more analogue life than a constantly plugged in digital one observe in others: how for whichever reason people forget that there is life outside their screens! This was a comment by Matt as he was about to catch his flight. I would imagine an airport or any mass transit transportation option would readily have people clued into their devices – perhaps this made it even more hilarious to me as it wasn’t too long ago that people who were delayed at airports would speak to each other rather than rely on communicating on a device!

There are moments like the kind Matt is experiencing which empathise our weathered souls – where physically, emotionally and spiritually we are taxed beyond repair. Johnson etches out this side of his soul’s journey by showing us how spent he truly is and how this respite he has undertaken at the lake is not just warranted but of absolute necessity. He needs a calm place to drink in the serenity of the setting if only to help soothe the edges off his spirit – a place he could potentially recapture the lighter side of living and find a reason to step forward rather than to hug closer to the past. You can feel his anguish alongside the light of hope Johnson tucks into these moments he’s living through as there is hopefulness alongside the despair.

When Robin started to share her feelings and thoughts about her connection to Caleb – the heart-throb of Pine Lake, you could see why her Mum hesitated to green-light the relationship! Still, the heart is one of those fickle decision-makers; it wants what it wants and when it wants it; half the time logic, reason and what is good for you are not a part of the equation! She almost wanted the relationship to work a bit too much and unfortunately for her, not for the right reasons. Her walk is a bit longer as they say, as she still hadn’t sorted out what she should go after in regards to a healthy relationship vs the kind of toxic building relationship which albeit being a dash of quick joy would only prove soul taxing in the end. She needed a bloke who was grounded, assured of himself and willing to navigate a partnership with equality vs the kind of relationship Caleb was chasing after which led only to further heartache.

You’d have found me smirking as I read the passages of where Matt and Robin quite literally were sharing the lake house without running into each other! She had the idea to share the space with him rather than leave him to the isolation he requested as she had her own motives for needing to be at Pine Lake. The irony of course, is how out of step he was towards human interactions – he was weary and exhausted; the kind of fatigue which doesn’t erase itself easily and the harder kind to shake when you need to interact with other humans. The only presence he accepted a bit more readily was Callie, the lovable dog who missed her deceased owner (Robin’s father). For Robin’s sake – it was a bit sombering to think she was here to cheer him up a bit to the idea of co-habituating the cabin when he was in theory already present. This is why I was smirking – seeing her point of view before seeing the reactions in Matt’s perspective on the same scenes. There was a lovely duality to how this was encompassed through Johnson’s knack for seguing between the two lead characters whose story is at the heart of the conjoined narrative.

Robin can cook for this foodie whenever she feels motivated, too! The light pesto pasta with sauteed shrimp in garlic and oil sounded wickedly scrumptious as did the fresh baked bread! I’m not too keen on seafood and fish, but there are a few exceptions to the rule, I must admit. Generally speaking – I’m most discerning when it comes to shrimp – no tails and it has to be made a certain way to be palatable but this recipe seemed to hit all the marks I look for in a shrimp dish. Personally I lean more towards scallops than shrimp and there is something to be said for a well cooked piece of haddock! You know, the kind that melts in your mouth?

There is an awkwardness to their first encounter – from the time it took Robin to settle into the lake house and the preparing of their dinner, you could tell this was straining Matt. For Robin’s sake, she was being the happy-go-lucky hostess you hoped to find in a landlord who wanted to stay-on whilst their property was being rented. Almost like a Bed & Breakfast arrangement but without the independence of not needing to check-in with the renter; or at least, you gathered this is what Matt hoped for most from this new arrangement. His feelings were raw and on the surface of his being – Robin was glossing over those signals because she was focusing on her own needs. I felt at some point she might pick up on his clues… read between what he is not saying and maybe even have a compassionate response.

Finding the will to re-transition back into the living is a work-in-progress journey Johnson excels at showcasing through Matt’s unwillingness to imagine a life post-death as he hasn’t yet come to terms with the loss of his wife. Part of me saw he hadn’t allowed himself the stages of grief – he didn’t let himself go through the motions you need to heal; he simply wanted to stay in the past, unwavering and rooted. It was through a lark of a meeting with Charlie where a flicker of understanding shining in another gentleman’s spirit gave me the hope that perhaps there is still a part of Matt which can be recovered. Charlie has gone through this ahead of Matt and perhaps, with his gentle nudging and encouragement, maybe there is a path for Matt to walk out of his grief.

What I loved about the length Johnson took to undertake this journey into the healing of Matt’s soul is how stillness and mindfulness play such a strong role in how the tides of his life begin to churn into a new direction. Nature and the natural environment which surrounds a setting like Pine Lake are a prime place to find internal renewal because it is singularly one of those kinds of places where you can let your guard down, allow your spirit to drink in the calm and let the serenity of singular moments of just ‘being still’ envelope you. This is where Matt started to notice he could be different, if only for brief spells and that in of itself was positive change.

Caleb rubs me wrong – the more you see of the bloke, the more cautionary you become of his presence. He has this alpha male vibe about him, where he has controlling tendencies and the way his mind jumps to conclusions certainly can’t be healthy. Yet, Robin is smitten by the bloke much as that boggles your mind as you read their scenes together – he isn’t really supportive of her but would rather put her down and in place than to give her the credit she deserves. I thought for sure when their mutual friend Jenny spoke on her behalf he’d cut the needling into her affairs but apparently he’s thickheaded as much as he’s clueless.

Johnson sets this into a proper potboiler of a drama as you have a stirring interest developing into a bit of a love triangle, as not only is Caleb trying to draw the attention of Robin but so is Matt; Matt the bloke who wanted to shutter the world off from his life and tuck into the abyss of a life spent in the hallowed halls of the past. The closer they come together as they share space and meals at the lake house, the more intensely aware they are of each other and this innate chemistry developing between them. Of course, this budding potential of a relationship isn’t sitting well with her current beau but then again, isn’t that what her Mum and sister tried to encourage her to accept? How love alights like a butterfly at a moment your not expecting?

I admit, I was expecting there to be an epic dust-up in this dramatic heart shifting romance because one thing was for certain from the beginning – all the key players were in the middle of their own evolution. Robin was redefining herself as an artist and storyteller whilst letting herself breathe outside the role she fulfilled as a teacher. Matt needed an honest and humbling chance to sort through his soul-wrenching anguish and Caleb was hyper focused on his brand, his business and the forward motion he needed to take to reach his goals. All of them were in the midst of a dramatic love story where each person had to come to their own realisations, conclusions and let time percolate the ending which would befit each of them in turn.

My favourite minor character was Charlie – the salt of the earth grandfatherly influence who helps Matt reset his life and gives Robin happier memories to latch onto about her father. He’s kind-hearted and has the right kind of timing to show up in your life almost as if he’s intuitive aware of your needs prior to realising what they might be yourself. His wisdom comes in quiet reflections of a life lived without regrets but full of his share of guttingly difficult loss and sorrow. Charlie is on the other end of the tunnel Matt has been walking through and that in of itself is how the two found themselves sharing such a strong bond.

Refuge at Pine Lake is one of those stirring accounts of life evolving through a spiritual awakening – where people need to take a respite away from their lives in order to sort out their most authentic selves. There is something preventing them from living a life which will grant them the most joy and happiness; the adversities of our lives are meant to test us but not to burden us past the point of return. Johnson has penned a dramatic INSPY Introspective Contemporary where you step through the footsteps of her characters Matt and Robin as they re-align themselves with the truth neither of them was ready to accept until they found themselves sharing a sabbatical at Pine Lake.

I am hopeful this is only the beginning of an on-going series – there are tangents and threads to continue to explore, minor characters to re-bridge into leading characters and a setting which has a serene affirmation of its own about the mercy, grace and forgiveness a faith-led life can provide.

Small Fly in the Ointment:

The only thing I wished had been included early-on when Deborah and Robin were discussing the rental cabin is knowing the name of the renter, as for whichever reason the only thing which confused me a bit was how Matt was entering the story – until I realised he was the renter and then everything re-fused back together for me. I think because I almost felt he was another thread of the story which was not connected to the cabin itself or potentially he was a resident of the lakeside community; already established and not a first timer.

on the inspy contemporary fiction styling of rose chandler johnson:

Ms Johnson has a realistic tone etched into her INSPY narrative which I personally love finding – she presents her characters in the height of their transitions – meaning, as we enter into Robin and her mother Deborah’s lives they are experiencing a life shift together as something prompted their relocations whilst at the same time, other characters who are coming into the story-line are going through their own trial and tribulations to where they too, are on the fringes of change to erupt into their life. She has a quick pacing to how she delivers her story – getting you the facts you need to understand where we are entering her characters’ lives and then, giving us a heap to chew on thereafter as we pick up the threads of what is happening now.

Her style of writing Contemporary Fiction has a quickening to it – she doesn’t draw out the narrative bits but rather fuses the most immediate emotions from her characters into the context of the story whilst moving the timeline forward with bursts of dialogue and more background information. It isn’t oft I find this style of writing – in either mainstream or INSPY stories, as I have the tendency to seek out the longer narrative style, where there is more flushing out of the inbetween bits I’ve come to love to read. However, Johnson handles this quicker pace well – she owns the pacing she’s developed and although it might come across a bit more clipped round the edges for readers who aren’t familiar with this style, she endeavours you to stay rooted in the novel.

I finally sorted out her style! It is a fine piece of Introspective Literary Fiction moreso than Contemporary INSPY – though it brokers itself into both categories of literature because of how she thread the two together! Introspectively intuitive to the long process of self-care and self-healing (as viewed through the character arc of Matt) whilst it is a firm entry in Contemporary INSPY for how guided her characters are through their faith. Robin is a catalyst in this story-line to curate change for a bloke whose not just down on his luck but has reached the bottom of the barrel so to speak on the will to find a reason to thrive. He’s lost the joy of living and Pine Lake isn’t just a refuge but a place which becomes his saving grace.

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As you know, I enjoy listening to music whilst I’m reading – for this selection, I decided to opt to listen to a new station for me via Pandora Radio: Today’s Christian Hits. I generally listen to Christian playlists via Storify but for whichever reason, Storify is wrecked by tech issues these days. I returnt to Pandora and am slowly building up the stations I enjoy on that platform instead. This novel is an INSPY Contemporary and I knew listening to uplifting music would be a great soundtrack to coincide with the story-line. If your seeking Contemporary Christian artists to listen to with you Contemporary INSPY readings, I highly recommend you trying this station as I gave a lot of songs the ‘thumbs up’ whilst I blogged my ruminative thoughts for “Refuge at Pine Lake”!! Happy listening!

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This review tour is courtesy of: Prism Book Tours

Review Tour for Refuge at Pine Lake via Prism Book Tours

Due to a major plumbing fiasco for the second time round, my review of this novel was delayed in reaching my readers. It took me a week to recover my energies and although I intended to post my review as close to the final day of the review tour as I could as a result of what evolved shortly thereafter only brought more stress, strife & adversity to my family – I had to continue to push my review forward til the day arrived where I could focus on reading & blogging once again. Aye. I regret the distance from the deadline but I read and reviewed this as quickly as I could re-focus upon the story.

This book review is cross-posted to LibraryThing.

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Reading this novel counted towards some of my 2019 reading challenges:

2019 New Release Challenge created by mylimabeandesigns.com for unconventionalbookworms.com and is used with permission.

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “Refuge at Pine Lake” and the book synopsis as well as the review tour badge were provided by Prism Book Tours and are used with permission. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. 2019 New Release Challenge created by mylimabeandesigns.com for unconventionalbookworms.com and is used with permission. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: #INSPYSundays banner Historical Fiction Reading Challenge banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Sunday, 8 September, 2019 by jorielov in #INSPYSundays, #JorieLovesIndies, 21st Century, Balance of Faith whilst Living, Blog Tour Host, Book Review (non-blog tour), Contemporary Romance, Family Drama, Fathers and Daughters, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, INSPY Realistic Fiction | Non-Fiction, Introspective Literary Fiction, Life Shift, Modern Day, Prism Book Tours, Second Chance Love, Small Towne Fiction, Small Towne USA, Terminal Illness &/or Cancer, Women's Fiction

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2 responses to “#INSPYSundays | Book Review tour feat. “Refuge at Pine Lake” (A Pine Haven novel) by Rose Chandler Johnson

    • Hallo, Hallo Ms Johnson,

      I am so very thankful you’ve caught my s/o to you via Twitter – I wasn’t sure how else to let you know this review was finally live and posted. I am grateful you were able to visit and tuck into the notes I left behind about your story. You truly have moved my heart with this novel and I can’t wait to see what develops further as you re-explore this series and the world you have created within the Pine Haven series. I am full of gratitude to have been one of the selected reviewers on the review tour.

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