True to You (Bradford Sister Romance #1)
By: Becky Wade
Release Date: May 2nd, 2017
Rating: 5/5 beakers
Nora slipped her hands into the pockets of her sweat shirt. She’d dressed in work-out gear this morning because she’d had an industrious plan to hit the gym at some point this Saturday. But then she’d spent ages agonizing over how much to charge John before finally crafting and emailing him a bill. She’s picked up the Silverstone Chronicles, sunk two hours into reading, visited her favorite fiction blogs, updated her progress on Goodreads.com, and switched out her winter wardrobe for her summer wardrobe. She never did make it to the gym, yet here she stood in her yoga pants, Hogwarts Alumni T-shirt, and sweat shirt.
To be honest, this book was mostly a cover buy for me. I’m a sucker for books with pretty dresses on the cover (The Selection series, anyone?), and the dress here is elegant enough to make me want to find it in real life. Although I’m usually pretty picky about my contemporary Christian fiction, the premise sounded interesting enough, so I added it to the pile of other books I was buying that day.
I’m so glad I did, because I really fell in love with this book. More specifically, though, I fell in love with Nora.
Nora Bradford is basically me. She’s a huge fan of BBC shows, she has more books than can reasonably fit into her house, her fashion sense leans more towards comfortable than classy, and she falls head over heels for fictional men. Aside from not running my own historical village, reading about Nora’s life was like reading about my own life, and I liked her from page one. Unsurprisingly, I related to her infatuation with the stoic and heroic John Lawson and her nosiness in looking him up online, and I laughed at loud at Nora’s excitement when she got the opportunity to work with the former Navy SEAL. The chance to show off her research skills and work with a handsome man? Who wouldn’t be excited?
What I really admire about Nora, though, is her dedication to her village. The village is her baby, and even though it holds a lot of painful memories, she takes the high road and does her best to make the community a place of learning and friendship. As a girl from a small town, I know how hard it is to avoid running into people with whom you have a painful past, and Nora’s dealings with the Dreaded Harrison and Rory show a level of maturity that many people don’t have. It also shows that although she’s still hurt over Harrison’s actions, Nora is strong enough to find a sense of contentment with her lot in life. She has her books, she has her village, she has her sisters, and she has Adolphus Brook, her favorite character on Northamptonshire to get her through.
Luckily, John Lawson appears to shake up Nora’s status quo. I really like John; he’s very down to Earth despite his fame, he’s honorable and hardworking, and he’s calm in the face of life-changing revelations. His reason for seeking out Nora’s help is a devastating diagnosis and the desire to learn more about his biological family to help make sense of his medical condition. I would never wish blindness on anyone, but instead of outright panicking like I would, John makes the difficult choice to seek out his birth mother and see what information she can give him about his family medical history. I love that John manages to be both strong and vulnerable. He isn’t afraid to put his foot down and boss Nora around when he feels it’s needed, but he’s deeply worried about how his blindness will change his future. He’s also very concerned about how his search for his birth mother will affect his adoptive parents, which I thought was so sweet. John never wants to hurt anyone he cares for, but he’s not afraid to go after the answers he needs.
Between John’s search for his birth mother and Nora’s dealings with her sisters, family is a major focus of this book. There are a lot of different family situations presented with all the different characters, and I loved seeing that family isn’t just the people with whom you share blood. Nora and her sisters are so much fun to read about; the three of them couldn’t be more different, and I loved seeing how their diverse personalities led them to find their paths in life. Willow and Britt both love teasing Nora, but they obviously want her to be happy, and they’re more than willing to offer their opinions and their expertise–solicited or not–to help Nora find love. On John’s end, I loved his adoptive parents. They love John with all their hearts, and they couldn’t be prouder of him and his heroism. When John tells them of his diagnosis, they’re broken, both because their son is hurting and because they can’t do anything to help them. They encourage John in his search for his birth mother, and the hold no animosity towards the mystery women–they see her choice as a gift from God in that it gave them the son of their hearts. John eventually realizes what he’s known all along, which is that his parents are and have always been the couple who raised him, who love him with everything they are and who thank God every day for being given the gift that is John.
Within this theme of family, this is also a story about faith in God–faith in His love, faith in His plan, faith in His steadfastness. Nora and John are both thrown a lot of curves, and each one is more devastating than the last. The issues these two had to deal with broke my heart. From Nora’s realization that John is unavailable to John’s realization that he has to stop seeing Nora to be faithful to Allie, from Nora’s revelation about her mother’s murder to John’s revelation about his diagnosis and finally to the discovery of the identity of John’s father, there are a lot of tough issues covered in this book. The most frightening realization for me, though, was that these are all things people deal with on a daily basis. And just because people deal with them all the time doesn’t mean that they’re any easier to deal with. Nora and John deeply struggle with all these realities, and although their initial reactions are to try to maintain control, they both realize that there’s nothing they can do about their situations. Both make the tough choice to hand everything over to God and trust in His will for their lives, whether that will is for them to be together or not.
A lot of Christians, myself included, have a really hard time relying on God enough to let Him have complete control, and it was really inspiring to see Nora and John, as broken as they were, give it all to God and let their paths lead where they would. That takes an insane amount of faith and love, and it’s something I struggle with, especially when it comes to my singleness. Nora’s realization that she has been fighting God’s will for her life since her broken engagement helped me realize how much I’ve been relying on my own strength to find The One God has chosen for me when I really should be trusting that God will lead my future husband into my life when the time is right. That wasn’t a truth I was expecting to be confronted with when I picked up this book for the pretty dress on the cover, but I’m so so grateful that I got to see such a powerful reminder of this need in my life in Nora’s story.
The ending is so incredibly sweet, and although I never doubted that Nora and John would end up together, the rocky road they travel to return to one another shows how hard the fight for true love can be. John buying Nora her dream chapel is such an amazing gesture, and it shows just how much he’s willing to put into their relationship. It’s the perfect response to Nora’s letter, and I loved that all of Nora’s family and friends helped John pull off the purchase and the move to Nora’s village–it showed how much everyone recognized and rejoiced in the love between Nora and John and wanted to help them find one another again. And it tied together the themes of family and faith with a love and a relationship that would’ve never been possible without the love and goodness of God.
True to You is a book full of sisterhood, romance, fangirling, secrets, laughter, and emotional punches. Nora and John have amazing chemistry, but they have to face struggles of health, faith, and identity before they find their happy ending. Because of John’s condition, their future is still somewhat uncertain, but they will certainly always have one another to lean on and love, which is all I could’ve asked for them. And the fact that bookish fangirl Nora manages to find such a strong, compassionate, and Godly man gives me hope for finding my own happily ever after. I can’t wait for Britt and Willow’s books to see how love finds them and to see how Nora and John are doing.
If you’re looking for a book that will make you laugh, bring you to tears, and force you to take a hard look at your faith, True to You is the book you’re looking for.
- “If a dragon had swooped down during our meeting, I think John would have stood up, wiped the crumbs from his hands, and taken care of it.” “I love men who can fell dragons.”
- Until now, Nora hadn’t realized that she found punctuality sexy in the extreme.
- It was the sort of beautiful that made your heart hurt and tugged at the bravest and most fanciful parts of you.
- “We want men to fall in love with out underlying qualities.” Willow picked up a wooden spoon and held it like a professor would a pointer. “Our characters, our heart, our personality. The things that make us uniquely us–” “I’d be fine if a man fell in love with me because of my Death by Chocolate truffle,” Britt said. “And I’d be fine if a man fell in love with me for my Northamptonshire DVD collection,” Nora said.
- Today, God was reminding her that she shouldn’t expect to receive everything she wanted in life. The things you wanted and prayed for and didn’t receive left holes in your heart and sometimes in your historical village, too. As much as Nora wanted to rail against that, she had to concede that the holes were what the Lord used to mature and humble His people. The things you didn’t receive added value to your life, the same as did the things you received. Life had holes. Life was still beautiful.
- Who had time to watch football when there were so many fantastic books in the world yet unread?
- “The present is all we’re given anyway. When we get to the future, God will be there. He’ll supply whatever we need for each day.”