Author: Celeste Fletcher McHale
Reviewed by Alexis A. Goring
This story was a rare read for me because, for the first time in months, I enjoyed every single page of this full-length novel from the prologue through the epilogue.
Normally, novels that are full-length bore me before the end and I find myself skipping over the details and speed-reading. But not with this book! The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories piqued my interest from the first page of the prologue and made me keep turning the page. I think part of this was due to the captivating characters that are not only relatable but very REAL. This is not your standard HEA (Happily Ever After) Christian fiction story where no one gets hurt too deeply and happiness prevails. No! This story is filled with fictional characters that deal with real issues that people in the REAL WORLD face and the way they handle their issues and come full circle inspired me.
This story is about a man named Colin and a woman named Jacey. She’s a magazine writer, he’s a preacher. They are very attracted to each other, for all the right reasons. But it’s much more than your average “guy meets girl, they date and fall in love, they have a black moment but it all works out in the end” story. No! Jacey and Colin’s relationship had its mountain highs, valley-lows and loads of personal issues to work through but the author handled their story with great finesse. I’m amazed at how she carefully introduced readers to their backstory, their individual struggles, their heartache, and pain. She did it in a way that kept me turning the page to find out what happens next and along the way, I grew to really care about these main characters and want the best for their fictional life stories.
The premise for this story is not only original—it’s relevant. The author took her inspiration from the flood of 2016 that devastated Louisiana. She began the story with her hero and heroine saying goodbye after being stranded on the roof of a house in a rural part of Louisiana that was engulfed by floodwaters. Their goodbye was not final because they were being rescued but it was the catalyst that propelled them into the Hero’s Journey, which is a term used by screenwriters and well played out in this story.
The author paid great attention to detail in carefully creating a journey for Jacey and Colin that’s not only believable but heartwarming. Like peeling back the layers of an onion, every scene of this story is important in taking the reader to the core. And just like peeling an onion in real-life, you don’t survive without crying. But this story is not sad and won’t depress you. You might cry as you feel empathy for the characters’ tribulations but you will also shed tears of joy, especially as you read the epilogue.
I can’t say much more about this story without giving a way every glorious detail of the characters’ journey. So I will close by saying that this book is well worth your time. So pour a glass full of your favorite beverage, carve out two or four hours of your time to curl up on a couch and read this story. Drink deeply. It’s very refreshing!
*Disclosure: I received this book free from Fiction Guild. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.