New assistant county attorney Ivy Madison simply doesn’t know any better when she bids on Darek at the charity auction. Nor does she know that when she crafted a plea bargain three years ago to keep Jensen Atwood out of jail and in Deep Haven fulfilling community service, she was releasing the man responsible for Felicity’s death. All Ivy knows is that the Christiansens feel like the family she’s always longed for. And once she gets past Darek’s tough exterior, she finds a man she could spend the rest of her life with. Which scares her almost as much as Darek learning of her involvement in his wife’s case.
Caught between new love and old grudges, Darek must decide if he can set aside the past for a future with Ivy—a future more and more at risk as an approaching wildfire threatens to wipe out the Christiansen resort and Deep Haven itself.
Yes, this was another romance novel....not sure why I chose to read this one. However, I was more enthralled with the inner turmoil that the main characters were going through than the actual romance of the novel. You can guess what happens in the end....just like every other romance novel.
The character's hearts and thoughts were on display quite vividly in this story by Warren. Poor choices made in the flesh affect so many more people than just the person making the choice. It takes a while to make that choice right again, but the first step is admitting that it was your fault. The heart can only take so much before it has turned cold to the Spirit's promptings. Bitterness does only eat away at the person harboring it...but the anger that comes with it is normally pointed directly at the people who are closest to that person.
I loved the way Warren weaved the leading of the Spirit through the story on each character's lives. God is powerful and God is kind, it's our perspective on situations that causes us to think He doesn't care!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Tyndale House Publishers for review.
1. This is the first installment in a brand new six-book series. Can you give us a bit of background on this
I love stories about families – watching the members interact and grow together through
challenges and victories – and I conceived this series as I watched my own children begin to grow
up and deal with romance and career and futures. I love Deep Haven, and it’s the perfect setting
for a resort, so I crafted a family, much like the families I know, who run a resort. They want to
pass on their legacy to their children…but their children don’t know if they want it. It’s sort of a
parallel theme to the legacy of faith we instill in our children. As they grow older, they need to
decide whether it is their faith too. It’s a saga about family and faith and what happens when
those collide with real life.
2. This Christiansen Family series is set in Deep Haven, Minnesota. Tell us about this setting.
Deep Haven, Minnesota is based in a small vacation town in northern Minnesota where I spent
my childhood. It’s located on Lake Superior, surrounded by pine and birch and the sense of small
town and home. Populated by everyone from artists to lumberjacks, it’s Mitford, or perhaps
Northern Exposure gone Minnesotan. Quaint, quirky and beautiful, it’s the perfect place to
escape for a vacation.
3. What was your inspiration for this particular book and the main character Darek Christiansen?
As I started to put together this series, I began to think about our culture and our children today.
I started to take a look at the big questions we are faced with as parents – and as young people;
the issues that affect us as a culture, as well as personally. I wanted these books to go beyond
family drama, beyond a great romance to raise bigger questions and stir truths that we might
pass along to others. This story is about our propensity in our culture to blame others for what
goes wrong in our lives – and how this alienates us from each other, and ultimately, God. Darek
is the oldest brother in the family; the leader and a real hero. He’s a wildland firefighter and a
widower who’s had to give up his job to come home and run the resort and care for his young
son. Darek doesn’t realize he has a problem – he lives with anger on his shoulder, hating the
man who killed his wife (his best friend). His real problem is that he can’t forgive himself. In this
first story, readers meet the family, hang out at the resort and discover that God can redeem
even a heart of stone, if we take a chance on Him.
Chapter 1 Excerpt
My dearest Darek,
Even as I write this letter, I know I’ll tuck it away; the words on it are more of a prayer,
meant for the Lord more than you. Or maybe, in the scribbling upon this journal page, the
words might somehow find your heart, a cry that extends across the bond of mother and
The firstborn child is always the one who solves the mystery of parenthood. Before I
had you, I watched other mothers and wondered at the bond between a child and a parent,
the strength of it, the power to mold a woman, making her put all hopes and wishes into
this tiny bundle of life that she had the responsibility to raise.
It’s an awe-filled, wonderful, terrifying act to have a child, for you suddenly wear your
heart on the outside of your body. You risk a little more each day as he wanders from your
arms into the world. You, Darek, were no protector of my heart. You were born with a
willfulness, a courage, and a bent toward adventure that would bring me to the edge of my
faith and keep me on my knees. The day I first saw you swinging from that too-enticing oak
tree into the lake should have told me that I would be tested.
Your brothers shortened your name to Dare, and you took it to heart. I was never so
terrified as the day you came home from Montana, fresh from your first year as a hotshot,
feeling your own strength. I knew your future would take you far from Evergreen Lake. I
feared it would take you far, also, from your legacy of faith.
Watching your son leave your arms has no comparison to watching him leave God’s.
You never seemed to question the beliefs your father and I taught you. Perhaps that is
what unsettled me the most, because without questioning, I wondered how there could be
true understanding. I held my breath against the day when it would happen—life would
shatter you and leave your faith bereft.
And then it did.
It brought you home, in presence if not soul. If it hadn’t been for your son, I might have
done the unthinkable—stand in our gravel driveway and bar you from returning, from
Because, my courageous, bold oldest son, that is what you are doing. Hiding. Bitter and
dark, you have let guilt and regret destroy your foundation, imprison you, and steal your
joy. You may believe you are building a future for your son, but without faith, you have
nothing to build it on. Evergreen Resort is not just a place. It’s a legacy. A foundation. A
It’s the best of what I have to give you. That, and my unending prayers that somehow
God will destroy those walls you’ve constructed around your heart.
Darek, you have become a mystery to me again. I don’t know how to help free you. Or
to restore all you’ve lost. But I believe that if you give God a chance, He will heal your
heart. He will give you a future. He will truly lead you home.
C h a p t e r 1
Ivy Madison would do just about anything to stay in the secluded, beautiful, innocent town of
Even if she had to buy a man.
A bachelor, to be exact, although maybe not the one currently standing on the stage of the
Deep Haven Emergency Services annual charity auction. He looked like a redneck from the
woolly woods of northern Minnesota, with curly dark-blond hair, a skim of whiskers on his face,
and a black T-shirt that read, Hug a logger—you’ll never go back to trees. Sure, he filled out his
shirt and looked the part in a pair of ripped jeans and boots, but he wore just a little too much
“Come and get me, girls,” in his smile.
The auctioneer on stage knew how to work his audience. He regularly called out names from
the crowd to entice them to bid. And apparently the town of Deep Haven loved their firefighters,
EMTs, and cops because the tiny VFW was packed, the waitresses running out orders of bacon
cheeseburgers and hot wings to the bidding crowd.
After the show was over, a local band would take the stage. The auction was part of the
summer solstice festival—the first of many summer celebrations Deep Haven hosted. Frankly it
felt like the village dreamed up events to lure tourists, but Ivy counted it as her welcoming party.
Oh, how she loved this town. And she’d only lived here for roughly a day. Imagine how she’d
love it by the end of the summer, after she’d spent three months learning the names of locals,
investing herself into this lakeside hamlet.
Her days of hitching her measly worldly possessions—four hand-me-down suitcases; a loose
cardboard box of pictures; a garbage bag containing The Elements of Legal Style, How to Argue
and Win Every Time, and To Kill a Mockingbird; and most of all, her green vintage beach bike—
onto the back of her red Nissan Pathfinder were over.
Time to put down roots. Make friends.
Okay, buying a friend didn’t exactly qualify, but the fact that her money would go to help the
local emergency services seemed like a good cause. And if Ivy had learned anything growing up
in foster care, it was that a person had to work the system to get what she wanted.
She should be unpacking; she started work in the morning. But how long would it take, really,
to settle into the tiny, furnished efficiency apartment over the garage behind the Footstep of
Heaven Bookstore? And with her new job as assistant county attorney, she expected to have
plenty of free time. So when the twilight hues of evening had lured her into the romance of a
walk along the shoreline of the Deep Haven harbor, she couldn’t stop herself.
She couldn’t remember the last time she’d taken a lazy walk, stopping at storefronts, reading
the real estate ads pasted to the window of a local office.
Cute, two-bedroom log cabin on Poplar Lake. She could imagine the evergreen smell
nudging her awake every morning, the twitter of cardinals and sparrows as she took her cup of
coffee on the front porch.
Except she loved the bustle of the Deep Haven hamlet. Nestled on the north shore of
Minnesota, two hours from the nearest hint of civilization, the fishing village–turned–tourist
hideaway had enough charm to sweet-talk Ivy out of her Minneapolis duplex and make her
Dream of home, really. A place. Friends. Maybe even a dog. And here, in a town where
everyone belonged, she would too.
She had wandered past the fudge and gift shop, past the walk-up window of World’s Best Donuts, where the smell of cake donuts nearly made her follow her sweet tooth inside. At the
corner, the music drew her near to the VFW. Ford F-150s, Jeeps, and a handful of SUVs jammed
the postage-size dirt parking lot.
She’d stopped at the entrance, reading the poster for today’s activities, then peered in through
the windows. Beyond a wood-paneled bar and a host of long rectangular tables, a man stood on
the stage, holding up a fishing pole.
And that’s when Deep Haven reached out and hooked her.
“Are you going in?”
She’d turned toward the voice and seen a tall, solidly built middle-aged man with dark hair,
wearing a jean jacket. A blonde woman knit her hand into his.
“I . . .”
“C’mon in,” the woman said. “We promise not to bite. Well, except for Eli here. I make no
promises with him.” She had smiled, winked, and Ivy could feel her heart gulp it whole. Oh, why
had she never learned to tamp down her expectations? Life had taught her better.
Eli shook his head, gave the woman a fake growl. Turned to Ivy. “Listen, it’s for a good
cause. Our fire department could use a new engine, and the EMS squad needs more training for
their staff, what few there are. You don’t have to buy anything, but you might help drive up the
bids.” He winked. “Don’t tell anyone I told you that, though.”
She laughed. “I’m Ivy Madison,” she said, too much enthusiasm in her voice. “Assistant
“Of course you are. I should have guessed. Eli and Noelle Hueston.” Noelle stuck out her
hand. “Eli’s the former sheriff. Hence the fact that we’ve come with our checkbook. C’mon, I’ll
tell you who to bid on.”
Who to bid on?
Ivy had followed them inside, taking a look around the crowded room. Pictures of soldiers
hung in metal frames, along with listings of member names illuminated by neon bar signs. The
smells of deep-fried buffalo wings, beer, and war camaraderie were embedded in the darkpaneled walls.
A line formed around the pool table near the back of the room—what looked like former
glory-day athletes lined up with their beers or colas parked on the round tables. Two men threw
darts into an electronic board.
Then her gaze hiccuped on a man sitting alone near the jukebox, sending a jolt of familiarity
For a moment, she considered talking to him—not that he’d know her, but maybe she’d
introduce herself, tell him, I’m the one who put together your amazing plea agreement. Yes, that
had been a hot little bit of legalese. The kind that had eventually landed her right here, in her
dream job, dream town.
But Noelle glanced back and nodded for Ivy to follow, so she trailed behind them to an open
“Every year, on the last night of the solstice festival, we have a charity auction. It’s gotten to
be quite an event,” Noelle said, gesturing to a waitress. She came over and Eli ordered a basket
of wings, a couple chocolate malts. Ivy asked for a Coke.
“What do they auction?”
“Oh, fishing gear. Boats. Snowblowers. Sometimes vacation time-shares in Cancún.
Whatever people want to put up for charity. But this year, they have something special on the agenda.” Noelle leaned close, her eyes twinkling. Ivy already liked her. And the way Eli had her
hand wrapped in his. What might it be like to be in love like that? That kind of love . . . well, Ivy
had only so many wishes, and she’d flung them all at living here, in Deep Haven.
“What?” Ivy asked.
“They’re auctioning off the local bachelors.”
And as if on cue, that’s when the lumberjack bachelor had taken the stage.
Ivy sipped her Coke, watching the frenzy.
“So are you going to bid?” Noelle asked.
Ivy raised a shoulder.
The lumberjack went for two hundred dollars, too rich for Ivy’s blood, to a woman wearing a
moose antler headband. He flexed for her as he walked off stage, and the crowd erupted.
A clean-cut, handsome young man took the stage next, to the whoops of the younger crowd
down front. “That’s my son,” Noelle said, clearly enjoying the spectacle. He seemed about
nineteen or twenty, tall and wearing a University of Minnesota, Duluth, T-shirt. He was built like
an athlete and had a swagger to match.
“He plays basketball for the UMD Bulldogs,” Noelle said. She placed the first bid and got a
glare from the young man on stage.
A war started between factions in the front row. “Should I bid?” Ivy asked. Not that she
would know what to do with a bachelor ten years younger than her. Maybe she could get him to
mow her lawn.
“No. Save your money for Owen Christiansen.”
Probably another lumberjack from the woods, with a flannel shirt and the manners of a
grizzly. Ivy affected a sort of smile.
“Maybe you’ve heard of him? He plays hockey for the Minnesota Wild.”
“He’s something of a local celebrity. Played for our hometown team and then got picked up
by the Wild right after high school.”
“I’m not much of a hockey fan.”
“Honey, you can’t live in Deep Haven and not be a hockey fan.” Noelle grinned, turning
away as the wings arrived.
Ivy ignored the way the words found tender space and stabbed her in the chest. But see, she
wanted to live in Deep Haven . . .
Noelle offered her a wing, but Ivy turned it down. “Owen’s parents, John and Ingrid
Christiansen, run a resort about five miles out of town. It’s one of the legacy resorts—his greatgrandfather settled here in the early nineteen hundreds and set up a logging camp. It eventually
turned into one of the hot recreation spots on the north shore, although in today’s economy,
they’re probably struggling along with the rest of the Deep Haven resorts. I’m sure Owen’s
appearance on the program is a bid for some free publicity. Owen is the youngest son of the clan,
one of six children. I’m sure you’ll meet them—all but two still live in Deep Haven.”
A redhead won the bachelor on stage and ran up to claim her purchase. Ivy escaped to the
What if she did bid on Owen? Truly, the last thing she needed in her life was a real bachelor.
Someone she might fall for, someone who could so easily break her heart.
Maybe she could ask said bachelor to show her around Deep Haven. Teach her about hockey.
Certainly it might give her a little social clout to be seen with the town celebrity.
She could faintly hear the announcer stirring up the fervor for the next contestant, then a trickle of applause for the main attraction as he took the stage. She walked out, standing by the
bar to survey this hometown hero.
They grew them big up here in the north woods. Indeed, he looked like a hockey champion,
with those wide shoulders, muscular arms stretching the sleeves of his deep-green shirt that read
Evergreen Resort—memories that live forever. He stood at ease like one might do in the military,
wearing jeans that hugged his legs all the way down to the work boots on his feet. The man
looked like an impenetrable fortress, not a hint of marketing in his face. So much for winning the
In fact, to use the only hockey term she knew, he looked like he’d just been checked hard into
the boards and come up with some sort of permanent scowl, none too happy to be standing in the
middle of the stage of the local VFW as the main attraction.
“C’mon, everyone, who will start the bidding for our Deep Haven bachelor tonight?”
Ivy looked around the room. It had hushed to a pin-drop silence, something not quite right
simmering in the air. She glanced over to where Jensen Atwood had been sitting and found his
On stage, the man swallowed. Shifted. Pursed his lips. Oh, poor Owen. Her heart knocked her
hard in the chest. She knew exactly what it felt like not to be wanted.
“One hundred dollars? Who has it tonight for our local hero?”
She scanned the room, saw patrons looking away as if embarrassed. Even Eli and Noelle had
taken a sudden interest in their dinner.
Owen sighed and shook his head.
And right then, the pain of the moment squeezed the words from Ivy’s chest. “Five hundred
Every eye turned toward her, and for a moment, she had the crazy but horribly predictable
urge to flee. But the words were out, so she took a step forward, toward the stage. “I bid five
hundred dollars,” she said again, fighting the wobble in her voice.
Ivy shot a look at Noelle, expecting approval. But Noelle wore an expression of what she
could only pinpoint as panic. Wasn’t she the one who’d suggested Ivy buy the man?