A Q&A for this new #inspy romance release... If for Any Reason by Courtney Walsh (Interview & #Giveaway) @TyndaleHouse

I've been a fan of this author since reading Paper Hearts years ago and have been
looking forward to her newest. Find an interview with the author and my review below...

If for Any Reason
By Courtney Walsh
Christian Contemporary Romance, Time-slip
Paperback & ebook, 416 Pages
February 3rd 2020 by Tyndale House Publishers


Emily Ackerman has traveled the world, her constant compass and companion a book of letters her mother left for her when she died. With no father in the picture, her mom's advice has been her only true north. But when professional failure leads Emily back to Nantucket to renovate and sell the family cottage she inherited, she wonders if her mom left advice to cover this . . . especially when her grandmother arrives to "supervise." And especially when her heart becomes entangled with Hollis McGuire, the boy next door-turned-baseball star who's back on the island after a career-ending injury.

As sparks fly between her and Hollis, Emily is drawn to island life, even as she uncovers shocking secrets about the tragic accident that led to her mother's death. With her world turned upside down, Emily must choose between allowing the voices from her past to guide her future or forging her own path forward.

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What compelled you to write If for Any Reason?

I used to be very involved in the scrapbooking world, and a big part of the reason why was that I loved the whole idea of “leaving a legacy.” I wanted to preserve our family's stories through words and photos. One idea that has always stuck with me was the idea of writing letters to your child just in case (or if for any reason) you weren’t there to share important lessons along the way. As a mom, there are certain things I want my kids to know, and what better way to make sure they know them (no matter what) than by writing them down in letter form? I’ve always been smitten with the idea of handwritten letters, so here was a chance to meld all the things I love together in one story.

What role does faith play in this story?

I like to take a look at our raw feelings as we wrestle with our faith. Specifically, I think if we grew up in church, it can be hard to navigate feelings of anger toward God. I will admit that in the aftermath of my daughter’s cancer diagnosis, I settled into a strange funk—Where were you, God? Why did you let this happen? God was pretty blunt with me, reminding me that this really wasn’t about me. This was my daughter’s story—and there was a purpose for it all that I had yet to understand. Still, I’ve had some pretty big feelings to sort through. It was natural then to bring that into this story. Emily, my heroine, lost her mom when she was very young. How hard would it be to wrap your head around that, to grow up believing that God is good? I wanted to show her wrestling with those feelings because I believe God can handle those big questions. He can even handle it when we’re angry with him. I wasn’t taught that in Sunday school—that it was okay to feel upset sometimes. But in his kind and gentle way, God lovingly takes that anger and helps us make sense of it—that is, if we continue asking and seeking. Emily has a journey to go on, and her faith (or lack of faith) is challenged because of her past. I found that journey mirrored my own in some ways . . . and I’m so thankful that God has been so patient with me.

This story highlights many family relationship dynamics. How have your own familial relationships shaped this story?

I think for me, when I was writing the letters from Emily’s mother, I was able to really ask myself what I would want to say to my own daughter. During the writing of this novel, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of seventeen, so it was a difficult thing to actually tackle the mother/daughter dynamic I’d outlined in my synopsis. I went into it with these sort of raw emotions about life and how it can throw you curveballs and all the many things I wanted my daughter to know. Not things I wanted to tell her, but things I wanted her to know for herself. My own family is a little like Hollis’s family, I think. I really wanted him to have a solid family, so I imagined what my husband and I might be like when we were older with grown children and wrote them that way.

Romance is at the core of this story. What factors come into play when crafting a love story?

I think it’s important to ask why these two should be together and what is keeping them apart. Conflict is key, and it can’t be coincidental and it can’t feel trite. You have to give your hero and heroine legitimate reasons to stay apart; otherwise it all falls flat. I also think there needs to be more than just physical attraction bringing two people together. Why do they actually love each other? Those motivations need to be clear and understandable.

What made you decide to set this story in Nantucket?

A writer friend actually. She knew I really loved Nantucket (I’ve been there twice) and we were brainstorming a completely different story when she said, “Why don’t you set a story in Nantucket?” I had never set a story in a real place (and there are a lot of challenges that go with that), but I started to entertain the idea. I was driving back from a writing retreat in Branson (about six hours) and I just let my mind wander . . . By the time I got home from that trip, I had envisioned an entirely new story. I knew it meant starting over, but I was so excited about it, and I absolutely loved digging in to all my own Nantucket memories plus researching the island to create a beautiful new setting.

This book explores loss and personal failure. What made you want to write these themes into the story?

Both of these themes are universal. We’ve all experienced loss (or can imagine the pain of it) and most of us have also had some sort of personal failure. How do you bounce back when the dream you put everything into fails? What now? I love the idea of starting over. I love that God can take a dream and reinvent it, so life may not turn out the way we want it to, but maybe the shift becomes something better. That’s a powerful thing to think of when it feels like everything has gone sideways.

What lessons can be learned from our failures, or how can our past be redeemed?

Failure isn’t the end. That’s so important to keep in mind because in the midst of the hard stuff, it’s easy to forget. It’s so easy to get lost in the sorrow that accompanies the loss of a job or a relationship or any other personal failure. But there’s always, always a second chance. Nothing is ever so far gone it cannot be redeemed. I believe in taking time to grieve a loss, but then moving forward. I believe God is a giver of second chances, and no mistake is too big for him to forgive. There’s such power and hope in knowing that.

Which character in this story was your favorite to craft?

Jolie. I’ve heard that many authors shy away from writing kids into their stories, but I work with kids, so I love to include them in my books. Jolie is like a bright burst of sunshine. Kids tend to say what they think without hesitation, and that is something we lose as adults. I loved writing this broken father/daughter relationship and finding tender moments between Hollis and his daughter.

What distinguishes If for Any Reason from other summer love stories?

If for Any Reason is definitely a romance, but I think what makes it unique is that it also explores deep family relationships, past hurts, buried secrets, and it does it all on a beautiful Nantucket backdrop.

How do you hope this novel resonates with readers?

My hope is always that a reader will walk away from one of my books feeling like it packed more depth than they expected in a romance novel. And of course, I hope it’s a wonderful escape too.

My Review

IF FOR ANY REASON is a poignant story of loss, family, choices, and love. It takes place in the summer on Nantucket and time is split between the past and present (although mostly in the present) as a daughter tries to find her way without her mother. Definitely recommended to inspirational contemporary romance fans!

I love this author's writing style and the characters she creates that always pull on my heart! This story is no exception. Both Emily and Hollis (as well as Hollis's daughter Jolie) all stole my heart almost from the start. I do have to admit that I was quite frustrated with Emily in many places in this story because she's not living her own dreams and she lets fear rule her, but I also understood it. I loved Hollis so much! This guy with his boy-next-door, best-friend persona, but also his charm, his willingness to work hard and to try to find redemption for his mistakes... I loved his character so much! He was a safe place for Emily to land, but also for his daughter if he could just figure things out and she'd let him in. Hollis's family were also fantastic as was the location. Then there was Emily's grandmother... goodness that woman needed more of her ice to thaw!

There was also the secondary story in the past with Emily's mother that added an extra component to this story as it unfolded. It felt nostalgic and I liked the picture it created to help me understand Emily's mom and grandmother. I had a love/hate relationship with the letters. I liked them, but I felt some of them didn't quite feel completely genuine, and I felt like Emily relied on them too much with her experience and age. Otherwise, the letters were a sweet part of this story. The romance for this story was perfect. There were challenges and tension, but also this genuine sweetness founded on these characters' past friendship. There were also some swoon-worthy moments.

In the end, was it what I wished for? I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and am looking forward to more from this author. Memorable characters, an interwoven message of faith, interesting family dynamics, a bit of mystery, and the sweetest romance made this story well worth the read.

Content: Once closed-door love scene relevant to the story.
Source: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, which did not require a positive review. All opinions are my own.

About the Author

Courtney Walsh is the author of Just Look Up, Just Let Go, Paper Hearts, Change of Heart, and the Sweethaven series. Her debut novel, A Sweethaven Summer, was a New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller and a Carol Award finalist in the debut author category. In addition, she has written two craft books and several full-length musicals. Courtney lives with her husband and three children in Illinois, where she is also an artist, theater director, and playwright.

Are you a fan of this author? What did you think of the interview or my review?

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