Title: Down by the River by Lin Stepp
A Smoky Mountain Novel
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Romance, Women’s Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Set against the backdrop of Tennessee’s breathtaking Smoky Mountains, Lin Stepp’s Down By the River is a warmhearted novel that proves it’s never too late—or too early—for a fresh start…
While on a visit to the Smokies, Grace Conley makes a stunning decision: she’s going to walk away from her busy life in Nashville to move to tiny Townsend and open a bed-and-breakfast. There’s a beautiful old inn for sale along the Little River that will do perfectly. Of course, Grace’s family is scandalized. After all, she’s a middle-aged widow! And as a career homemaker, she’s always been available for babysitting, chauffeuring, and generally being the peacemaker among her grown children. Has Grace lost her mind? She begins to wonder the same thing once she finds herself attracted to the local ladies’ man. But the surprises don’t stop there…
To further complicate her move, Grace’s daughter, Margaret, has grudgingly come to live with her. Having just graduated from college, remote Townsend is not where she envisions her future. Yet the handsome young minister next door is convinced he and Margaret are meant for each other. As life choices abound, soon both women will discover that the biggest decisions require confidence, a sense of humor—and a deep, abiding faith.
Down by the River by Lin Stepp is a delightful faith-based novel about starting over, growing in faith and finding love when it is least expected. A serene setting, a wonderful small town atmosphere and a refreshing storyline add to the story’s appeal but it is the growth of the characters that makes it such an enjoyable read.
I have to confess that I really disliked a lot of the characters in Down by the River for about the first quarter of the story. Lead character Grace Conley is uptight and judgmental and while potential love interest Jack Teague might be a charming rogue, his disrespectful treatment of women is hard to overlook. Grace’s family is selfish, condescending and outright scornful of her abilities to successfully run a business.
But as Grace settles into her new life, she gets back in touch with her small town roots and a kinder, compassionate and forgiving woman emerges. She is very involved with the local community and strikes up an unlikely friendship with the young minister of the neighboring church. Grace also takes Jack’s daughters under her wing and their contentious relationship slowly changes to a friendship. Underlying all of their interactions is a powerful and sizzling hot attraction, but Jack knows that Grace is not a woman to indulge in a casual affair. Grace’s probing questions help Jack better understand his behavior but it is with Grace’s daughter Margaret that he rediscovers his abandoned faith.
Grace also reconnects with her mother and in doing so, she heals a lifelong rift with her sister. After Margaret’s unexpected arrival, mother and daughter smooth over their differences and resume their close relationship. Grace’s once neglected faith re-emerges stronger than ever and she gently guides both Margaret and Jack on their spiritual journey.
Despite a few initial reservations, Down by the River by Lin Stepp is a lovely, light-hearted read that is quite engrossing. It is incredibly gratifying watching the characters heal the wounds from their respective pasts and reaffirm their relationships with God. This sweet, clean romance is sure to appeal to anyone who enjoys faith-based novels.