Summer is (finally!) here. If you're looking for a book that will give you a very good time during the season, you've found it. Don't miss An Unexpected Woman, by Sandi Layne.

Sandi Layne, An Unexpected Woman

Why? This book caught my attention from the very first sentence: “In life, the ability to laugh is vital.
Have you ever had a bad day, when you thought that maybe things could have gone better if you'd faced them with a different attitude? I was at the end of one of those days when I opened this novel, and it made me feel that the story would deal with realistic situations, offering characters with whom I would be able to relate. I haven't been disappointed.

Summary: “Put a bow around the woman you want for me, so I’ll know.” A paradise for some, Florida is a lonely place for Associate Pastor Dr. Mark Countryman. Hurt by relationships in the past, Mark wonders if there is someone out there for him. He asks God to make his will clear.

When he stumbles over local girl Shelley Roberts while out to lunch one afternoon, he feels both an attraction to her and the need to guard his heart. Her chipper and sunny demeanor add brightness to each day he spends with her, but his track record with relationships keeps him from fully opening his heart. Their burgeoning relationship is put to the test when a brewing storm off the Florida Peninsula threatens their city. Shelley prays for God's help as she prepares for all contingencies, while Mark stands firm in his faith in God's protection.

From the very first chapter, the main character, Mark Countryman, shows that he doesn't beat around the bush:

The phone rang behind the counter and Mark nodded, smiled, and sat in a sturdy metal chair. He didn’t patronize this place because of the decor, he came for the food.

He's an Associate Pastor–a recent transplant to North Fort Myers, Florida–and even when he talks to his Boss, I mean, to the Lord, he goes straight to the point:

Lord, he prayed, as he had many times before, I don’t want anyone unless you want her for me. So, please, put a bow around her, like that song I heard over the holidays said, would you? So I know? I want only what you want for me. I don’t want to blow it again.

So, Mark has a problem: his heart has already been broken, and he doesn't want to risk it another time.

Enter Shelley Roberts. She has experienced sorrow as well, but for Mark she represents a ray of light and becomes a blessing. They get the opportunity to spend more time together, since Shelley does some work at Mark's church, and it will lead them to become more for each other.

But, as it happens in real life, the bond between Mark and Shelley will be tested through thick and thin. When the hurricane season arrives, it will force them to acknowledge what's really fundamental to them.

As you've probably surmised reading the summary, Faith plays an important role in this novel. I'd like to highlight that the author knows this subject very well, since she's studied Theology. But don't think about An Unexpected Woman just as a religious book, because it's much more. It's a book that provides questions more than answers; it will make you think about your own choices and your own life.

Sandi Layne's refreshing and brilliant writing style will fascinate you. She says that the ability to laugh is vital, and she puts it in practice in this novel. This passage, when Mark talks to his mother, is lovely:

“There’s been barely a tropical storm since I got here, Mom. But, if it’ll make you feel any better, I’m bartering.” There was that word again, and Mark blessed Shelley for coming up with it.


“With a local, actually. About that kind of thing. She’s already started telling me about hurricane preparation.”

“Ah, a local lady? Well, that’s a relief. A member of your church?”

“No, she’s a girl I just ran into one day.”

His mother, ensconced with a cup of tea in the Big Sur region of California, laughed out loud. “Ran into? You? Was she injured?”

“Not that kind of thing, Mom. Actually, you might appreciate the fact that she kept me from falling into a Gravity Well.”

“A what?”

He chuckled. “That’s what she calls them, anyway.”

“Well, Mark, I’m definitely intrigued. You’ll have to keep me posted.”

“Will do. Hey, I’m going to give her a call, so if you’ll excuse me...”

“Of course. And Mark?”

He knew that tone of voice, was a bit wary of it—for he still didn’t feel he had a clear path ahead of him—but he still said, “What, Mom?”

“You know, if she’s willing to take the time with you and all... You might consider more than bartering.”

I'm sure that Mark and Shelley will stay with you well after the last page of this amazing novel. If this book gives you hope, as it's already done for many other readers, why don't you recommend it to a friend?

Author and Purchasing links:
Available: July 11, 2013

Meet Sandi Layne

Having been a voracious reader all her life, Sandi never expected to want to write until the idea was presented in a backhanded manner. Once the notion occurred to her, though, she had to dive in the deep end (as is her wont) and began by writing historical fiction. She has since written more than twenty novels—most of which will never see the light of day.

Sandi has degrees in English and Ministry, has studied theology, spent years as an educator, has worked in escrow and sundry other careers, but research is her passion. She won an award for Celtic Fiction in 2003, but as well as history, she is also fascinated with contemporary research and has self-published several novels in the Inspirational Romance genre.

She has been married for twenty years to a man tolerant enough to let her go giddy when she discovers new words in Old Norse. Her two sons find her amusing and have enjoyed listening to her read aloud—especially when she uses funny voices. A woman of deep faith, she still finds a great deal to laugh at in the small moments of the everyday and hopes that she can help others find these moments, too.


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