I read the second book in this series first and reviewed it here. Last night I finished the first book in the series with many of the same characters and it makes the reader feel like part of a family, or in this case, part of a small town. Varina Denman has a way of writing that involves the reader in the thick of the plot and makes the reader feel what the characters are feeling.
Ruthie graduated from high school in Trapp two years ago, and because of her mother's inabilities to hold a job, Ruthie works at two jobs. When Dodd Cunningham and his family move into town, he is immediately taken with Ruthie and he would like to know her better. He is not only the new math teacher at the high school, he is also the new preacher of the church where all the movers and shakers go. Ruthie is reluctant to allow him into her heart and mind, and with good reason. Years before, when her father left, someone told the elders of the church that Ruthie's mother had committed adultery and that's why her husband left. That's when the church withdrew their fellowship--and literally ex-communicated Ruthie's mother, Lynda. Ruthie has a healthy mistrust of the church and its members.
Part of the plot of the book revolves around the secrets people carry around with them. Neil Blaylock hides that he lied about Lynda's adultery, and even hides other things as well. Clyde Felton has recently come back to the town after serving twenty years for statutory rape; he hides what really happened in that situation. Lynda hides her previous relationship with Neil and the lies he told that caused her husband to leave. As secrets unfold, it allows some healing to occur, but it also allows bitterness to blossom and bear fruit.
While this story is somewhat of a romance, it is also a cautionary tale of the abuse of power within a church and the depth of damage secrets in the church can do. Jaded is an accurate title for those reasons. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and healing for the soul.
My thanks to David C Cook for allowing me to read and review this book.