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REVIEW: Grace Grows by Shelle Sumners

Dear Ms. Sumners:


Grace Barnum’s life is precariously balanced on sensible choices and uncomfortable compromise. She dutifully edits textbooks that, she fears, may be more harmful than helpful to kids. She is engaged to a patent attorney who is steady and reliable. She has a cautious relationship with her fascinating father, a renowned New York painter, and she prefers her mom slightly drunk.

Always a planner, Grace feels prepared for most eventualities. Until the responsibility-challenged Tyler Wilkie shows up. Fresh in town from the Poconos, Tyler has warm eyes, a country drawl, and a smile that makes Grace drop things. Worst of all, he writes devastating songs. About her.

Tyler reaches something in Grace, something she needs, but can’t admit to. Something she wants, but won’t succumb to. Tyler Wilkie loves Grace Barnum and ruins everything. And Grace grows.

I have a weakness for sensible heroines so the description of Grace Barnum called to me. Grace also seemed like she is a little buttoned up. A little in need of having her life ruffled a tiny bit and, if things don’t get out of hand just to get out of hand, I enjoy seeing this happen in a romance. Also the dogs on the cover seemed to promise fun in Central Park. Well, it turns out that the dogs in the story are actually giant schnauzers and that they don’t play much of a role once their presence has introduced Grace to Ty Wilkie – part time dog walker, wannabe musician and the man who wrecks Grace’s orderly life.

Grace_Grows_final_cover_932x1400Since this is a first person POV story, I needed to like Grace and at first I did. She’s funny, she’s smart, she hauls enough around in her huge carryall to save the world and she’s a practical enough woman to win my enthusiasm. Grace isn’t drowning in angst or prone to pratfalls or looking for a hot night of smoking sex for what ever fill-in-the-blank reason so many contemporary heroines seek out bad boys. She and Ty are friends first – though it’s fairly obvious that Ty is smitten with her from the start. She has an almost fiance who finally romantically pops the question, a job she mostly enjoys, friends to go out with and quiet places to recharge her batteries. She’s something that is getting to be a rarity in romance novels – a nice, well adjusted woman who isn’t thinking of doing something outrageous. Grace is a breath of fresh air.

Grace’s romantic choices in life make sense given her parent’s acrimonious marriage and years of avoidance. She wants steady, she wants nice and she doesn’t want to risk her heart. So when her attraction to Ty begins to grow, she fights it. He’s an artist, like her father, and Grace knows how that marriage ended. She’ll stick with patent lawyer Steven. That is until her heart finally recognizes the truth and she is honorable enough to be honest with Steven. I admire Grace for that but this is about the time that I sense impending trouble. Grace is so sure that Ty would never be able to give her the type of marriage she now wants – since her eyes were opened up – that for months she won’t even give him a chance. That is until the itch becomes so overwhelming that there’s nothing to do but give in and scratch it.

Now comes the part when I want to join Grace’s friends in shaking her. True her actions are a product of her background and the little bits of believable circumstance that make up this section of the story plus the growing we’re promised in the title has to occur but honestly, Ty is much more forgiving of Grace than I could be. Her friends want to shake her, her family wants to shake her, Ty’s family wants to shake her and all she can do is whine about how she thinks things could never work out between she and Ty.

This is a book that I didn’t want to put down or stop reading. But it’s also a book that I wanted to like more than I actually did. It has funny parts – some were LOL like where Grace tells off Ty’s dickhead cousin Dennis, it has poignant moments – such as the reaction of all the various adults to baby Jake, it has realistic stuff but waiting for Grace to grow takes a lot of patience and mine wore thin by the end. C+



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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. Mary Beth
    Dec 03, 2012 @ 09:49:09

    I just finished reading this book this morning and I loved it. Yes, Grace is lacking in self confidence and the reader would indeed like to give her a shake, however she is otherwise such a grounded, likeable, just plan decent human being that I had no trouble staying with her during her growing! I liked Ty and I thought that the secondary characters were all engaging and believable. I will definitely be watching for Ms. Sumners’ next book.

  2. Isobel Carr
    Dec 03, 2012 @ 17:37:14

    So the book has a cool giant breed and they put Labs on the cover? Enticement fail.

  3. Jayne
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 08:55:06

    @Mary Beth: I do think Grace’s basic character is a strength of the book. I do get tired of heroines acting silly just to get the underlying plot of a book started.

  4. Jayne
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 08:56:59

    @Isobel Carr: Yes! Great giant breed in the story and we get labs. Not that labs aren’t fine, well and good as a dog breed but I would love to have seen the giant schnauzers on the cover.

  5. Mary Beth
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 17:02:27

    @ Jayne – Yes, I do agree with you about characters behaving in silly ways….indeed, especially if it is the heroine. However, I felt real compassion for Grace. As a very young child, she was so hurt and confused by her father’s apparent abandonment and her mother’s subsequent inability to speak of him, that Grace, (this is what it seemed like to me, the reader), became a fearful and anxious adult. Her deep need to ‘always be prepared’, her choice of a ‘safe’ man, her settling for a job which forced her to compromise her values, all of these situations really spoke to me of a deeply frightened person. I don’t think that I have any of these issues in my own life, although aren’t we all a little fearful, so I was surprised at how compelling I found Grace as a character and how much I wanted/wished for her to just let go!

  6. Jenny
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 18:22:24

    I couldn’t put this book down. Even when I had things to do (like sleep for example) I just kept reading. I wanted to shake Grace at times too, but ended up really loving the book. I won an ARC of it and I have to say that I like the cover on that WAY better than the one they ended up using here.

  7. Annie
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 10:32:47

    Oh thank god …there is someone out there who also thought this was a C+!

    the book started off great and it looked very promising..but then it just went downhill for me. I hated what Grace was doing, the whining, and i felt like she was just thinking about herself when she was holding onto the secret. Her feelings aside, it wasnt hers to keep. That pretty much did it for me, that and Tys forgiveness.

    Also, i wasnt too fond of the writing. The characters sounded like teenagers., not 28 year old mature adults. Also, why in the world did Ty have to write with Grace as an inspiration?

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