Beauty in Challenge

The other day a friend and I were discussing books- I know, shocking- and we discovered we had both recently read Gerri Hill’s The Secret Pond. This lead to a larger discussion about books that give us both the romance and something deeper: an acknowledgement and exploration of life’s challenges. Whether it is death, as in The Secret Pond, or addiction, PTSD, physical illness, depression, lost dreams, you name it, the books that can take you through the journey and also give you a sweet romance are special. They aren’t always a “beach read”, but they are the ones that sit with you for years.

I’ve mentioned I. Beacham’s Salvation before. 3561DF78-A0DF-417B-8526-AD594E32E3D3This novel about a woman facing debilitating illness in one part of her life and the joy of new love in another part of her life has stuck with me since I read it several years ago. The topic is difficult, and the story is rewarding. It’s also one to raise questions and often strong feelings of what constitutes right and wrong. I love books that work the grey or controversial areas.


823FD512-994A-496A-9990-9F795D8B04A9In Caren Werlinger’s Cast Me Gently both protagonists have deep personal issues that underwrite their lives and how they interact with the world and each other. A satisfying and emotional read.





Ask Me Again by E.J. Noyes is the sequel to Ask, Tell. AD68C616-FD14-46F3-A43B-887A6891B995It is a rough yet satisfying journey through Sabine’s hell of PTSD and Rebecca’s patient support. A difficult read with some challenging scenes, and so rewarding as Sabine and Rebecca navigate their relationship through the storm.





Gerri Hill’s The Secret Pond deals with grief caused by the deaths of loved ones. A uniqueness that I love about this book is that it also features a warm and lovely friendship between one of the women and a boy who is dealing with the loss of his father. C048680D-6CC4-4088-9FC0-F43DE3F72BC1Their beautiful friendship warms my heart and leads to Lindsey’s romance with Jack’s mom, Hannah.






Roller Coaster, one of my favorite Karin Kallmaker books, features a protagonist who is a former drug addict. The way the past sometimes overwhelms Laura and threatens her future is a great reminder that we are all more and deeper than we seem to be.




  1. Thanks for this post, Ann. I like this a lot and I agree with it. So many romance books are all about the meet-cute, a bit of angst, and then the happily ever after. That’s what many readers want, and that’s fine. Personally, I prefer and I’m grateful for books like these that show the little daily victories and the big triumphs over true adversity. I also write such romances. They’re not for everyone, but I’m happy for the readers I have who do appreciate them.


  2. I’m going to have to put Salvation on my must read list. I enjoyed all the others and you’re right – the challenge makes them all that more interesting and stay with you.


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