Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending a book signing celebrating the release of Regina Rudd Merrick’s newest book, Carolina Grace. Carolina Grace is the third, and sort-of final, installment in her Southern Breeze Series. It also happens to be what I’m reading, or more specifically what I read, this week.
If you’ve followed her series from book one, you will be delighted to find all the familiar characters return in this new book. If you haven’t, you’ll want to start with Carolina Dream and Carolina Mercy. It will make understanding what’s going on in Carolina Grace much easier and the story becomes richer when you can see all the loose ends coming together.
Set a few years in the future from the events of her second book, readers get to see how “happily ever after” is playing out for the previous main characters. And due to the added years, Carolina Grace is able to focus on a secondary character who was too young to be more than a supporting player in the previous stories.
Charly Livingston is all grown up in Carolina Grace. While the previous books’ events would have given her an up close view of faith and love lived out through the lives of her brother and family friends, this book is about her own journey.
Raised to embrace faith, Charly struggles to reconcile what she’s always believed about God with difficult circumstances in her life. Her family’s faith isn’t enough to keep her from growing resentful and her resentment puts distance between her and God.
Though she still believes, it’s when Charly is in this place of doubt that she meets Rance. He’s a man that’s got it all together. The only thing missing for him is faith, but does he really need it? When family secrets come out into the open, it challenges everything he’s believed.
God’s grace is the answer for both Charly and Rance. Charly has to learn to embrace grace as her strength for the hard times and move forward in a faith that is her own. Rance needs to experience God’s saving grace and allow God to work in his life.
As someone raised in a believing family, I could relate to Charly’s experience. I believe at some point, God brings every believer who embraced faith at an early age to a point where their faith must become their own. A lot of times that means a trial of the faith they have.
Like Charly, they may never completely walk away from their faith. Instead, they may feel like they’re going through the motions or like God is no longer close to them. They let the circumstances or sinful choices put space between them and God and then wonder why they don’t hear Him as they once did.
Carolina Grace serves as a great reminder that those who are struggling to keep the faith or find it for the first time are not alone. There is hope. There is an answer. And it is found in God’s grace.