ix months prior, Jarrod Saunders died a hero.  By throwing himself on a bomb, he saved many lives, but left behind Corrie, his wife of seven years.  Unable to let Jarrod go, Corrie decides to return to the family home he inherited and continue their plans to renovate it.  Soon after her arrival, she begins to suspect that Jarrod has returned to his family home and is attempting to reach out to her—to communicate with her.  But is it truly Jarrod or perhaps something more sinister?

As Jarrod’s cousin, Eli, works to renovate Corrie’s house, he begins to suspect that the mysterious aspects of the family home have reawaken.  As a devout Christian, Eli fears for Corrie’s soul as she struggles with the alluring temptation of the occult in her effort to hold on to Jarrod.  However, he is also struggling with his own feelings—feelings for Corrie as well as the bitterness he’s harbored toward his dead cousin for years.  With dark overtones, The Widow of Saunders Creek is a touching story of spiritual battles in the midst of longing, loss, grief, and unconditional love.

Though I love the title (and cover) of this book, if any other author’s name was on the cover I probably would have passed it by—I was fairly certain it was a contemporary romance.  However, I really enjoyed Tracey Bateman’s previous two books, Thirsty and Tandem and decided to give this one a try.  As I hoped, this book has the same brooding feel combined with a smooth, elegant writing style, complex plot, and uplifting spiritual themes as her previous novels.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Widow of Saunders Creek.  I was instantly drawn to Corrie’s character, finding her grief authentic and her longing for Jarrod realistic and understandable.  Bateman does a fantastic job of creating Corrie so that she remains sympathetic without being annoying.  At the same time the reader can easily understand her intense longing to connect with Jarrod even if it means resorting to witchcraft.

To compliment Corrie is the equally well written character, Eli.  Again Bateman strikes a great balance between letting Eli work through his bitterness towards Jarrod as his feelings for Corrie develop.  Eli could have easily become an unlikeable character, since he is the only one who knew how unheroic Jarrod could be.  Instead, he comes across as an evolving, flawed character who while strong in his faith still has some things to learn.

Surrounding these two characters is an absolutely beautiful story.  I enjoyed reading Corrie’s feelings towards Jarrod and the longing to have him back while at same time managing the anger she feels towards him leaving her.  Several times I remembered the line from the TV show Designing Woman, “… I don’t think I’d want to be with a woman who stopped loving her husband just because he died.”  This is a theme I’m strongly drawn to—the idea that love doesn’t end in death.  However, I like that Bateman guides the reader to hope and the notion that someone can find love after the death of their spouse.

In addition to the touching storyline which deals with Corrie’s grief is an engaging spiritual warfare/demonic activity plot.  While I enjoyed this part of the story and for the most part liked the presentation, I did find it a bit preachy towards the end.  I thought the pacing was a little off, so that the climax for this storyline was not as intense as I would have liked.  However, it’s still good and worked well within the story.

I really love this book.  The cover is beautiful and the story is even better; the characters are fantastic and the themes relevant.  The writing style is so easy to read and the story so captivating that the pages flew by.  I am becoming quite a fan of Tracey Bateman and look forward to her next book.