Author: Kristen M. Fraser
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Hope Rising #1
From homeless to hopeful.
How does a successful businessman end up with nothing but the clothes on his back and all his worldly possessions shoved into a bag? That’s the question Ben Tarbett asks himself time and again. When his world falls apart, Ben finds himself calling the banks of the Brisbane River home – a vastly different view to the one he had when working from the twenty-seventh floor of a highrise in the heart of the city. Sheltering from the elements, and relying on food handouts, he longs for the day when he can once again have a roof over his head and be the father his daughter needs him to be.
All Natalie Allcroft wants to do is serve Jesus and bring hope to the less-fortunate and downtrodden who wander the streets of the city she now calls home. Volunteering with Hope Street Church, she is inexplicably drawn to the man who visits the breakfast van every morning. There’s something different about him. Something not quite as rugged and worn out as the other itinerants she meets. She’s seen the way he treats others - his gentle nature, the kindness in his eyes - and is curious about his story.
Natalie’s desire has always been to serve. But when it comes to matters of the heart, there’s a big difference between guarding and giving. There’s a big difference between compassion and attraction.
Is the line worth crossing?
Reviewer: Wendy Holley
River’s Edge is a unique story that touches upon a spreading epidemic across the world. How does someone end up homeless is the question Kristen Fraser attempts to answer.
The cover is eye-catching. The question posed made me want to read the story. However, the sensitivity of the topic of homelessness has many facets that, from my experience, were handled in such a way as to miss diving deep into the characters motivation and conflict.
Ben has not only lost his job but his wife and children as well. Yet I did not get the sense that Ben had a burning desire and angst to turn his life around. We see him sleeping in parks and under bridges. We see him befriended by another older man who is content with his homelessness. Ben seemed to accept his plight rather than fight to escape it.
Then he meets Natalie, a woman who desires to serve God and those less fortunate. But her conflict seems to revolve around a former boyfriend who wasn’t supportive of her desire to serve. There is little conflict between Ben and Natalie other than he is homeless.
The nice couple who operate Hope Street Church and feed the homeless are well, nice people.
The theme of homelessness was delivered nicely. But we know homelessness is a very gritty and harsh reality for many. Yes, there are the few who find themselves homeless due to the loss of a job, skyrocketing rent, and unavoidable bankruptcy. The many studies and documentaries addressing this issue though show us the realities of addiction and abusive relationships of which was glossed over in this story.
I think there was an opportunity to dive deep into the realities of homelessness and how God can turn things around in the lives of those who let Him. The darkness of children escaping from abusive homes who find themselves preyed upon on the streets and the plague of the opioid addiction in our communities provide the ingredients for a plot. If addressed honestly, it could be a recipe for a real page-turner.
Sadly, River’s Edge had all the ingredients but came out flat. It is a sweet story and a sweet romance that safely skimmed the topic of homelessness.
I commend Kristen Fraser for wanting to write a unique story, touching upon the topic of homelessness. Writing stories about difficult subjects can be emotionally draining and not easy.
Reviewer: Anna Bottoms
River’s Edge is written with honest insight as the reader looks into the lives of the homeless, the misconceptions people hold about them, and the connections they make with each other.
From the beginning, I was invested in Ben’s life and the outcome of his circumstances. I was brought to tears, as well as smiles as I followed him from regrets, to hope, to love.
Ben played well against Natalie’s giving heart and her compassion. She brought out the best in him, as she saw him not as the failure, he believed himself to be, but as the man, God intended him to become.
The side characters were well written and memorable, each lending depth to the story.
I found this to be a very satisfying read and recommend this book. I will be purchasing other books by this author.
I was given an ARC courtesy of the author through Interviews and Reviews, and this is my honest opinion.
Reviewer: Trixi Oberembt
“From homeless to hopeful. How does a successful businessman end up with nothing but the clothes on his back and all his worldly possessions shoved into a bag?”
This is Ben Tarbett’s story as the reader journeys with him on his road of desperate despair to endless hope again! And the story of how God can take a broken down man & restore his faith in God and the kindness of human nature in the form of true Christian love shown through Sue & Graham. The selfless giving actions of a Natalie who never gave up on him also helped heal his heart and open it to the possibility of the kind of forever love he’s craved.
I enjoyed this so much that I was unwilling to put it down! Except lack of sleep had my eyes drooping way before I was ready to quit reading. Ben’s back story and the reasons he ended up living on the streets broke my heart. Coupled with the pain of divorce & never seeing his kids again plunged him to despair & pain. Feeling unworthy and unloved, he was willing to give it all up. I believe God put Natalie Allcroft in his path to show him the unconditional love everyone deserves. Her gentle caring ways reminded me of how God reaches out to every one of us at one time or another. The compassion, the whispered nudges to our soul reminding us that we matter to Him, in spite of our circumstances or lot in life. He never will leave us or forsake us, and His love is an overwhelming sense of belonging. I loved her heart to be the hands and feet of Christ! I think in some way or another we can too, reaching out to others in need, showing the love of God in our own actions & words.
“All she wanted was to serve God and shine His light into the darkest corners of people’s lives. But wasn’t that what they were called to do as Christ-followers? To help the poor and oppressed? To not withhold good when they could do something about it?”
And, oh my, the gentle love blossoming between Ben and Natalie! All sweetness and pureness of what romance should be. The kind that makes me sigh at the end. Talking about the end, the way Fraser concluded this story was beautifully breath-taking and something to savor! What a wonderful, heartwarming scene that brought tears to my eyes. Makes me want to visit a particular spot in Australia with my own true love someday!
This is an absolutely beautiful love story with reminders of God’s own selfless love and caring for each one of us. The simple truth of His word flows over the reader and leaves them with a satisfying smile. I absolutely recommend this to readers who enjoy stories full of hope, love, and Christian faith!
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