If I had attempted the review after reading the first 25 pages of July Thunder, the book would have received a fairly low grade. But after a while, things smoothed out a bit and by the end, it turned into a nice little read.
The back cover claims that July Thunder is “A searing tale of love and redemption…” If you think searing means hot (as in sexy), it doesn’t. It means hot (as in forest fire). The background of this book is set against a summer firestorm that blazes out of control in the hills behind Whisper Creek, Colorado.
Deputy Sheriff Sam Canfield is a widower. He lost the wife he adored a few years ago, and has had no interest in women or sex or relationships since then. Sam’s world is turned further upside-down when his fire-and-brimstone preacher father, Elijah, moves to town as pastor of the local church. Elijah had been dead-set against Sam’s becoming a cop, basically disowned him when Sam married the woman of his choice, and castigated Sam further when that same woman died.
Mary McKinney is a schoolteacher with demons of her own. Her marriage broke up seven years earlier and she suffers tremendous guilt over its cause. Pretty Mary doesn’t trust herself not to mess things up again, so, even though she’s attracted to Sam, she doesn’t plan to do anything about it.
But the fire changes everything. The fire, and Elijah Canfield’s presence in Whisper Creek. As luck would have it, he’s taken the house directly across the street from Mary. As neighbors, neither is at first aware of their common denominator, Sam. When Mary discovers the connection, and the huge rift that exists between father-and-son, she tries not to take sides, but in her heart, hopes the two men will find a way to rebuild their very troubled relationship.
Slowly at first, Sam acknowledges he’s attracted to Mary (his nether parts are the first to notice) and he realizes he may be getting past his grief and mourning. Likewise, Mary begins to respond. Their romance builds against the backdrop of the threatening fire, and Sam’s confusion over his feelings for his father.
So, what was wrong with that first 25 pages that nearly put me off? A sprinkle of odd phrases such as, “Worse, why was he noticing her tidy breasts…” Tidy? That’s a new one. “But God was not done with him, either. She reached out her hand and turned his day upside down.” This sentence implies God is female, a departure for most readers. I have no problem with that except this philosophy stands alone in the book and nothing else Sam thinks or says elaborates on this profound premise. There was a bit of author intrusion here and there, too, but other than that, there were no major problems.
I liked Sam and Mary. There is a gay couple, Joe and Louis, two local artists who find their home in the path of the fire, and I liked the way these men were portrayed. Much of the book deals with God and religion and how Sam and Elijah each deal with their own feelings on the subject. At times, it overtook the romance element, but if you’re up for a healthy debate on the subject, you may not find this a problem.
By book’s end, everything turns right. The final scene between Sam and Mary is very sweet and touching, and one of the reasons I continue to read romance.