Beth Webb Hart's heart leads the way through her fourth novel Love, Charleston. This is a story of three women and their hopes and dreams. It is also about the ability of women to draw strength from friendships as well as relationships. In this slip of a book Hart weaves a compelling story of the traumas that face us in day to day living -- and shows how strength, faith and fortitude can see us through the roughest of times.
The three main characters are Della, Lish and Anne. Lish and Anne are sisters and Della is their first cousin. Della is married to Peter, a sculptor, and has one child. She longs for another child but finances are tight and it is just not something they can afford at this time.
This causes her to envy the life Lish has. She is a doctor married to a doctor and has two children and is expecting their third. Her husband Drew is an up and coming researcher so their financial future is bright. In Della's mind Lish has it all.
Anne, on the other hand, has no husband and no children. She is in her mid-thirties and feels time is running out on her. She works at St Michael's Church in Charleston as a bell ringer. One day in the silence of the church she hears a voice that says, "Stay and wait." She is pretty sure that is a message from God.
As problems arise in these three women's lives, answers are sought but not initially found. Each woman finds herself sucked into a crisis of conscience and of faith. Some of the problems are ordinary and some of them are gigantic but they all have to be dealt with and the best way is to deal with them together.
Beth Webb Hart doesn't take the easy way out with these issues. There are matters of adultery, suicide, jealousy and hate to be explored and reconciled. This is a lot of material to put in so slim a book but by the last page the reader will feel well served by the author.
Hart has evolved as an writer, getting better and better with each book. She seems to be much more in touch with her characters now and makes them believable in even the smallest descriptions of their activities.
She still includes a religious element in each of her stories but the overall effect is not as preachy. She has learned that a bit of faith implied is a stronger message than a sermon in the stories.
Charleston, South Carolina is a city that inspires visions of romance, history and friendship. In Love, Charleston you find all this and more. By setting her story here Beth Webb Hart has picked the perfect backdrop for this story of three women whose lives intertwine.
Love, Charleston is a quick read because it is so well written. With this novel Beth Webb Hart moves up in the ranks of the accomplished southern writers. She is one of the youngest members of this southern literary coalition but she is also one of the most talented. Based on the progress shown with her first four books there is no stopping her now.
Love, Charleston is published by Thomas Nelson. It contains 311 pages and sells for $14.99.
Jackie K Cooper