Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer

Lula Bowman has been struggling her entire adult life to prove that she is not the flighty teenager of which she was once accused. She accomplishes this through a highly competitive mathematics scholarship and stable graduate career. However, when her older sister Jewel calls with devastating news, Lula finds herself back in her small Oklahoma hometown, her past confronting her once again. Desperate to prove herself capable and support her sister, Lula reluctantly accepts a position at a local high school, not intending to stay more than a year before returning to her more serious pursuits. She hesitantly asks the young handsome Chet Vaughn to assist her with one of her duties—coaching the girls’ basketball team, a task Lula has no desire to perform and a subject she has absolutely no experience. Chet, meanwhile, is struggling with his own place in the community, as most young men, including his older brother, are proudly fighting overseas during World War I. But as Chet and Lula work together, both are drawn to the other as they realize sometimes God can change the greatest desires of their hearts.

Playing by Heart is a sweet romance story, the dreams of both Chet and Lula revealing a deeper character depth. A few plot points rankled this reader, such as Lula and Chet’s relationship as observed by the principle and Lula’s siblings’ obvious dislike for their own sister, but the ending of the novel redeemed the overall story. Also, Lula’s supposed “flightiness” is not so well told that the reader completely understands this part of Lula’s character. The writing style is slightly different as each chapter is a first-person account of the events from either the perspective of Lula or Chet. Although this allows the reader a greater glimpse into the minds of Chet and Lula, occasionally this created a choppy plot. The descriptions, conversations, and storyline, however, flowed well overall and made for a pleasant read. In addition, a few unpredictable events near the end of the book kept it interesting. This novel is recommended for readers of romance who enjoy a bit of history sprinkled throughout.

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

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