I will start off by saying that I am a Christian and felt the Christian message in this book was very close to being the only positive part of this book. The theme was forgiveness, showing that sometimes it is clearly easier said than done and I feel that part was portrayed nicely.
This is a story about Sam and Emma who were deeply in love as teens and torn apart by their families because of their young age. Sam was sent away and did not return for ten years. Emma ran away after Sam had nothing more to do with her, broken hearted and alone. Fifteen years later Emma returns because of her sister's death and finds her family home has been left to her and Sam equally. It is obvious those deep feelings are still churning in both the H and h who are now in their early thirties.
Where it went wrong, in my opinion, and please understand this is only my take on the book. The story moved along much too slowly for my taste and at times I considered not finishing. It seemed to take forever for anything to happen and I did begin to read through it quickly looking for more interaction between the H and h. I really liked Emma and felt for her living with the heartache she endured and the life she lived without a family. I really thought she was doing the best she could do. I understand about holding on to past pain. I have been there myself without realizing I was doing so. And then we have Sam. I considered him weak, cowardly, a bit arrogant...and just way too sure of himself. No, I did not like him at all and the story made me doubt that he loved her.
As I said in the last paragraph, I was very disappointed in Sam. He loved Emma so much (he claims) and did try to find her at one point but then five years ago after he came home, Emma's sister told him of her whereabouts and he did nothing...absolutely nothing!! Not a phone call, letter or visit. Nada-zip-zero. Boy isn't that love for you! And here is verbatim what he told her:
"I knew where you were, Emma. I thought about coming after you. Day after day, year after year, but I didn't. I knew you were filled with bitterness, the kind that doesn't go away unless a person works at it, and I didn't figure you had been working at it -- and neither had I. You hurt me, too."
I think that is the worst paragraph in the book! That was insulting and would have been enough to send me packing far away from Sam. What arrogance that he proclaimed he 'knew' what she felt inside and whether or not she had worked on her feelings. What in the world was that about? How on earth could he know such a thing for certain? It sure wasn't like he was there. So, he just assumed he knew her thoughts and actions, or lack thereof, but did not bother to really find out by contacting this woman who he says he loved. And then he says she hurt him too!!. He was the one who was on his way to marry her, stopped by their families, and then avoided her like the plague. What conclusion was she to draw when he wouldn't even speak to her. There was some way he could have gotten word to her. I did not and do not feel his love was as deep as Emma's was. He said earlier in the book that he has never been able to get her out of his system. He could have rectified that years ago but instead decides to leave her alone, the only woman he supposedly ever loved. That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. He was a weakling, a coward. And to top it off, once she had returned he failed to let her know how deeply he felt for her. That he wanted forever with her. He would go a couple of weeks with absolutely no contact. Was that showing her that her heart would be safe this time around? Uh NO!! I personally would have been much happier if she had moved on without him. He did not deserve her any longer. He was a jerk the last half of this book and even though it is considered to have a HEA, I did not consider it as such! You can easily understand why Emma had trust issues. She strongly felt her heart would not be safe in Sam's hands. After all, it wasn't safe the first time and it just about destroyed her. I think Sam had some groveling to do to win her heart after he so thoroughly broke it before without a word of explanation.
Do I recommend this book. Well, let me just say that I would not read it again and if I knew what would transpire I would not have read it the first time. But, you should make up your own mind.