Raised a PK (preacher’s kid), Beulah Land was saddled with the “shame” of being a teenager mother and rejected by her family and church for years. Taken in by her generous piano teacher Ginger, Beulah has dealt with her reputation, her shame and her heartache for years by alienating herself from most other people in town, organized religion and God.
Working as a waitress and piano player at a local dive bar, Beulah meets the towns’ new Methodist preacher, who just happens to be single and possibly carrying around a few regrets of his own. As a final request of Ginger (who is deteriorating with cancer), Beulah takes over as music director at the small church, playing piano and organizing an unlikely choir from regulars at the bar. This puts her in close proximity to Luke Daniels (who she dubs Preacher Man) and the two’s growing attraction is just one of the threads explored in The Happy Hour Choir.
Another involves another girl finding herself in the same situation as Beulah did at a young age and the complications that arise from Beulah and Ginger offering her a home when no one else will take her.
Over the course of this wonderful debut novel, we get to know Beulah and hear about her world. Beulah’s journey of self-discovery and the need to forgive herself and open herself to healing is as an authentic and moving story. And like the works of Robert Whitlow, Kilpatrick wisely allows her characters to be human with faults, foibles, strengths and weaknesses unlike too many of the other writers of contemporary Christian fiction. Beulah and her cast of characters even use a few “colorful metaphors” during the course of the story, but these are all completely necessary, earned and feel in-character when they crop up.
What it all adds up to is a debut novel that kept my turning the pages, eager to see what would happen next. I’ll even admit to getting a lump in my throat at several points during the story because of the investment I had in Kilpatrick’s characters. There are moments you’ll love certain characters and moments you’ll want to reach through the pages (e-reader or physical) to shake some sense into various people (Beulah especially).
I’m not generally a big romance fan, but I’ll admit that the romance between the PK gone wrong and the Preacher Man works on just about every level. The Happy Hour Choir isn’t a bodice-ripper but it keeps the romance on a slow boil and earns every tender moment and stolen kiss between our romantic leads.
The biggest compliment that I can pay The Happy Hour Choir is that at a time when I have a DVR full of great shows and a pile of books on the TBR pile, it grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let me be distracted by other things.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. In the interest of even more disclosure, I must also admit that I was friends with the author during our matriculation at the University of Tennessee. That only means that having read this book early, I can buy at least two more copies to hopefully have her autograph for family and friends when I give them away as gifts.