Janet Ferguson's endearing Southern Hearts series kicks off with Leaving Oxford.
Escaping home to Oxford, Mississippi, seemed like a good idea. Until it wasn’t.
A year after a tragic accident in Los Angeles flipped her world upside down, advertising guru Sarah Beth LeClair is still hiding away in her charming hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. And she may well be stuck there forever. Suffering from panic attacks, she prays for healing. Instead, her answer comes in the form of an arrogant football coach and an ugly puppy.
Former celebrity college quarterback Jess McCoy dreamed of playing pro football. One freak hit destroyed his chances. Although he enjoys his work as the university’s offensive coordinator, his aspirations have shifted to coaching at the highest level. His plans of moving up are finally coming together—until he falls for a woman who won’t leave town.
As the deadline for Jess’s decision on his dream career looms, the bars around Sarah Beth’s heart only grow stronger. But it's time to make a decision about leaving Oxford.
When I began reading Leaving Oxford, I wasn't sure if I'd like it. I didn't embrace the characters right away, and the plot seemed to move a little slowly. At one point, I looked down at my Kindle and saw that I'd only read 11% of the book, and I nearly gave up. I'm so glad I didn't!
Yes, the book moves slowly at the beginning, and I wish that more of Sarah Beth's past had been revealed sooner—I think knowing more about her would have made me like her better initially. But once things really got moving (at about 20% in), I couldn't stop reading!
There's a realness to Leaving Oxford that's not present in much of what's available in the inspirational market today. The characters have messy lives before coming to Christ, and becoming a believer doesn't magically fix those problems, though the characters' focus does shift from living for themselves to living for Christ. Basically, Ferguson portrays the Christian life as messy and difficult, yet fulfilling. Also, Sarah Beth struggles with anxiety, and I appreciated that she sought out many avenues—including counseling and medication—in her quest to get better.
A highlight of this novel is the romance between Sarah Beth and Jess. Theirs is a slow burn romance that gradually builds—and left me dying for them to just kiss already! There's also a secondary romance between Sarah Beth's assistant and Jess's best friend, and I'm looking forward to reading more about them; they look to factor heavily into the second book in the series.
Once I got into the novel, I didn't want it to end, so I'm glad there are two more books in the series. I look forward to more from Ferguson! 4 stars.
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Janet W. Ferguson grew up in Mississippi and received a degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Mississippi. She has served her church as a children’s minister and a youth volunteer. An avid reader, she worked as a librarian at a large public high school. Janet and her husband have two grown children, one really smart dog, and a few cats that allow them to share the space.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."