cover image THE DUET


Robert Elmer, . . WaterBrook, $12.99 (304pp) ISBN 978-1-57856-740-9

In this sweet, well-written contemporary Christian novel about a romance between a widow and a widower, Elmer (the author of several popular CBA youth series) shows he can pen a good yarn for adults as well as kids. Joan Marie Horton has left Long Island to use her sabbatical year teaching piano in the Dutch Reformed town of Van Dalen, Wash., where she hopes to spend time with her daughter and son-in-law, who are expecting a baby. When a piano student's handsome grandfather, retired dairy farmer and widower Gerrit Appeldoom, tags along for his granddaughter's lessons, Joan awakens his aptitude for music—as well as some other emotions he'd thought were permanently buried. As their romance unfolds, Elmer paints a detailed picture of the challenges of life for an outsider in a Dutch Reformed community. There's a nice underpinning of spiritual angst: Appeldoom, a stubborn Calvinist, begins to realize that his ideas about "God's will" may be the manifestation of his own fears and desires, while Joan "has no idea how to refloat the shipwrecks of her guilt-ridden life." Although the subplot of her son Randy's downward spiral is less engaging, competent writing, interesting characters and the quirky backdrop of Van Dalen keep the pages turning. While some readers may find Joan's fate too self-abnegating, this is an enjoyable story, laced with humor. (Feb.)