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Pages: 144
Goes Well With: Homemade biscuits with raspberry butter and a mug of hot coffee

Sanctuary is the third installment in author Tanya Hanson’s Hearts Crossing Ranch series, following on in time directly after Hearts Crossing Ranch and Redeeming Daisy. There’s no need to have read the previous two books, though, before downloading this one. It tells a story that’s woven around the same family, but it brings different members to the fore.

Two cancer survivors are thrown together at a Hearts Crossing wedding, and all of the sweet hopes and good wishes leave them wondering what the future holds for them. For anyone who’s ever questioned why God might allow sickness and pain in His world, it’s an evocative, clear-sighted, and uplifting tale.

Mallie is only at the wedding by chance, brought by a brother whose girlfriend dumped him. She knows all about how to make relationships work, but she knows just as well that she can’t risk falling in love—not with glioma’s cancer cells limiting her life expectancy. Meanwhile, single father Hooper doesn’t just wonder about the failure of his body’s cells to relate correctly to each other. There’s also the question of his failed marriage and a sweetly innocent little daughter who needs a mother.

Hooper has come to terms with his questions of God—just as well since Hearts Crossing Ranch is a family affair, in which Christianity, faith, and prayer are ever-present. What’s harder to come to terms with is the sight of his brothers getting married one by one while he struggles to stay on his horse, never mind on the shelf.

The author feeds a deep knowledge of testicular cancer into the character of Hooper—details that I’d never have known, which make healing not just a matter of being “cancer-free.” But she also places the wide Colorado sky as a backdrop, together with the scents and smells and bumpy rides of wagon trains and an image of Christ right beside the believer, pointing the way ahead. Fun family dialogue, gorgeous scenery, a truly delightful child, and a consistent sense of hope lighten what could be a down-beat tale, filling it with joy.

At 144 pages, this is longer than the previous books, and it might take two lunchtimes to read. The characters might sometimes feel overly innocent and good, but they face their troubles and work their way through problems, recognizing reality, opening their hearts to sanctuary, and leaving the reader refreshed and filled with hope.

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