Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I fell in love with Catherine Cowles with her last book, Beautifully Broken Spirit. In that review, I noted her voice in its parallels to another favorite author of mine, Devney Perry. There is a gentle tone to Cowles’s writing voice underscored by plots that carry emotional gravity in their writing. No one is safe from harm in Cowles’s Sutter Lake series, and her newest book, Beautifully Broken Control, gives us more of her gifted storytelling.
In Beautifully Broken Control, Cowles writes of Kennedy, the mysterious new woman in town from Beautifully Broken Spirit. In that book, Kennedy is shrouded in mystery, but the heroine of that book, Jensen, sees something in Kennedy and hires her as an employee for her tea room. Beautifully Broken Control finds Kennedy happily and contentedly settled in Sutter Lake. What we find in this story is Kennedy’s back story and her reasons for her altruism. She’s complicated and the depths of her character are greater than the sins of her father. Cowles also introduces us to Cain, Tuck and Walker’s adept, yet mysterious friend. Like Kennedy, Cain holds a secret that has broken his life and made him who he is. Together, Kennedy and Cain’s broken pieces fit, yet both struggle against the path to a potential future together. It’s these struggles that make Cowles’s book moving. In the simplicity of her story are nestled these tender moments of empathy and compassion in the midst of the struggle for control, hence the name for this book. At its core, this story shows us that letting go and giving up control in the name of love can only bring immense satisfaction and completeness.
What I love about Cowles’s writing in this book (and the other Sutter Lake series books) is the gentleness of her storytelling. That seems at odds with the nature of the story which can be violent. Beautifully Broken Control is a lot of things: contemporary romance and romantic suspense to name two. With those monikers, it seems odd to discuss her writing as gentle, but there’s an ease to her storytelling that renders a fluidity of words over the page. When I started this book, my intention was to read a few chapters here and there until its end, wanting to savor the story. I had looked forward to the mysteries of Kennedy and Cain. Yet, the fluidity of Cowles’s storytelling held me to her story. I couldn’t put it down because it lulls you into its rhythm. Beautifully Broken Spirit did the same thing, and I think this is why I compare her to Devney Perry, as her writing does the same for me. It’s why I love their writing. As a reader, I feel full of the story as I’m reading it, and to leave it before its end, makes me feel insatiable. I need the completeness of the story; it simply isn’t fulfilling as a snack.
Additionally, the characters of Kennedy and Cain are enigmatic. They hold secrets. Cowles provides us Kennedy’s story early. We understand the motivations of her life. Her revelation of her secrets to Jensen and the other characters is the reason you feel pulled further into her character development. Even more, the tension and worry over their acceptance of her compel you forward. Now, Cain is a different story. Cowles uses him as the impetus for the tension with him and Kennedy. Together, these two are magic. There are so many moments between the two of them that melt the reader’s heart. I found myself highlighting so many of these moments because they are the gold of this story. Yet, as Cowles holds Cain’s secret from the reader (and Kennedy) for much of the story, we feel the challenge between Cain and Kennedy until almost the end of the story. While Kennedy’s relationships find resolution early, Cain’s withholding of his big secret is the thread that keeps you further engaged in the story. Even in its revelation, Cain and Kennedy are not okay. In fact, when you think they have found their happy ending, the reader realizes they have only tentative closure. Everything explodes when you least expect it, and this continues to drive the story forward. The way in which Cowles crafts Cain’s character inherently underscores the message of Beautifully Broken Control. When he finally accepts truths about his past, only then does Cowles allow Cain and Kennedy find their happy ending. This is the genius behind the story of this book and Cowles’s construction of it. Each part of the story, plot and character development, build to a message of forgiveness and acceptance.
When I see that Catherine Cowles is preparing for another book, I become excited. As a storyteller, I trust her. I trust her craft. I trust the place for her stories. Given I am a newer reader to her booklist, I think this shows her talent. I try to stay focused on the aspects of story in my reviews for readers to understand the tangible reasons for reading Cowles’s Beautifully Broken Control. Yes, the chemistry is here. Yes, the love unfolding on the page is beautiful. And yes, we are treated to more stories from the other characters in Sutter Lake, making it a bit of a homecoming. Yet, it’s Cowles’s careful crafting of story and character that is the true treasure of Beautifully Broken Control. In reading her book, you elevate yourself as a romance reader, and you can trust that Cowles’s adeptness at storytelling will win over your heart. Kennedy and Cain’s story definitely does not disappoint.
In love and romance,