Sweet Accord is the first novel of Felicia Mason’s “Sweet” trilogy for Steeple Hill’s Love Inspired imprint. The remaining stories, Sweet Harmony and Sweet Devotion, will be released early next year. Each story is set in Wayside, Oregon - population 17,800. Wayside is a slice of Americana where “Norman Rockwell meets Mayberry R.F.D. at the Petticoat Junction.”
About 250 townsfolk attend the nondenominational Wayside Community Christian Church. Matt Brandon has recently joined the church as its minister of music. Traditionalists at Wayside tried to block his hiring because they balk at the notion of change the earring-wearing, motorcycle-riding Matt is sure to bring to their midst. The CDC - Committee of Displeased Christians -- are a handful of members who are determined to get rid of him.
Haley Cartwright is among Matt’s most vocal opponents. Haley is a member of the Wayside board, a Sunday school superintendent, vacation Bible school teacher, and leader of the youth group. During the rare occasions when she is not involved in church activities, she is an elementary school teacher and volunteer at the local library. While she would like to see Matt and his newfangled ideas go, she is uncomfortable joining an organized movement.
Matt’s presence at Wayside threatens Haley’s sense of security, challenges her faith, and knocks her halo askew. Haley’s opposition solidifies Matt’s resolve, challenges his faith and causes him literally to turn the other cheek. The growing tension between Matt and Haley escalates when the pastor appoints them to serve on a committee of two. Their mission is to reach a compromise on their differences about the musical selections for Sunday worship services. When they are not arguing about religious expression, Haley is surprised to discover she is beginning to enjoy Matt’s company.
Sweet Accord is an inspirational romance. However, unlike the majority of inspirationals I have read, the basic conflict in Sweet Accord is not about sex before, during or after marriage. Thank goodness! I found the change a refreshing acknowledgment that people of faith encounter other important issues in their daily lives.
Sweet Accord is a story of redemption, forgiveness and acceptance. At its core, Sweet Accord is a story about faith in which the author suggests that trusting in God is infinitely easier than trusting another human being. Mason has selected verses from the 149 and 150 Psalms as her novel’s “text.” The verses speak of praising God and are appropriate for the external conflict between Haley and Matt on how that praise should be expressed. On the other hand, Haley’s internal conflicts bring to mind the definitions of love and charity expressed in the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians.
Matt is a recovering rogue with the patience of a saint. I found Haley’s dogmatic approach to life, religion and Matt annoying throughout most of the book. Near the end, I figured if Matt could forgive her, so could I!
The secondary characters and the locale support the main characters well. The pastor’s character is well written and presents a man whose faith, sense of humor and determination serve his parishioners without getting in the way of decisions they must ultimately make and live with. I would like to visit Wayside again.