Susan May Warren. Always on My Mind. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2014.
Please note, this review contains several spoilers for both When I Fall in Love and Always on My Mind.
As a wonderful post-Christmas surprise, I received Susan May Warren’s Always on My Mind from the library almost a month before I anticipated its release. The fourth book in the Christiansen family series, Always on My Mind follows the adventures of Casper Christiansen, the fourth and middle child of John and Ingrid Christiansen, an aspiring archaeologist and seeker of treasures.
The novel starts only a few months after the suspense-driven events of When I Fall in Love, picking up the story with Casper working on an archaeological dig outside Roatan, Honduras. Meanwhile, Raina Beaumont continues to hide the truth of her pregnancy from most of the members of the Christiansen family, with the exception of her boss and roommate, Grace. Casper travels back from his failed treasure hunt just in time for the delivery of Raina’s baby, triggering the eventual return of both Casper and Raina back to the safety of Deep Haven. In their individual pursuits for peace, they find themselves searching for the greatest treasure in the history of the region. Facing an extreme winter, the realities of adulthood, and the family dynamics of the Christiansens, Casper and Raina finally find the hope they seek in the love of God and one another.
Ms. Warren, a well-established and talented author, continues her amazing multi-book story arch in Always on My Mind. Personally, I felt that the book functioned as an essential piece of the overall book series, addressing key questions and challenges raised in the earlier novels. However, I enjoyed It Had to Be You and When I Fall in Love more as stand-alone novels. Regardless, Always on My Mind convincingly addressed the Casper/Raina storyline that formed a key part of When I Fall in Love, while opening the door for the telling of Amelia Christiansen’s story in the forthcoming book, The Wonder of You (July 2015). The last page or so of Always on My Mind alone would cause almost anyone to pick up the next book.
As a historian (and insatiable reader of historical fiction), I found the inclusion of Casper and Raina’s search for the story of Thor and Aggie Wilder to be one of the highlights of the book. The use of the antiques shop and historical society were particularly intriguing and I enjoyed the characters that Ms. Warren introduced as part of that storyline. With the addition of those characters and the direction of the events, I felt that the novel noticeably lacked the presence of John and Ingrid, who offer much-needed stabilizing wisdom for their children. Likewise, the presence of Eden and Grace in only limited scenes highlighted the importance of their characters in keeping the men of the family from completely freaking out over various events in their lives. The scenes that included only Derek and Casper felt entirely chaotic, which was likely a device to further the novel. I find myself looking forward to the next novel, if only for the simple fact that it will likely return the balance of the family that was missing in so much of this book.
Overall, I enjoyed this entry into the Christiansen Family chronicles. While not my favorite of the series, I would easily recommend Always on My Mind to anyone who enjoys Ms. Warren’s books and the Christiansen Family/Deep Haven novels.