In Barefoot Bay, Sara has just lost her husband and her father and decides to create a new life for herself in Mimosa Key, where her cousin Andi found love and is now about to be married. Andi and the cute landlord, Jackson, have renovated his father’s former fish bait shop into a cute cottage she’s renamed “Sweet Serenity” where Sara can sell her essential oils blends. But even the new calming blend is having difficulty driving the guilt from Sara’s mind that she feels for her husband’s death or the bitterness toward her mother and the church that embarrassed her. Can Sara find healing with the help of war vet Jackson, wounded by more than just the bullet that nearly killed him? The Divine Connection is a “heavenly oasis” where tragedy becomes “Sweet Serenity,” and forgiveness and healing can be found.
Other books by Amy Lyon include the prequel to this one, Divine Interruption, about how Andi and Matt meet and fall for each other, and the author’s memoir about surviving a great tragedy and every mother’s nightmare, Only God Knows Why.
Other books in the Barefoot Bay Kindle World include Promise Me Forever, Need You Now, At Last, Sealed with a Twist, Undercover Match, and Wrong Time for Mr. Right.
Another wonderful Christian redemption story is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, about a prostitute at the turn of the 20th century who tries to escape and make a new life for herself.
Sara was soothed by diffusing in her shop “the sweet and spicy aroma of clove bud.” She also let Jackson smell and try to guess a few scents, such as lemon and peppermint. On her first arrival at his shop, she was greeted with a tall glass of sweet iced tea, and “the cool glass felt like heaven in her hands.” To combine the clove, lemon, and sweet tea into a scrumptious cake, the below recipe is for “Sweet Tea” Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting.
Sweet Tea Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting
- 2 cups all-purpose flour or almond flour, to be gluten-free
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) salted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sour cream, or Greek yogurt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon baking emulsion
- one large lemon, zest and juice
- 1/2 cup brewed black tea
- Preheat oven to 350° F. In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium-low speed, combine one stick (one half cup) of salted butter at room temperature with the cup of brown sugar for about 2 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine the all-purpose flour (or almond flour), baking powder, cinnamon, ground cloves, and baking soda. To the mixer, add the eggs, one at a time, and the Greek yogurt, stopping to scrape down the insides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if needed.
- Add the flour mixture in 3 increments to the mixer while it is on the lowest speed. Then add the pure vanilla extract and black tea. Once the liquid is incorporated, turn off the mixer and remove the bowl. Scoop into two paper-lined muffin tins, about two-thirds full. Bake for 16-18 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 15-20 minutes on a cooling rack before frosting.
- For the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed, whip together two sticks (one cup) of salted butter for one minute with the lemon zest. Then add the lemon baking emulsion and two cups of powdered sugar. When those are combined, add the lemon juice and the rest of the powdered sugar, followed by the buttercup yellow food coloring. When those are combined, fill a piping bag with the frosting, and pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Garnish with extra zest if desired.
- Gloria gave Sara a piece of advice: “You are never beyond God’s power and grace. You may get beyond where you believe God can reach you, but remember, the power is not in you, it’s in Him. God’s healing doesn’t make you good as new. It makes you better than new.” Why was this something Sara needed to hear? How did she receive it?
- Sara insisted she “didn’t deserve sympathy and she wouldn’t accept charity.” Why? What things would she accept as gifts from friends or family?
- Sara wanted to put distance between herself and her memories and past, but a quote from Rick Warren stated there was more to it than that: “ We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.” In what ways was Sara following that advice, and in what other ways was she still a prisoner? Was Jackson truly free?
- Why did Jackson enjoy paddle boarding so much? Was it something Sara appreciated as well?
- When bottling her new scent, Sweet Serenity, Sara insisted that “labels are important. They tell you from the outside what you’re dealing with on the inside.” Do you think she was speaking only about oil blends? What labels do you think she might wish people came with? Do you ever wish for a label you could wear?
- One essential oil blend Sara created was called, “A Day at the Beach.” What oils do you think went into that blend, or into her Sweet Serenity?
- Why were essential oils so important to Sara?
- For Jackson, losing his career and his father in a short span put an end to people-pleasing for him. He told Sara, “I just think there are so many things that go left unsaid.” Is this why he blurted out so quickly his feelings for her? What things do you think he left unsaid? Did Sara have things she needed to say as well? What hand gesture did she make to compensate for her inability to physically say some things?
- Sara “craved the close mother-daughter relationships other people had, but reality was rarely that cut and dry.” What was standing in her way? Do all girls crave to be close to their mothers, even when upset with them?
- What was it that Matt helped Jackson see? How can even our broken pieces still have value? Was Jackson’s life evidence of that? Was anyone else’s in this story?