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Realms Publishing
"The Return of Cassandra Todd" is by Mormon author Darrel Nelson.

"THE RETURN OF CASSANDRA TODD," by Darrel Nelson, Realms, $14.99, 296 pages (f)

Canadian author Darrel Nelson scores again with another heartwarming romance in the dramatic story of "The Return of Cassandra Todd."

Nelson, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, tells a redemptive story between Turner, the high school bully victim now an adult and working at a hotel, and Cassandra, the cheerleader whose friends bullied him but now begs refuge in Turner's hotel for herself and her child.

The story centers around Cassandra's escape from the violence of her past and Turner's attempts to overcome his own past. He must decide whether to trust her and help her, or whether she is just using him once again. Neither of them can ignore their past any longer, and both struggle to face what has happened to them and who they want to become.

The book has two themes: spousal abuse and bullying. Examples of Turner's bullying experiences are given, and the plot centers around Cassandra's spousal abuse experiences throughout. The dynamics of domestic violence are explored from the perspective of flashbacks, trying to escape, and the healing journey of redemption. This book would be appropriate for mature teenagers or adults.

As in Nelson's first book, "The Anniversary Waltz," the story includes romance, but this novel remains tender without any explicit details. Both characters must learn to face their individual pasts and learn to protect themselves in healthy ways while also learning to trust again. Their relationship with themselves and each other must grow beyond fear and into faith, from mistrust to tenderness.

The narrative is quick paced and dramatic, with compelling scenes of Turner's experiences of being bullied and Cassandra's experiences in an abusive relationship. Nelson's strength is character and relational development and this story is engaging from the first page. He once again provides descriptive exposition full of sentiment, but this story is also a thrilling tale filled with suspense and danger.

Emily Christensen lives with her husband in Oklahoma. Her doctorate is in marriage and family therapy, and she is pursuing a second degree in Hebrew and Jewish studies. Her blog is housewifeclass.com and her email is housewifeclass@gmail.com.