STORY: Cassidy McClare is a Texas girl through-and-through. And she’s done with men. Fool her once, shame on you, fool her twice, and well, she isn’t about to let that happen. To heal her broken heart, she leaves behind the home she holds dear to stay the summer with her aunt Cait and cousins, Blake, Ally, Meg and Maddie. Only trouble is, escaping her past may not be so easy when she comes face-to-face with Jamie McKenna. He may have a different face but he’s exactly the same kind of man as Mark, and Cassie refuses to be drawn in by his charm, or his gorgeous eyes. What Cassie doesn’t know is Jamie is looking for a wealthy bride, and what Jamie doesn’t know is that the spunky Texas heiress isn’t what she seems.

‘LOVE AT ANY COST,’ BY JULIE LESSMAN. Review of the 2013 historical novel, book one in the Heart of San Francisco series. Text © Rissi JC

What I Like

Coming back to a novel written by Julie Lessman feels like a comfortable reading habit. After a six-book set about the O’Conner’s of Boston, any reader of Lessman’s will be curious as to how a new set of characters will win them over in Love at Any Cost. It’s not long into the book before Julie’s new story entertains her fans. There is rarely a trace left over of her prior books, a missing component I find helpful. Shifting the story from the East Coast to the West plays a role as does a different time period. Similarities are present in her “unique” type of story-telling as well as the presence of a large family whose bonds go beyond that of a holiday family. 

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Equally interesting is the setting which Julie weaves authentic details of the time and it occasionally even puts me in mind of an old movie I once saw. Most of the book is light and happy, but then there are some historical details that make us feel grateful to live in a different time.

The characters are pretty fun. Heroine, Cassidy McClare is loveable and charming. She’s spunky and full of gumption despite her distrust of men. And I adore her as well as her sweet cousins, whom if I have to hazard a guess, will feature prominently in their own story at some point. Ally in particular is a doll and reminds me of my own relationship with cousins. Then there’s Jamie. A rogue with a quick-wit and twinkle in his eye, I like meeting this young man very much; his devotion and love for his sister is precious. I only wish I could say the same for his actions towards Cassie.

What I Don’t Like

Although I like most of Lessman’s leading men, I think too much of their characteristic is written far too “physical” instead of growing them into stronger men of God. Instead they are constantly swayed by a pretty face (some of which aren’t their sweethearts). I grow weary of each of these men (even the most devout, Bram) being flirts at the least, womanizers at their worst. Jamie is far too “forward” and loose with Cassie. He should have been a man we can applaud (this is not possible with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and too much sensual chemistry). Also unattractive is the way he steals kisses – and by “steal,” I don’t mean “sweet” pecks. And this is where the problem is.

There’s a fine line between flirtation with a “twinkle” and flirtation that almost endanger conviction. Stealing a kiss is one thing, and can be quite “cute” if written properly, it’s the way the scene is written that makes it more “awkward” and questionable than a good first kiss. Here instead, what we get is one that forces itself, and this is a big no-no. Never should there ever be a hint of this in a healthy relationship. Especially in a genre that is meant to look at love much differently than secular fiction. We’re meant to live in society, but not be a part of it.


Under Julie’s skillful, careful pen, we have another charismatic story. Just when we think everything will tie up like one of Cassie’s ropes by way of a grand gesture, there is a “twist” that changes the dynamics, making for a page-turning last few pages. Between the characters (rich with familial ties) and a new setting ripe with historical aplomb, Love at Any Cost is a must-read for any of Julie’s fans!

About the Book:

Author: Julie Lessman
Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: 2013
Series: The Heart of San Francisco – Book 1
Genre: Christian Fiction; Historical, Romance
Shop the Book: Bookshop.org | Goodreads
Rating: 3 out of 5

With thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of Love at Any Cost for reviewing purposes

About Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.


    1. Have you read any of Julie's novels before, Hannah? I think fans of hers will enjoy this new series very much. :)

      Thank YOU For reading! Appreciate your support and kind words. :)

    1. There is a fine line with this element, Lydia. If done right, it can be really "cute." Here, I did LOVE Jamie. He was a fun leading man but I just wish certain of the "physical sparks" had been tamped down a notch. Nonetheless, I really loved this book – and this author is a wonderful "voice" in Christian fiction. :)

    1. Me, too, Ruth – this was one I had been anticipating for a long while now. It was such a fun read and didn't put me in mind of Julie's prior characters. Which is a good trait. Where is the sequel now!? ;)

    1. Thanks, Juju! I really appreciate the feedback – ever since I've started reviewing books, I've tried to find a "style" of reviewing that works best – both for ease of reading and to write it. Perhaps one of these days I'll write a blog post to get some thoughts. :)

  1. You know, it seems like Christian fiction is getting more and more "steamy," which although I don't mind romance in the books I read and actually prefer it to be the books I read in some shape or form…it just makes me wonder where the genre is going as a whole. You know? And like you mentioned in this review, the men are becoming less like "men" and more like womanizers, with no masculine or even spiritual backbone/principals. Makes me wonder how much of the secular "love/romance" mindset has begun to infiltrate the Christian genre. In some works I've read lately, it's almost like it's written with just a hint of "bad boy" in it. Are "we" so tempted by the world's idea of love, or even the appeal of a "Christian-care-free" lifestyle" that it's how we gravitate in our fiction reading? We know it's not healthy (and at times, right) but if it's fiction, we can live it just a hint in our imaginations? Any thoughts on this?

    Thanks for the review, Rissi! I have another book on my shelf that I just got from Tyndale that I need to start reading and reviewing! Got sucked into Ruby in the Smoke for now, but that one is next! :)

    1. Yeah, I do have some back-and-forth thoughts on this subject, Kellie. In many ways, I don't mind a hero who has a bit of a "twinkle" or a "bad-boy" persona so long as he is a gentleman. (Okay, yes, I recognize that could be an oxymoron. ;D) But I think in some ways an author can write a hero in this image. Where there is mystery there are some "flirty" possibilities. It's when this is carried TOO far that things become complicated.

      In conversations my mother and I have had, we often wonder if some of the Christian authors tackle some of the subjects they do in order to better exemplify the depth of Christianity and God's love…? Speaking specifically of this book, I really liked Jamie, I just wish he didn't act out the way he did in certain portions of the book. He wasn't a Christian in the beginning but that doesn't immediately mean he had to be a rogue who takes "advantage" of the girl who is occupying his thoughts.

      Will be on the look-out for your next review, Kellie – and hey, hope you are liking Ruby in the Smoke. :)

    2. This right here deserves an amen.

      Men in Christian books lately seem to be womanizers indeed. (I'd say not all of them though..) Your question is quite deep : Where is the genre going as a whole? After all, we are Christians and there should be a difference between us and the world.

      There's a difference between true romance and lust. And I'll shamelessly second the idea that Christian should not and never been in favor of lust – in any way.

  2. Jealous you got to read this! I have enjoyed the…three books, I believe, that I've read by Julie, and am definitely excited to read more. However, I'm always a bit hesitant to whole-heartedly recommend them, especially to younger friends — they are certainly "passionate romance" as Julie claims. Anyway, good review! :)

    1. So have I, Charity! I really liked all three of the "Daughters of Boston" novels and am enjoying the "Winds of Change" (have to finish Katie's story and read… the middle book yet). This one was equally good and I thought it was nice that I wasn't put in mind of the O'Conner's – they were such a popular set of characters, sometimes it's hard to break free from that.

      These are certainly way more "passionate" than most Christian romances and that can get the heroes in trouble. On more than one occasion. That again happens in Love at Any Cost and I wish it wouldn't have.

      Hope you get to read this one soon – it's good!

    2. Oooh! Awesome – we'll get to "compare notes" on yet another book. Will be looking forward to your eventual(?) review, Charity. :)

      I don't know which of the "Change" series I am liking best – Katie is a fun heroine but I have issues (much like with Jamie) about Luke. Liked the last book a lot but grew annoyed with all the lying. *sigh* Just the typical reader's likes and dislikes in every book I guess. :)

    3. Yup, there'll definitely be a review, though it might be a while coming! This is another set of characters who can really get on your nerves…but are pretty awesome anyway. The lying — yeah, gets pretty old after a while!

    4. Know that mentality, Charity. Some days, I wonder if I'll even finish a book or get a review composed! ;) No matter the "when" of it, I'll enjoy reading yours when the time comes.

    5. Guess what? My copy finally arrived! I'm super stoked — it's even signed to me. Julie is such a sweet author to correspond with too — tons of fun. So someday…this one's at the top of my just-for-fun-to-read stack.

      *wonders…too many to-read stacks?*

    6. Selfishly, I am glad to know that I am not in the too-many-books-to-read category alone, Charity – you're comment makes me feel better. I sympathize with you, girl.

      Aw! That's nice to know about Julie – she seems like a wonderful lady. :)

      Yippee for your copy arriving! That is fantastic – cannot wait for your conclusions once it comes up for you to read.

      Decisions, decisions…


  3. I haven't read any books by Ms. Lessman before. This one sounds pretty good though. Should I potentially start with it? Or is there another of hers you'd recommend more? Nice review by the way! :)

    1. I think this new series has – or possibly could, edge out Julie's prior books in my favorites list, Kara. It was really fun. :) Sure, I'd say you should go with this one if you were wanting to try one by Julie. If you'd rather try her first series ('Daughters of Boston,' 'Winds of Change'), I definitely say start with the first book – A Passion Most Pure. They are best read in order. :)

  4. Just finished this one last night, just past midnight. lol I know what you mean by all the "physical" attraction with Jamie and the literally "stolen" kisses from Cassie. I tired easily of Jamie kissing her just so she'd submit to what he wanted from her, thankfully he wasn't going to take it far… *sigh* However, I did really enjoy the humor from Cassie and Lessman's writing style was great.

    Oh, and did you notice the maid named Rosie??? Made my day! I don't see my name in print very often, if not ever. :DD

    1. I don't think it has ever gone "too far" for me (part of me thinks some "flirty" wit is cute), Rosie BUT it seems a theme continuously in a Julie Lessman book and… I don't WANT it to be! It's not fun questioning if the leading man is merely "in love" with the heroine for the physical attraction he has to her (realistically in a first impression, the guy is drawn physically to a girl and vice versa) or if his feelings will shift should a different face capture his fancy – and I saw shades of both in Jamie McKenna.

      I liked the book, too! It was fun and sassy, and as always, Julie knows how to write a stellar story. :) Cannot wait for book two!

      Oh, gosh, yes! I did notice the cook, Rosie in Love at Any Cost. When I first saw her name, it made me think of you. :)

  5. Very interesting review, Rissi. Please allow me to share some of my reflections on this.

    I do agree that as a reader, I don't enjoy when a kiss feels 'forced' in a book (WITH the exception of Luke and Katie’s first kiss! *Grinning* Okay so let’s changed that to: I don’t enjoy reading TOO many forced kisses.) Neither do I enjoy it when I feel like the hero is forcing the girl to like/love him. (Very important.) Does it feel that way in Love At Any Cost, Rissi? Mutual attraction leading to true love should feel natural and genuine… even though it is fiction. (Which come to think of it makes me understand some Christian Fiction writers more. After all, generally speaking, fiction is not real life.)

    However your review raises important points, Rissi.

    This got me wondering if every of J.L's leading men so far are prone to show the behaviour you mentioned. Hmmm.. Yes and no? Take Luke and Brady for example – they weren't constantly swayed by a pretty face. Luke repented toward the end of Hope Undaunted and I felt like he grew to be a very strong, mature and responsible man. Brady swayed less then all of the men in the series. (I think? – It’s been a while since I read the entire series.)

    But have you thought that Julie may be trying to show a 'real' side of the men's in her novels? (Because it has been said that this is a struggle among guys…) But I most definitely agree that having too many heroes who show the same behaviour pattern again and again may get tiring for the readers.

    Smart, well-written and a solid review you wrote there, Rissi! Good job!

    1. Well-written review you wrote there… well that does not sound right.

      Take 2: a Smart, well-written and a solid review you have there, Rissi! Good job!


    2. You are always welcome to offer your own opinions, Ganise – in fact I encourage and always welcome reader's thoughts. :) The only thing I ask is that fellow blogger's respect my opinions as I do theirs. And your points are very well said, Ganise.

      After all, generally speaking, fiction is not real life.

      This^ is true. I don't dispute that AT ALL. However, I think unless the book is a fantasy or sci-fi genre, fiction does imitate life. And as these are "real" character's, I struggled with the leading man (or men, really!) in this particular book. In Jamie's case, he was too much of a contradiction: one moment, he's the kindest, smartest man (with still a bit of a teasing/flirty nature); the next, he is taking "advantage" of Cassie (in the loosest sense of the word, granted). I don't think a book should make us question the heroes motives (if he's a cad or cannot "control" himself) if he is meant to be a "good guy" – with a villain that's a WHOLE different matter. However, taking Luke for example, I doubted his sincerity a time or two AFTER his marriage to Katie. And I didn't like that. Like you, it's been a while since I read Brady/Lizzie's story but yes, he does stand out as being the most noble, upstanding of Julie's leading men. :)

      But have you thought that Julie may be trying to show a 'real' side of the men in her novels?

      Excellent thought, Ganise! Yes, I have and I do understand this as being more the mentality of men. In my opinion though, I don't believe that there aren't guys who won't be swayed by a pretty face – in the sense that makes their wife/girlfriend/true love question if they may "cheat" on them or be swayed in any way, minor or major.

      I enjoyed your thoughts VERY much. And don't get me wrong: I heartily appreciate Julie's novels. They are charming. Thanks for reading – and for bringing up your thoughts on some of the matters I raised in this review. They are great! :)

    3. Well said. Thank you for sharing, Rissi. And of course, I respect your opinions. This is a friendly conversation. =)

      I understand your thoughts on Jamie's behavior and I look forward to seeing how I react to this. But I don't understand why you said you questioned Luke's motives after his marriage to Katie? Any specific examples, please? And on a side note, If you've read A Love Surrendered, the couple deal with that issue and I found Luke's actions quite proving of his maturity, no?

      So that last point… just to be sure. You're saying you do believe that there are guys who won't let themselves be swayed by a pretty face, or you're saying you don't?…. I personally think there are truly upright and virtuous men out there – maybe more then we would know actually, since the popular bad-guy image nowadays may be hindering us from knowing so . The reason I think Lessman may be trying to incorporate an aspect of reality in her novels through the personalities of the men in her books is to evidence the struggles that guys have in that aspect. But I don't think it is to send a message that all men ogle at other women.. that men in general cannot remain upright and faithful. Although… I've not read the book yet, so we'll see about Jamie because from what I'm getting from your review.. he's worse than the O'Connor men? (Well, before they repented, anyway. )

      Bless you, Rissi and happy weekend!

    4. For me, too, Ganise! Never thought it was anything else but a friendly conversation; getting others opinions and thoughts is most welcome around here – selfishly, I enjoy each discussion! ;)

      I'll be very interested to read/know your thoughts on this novel, Ganise. Jamie was a likable guy… but he, well, I am not sure he can be categorized as a "good" guy when it came to his reactions/actions while “courting” Cassie. I realize he wasn't a Christian but that doesn't mean a man isn't (or can’t be) a gentleman. As far as Jamie being “worse” than the O’Connor men, it’s hard to know how much to say because I don’t want to spoil anything for you! :)

      Let’s see, yes, I do remember the scene I was thinking of with Luke but don't know which book it was in. Anyway… it involved Luke and a new secretary, and Katie finding them together – and yes, I realize it was the secretary putting the moves on Luke nevertheless I didn't like his reaction.

      To be honest, I will need to re-read the ‘Winds of Change’ series to remember specifics – I’ve been trying to get through the first book for ages now (I’m continually interrupted by review copies showing up! LOL!) and haven’t even read the middle book yet.

      You're saying you do believe that there are guys who won't let themselves be swayed by a pretty face….

      Yes – I do believe this^; talking about a man NOT being swayed by every woman who he may meet (find attractive). My apologies for the confusion (sometimes I reply to these comments so quickly, I misspeak or don't clearly state my point). I should also clarify that when I am making the point that I do not think *all* men are constantly thinking only of the “physical” side in a relationship, I am thinking more about guys who are courting/dating/married. And where Jamie was concerned, clearly, he was very interested in Cassie. It’s just a bit disheartening to think that all of Julie’s heroes are cads (in varying degrees) because that doesn’t send a good message – or in my humble opinion it doesn’t. Specifically in this book, there is Blake, Bram and even Logan aside from Jamie – all of whom are Casanovas in their own way.

      I personally think there are truly upright and virtuous men out there – maybe more then we would know actually, since the popular bad-guy image nowadays may be hindering us from knowing so. – AMEN!

      Will look forward to your conclusions once you read Love At Any Cost. :)

  6. Ah, I remember that scene with Luke and the secretary in A Love Surrendered. Yes, I get where you're coming from. (I was thinking more about the scene afterwards, where Luke and his wife reconcile… so sweet.) Oh and I hope you really enjoy the first one in the Winds of Change series – Hope Undaunted!

    I've enjoyed reading your opinions, Rissi. You are kind, by the way and I genuinely appreciate meeting someone with that trait.

    Thank you also, I too am looking forward to my conclusions when I finish this book (if that makes any sense ;) – it should be coming veeery soon. :)

    Wishing you all the best!

    1. In many ways I adore Luke and Katie, and then there is a part of me who always liked Katie with the man she nearly marries (ugh! For the life of me, I cannot remember his name). I've got a running review of A Hope Undaunted in the works that I add to whenever I get a chance to read it. And at this rate that review could become a small novel. ;)

      LOL! Looking forward to *your* own conclusions… yes, that makes sense. I hope my second comment here made what I meant to say a bit clearer – some times I do revise my review so it's helpful (in addition to being fun) to get feedback.

      The feeling is mutual, Ganise – I am so glad to have "met" you! Thanks for being a kind and fun person to talk with – your comments have been very insightful and challenged me. I always encourage, and like conversations such as these – I know some people don't really like "debate" but I don't mind it so long as it's friendly and challenging – or what I like to call "healthy debate." :) After all, it'd be a boring world if we all thought the same. Just the thought of that… YIKES. ;)

  7. I forgot to tell you that yes! Your opinion on most guys being moral or immoral is clearer in the second comment. Glad we're on the same page about this. :) And of course, we each have our ways of seeing things – that's what brings a touch color to our world.

    1. Oh, good! Like I said, sometimes when I am typing in this little box, I am either doing it too fast or thinking through what else I need to get done so that can distract me. When a reply deserves a longer, more serious-minded comment, I need to start remembering to use Microsoft. :)

      Without color, this world would be bleak! The mere thought of it isn't even fun. :)

      Again, thanks for the input and for making this conversation so thought-provoking, Ganise.

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