With her courting year over and no men on the horizon, DeLynn Straynar decides to do something different with her life and signs up to attend college in Longdale an hour away. Her first day there, she runs into Zachary Styles, the school’s single chaplain and feels attracted, but quickly tries to convince herself she feels nothing for him. Until they meet again and again. With school taking up so much of her attention, she tries to focus just on it, but ignoring the gorgeous brown-eyed man is difficult and she’s not sure she wants to.
Zachary is twenty-five and working toward his doctorate in divinity. While aware of Hyacinth, he never imagined he would physically discipline anyone, until falling for DeLynn. She thinks getting courted will be the hardest part, but their courting year turns out to be fraught with trouble. From her best friend running away from home, to trying to figure out who she is in an environment so unlike the one she grew up in, the entire year is filled with stress. She keeps hoping that in time, everything will work itself out.
Unfortunately, time can only fix so much and as her anxiety goes through the roof and she finds herself in a manic mode she cannot stop, it doesn’t take long before she realizes that while sometimes she needs to figure things out on her own, there are also times she needs to hand the reins over to someone else.
Ms. Cariad just seems to be getting better and better as this series progresses. I enjoyed the first three books in the series and considered them all 4-star reads. The second set of three books were better and I considered them all 5-star reads as they were each re-readable books for me for various reasons. That said, I found Courted by Time to be even more enjoyable than its predecessors. Part of my enjoyment was in seeing how Deeka’s father Barrett had become such an integral part of the Straynar household and provided DeLynn and her siblings paternal support without “taking over” as the entire family’s Head of Household. But most of my enjoyment came from watching DeLynn blossom and come into her own over the course of the book.
As we have learned from previous books in the series, once a girl in Hyacinth turns 19 and has not entered into a courting, she considers her chances of being courted to be pretty much nonexistent. When DeLynn’s expected courting request failed to materialize in Courted by a Knight, we got a chance to see firsthand how hard it was for a girl and her friends to balance being happy for a friend who is being courted with being supportive of one who is not – and yet these girls often manage to do it and remain close friends. The friendship that DeLynn has with Deeka proves to be invaluable as Deeka’s plans to attend the local community college despite her marriage to Curtis encourages DeLynn to pursue her own education. As her friendship with Deeka has put her under the watchful eye of Barrett for years, he is very supportive of her request to enroll in college for the upcoming term and not only goes to bat for her with her mother, he also helps her with choosing courses, providing transportation on days that carpooling is not an option, and encouraging her to meet her goals.
Because of this, Ms. Cariad is able to take the series outside of Hyacinth and give readers the opportunity to see how a girl raised in a Domestic Discipline oriented community fares in a world that does not understand it. That DeLynn is naturally shy makes the transition a bit tougher socially, but she is there to learn and takes pride in her classes and studies hard. Yet when she meets Zachary, the school’s chaplain, she finds herself interested in a man and curious as to whether or not a relationship with someone who does not prescribe to DD would work. But being pathologically shy makes this a non-issue and DeLynn relegates her interactions with Zachary to school-based activities. As someone who preferred studying to partying in college, I sympathized with DeLynn’s situation and was thankful when Mother Nature took charge of the situation and gave Zachary the chance to come to her rescue (even if that situation was scary as heck at the time).
If you have read any of the books in the series (or are a romance reader in general), that Courted by Time ends happily is not a spoiler. But it’s the journey to DeLynn’s happy ending that made the book for me. I loved watching DeLynn come into her own. While she will likely always be shy, she found an inner strength and confidence she did not possess prior to this book and one I’m not sure she would have found had she not gone to college – or at least not to the same level. I appreciated that Zachary had already been attracted to the DD lifestyle and had made his decision to move to Hyacinth before meeting DeLynn; this meant that while DeLynn may have hastened his entrance into DD, it was not the sole cause of it. The relationship that DeLynn developed with Barrett was beautiful to see because he provided her the paternal guidance she had been missing since her father’s death and only implemented DD when she needed it and at her request. I found that scene particularly emotional for reasons I won’t go into because it was pivotal to the story in so many ways. The author added another layer to the book with Chrissa’s story – one I’m torn between wanting to read and not wanting to read – and as much as I hated that DeLynn felt the sting of Chrissa’s selfishness early in the book, I liked how she was able to take the situation and forge something positive out of it. And I really, really, really, really, really liked what her friendship with Jonah may foreshadow about the future of the series. Courted by Time is an excellent addition to the In Hyacinth series and is now my favorite of them. I cannot wait to see what happens next.
“Well, look who’s here,” Deeka remarked and following her gaze, DeLynn stood up straight as she spotted who her friend was looking at. “Zachary Styles,” she explained to her husband who raised an eyebrow. “He’s the chaplain at school and DeLynn’s friend.”
Zachary stood talking with several people, two of them being religious leaders in town, but there were also two eighteen-year-old girls standing next to them. DeLynn was embarrassed at the desire she felt to walk over and hip check both of them. As if feeling their gaze, he turned and as his eyes alighted on her, they lit up. He spoke quickly to the people in his vicinity and then made his way over to them.
“You weren’t kidding about it being crowded,” he said with a warm smile. He was dressed in a long woolen coat, but still had his arms crossed tightly over his chest with his hands tucked under his arms to keep warm.
“Hot cocoa,” Deeka said, lifting up her cup. “It’s a life saver.”
As Zachary turned toward her, DeLynn made introductions. “Deeka, Curtis, this is Zachary Styles, Hyacinth’s newest resident and the chaplain at our school. Zach, this is Deeka, one of my best friends and Barrett’s daughter, and her husband Curtis Brenten.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Zach said, shaking their hands in turn. “Barrett says you’re going to LCC,” he commented as he looked at Deeka. “If you ever need anything, please drop in. I’m there for every student.”
“Thanks. So, how are you liking Hyacinth so far?”
“The people are wonderful,” he said, turning his face to smile at DeLynn before turning back to Curtis and Deeka. “I came here this weekend to work on my new home and today DeLynn and a huge amount of boys came over to help. I’m much further than expected plus it was a pleasure to meet so many Hyacinth residents.”
A boom filled the air and both DeLynn and Deeka started to giggle as the sounds of the high school band started up. “I see they haven’t gotten any better since we were there,” Deeka snickered.
“I think Hyacinth Academy is proud of its really bad band,” DeLynn said and they both laughed. Curtis and Zachary soon joined them as whatever song the band was playing just seemed to get worse.
“Is that I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas?” Curtis finally asked, cocking his head to the side.
“How can you tell?” Deeka asked, looking at him.
“I can’t. It kind of sounds like a funeral dirge.”
As the band ended whatever song it was playing, the crowd went silent as they all looked at the large tree in the middle of the park. Zachary and Curtis followed the girl’s gazes and waited. And waited.
“What’s supposed to be happening?” Zachary asked in a whisper.
Giggling, DeLynn shook her head. “It’s the same thing every year. They should call it the tree un-lighting ceremony.”
“Yeah,” Deeka added. “They have this big event every year after they’ve strung like a million lights on the old monster and every year the lights don’t work.”
Snorting a laugh, Zachary looked between the two of them. “Seriously?”
“Oh, they get them to work sooner or later,” DeLynn assured him. “It usually turns out to be a missed connection somewhere. But I also think it’s just tradition. Come and see the lights not turn on.”
Both Curtis and Zachary burst into laughter.
“So we’re freezing to watch nothing,” Curtis finally said, his body shaking with laughter.
“Basically,” DeLynn agreed, grinning. “See what you would have missed out on if you hadn’t come?”
“Not to mention the good hot cocoa,” Deeka added, drinking the last of hers.
“Well, if that’s it, I’m reaching freezing point, little dove,” Curtis said, kissing Deeka on top of her head. “Let’s go home and get really warm.” Something about the tone of his voice told DeLynn he meant more than he was saying and as Deeka’s face lit up and she leapt off his lap, DeLynn was sure of it.
“We should get together at the Lava Lamp over break,” Deeka said as she took Curtis’s cup and put them both in the recycle.
“Sounds good to me. I’ll call once finals are over.”
“Nice to meet you, Zachary,” Curtis said, shaking his hand. “I’m relatively new myself, but Hyacinth is a great town. And as Deeka and DeLynn are practically sisters, I’m sure we’ll see a lot of each other. Have fun watching the non-lighting.”
DeLynn flushed as his assumption that she and Zach were somehow connected became clear but didn’t say anything as he wheeled away, maneuvering his way through the crowd with Deeka at his side.
“So, how long does it take till they light things up?” Zach asked, not seeming to react to Curtis’s statement. Did he not understand what Curtis was implying? Or did he just ignore it because it wasn’t something he was interested in?