Book Review: The Key to Everything

Once upon a time, people took other people’s word at face value. They genuinely sought to help their fellow neighbor out. Now we might call those people too trusting, and maybe they were? Surely there’s always been ugliness in this world. This much stands as true today as it was in the Southern U.S., at the end of World War 2. A lot of Americans carried the ugliness of the War home with them. Not all of them coped so well. Some, like Marshall Cabot from The Key to Everything, turned to drinking their woes away. Did this make them bad men? Today, truth is almost always subjective. But in 1945, Peyton Cabot struggles to discover, not only his father’s truth, but what that means for his future. 

I was drawn into The Key to Everything like I usually am any story set around World War 2. It’s the War my grandparents served in, and to which I was raised on stories of. They were called the Greatest Generation for several reasons. A big one was their sense of duty, and determination to do what had to be done, regardless to how that affected their person. You didn’t come here to listen to me wax poetic, though The Key to Everything certainly has me thinking philosophical thoughts. Keep reading to learn more about this fantastic novel, and how you can earn your own copy today with the raffle below!


by Valerie Fraser Luesse


Contemporary Christian Romance

Publisher: Revell

Date of Publication: June 2, 2020

Number of Pages: 352

Scroll down for the giveaway!


Based on a true story, Valerie Fraser Luesse’s new novel takes readers on an incredible journey of self-discovery. The poignant prose, enchanting characters, and captivating settings in The Key to Everything make this a moving story that readers won’t soon forget. Peyton Cabot’s fifteenth year will be a painful and transformative one. His father, the reluctant head of a moneyed Savannah family, has come home from WWII a troubled vet, drowning his demons in bourbon, and distancing himself from his son. When a tragic accident separates Peyton from his parents, and the girl of his dreams seems out of reach, he struggles to cope with a young life upended.

Pushed to his limit, Peyton makes a daring decision: he will retrace a slice of the journey his father took at fifteen by riding his bicycle all the way from St. Augustine to Key West, Florida. Part loving tribute, part search for self, Peyton’s journey will unlock more than he ever could have imagined, including the key to his distant father, a calling that will shape the rest of his life, and the realization that he’s willing to risk absolutely everything for the girl he loves.



goodreads link


4 of 5 Stars

In one of The Key to Everything’s defining moments, our hero states, “It’s not that I don’t get scared. I just try not to let being scared stop me from doing whatever I’ve made up my mind to do.” Enter Peyton, born to the superfluously wealthy Cabot clan of Georgia. Every Spring the family holds an annual picnic, where the kin who cannot stand one another, gather en masse. It’s here that Peyton’s grandfather reminds his children yet again, Peyton’s father Marshall is the favorite. And the favorite will inherit the leadership and fortune of Grandfather Cabot’s vast estates. Money makes the world go round, as they say, and Uncle Julian seems to believe it. When Marshall Cabot takes a fall and turn for the worse, Peyton and his mother are helpless to watch Uncle Julian seeks to claim it all. What begins with an idyllic scene of the not-so-distant past, turns into a story about heartbreak and betrayal.

Peyton finds himself taking the same steps his father took before the War took Marshall’s spirit. In the wake of personal tragedy, Peyton decides to take the same bicycling trip to Key West, the trip where his father found his mother and decided their future. Now Peyton needs answers. He has spent most of his life living under the shadow of others, but now he’ll step beyond everything he’s ever known. As our hero so eloquently puts it, “Somewhere along the way, you gotta draw your own map.”

The pacing of this story is slow and steady, and doesn’t really pick up until Peyton begins his journey in and out of the lives of strangers. Along the way, he demonstrates, again and again, the kind of altruism that seems unthinkable by today’s standards. Peyton makes a hundred dollars helping a race car driver win, then later uses that money to get his friend out of jail the same day. Unlike the rest of the Cabot clan, Peyton knows money means nothing, not if people aren’t willing to give it up to do the right thing and help one another.

There were several times I wanted to shout at Peyton through the pages: not to be so trusting, not to give it all away in the face of an uncertain future, not to hinge so much on the hopes of one girl. But therein lies the miracle of Peyton Cabot. He’s not a perfect kid by any stretch, but he is selfless, generous, and willing to take big risks to find answers. Peyton is the kind of person we all wish it were safe enough to be, and because of this, I found myself rooting for him anyway.

Author Valerie Fraser Luesse surrounds the reader with people, places, and a time that soon draws you deeply into her story. The Key to Everything doesn’t set out to be profound, and even Peyton Cabot doesn’t see his deeds as grandiose. The beauty of this novel shines through the same way it does in life, through the surprising in-between moments we aren’t looking for. The little moments we often miss when we’re distracted. Luesse is inviting us to take a pause, and truly look and see the world around us, the same way Peyton comes to see things. I found this to be a lovely read in uncertain times, and it’s stories like this I believe we need most of all. To remind us to listen quietly, love deeply, and to remind us, as Luesse writes, “You are not the only one who has felt forsaken. That is how you know you are not.”

**I was provided with a copy of The Key to Everything by the publisher and this is my voluntary and honest review.**


Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac and Almost Home, as well as an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently senior travel editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse received the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society for her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana. A graduate of Auburn University and Baylor University, she lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband, Dave. 


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One Winner: Copy of The Key to Everything, Necklace, $25 B&N Gift Card; 
Two Winners: Copy of The Key to Everything + $10 Starbucks Gift Card
June16-26, 2020
(US only)





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5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Key to Everything

  1. What an insightful review of the book. I love reading other reviews to get other readers’ reactions to the story. And I really like the little intro at the top of the review. What a neat way to draw a visitor in to read the rest of your post.


    1. Right?? I was surprised, too. I’ll confess, I had forgotten that when I started reading. The whole time I was reading I kept thinking how all the events were obviously fictional. Nothing so perfect and bizarre could happen in real life. Until it apparently did lol. The strangest stories stem from truths, something I won’t soon forget 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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