Monday, December 8, 2014

Review of "Love Unexpected"

Rating: 4 Stars

Review: "Love Unexpected" is a gentle romance with endearing characters and a beautiful setting.  Jody Hedlund makes a mark on readers' hearts with her tale of faith, forgiveness, and love. I became easily ensconced in the lives of Emma, Patrick, and Josiah. The unexpected is present from the tense opening scene when Emma finds herself coming close to death at sea. In a short span of time, her life completely changes and she becomes a wife and mother. I was surprised at how suddenly Emma and Patrick enter into their marriage of convenience.  In many ways, their situation is similar to "Love Comes Softly," and the marriage is just the beginning of the story.  Emma's struggles and doubts as a new wife and mother make her a realistic character who is easily lovable.  Her compassion and humility definitely stand out, and her interactions with little Josiah are absolutely heart-melting.  The cover art captures their bond to perfection, and matches the essence of the novel in its entirety.  

Patrick is the epitome of a gentleman, behaving with honor and restraint.  Emma quickly loses her heart to him and readers will too. His character is one with multiple layers that add texture to the entire plot.  His dark history is a stark contrast to the redeemed Patrick, which adds significant depth to the messages of hope and forgiveness.  Patrick's job as the keeper of the Presque Isle light seamlessly incorporates Michigan's nautical history. The small village and its lighthouse are described with picturesque charm, while still acknowledging the hardships faced by those who settled in remote areas. Jody Hedlund has an undeniable ability to bring to characters to life and place them in historical settings, and that talent is prevalent in "Love Unexpected." The gentle love and the purity of emotion make this a memorable novel, whose light shines brightly.  

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. 

Summary from Bethany House: 1859,   Presque Isle, Michigan 

What Is the Secret That Could Shipwreck Both of Their Lives?

All Emma Chambers ever wanted was a home, but when her steamboat sinks just outside Presque Isle, she's left destitute and with no place to stay.

An unlikely solution arises when the lighthouse keeper arrives in town. He's just lost his wife and is having a difficult time caring for his child. So a traveling preacher gets the idea that the keeper and Emma might be the answer to each other's dilemma. After a hasty marriage, she finds herself heading to the lighthouse with this handsome but quiet stranger. Nothing in her aimless life, though, has prepared her for parenting a rambunctious toddler, as well as managing a household.

Emma soon suspects Patrick may be hiding something from her, and then she hears a disturbing rumor about the circumstances surrounding his late wife's death. It seems as if her wish for a home and family of her own could end up leading her once more into turbulent waters.

Review of "Brentwood's Ward"

Rating: 4 Stars

Review:  "Brentwood's Ward" isn't a typical Regency romance; it has murder, mystery, and deception alongside the expected spencer jackets and social gatherings.  Michelle Griep creates a plot with numerous twists and surprises that keep the pace moving steadily.  Emily Payne is a headstrong young woman determined to do things her own way, even when danger lurks nearby.  She comes across as spoiled and makes some aggravating decisions; but like any good character, the circumstances she faces lead to growth and maturity.  Sparks fly when the handsome Nicholas Brentwood is assigned as guardian to Emily.  The two are social opposites, and Emily is steadfastly determined to marry within her own class.  The result is an undercurrent of romance, leaving us in anticipation for the moment they openly acknowledge their mutual love.

Brentwood brings a lot of interest to the story.  He plays a variety of roles - guardian, lawman, and caretaker.  Griep ties in a few subplots through Brentwood.  His job as a Bow Street Runner provides a new perspective into London's history, while bringing action and suspense as well. Brentwood takes us on a detective's journey to uncover the deadly danger that surrounds Emily and her family. The most heartwarming role that Brentwood portrays is that of a loving brother.  His sick sister is a sweet addition to the cast, who reminds me of Betsy in Elizabeth Gaskell's "North and South." Brentwood's interactions with his sister establish his character, making him a stark contrast to some of the society "gentleman" who Emily holds in high regard.

"Brentwood's Ward" is a novel that kept my interest completely. The specifics of the central mystery and Emily's family felt somewhat contrived, but I enjoyed the story.  I read Michelle Griep's "A Heart Deceived" last year, and found it completely gripping. "Brentwood's Ward" is less memorable for me, but a novel that I fully recommend.  Griep's ability to create a dimensional historical story with themes of faith will keep me picking up her books.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Books through NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Summary from Barbour Publishing: Place an unpolished lawman named Nicholas Brentwood as guardian over a spoiled, pompous beauty named Emily Payne and what do you get? More trouble than Brentwood bargains for. She is determined to find a husband this season. He just wants the large fee her father will pay him to help his ailing sister. After a series of dire mishaps, both their desires are thwarted, but each discovers that no matter what, God is in charge.


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