With You Always, by Jody Hedlund

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Could Following the Opportunity of a Lifetime Cost Them the Love of Their Lives?

One of the many immigrants struggling to survive in 1850s New York, Elise Neumann knows she must take action to care for her younger sisters. She finds a glimmer of hope when the New York Children’s Aid Society starts sending skilled workers to burgeoning towns out west. But the promise of the society’s orphan trains is not all that it seems.

Born into elite New York society, Thornton Quincy possesses everything except the ability to step out from his brother’s shadow. When their ailing father puts forth a unique challenge to determine who will inherit his railroad-building empire, Thornton finally sees his chance. The conditions to win? Be the first to build a sustainable community along the Illinois Central Railroad and find a suitable wife.

Thrown together against all odds, Elise and Thornton couldn’t be from more different worlds. The spark that ignites between them is undeniable, but how can they let it grow when that means forfeiting everything they’ve been working toward?

First Thoughts:

Jody Hedlund is a solid go-to author. I rarely hesitate to read one of her books.

My Take:

What was it like to live in New York City’s Five Points neighborhood at the height of its notoriety? What would it be like to move from there to a brand new town ‘out west’ with fresh air as opposed to a permanent smog? Jody Hedlund explores these thoughts in the first novel of her new series. With You Always focuses on German immigrant Elise who exists in a New York tenement with her sisters. In desperation, they turn to a mission housed in an old brewery where there’s food and work to be found. But it can’t keep out a financial panic and Elise must leave her family in order to provide for them. She gets work in a town being developed by none other than the man who rescues her during the Dead Rabbits Riot.

In With You Always, Hedlund has given readers an engaging tale with fascinating descriptions and great characters. We can understand the poverty of life in New York tenements and the desperation of those with limited options. We can see the contrasting progress of the new railroad towns. I found it difficult to put this book down, only doing so when tiredness overtook me. I wasn’t surprised there was a villain in the piece and I did figure out the connection between that person and another major character. The romance is satisfying: I appreciated that, after the initial misunderstandings, Elise and Thorton were honest with each other. Elise, in particular, didn’t hide anything when she told him how to win the contest.

This is the first novel in the Orphan Train series, but there is a prequel novella. An Awakened Heart focuses on the beginnings of the mission featured in With You Always, but it does introduce Elise and her sisters. I began reading this book immediately after reading the prequel and it felt like one continuous story. I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to have read the prequel first, but I would recommend it. It’s available for most electronic readers and is the grand price of free, so why wouldn’t you want to read it?

Thank you to Bethany House for my complimentary copy of With You Always, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read With You Always? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Author Q and A

Publisher: Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 06 June 2017

Page Count: 368

Read more on:   Jody Hedlund’s Website   Bethany House’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

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Newton and Polly: A Novel of Amazing Grace, by Jody Hedlund

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound 
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found…

Now remembered as the author of the world’s most famous hymn, in the mid-eighteenth century as England and France stand on the brink of war, John Newton is a young sailor wandering aimlessly through life. His only duty is to report to his ship and avoid disgracing his father—until the night he hears Polly Catlett’s enchanting voice, caroling. He’s immediately smitten and determined to win her affection.

An intense connection quickly forms between the two, but John’s reckless spirit and disregard for the Christian life are concerns for the responsible, devout Polly. When an ill-fated stop at a tavern leaves John imprisoned and bound, Polly must choose to either stand by his side or walk out of his life forever. Will she forfeit her future for the man she loves?

Step back through the pages of history, to uncover the true love story behind a song that continues to stir the hearts and ignite the faith of millions around the globe.

First Thoughts:

Sure, I’d heard of John Newton, the former slave ship captain. But who was Polly Catlett? Jody Hedlund has written some great novels about famous Christian relationships of history, so I’m hoping to both enjoy and learn something from this book.

My Take:

Jody Hedlund’s latest foray into biographical historical romance takes us to the early years of Amazing Grace writer, John Newton, at a time when he lived a distinctly non-Christian life. He was still a teenager when he met his distant relation, Polly Catlett, but he was immediately taken with her. He stayed numerous times with the Catlett family, but it was after one of these visits that he was pressganged into serving with the Royal Navy. Newton and Polly focuses on the period before and after this event, including John’s misdeeds.

What I knew of John Newton before reading this book was extremely limited. I knew he was involved with the slave trade, but not to what extent. I didn’t know that he was learned but uncouth, charming but without ambition. He was often absence without leave from the vessels on which he served. Even after falling in love with Polly, he appeared to lack the maturity to live the steady life required of a man looking to marry. I understood why Mr. Catlett didn’t readily approve of him. It was only after five years of indenture and near death in a storm that he realized that, like Jonah, he’d been running from God and turned his life around.

Jody Hedlund’s novel appears to stay true to what I’ve since read about John Newton’s life, although she admits to altering some minor detail and creating a subplot involving smuggling. It’s an ugly story at times. There are brief passages of violence, references to dishonorable behavior, and descriptions of ill-treatment of slaves. And, although there are references to the lyrics of Amazing Grace, the writing of the song itself isn’t included since that happened many years later.

Thank you to Waterbrook and Blogging for Books for my complimentary copy of Newton and Polly, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read Newton and Polly? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Waterbrook (an imprint of Penguin Random House)

Publication Date: 20 September 2016

Page Count: 400

Read more on:   Jody Hedlund’s Website   Waterbrook’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

Old Favorites: September

Here we go with the monthly look back at some of the novels I’ve loved over the years.

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