Release Date: October 2010; September 2011; September 2012
Publisher: Bethany House
Pages: 384 pages; 378 pages; 374 pages
Source & Format: Library; Paperback
Thoughts on The Preacher's Bride
It's England in the 1650s, a time of political and religious unrest. John Costin is newly widowed and father of four, including a newborn baby. Spending much of his time traveling and preaching, he needs help taking care of his family. Despite his protests, Elizabeth Whithead believes she's the right person for the job. She volunteers as the family's housekeeper and becomes a mother-type figure to his children.
Taking the position risks her lone marriage prospect, and it's thankless work that quickly becomes dangerous. John's preaching has made him a political target, and Elizabeth soon becomes drawn into the deadly attempt to silence him.
I don't think I've read anything set in the Puritan culture (at least that I can think of), and I found this book to be really intriguing. The best part was finding out at the end that it's based on the true story of John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim's Progress. It made the book that more intriguing and interesting.
Well-written and enjoyable, I looked forward to finding out what Elizabeth decided to do and how the political conflicts were resolved. This is Hedlund's debut, and I read two of her more recent books immediately following this. Compared to those, this was the weakest of the three. I wasn't completely captured by the story or the romance, but I did find it a nice change of pace from all the young adult I'd been reading.
Thoughts on The Doctor's Lady
Two people, both with a desire to reach people for God. Dr. Eli Ernest returns East to raise awareness and money for his mission before he heads West to Orgeon County once again. After a severe illness, Priscilla White learns she'll never be a mother. Knowing how important children are to marriage, especially at this period in time, she believes that she'll now never become a wife. Resigned to her fate, she feels God's call to the mission field in India.
Then, both receive devastating news from the mission board: they will no longer send unmarried men and women into the field. Eli and Priscilla have only recently been introduced, but they agree to a marriage of convenience in order to accomplish their goals.
Unlike in The Preacher's Bride, I immediately fell in love with Priscilla and Eli. Reading about their journey on the Orgeon Trail, the dangers they faced and the people they meet, was absolutely fascinating. It was really interesting to read about the illness, exhaustion, fear and loss that tested their faith along the way.
I thought Hedlund's writing was much stronger in this book. The pacing was better, the characters more developed and the romantic tension was spot-on. This was one of those books that had me swooning, even when nothing was really happening. Just the tension of wondering if these two would finally see what they could be if they just opened their eyes had me on edge (in a good way).
Similarly to her first book, Hedlund based this book on the story of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, missionaries to the West in the early 1800s. This was one of my favorite examples of Christian historical fiction. The faith was natural and fit into the story well - it wasn't forced or clunky - and the characters and story were thoroughly enjoyable.
Thoughts on Unending Devotion
Lily Young is desperate to find her sister. Ignoring the danger, her job as a photographer's assistant allows her to search logging camps and towns. When she arrives in Harrison, Michigan, her path crosses that of Connell McCormick. The son of a lumber-baron, he's determined to prove his worth and increase his father's fortunes.
I found this book a little more predictable, but there was one thing about it that fascinated me. Lily's sister is a prostitute. Mining and lumber camps are overflowing with men, and where the men are brothels follow. I can honestly say there is very little Christian fiction written that addresses something like sex slavery and prostitution.
The town in Hedlund's novel is apathetic about the brothels and write off the women as whores. I really liked how Lily sees them as people, as victims, and as deserving of help. Many of the women had been tricked into the position and had not chosen it for themselves. Unfortunately, it was also a situation that was almost impossible to get out of on their own.
There were some aspects of this book that were a little annoying, but I really appreciated the focus on a topic I rarely read about in Christian fiction.
If you like Christian historical fiction, I'd certainly recommend looking into Jody Hedlund's books. She writes engaging stories with interesting characters, and I really enjoyed spending time with all three of these books.