October 14, 2013

To My Dearest Friend

Rebellious Heart by Jody Hedlund

Release Date: September 15, 2013
Publisher: Bethany House
Pages: 384 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; eARC
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
In 1763 Massachusetts, Susanna Smith has grown up with everything she's ever wanted, except one thing: an education. Because she's a female, higher learning has been closed to her, but her quick mind and quicker tongue never back down from a challenge. She's determined to put her status to good use, reaching out to the poor and deprived. And she knows when she marries well, she will be able to continue her work with the less fortunate.

Ben Ross grew up a farmer's son and has nothing to his name but his Harvard education. A poor country lawyer, he doesn't see how he'll be able to fulfill his promise to make his father proud of him. When family friends introduce him to the Smith family, he's drawn to quick-witted Susanna but knows her family expects her to marry well. When Susanna's decision to help an innocent woman no matter the cost crosses with Ben's growing disillusionment with their British rulers, the two find themselves bound together in what quickly becomes a very dangerous fight for justice.

Thoughts on Rebellious Heart
I was dying to read this book the minute I saw that it was written by Jody Hedlund AND was set in 1763. The first reason is because Hedlund has quickly become one of my favorite Christian historical fiction writers, and the other reason is because I love books set during colonial times. It's probably a by-product of my early love for the Felicity American Girl doll, but this time period has always had a special place in my heart.

It was late last year when I read my first book by Hedlund, and I devoured the three other books she'd written soon after. One of my absolute favorite things about her books is that the stories are typically inspired by real people or real events. Her first book was inspired by the marriage of John and Elizabeth Bunyan. Her second book, my favorites so far, was inspired by Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, missionaries to the West in the early 1800s. She had a book that was published this past April, so I was thrilled to see that she had another book on the horizon for 2013. Plus, I was excited to find out who or what had inspired this story!

Susanna Smith has led a privileged life, but she's been taught to care for others. She has love and compassion for those less fortunate than her and puts her position in the community to good use. There's only one thing she's wanted that's been out of her reach, and it's an education. As a female, she's been limited in what she's been allowed to read and learn... but she knows there's so much more out there.

Benjamin Ross is the opposite. He is the son of a farmer, and he's got nothing to his name. He's been able to get a Harvard education, but he believes that everyone who knows him will always see what he lacks: wealth and status. He comes back as a lawyer, but he's well aware that marrying well would improve his reputation immensely.

This book has one of my favorite romantic setups: Susanna snubbed Benjamin when they were younger, and they each have their own ideas about how the other has turned out as an adult. Susanna thinks Benjamin will always see her as selfish and haughty, and Benjamin firmly believes Susanna will always see him as less than. So, I was obviously loving the tense dynamic between these two from the very beginning.

The community is troubled when several women are found violently murdered nearby. They have no idea who is responsible, but it ends up sparking a series of events that forces Benjamin and Susanna to work together to help an innocent woman. I loved that there was this dark and dangerous element to the story because it heightened the tension and conflict in the book. I was desperate to find out if everyone would be safe, and I was frantically flipping to pages to see how it would end!

Aside from the murderer on the loose, they're also dealing with the British militia. Benjamin has a rebellious streak and he's disillusioned with British rule. Susanna believes the best course of action is obedience - and she's horrified by Benjamin's treasonous leanings. I loved the inclusion of the political elements because it was so integral to that time period. America was on the cusp of war, and I really enjoyed seeing the growing frustration in this small town.

Doesn't that just sound like the recipe for a good read? There's political intrigue, mysterious murders, and some delicious romantic tension... It made it almost impossible for me to put this book down! The faith element was a nice touch, and I found it fitting for the characters. I'm a sucker for a well-written plot, engaging characters and a swoonworthy romance, so it made me so happy to discover this book had all three!

The best part? This book was inspired by the courtship of John and Abigail Adams. I mean, HELLO, a love story inspired by a couple who became the President and First Lady. I loved reading Hedlund's notes at the end where she talks about what parts of the book were taken straight from John and Abigail's courtship - because it's definitely more than I'd anticipated. Seriously, that extra knowledge just took my enjoyment of the book to a whole different level. Also, do me a favor and do a Google search about the letters exchanged between John and Abigail during their courtship so you can understand the title of this review. Such sweetness! I'm not sure if this one unseated The Doctor's Lady as my favorite book by Hedlund, but it sure came close!

So Quotable
"'Tis exceedingly easy,' Grandmother Eve said, 'to get caught up in the way things have always been done and never question if that's the way they should continue.'"
*I received a copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way for my review.

10 comments:

  1. You totally sold me. I'm adding it to my check out list right now.

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    1. Yayyy! I think you'll really enjoy this one :)

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  2. Wow. While I normally avoid Christian-themed fiction at all costs, the passion and depth of your review has successfully convinced me to keep an eye out for Rebellious Heart the next time I'm at the bookstore! Like you, I've always had a particular weakness for novels set during the Colonial period and I love that one of the central conflicts of the novel revolves around Susanna's desire for further access to education and self improvement. I'm also extremely intrigued by the existing dynamic between Susanna and Benjamin as you've described it. I love when two characters have a pre-existing history and preconceptions that they must overcome in order to achieve their happily ever after, and the more romantic tension, the more satisfying the eventual coupling, I think :D

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    1. Thanks Jen! I read a lot of Christian fiction growing up, so it's definitely a genre I return to now and then. Having read so much of it, I do understand why it's often a genre people actively avoid. It does, however, make me sad because there are some really good books that I thought could still have more mainstream appeal. I think it really worked in this one, in particular, because faith was something John & Abigail Adams shared, so it's also accurate to that portrayal of them. I hope you really do give this one a chance! I adored it.

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  3. Like Jen, I totally am not one to EVER pick up Christian fiction. However, you make a good case for Rebellious Heart. Have you seen the HBO mini series on John Adams? It covers the romance pretty decently. So, when you mention that this book was inspired by John and Abigail Adams it makes me want to read it. Also, I like when snubbing turns to loving. I'll have to actually put Rebellious Heart on my radar for sure.

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    1. I'm so glad you feel that way! I know this is a genre that a lot of readers tend to avoid, but there are some really good books hiding out in there that have mainstream appeal :) I haven't seen the HBO series, but now I want to watch it. I hope you enjoy it if you end up reading it!

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  4. You make this book sound AMAZING, Hannah! I love that this author grounds her books in so much historical fact. Plus John and Abigail's love story is legendary, so reading a take off of that is definitely appealing. This is one of my favorite romantic set ups too. Love when characters have some history together that they have to work thorough. Somehow it makes their connection stronger. I'm getting shivery thinking about this book already. GREAT review friend :).

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    1. Yeah, my favorite thing about this author is that she's always inspired by a historical couple/event, which makes her books that much more interesting to me. I loved so much about this book, and I think you'd really enjoy it! Can't wait to hear your thoughts if you do :)

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  5. I love when you post reviews like this one! It's a great historical fiction novel that I would NEVER have heard of otherwise, so thank you for sharing. I'm fascinated by the relationship in this story, as I think it has the makings of being something truly epic. I must check out Hedlund's books!

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    1. I'm so glad you like my reviews for books that are a little more off the regular radar! You really should check out Hedlund's books. I've loved them all.

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