The Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Elizabeth Whitbread desires to be of profound service to her family, her neighbors, and to her Lord. So when Sister Costin dies soon after the birth of her 4th child, Elizabeth's heart breaks, not only for the babe, but for the husband and three small children left behind. This being a strict, Puritan society during 1650s England, Elizabeth is bound by the laws of her town and make an unfortunate enemy of Mrs. Grew, a powerhouse of female influence upon her husband, Alderman Grew because Elizabeth refuses to back away from helping the Costin infant, even at Mrs. Grew's insistence. The babe, Thomas, struggles to survive, and it is only through the wet nursing of a woman of debatable character is he able to grow strong, all due to Elizabeth's influence and compassion for the family.
As for the husband, John Costin, he grieves the loss of his precious wife, Mary, but focuses all the harder upon his calling from God, to teach the Word, a thing not viewed favorably by the Anglicans since he has not been ordained as a minister of the Gospel. A lowly tinker by trade, John Costin is wise man with a heart for the Lord and he refuses to back away from his calling to preach. Tensions rise in England and King Charles II is placed back on the throne after Richard Cromwell fails in his role as Lord Protector, bringing Catholicism and strict adherence to the religion of the realm back into style. It is during these tenuous times that Elizabeth realizes she need not settle to marry a man she does not love, and John too understands that he could possibly find comfort in a woman's arms again, the arms of Elizabeth who endears herself to him more each day as she cares for his household and supports his teaching. But life is uncertain for an un-ordained minister who refuses to cease his preaching, and John's future is fraught with peril.
Jody Hedlund's books remain an absolute delight for me. I thought I could not love another of her books more than I loved Rebellious Heart, but I was wrong because The Preacher's Bride captured me utterly. Over the last few days I've tried to narrow down why I love the male characters that I do and it always comes back to two things. They are completely masculine, and they are usually devoted to the Lord in profoundly moving ways. I love ministers of the gospel, always have, and always will. So, the appeal John has over me is that he is both masculine and in love with the Lord. A man who loves and serves Christ faithfully and without reserve, pursuing that love ardently and without fear, is attractive in the extremes to me, and that is the type of man Jody Hedlund excelled at creating in this book.
Now, it is possible that I wouldn't have liked The Preacher's Bride nearly as much if the heroine hadn't been equally as well-rounded and likeable as the hero. Elizabeth Whitbread has a servant's heart. She desires the best for those around her and yearns to serve the Lord all her days. She is warm and compassionate, and even though she does fear for the safety of John and urges him to stop preaching, she does it in a way that is gentle and endearingly loving. It didn't take me very long to realize that Elizabeth is, in fact, an ISFJ. Everything about her screams it, and I wish I were as whole of an ISFJ as she is.
One last final note, I love how Ms. Hedlund based The Preacher's Bride off the lives of John and Elizabeth Bunyan. As most of you should know, John Bunyan wrote the famous Pilgrim's Progress which I have yet to read, but he wrote it while in prison for preaching the gospel without being ordained. The historicity is magnificent and I cannot praise Ms. Hedlund's work enough. I love her character development, the setting she uses for her stories, and her impassioned style of writing that gives me just enough sensual desire in her lead characters while still maintaining their solid faith and dignity. She is a winning writer for me, one of my absolute favorites, and The Preacher's Bride is a top-notch historic novel.
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