Book Review: Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund (3.5 stars, 2014)

Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story takes place in 1859, on Presque Isle, Michigan. With their steamboat under attack by fresh-water pirates, Emma Chamber and her brother Ryan jump overboard into the frigid waters of Lake Huron, praying for a miracle. Neither of them believe strongly in miracles anymore, ever since their mother died of starvation in Ireland and their father passed away after doing whatever was necessary for them to survive, including theft which then led him to drink. But lighthouse keeper Patrick Garraty spotted the sinking steamboat from his perch and rushes to save whoever he can, meaning Ryan and Emma. Befuddled by the loss of their passage, once again nearly penniless, Ryan must work locally in order to earn enough for their passage on a new ship, work which will take him at least a few months. Emma is left to her own devices, saddened that her brother is once again saddled with her as a burden, that is until Patrick Garraty and the local preacher, Holy Bill, approach her with a proposition. Patrick's wife just recently died and he is in desperate need of someone to watch his two-year-old son, Josiah, while he tends to the care and upkeep of the lighthouse. The only condition is that they must marry. After a moment of panic at the very notion, Emma agrees to Patrick's plan, having already taken a liking to the toddler and thrilled at being able to release her little brother from his responsibility in protecting and providing for her. Now Patrick and Emma must work together to form a new life for themselves and for little Josiah, but their fledgling relationship is tested by local gossips and the rumor mill, raising doubts in Emma's mind about the suitability and faithfulness of her new husband.

This is my third Jody Hedlund book, and the start to a brand new series by her, entitled Beacons of Hope. Ms. Hedlund enjoys writing about lighthouses, particularly those in the Michigan area run by female lighthouse keepers, and so she based Emma and Patrick off two real people, Patrick Garraty and his wife Mary Chambers. The historicity of the novel is fascianting. Even Holy Bill, an eccentric and amusing character, is based off a real individual. I always find that using historic people and places, doing your research as a writer, always enhances historic fiction, and Ms. Hedlund does one of the finest jobs out there when it comes to her research.

As to the characters themselves, I truly appreciated Patrick, both as a husband and as a father. He has a speckled past, full of mistakes and poor choices, but he turned his life around with God's help and refuses to return to his past sins. He is a gentle and loving father, an affectionate husband, and a dedicated lighthouse keeper, determined to keep the lighthouse going every night, even when he's so tired that he can barely stay awake. I struggle more with liking Emma, unfortunately. It's not that she's unlikeable, it's just that she makes errors in judgement. She chooses to befriend the nosiest, most mean-spirited woman in town, spilling her new husband's secrets in earnest to the woman, hoping for advice. Emma creates most of the problems in this book by her foolishness in trusting the wrong people who are obviously the wrong people from the start.

I deeply appreciate Ms. Hedlund's writing. She is skilled in her descriptions and her dialogue, painting very real and vivid pictures most of the time. I just wish, in this book, that Emma and Patrick had talked. A lot of the angst and turmoil could have been avoided with a few simple conversations. Emma constantly jumped to conclusions about Patrick: oh, he couldn't love her, she's plain, he's angry with her, he could never desire her, etc. All while it's obvious that Patrick adores her and is highly attracted to her. She even tries to leave because she assumes something she sees is true, that her opinion of it is right, and that a conversation with Patrick would be pointless. She's sure she's right, and so she runs away without talking to him. That's foolish and reckless. Communication is just as important in fiction as it is in real life, and I just wish that Patrick and Emma had communicated more.

On my rating scale, I would give Love Unexpected 3.5 stars. I'm rounding it up because the flaw is not in her writing, only in some of the character development and design. The book is a quick and simple read, enjoyable in many places, and one that most readers will love.

- I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review, which I have given.

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Comments

  1. I can see your point. Emma becoming such good friends with that woman was so obviously wrong!!! Yes, the other woman could help her practically--teaching her how to cook, keep house, etc. But still!!!

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    1. Yep, I never bought that part of the story. It's not like Bertie was concealing her malice, she was mean from the start! The reader knows it and so do the other characters. Emma was foolish when it came to that woman and it disappointed me. Ah well, no book is perfect. It's still a fairly good read and I'm curious about the next one.

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  2. How interesting! I used to live only about twenty miles from Lake Huron, and I find lighthouse keepers fascinating. I will have to see if I can find this.

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    1. One reason I read it is because I lived on the Oregon coast as a child and love lighthouses as a result! That's so neat you know the setting! The historicity of the book is excellent so you'll probably enjoy it. Even though it wasn't all I had hoped for, the book is still a decent read.

      And speaking of, would you like my copy? I'm thrilled to give it to you if you're interested. :)

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    2. Why, sure! Thank you, that's very generous of you. The library doesn't have a copy, so I'd just have to keep an eye out for it at the used book store otherwise. Do you have my address?

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    3. Rachel, sorry, life's been crazy! I thought I had your address, but I can't find the envelope with it. I know it's here somewhere. But if you could just send it to me again, that would be awesome and I'll ship the book to you on Tuesday! It's fun being able to send it on to a new home!

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    4. And don't be like, "Aw man, I'm depriving her of something to read!" I just finished reading a book I bought three years ago. I own books I bought before my son was born that I haven't read yet. He's seven. I'm not suffering for reading matter ;-)

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    5. I figured you had plenty to read so I wasn't worried about that. I just want to make sure I follow through on sending you the book since I'm quite bad about that sometimes. Call it a resolution for the new year, if you like, developing organizational skills and discipline. :)

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    6. Gotcha! My sole resolution this year is: Finish Things. I always have oodles of projects going, and I just work on a little here and a little there and it takes forever to finish any of them. So now before I start any new projects, I have to finish the ones I have going :-) One crochet/knitting project at a time, one sewing project, etc.

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    7. Oh boy, I should probably do that too. I'm halfway through knitting a sock, have one leg warmer finished, and half a cowl crocheted. Yep, could probably stand to finish all of them before starting something new. Great resolution!

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    8. Got this in the mail yesterday! Thanks :-D

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