Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund

The Doctor's Lady
Jody Hedlund
Bethany House Publishers
2011
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Official Backpage Synopsis

Priscilla White knows she'll never be a wife or mother and feels God's call to the mission field in India. Dr. Eli Ernest is back from Oregon Country only long enough to raise awareness of missions to the natives before heading out West once more. But then Priscilla and Eli both receive news from the mission board: No longer will they send unmarried men and women into the field. 

Left scrambling for options, the two realize the other might be the answer to their needs. Priscilla and Eli agree to a partnership, a marriage in name only that will allow them to follow God's leading into the mission field. But as they journey west, this decision will be tested by the hardships of the trip and by the unexpected turnings of their hearts.


My Take in 3 Parts

The Theme
I grew up partly in Oregon, okay. Stories about wagon trains and the Oregon Trail were literally everywhere and so I just grew up loving them. My sister and I even converted a shed into a wagon train and used sawhorses for real horses with stick pony heads tied to them. It was awesome. So I was pretty much guaranteed to like a story about a wagon train. 

But it was making the story about missionaries that really clinched it for me. If there's one thing I deeply appreciate about Jody Hedlund, it's her ability to include strong elements of faith in her writing without it feeling overbearing. The story revolves strongly around the faith of Priscilla and Eli as they're making this perilous journey west. All because the gospel needs to be brought to the indiginous peoples of that region. It's a heartwarming theme and, for me, it never gets old. I love stories that involve American Indians and stories that involve genuine, loving missionaries and The Doctor's Lady had plenty of both.

The Characters
I love Priscilla. Not as much as I love Elizabeth Whitbread in The Preacher's Bride, but still, Priscilla comes pretty close. From the time she was a teenager, she knew she wanted to serve the Lord on the missions field. And even though she didn't like the shape of her dream to alter, she did finally acknowledge that God was in control of her calling and in choosing to lead her down a different path than the one she'd envisioned for herself. She's strong and determined, and she grows a great deal throughout her story, both in maturity and in her faith.

As for Eli, well, I'm particularly attracted to rugged, imperfect men. He has bad childhood memories that haunt him, a scant education, and severe trust and self-esteem issues, and yet he's still a man faithful to his calling to love the American Indians and to serve them in the Lord's name. What's not to love about a guy like that? Both of the leads were superbly rendered and I really didn't want to finish their story.

The Writing
Jody Hedlund rarely disappoints me. She certainly lived up to most of my expectations with The Doctor's Lady. She delivered strong thematic elements, vivid characters, and excellent research into the actual journey itself and the stops made along the way. One thing I do notice, however, is that she usually incorporates a near-rape in her books. It's becoming more prevalent in historic romance now where the heroine must be rescued from having her chastity stolen, and, to be honest, it's becoming predictable. I realize that women are always at risk, anywhere, but I think that plot device shouldn't be used as often and with as much vigor as some authors wield it.

Final Thoughts

From the moment I started this book, I was pretty much hooked. But I couldn't quite put my finger on why. I think I had a niggling suspicion lurking somewhere that I knew this story. After all, Jody Hedlund is prone to using real people to inspire her fictional characters. My guess was right. The Doctor's Lady is inspired by the real life missionaries, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman. I've visited the Whitman mission, heard their stories, and grieved at the knowledge that they were murdered by the very people who they were so intent on saving.

Anyone ever watched the movie Seven Alone from 1974? The orphans in this story ended up at the Whitman mission where they found refuge until the Whitman massacre. The film doesn't cover the massacre, of course, but I knew the ending to that story simply because I'd visited the Whitman Mission.

Fortunately for those reading The Doctor's Lady, the story is not about Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, merely inspired by them. There is no tragic death of the lead characters, only the growth of mutual love and respect. But it is always exciting to learn that a story is inspired by true events, making the fictional characters more grounded in reality than they might otherwise be.

Overall, Jody Hedlund has more hits than misses with me and The Doctor's Lady is a definite hit.

4 comments:

  1. I'm reading my first Jody Hedlund right now -- Luther and Katharina -- and I can see why you like her so well! This one is going on my TBR list :-)

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    1. She's really a terrific writer, so much fun to read. There have been a couple of her books that I haven't enjoyed, but for the most part she writes solid winners. Luther and Katharina is on my shelf at home, waiting for me to attend to it!

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  2. This is my favourite from Jody Hedlund! I definitely think she's at her best when her stories are inspired by real people!

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    1. It really is a terrific book. I've liked all the books in this particular series, if you can call it a series. I need to re-read Rebellious Heart and see how it compare to The Doctor's Lady and The Preacher's Bride. Of course, I really need to read Luther and Katharina. It's waiting for me on my nightstand, but I haven't even cracked the pages yet!

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