Thursday, October 04, 2012

Unending Devotion by Jody Hedlund

From the Publisher:
Michigan, 1883
In Her Darkest Hours, Is He the Man She Needs?

Lily Young longs to find her lost sister or will die trying. Heedless of any danger, she searches logging camps and towns, posing as a photographer's assistant. And then she arrives in Harrison, Michigan--and the sights of Connell McCormick.
   Connell is determined to increase the fortune of his lumber-baron father and figures as long as he's living an upright life, that's what matters. But when Lily arrives in town she upends his world, forcing him to confront the truth that dangerous men have gained too much power while good men turn a blind eye.
   Vexing but persuasive, Lily soon secures Connell's help, drawing them ever closer to each other. Will standing for what's right cost them both everything

Let me start by saying that I really wanted to love this book.   I think Jody Hedlund is a remarkably talented writer and I think, in time, she will prove that she is one of the strongest voices in the Christian historical market. However, this book immediately lacked the spark and intelligence of her first two novels: The Doctor's Lady and the Preacher's Bride (which I reviewed and read as a shortlist nominee for the INSPYs awards last year): both rooted in historical circumstances and featuring well-spun characters often based on truth.  The novel also put me in mind of Serena B. Miller's strong offering from last Fall, The Measure of Katie Calloway: pairing a spirited young woman with a man's world of sweat, danger and brawny persistence.

Here, Hedlund excavates the often treacherous, gritty and primitive world of the logging camps as a young woman seeks high and low for the estranged sister she feels guilty for having let get away. An amateur photographer with spunk and spirit, Lily Young will immediately put readers in mind of Hedlund's previous heroines.  Her initial meeting with Connell (involving socks, if you can imagine! ) is one of the strangest and most beguiling Christian "meet-cutes" in historical fiction.  Despite strong characterization and the embers of a novel that could have sparked into full-flame, this book failed to capture my interest.  That is not to say that the research wasn't strong and that Hedlund has not given particular attention to this portion of history in a unique and thoughtful way--- she has --- it's just the tapestry woven to present this historical world that didn't keep me turning the pages.

I certainly found Connell an attractive hero ( especially when he wore his spectacles to go over figures in his ledgers!); but the chemistry between himself and Lily seemed more than forced. Moreover, the romance seemed to follow to closely a connect-the-dots routine after its memorable beginning.  In contrast, the friendship and father-daughter love existing between Lily and her brash and highly-tempered companion Oren was a well-developed and endearing relationship. 

I will certainly read more of Jody Hedlund's work in the future; but am slightly disappointed that this book failed to keep my attention given that it is written by an author of two of the strongest books I have read in the CBA in the past few years.  Oh well! There's always next time! 

I received this book for review from Graf-Martin Communications on behalf of Revell.

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