Friday, September 30, 2011

The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund

If you enjoyed Delia Parr’s Heart’s Awakening (an exceptionally quiet romance blossoming between two people who value mutual respect above physical chemistry and passion) and if you spent your teen years, like me, re-reading Janette Oke’s tales of the Canadian West where headstrong and bookish Elizabeth persuaded us through captivating narrative that we should all follow a red-coated Mountie like Wynn should we be fortunate enough, like she, to fall in his path: then you will love The Doctor’s Lady.

This is a smart Christian romance featuring a woman who acts on her calling.  Given time, circumstance and legalistic views of the 19th Century, she has to somewhat tweak what she feels led to do; but still follows her instinct and God’s command with aplomb.

Beautiful Priscilla White holds a steadfast desire to serve God while simultaneously hiding a secret that could shame her family and mar her future.  She knows in her soul that missions is her driving force; but, due to the regulations of the time, she cannot do Mission’s work without a husband.  Certain no one will marry her and uncertain wedded bliss is part and parcel of her calling, she is surprised when Dr. Eli Ernest proposes a marriage of convenience. She will not get to serve the heathen in India as she so long desired; but she will get to see first hand the fruits of the labour of a passionate doctor who railed and worked against all odds in order to find and carve his own calling to build a mission and hospital for the Nez Perce. In order to reach their destination, a gruelling, months-long ordeal from New York to Oregon Country is in store.

Not unlike scenes in Courting Morrow Little where good-natured Christ-followers are pitted against harsh elemental environs and hostile reception, so Dr.Ernest and his beautiful, resolute wife learn to respect and grow within the confines of their unique union.

As an unabashed romantic, I quite enjoyed the moments that proved both were not completely immune to the other’s physical presence, sparkle, charm…

This is not by any means a conventional romance and it does well at asserting and valuing a higher calling beyond that of the traditional domestic sphere. Thus, the chemistry and tension between the two well-paired individuals in our “marriage of convenience” do not expect any more than fulfilling their duty. More, when they are rewarded, in even the slightest ways, so the reader is: we revel and joy in their conviction, their unwavering stance and their symbolic representation of good and fortitude in the face of uncertainty.

There are many instances where the marriage of convenience plot can turn into a ripe cliché; but due to the unique structure of the story, Hedlund’s well-informed research and the gentle and believable way the characters prove malleable in twining and tweaking their camaraderie with each other all the while fulfilling their passions, this seems fresh.  Hedlund also does well at featuring  Priscilla’s dedication and calling as equal to Eli Ernest’s.  In so many cases, fictionally and otherwise, women are supposed to take the back seat to the male calling: to follow blindly and to shelve their own personal ideals and convictions to greater serve the dominant male.   

We all know that God speaks to both men and women and no calling is either than the other, regardless of sex. Therefore, while Priscilla had to (as mentioned, due to the confines of circumstance and the structure of 19th Century ideals)  somewhat tweak her initial passion for India, she was resolute in her calling as a missionary and God Bless Eli Ernest for recognizing that a female’s calling is as potent as a man’s! Hedlund's message speaks greatly to the power of women to change circumstance and this undercurrent motive reminded me a lot of Lynn Austin's ongoing thesis: and you KNOW how high a statement that is in my books :-)

Hedlund’s author’s note informs us that Priscilla White’s story is informed by the  remarkable adventures of Narcissa Whitman.  The book is so adventurous, moving and beguiling, I can just imagine what a biography of Whitman would read like! For now, I offer great thanks to Jody Hedlund for spreading the limelight on a story of personal discovery, endurance and love: in all forms.

I have heard remarkable things about The Preacher's Bride  and so this author is again on my list for the very near future.

My thanks to Bethany House for the review copy.


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If you enjoyed The Preacher's Bride, then this one will not disappoint! The hero is swoon-worthy, the romantic tension crackles on practically every page, the plot is fast-paced and gripping, and the characters are incredibly real and likable. Can't wait for more from Jody Hedlund!

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The Doctor's Lady is a full of gripping adventure, romance and the desire to obey God's will. Another successful historical romance by Jody Hedlund has hit the bookshelves. Highly recommended.