Monday, June 12, 2017

With You Always (By: Jodi Hedlund)

With You Always

By: Jodi Hedlund

With You Always is the first book of the Orphan Train Series. There is also a prequel novella, An Awakened Heart.

Storyline
This story starts off in New York City during the 1850's. Elise Neumann is the oldest of three girls, and after losing their parents, she is left with taking care of her family. When a financial crisis hits and jobs are scarce, Elise knows she must do whatever necessary to provide. She hears the New York Children's Aid Society is offering jobs for ladies in the Midwest. Hesitant to leave her sisters, she takes a position knowing this might be their last hope.

Thornton Quincy, son of one of the wealthiest families in New York, is on a mission. His father has offered a challenge to his twin sons, in light of his declining health, to see who will inherit the family business. He requires them to do accomplish two objectives within six months: they must each build a successful town along the Illinois Central Railroad, and they must get married. Thornton didn't factor Elise into his plans but as they get to know one another, she challenges him and he must decide whether to fight to win or fight for what is right!

Depth
One piece of historical knowledge the reader will gain is getting a vivid picture of what life was like for women and orphans during this time period in New York; not pretty. Dangers, separation from family and poverty abound for them, and each of Elise's sisters feel the pain with different circumstances.

Elise and Thornton both feel inadequate. For Elise, this means continuing to fail at fulfilling her dying mother's last wish - and realizing she cannot do it on her own. Thornton continually feels as though he doesn't measure up to his twin brother. He desires to make his dad proud and longs to hear him declare it before he passes away. Both characters battle insecurities and worth, but in time take on different perspectives.

Faith
After living through many painful experiences, Elise has pushed God away - feeling as if He has abandoned them. She comes to learn that she was the one who walked away. Bad things will happen in life and we all will face trials, however, God promises to walk through them with by our side and will never leave us. Elise and Thornton both experience God's faithfulness. We always appreciate how well Jody weaves faith into her stories!

Love Story
Thornton and Elise have a very up and down relationship. Thornton is practically engaged to a lady back in New York that would be a perfect fit for him, according to society. His head knows it; but he cannot get his heart to believe it. Elise and Thornton battle feelings of wanting the other, yet are plagued with wondering if it could ever work. We experience many sweet and tender moments with these two! Will it last? Or will they give in to what is expected and let their hearts suffer?

Overall
This book was a little slow at times but overall it was enjoyable and we look forward to reading more in the series.


Find it on Amazon: With You Always

Note: We were given this book free in exchange for our honest review.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Sweetbriar Cottage (By: Denise Hunter)

Sweetbriar Cottage

By: Denise Hunter


Storyline
Josephine Dupree runs a hair salon, and tries to ignore the whispers behind her back about her reputation. From an abusive childhood to being used as an adult, her years have mostly been isolated, lonely and full of bad choices. Except for one time in her life - when she was married to Noah Mitchell. He actually made her feel lovely on the inside and perhaps worthy of real love. Life was good and hopeful - until that all fell apart as well.

Noah Mitchell has purchased a farm up in the mountains and rarely comes down to town. Too many memories, especially when he passes Josephine's hair salon. But when he learns from the IRS about a mistake in their divorce paperwork, and the two of them are actually still married, he has no choice but to face her again. In an attempt to correct the problem, the two get stranded together in the worst snowstorm of the decade. Neither of them wants to face the problems of the past - but they must if they are to move forward.

Depth
Josephine has some pretty awful things in her background that have shaped who she is today. Her flirtatious demeanor is the only way she knows how to protect herself. Noah never really bothered to find out about her past while they were married, but if they are to reach a place of forgiveness and understanding he must face the ugly truths. Issues of child abuse, betrayal, forgiveness and worth are dealt with.

Faith
Noah has a strong faith in the Lord and lives like it. But he has a lot to learn about extending God's forgiveness to others; he frequently prays about it and allows God to speak to his heart. On the other hand, Josephine keeps her distance from God because she figures He couldn't possibly care about someone like her. As she faces her past throughout this book, she realizes that God has been right there waiting for her the entire time.

Although it's clear Josephine makes her peace with God, these two chicks wish we would have been able to read more insight into her "coming to Jesus" moment!

Love Story
Noah and Josephine have some serious chemistry! They have never stopped loving each other, even after the divorce and it's obvious right away when they come face to face again. Although the heat is turned up on these two, Noah is sure to still treat their relationship right and keeps purity at the forefront of his actions. These two have a lot to work through, and author Denise masterfully writes the complex intricacies of such a relationship.

Overall
This book was very, very good and came close to being a five star in our book! The one thing we wished for, however, was seeing more of a spiritual "come to Jesus" moment for Josephine. Although it is clear she makes her peace with her past and with God, we aren't given a front row seat to her conversion. Bummer! However, the rest of the book had all the right elements to make this a must read for those who love a good story of redemption and forgiveness.


Find it on Amazon: Sweetbriar Cottage

Note: We were given this book free in exchange for our honest review.