This one is actually considered historical romance, but there are no bodices being ripped in this book. I promise. There is the development of actual love between two wonderful characters. Here's my review of Unending Devotion by Jody Hedlund.
My synopsis: The year is 1883. Michigan is ridiculously cold and Lily Young would rather not have to be out in the cold, visiting lumber towns with her adopted father Oren, but she is on a mission. Her beloved sister Daisy is missing, having run off to make her own way in the world. Lily is afraid that her sister has had to turn to prostitution, which is almost the only profession available to an unmarried woman. She goes with Oren from town to town searching, until she lands in Harrison, also known as Hell's Waiting Room. She meets Connell, who she initially believes to be just another shanty-man, or lumberjack. It turns out that Connell is actually the boss-man, and the heir to his father's lumber business. Lily is disgusted by the lumber business, since it destroys the land and feeds into the number of brothels and saloons needed in each town. She assumes that Connell is just another man who doesn't care for morales or for leading a good Godly life. After Connell comes to her aid time and time again, she soon learns that he's much more intelligent and caring than she took him for. She finds herself attracted to him even though they both know that they are far too different to ever be together.
My thoughts: Like most historical fiction books, I find the first chapter or two hard to get into. This isn't really a reflection of the book. You just have to put your mind into another time and way of life to better understand the book, and that can take a bit. Once I had adjusted, I fell absolutely in love with Lily Young. She was completely selfless and caring. She had the gumption to stand up to horrifying men when even the manly lumberjacks around her did not. She put herself into danger time and time again, with only the intention of helping out those less fortunate than herself.
I loved that the relationship with Connell took time to develop. She didn't just swoon and fall into his arms the first time she met him. Like in real life, you meet someone, you find them attractive, you get to know them, and sometimes that can lead to love. Both Lily and Connell are human, flawed characters so that made them very relateable. There was a slight message of purity and how it is better to wait for the right person that swept under the entire book, but it wasn't at all heavy-handed. Knowing the type of person Lily was, it made sense that her virginity would be something that she would hold precious. As an orphan who had absolutely nothing, she knew that her own body and mind were the only thing that she could truly call her own.
The side characters were also well-fleshed out. I particularly like Oren, Lily's adopted father. I don't even know how many times he threatened to kill someone for looking in Lily's general direction, but it was hilarious. I would love a prequel, starring Connell and his brother Tierney. I would love to see how exactly their relationship became what it was in this book.
This book isn't all romance and love and happy go lucky. There are some serious issues here. The lumber business was a huge boom in the late 1800's. The business did drive up the number of brothels and saloons. Women really were bought and sold into "white slavery" as prostitutes. While reading this book, you will get a bit of a history lesson. What I learned from this, is that even in the most destitute of times, there are good people who will always do the right thing.
So all in all, I really liked this book. On goodreads, I gave it four stars. I would recommend it for people who like romance, Christian fiction or historical fiction. I wouldn't say that the book is Christian fiction, but it is definitely safe for those of you who prefer that.
In honor of the book release, the author Jody Hedlund, is throwing a facebook party on September 18th. There you can join Jody for an awesome author chat and enter to win some great prizes. Someone will will a Nikon camera, another will win a $25 shutterfly gift certificate, among a ton of other great stuff. To RSVP, please go to the event page. You can also get more information at the Unending Devotion facebook page. I hope to see you there!