by Jody Hedlund (Goodreads Author)A Perfect Blend of History and Romance, with a Whisper of Mystery
All she's ever wanted was a home. But stranded at Presque Isle port after their steamboat sank, Emma Chambers and her brother, Ryan, couldn't be farther away from security. While Ryan at least can find work, Emma can't even find a place to stay. An unlikely solution arises when the lighthouse keeper, who recently lost his wife and is struggling to raise his young son, arrives in town. A traveling preacher believes they might be the answer to each others' problems, and after a hasty marriage, Emma is headed back to the lighthouse with this handsome but quiet stranger.
But nothing in her wandering life has prepared her for suddenly being asked to raise a child and keep a house. Struggling at every turn, Emma also suspects Patrick may be keeping something hidden from her. In town she hears whispers about strange circumstances surrounding his previous wife's death, and it seems as though Emma's answered prayer for a home and family may actually be something much more dangerous.
My Review: 6.5/10
Many books in this genre follow a courtship culminating in the wedding night. I enjoy those stories too, but it always strikes me that it is so hard to find a lovestory about an already legitimately married couple. At least in historical fiction like this. I wonder if it's sending the message that the romance is only exciting in the beginning or that once you're in love, you're always in love and your story is kind of over. I don't believe in either of these statements and wish I could find stories out there that showed real struggles in married couples, the beauty of falling in love over (and over and over) again with the same person but for new reasons, determining to love someone when they're not being loveable, etc. And while this (and a handful of similar book I've read) is slightly different because the two main characters marry in the beginning of the book, it's still pretty much the same, because it's a marriage in name only, with the story really being about their courtship still, once again culminating in the night that it becomes a full marriage. A little different, but still essentially the same, and not the story I'm seeking. But that's not really the author's fault. Back to Love Unexpected.
As always, Ms. Hedlund infuses her stories with interesting history that really transports you back in time. I always love her author's notes at the end of her books. I enjoyed the brother/sister themes and the pirates. I loved Ryan's character and hope to see a lot more of him possibly in another book in the series.
I don't usually like the portrayal of children in books like these (in fact, I always mention that) and I try to avoid them when I can. But apart from some grating language ("Me go," "Me want" etc) and a couple of unbelievable moments (I don't believe that a two year old, particularly one raised in this household, would know anything about pirates or "bad guys,") things were fairly realistic. I found myself chuckling appreciatively at Emma's second guessing her parenting choices and their effectiveness.
I'm not a fan of self doubt and insecurity running rampant in relationships, even with good reason. But I felt like it was somewhat atoned for by Patrick's declaration of his accepting God's forgiveness.
I loved, LOVED the message of hope being secure in God alone; that placing hopes in people, things, relationships, homes, etc, would only lead to disappointment.
I think the thing that really kept me from connecting with this book and loving it the way I've loved some of Ms. Hedlund's previous stories, was some inconsistency of Emma's character. She mentions early on that her own father had a rather unsavory past (possibly even murder, maybe? I can't remember, and one of the problems with ebooks is that it's not so easy to flip back and check) and that she turned a blind eye to his doings. She seemed to feel guilt over this. Patrick's past was made clear enough early on and I thought Emma would be uniquely suited to forgive a man with this kind of history. I thought with her own regret, that she would be a perfect match to encourage Patrick to seek a second chance through God, the way she would have wanted her father to, and perhaps the way she wished she had encouraged him to. But Emma seemed to completely forget about her own place in such sins and really struggled with Patrick's revelations. I was disappointed in her too. And unlike Patrick, I didn't feel like her apology and attempts to stand up for him after the fact were good enough. Though I was relieved to see her finally recognize Bertie's behavior for what it was.
Despite that, I would recommend this book; fans of this genre and fans of this author will not be disappointed.