With You Always (Orphan Train #1)
by Jody Hedlund (Goodreads Author)A Riveting Look at the Orphan Train from Historical Novelist Jody Hedlund
When a financial crisis in 1850s New York leaves three orphaned sisters nearly destitute, the oldest, Elise Neumann, knows she must take action. She's had experience as a seamstress, and the New York Children's Aid Society has established a special service: placing out seamstresses and trade girls. Even though Elise doesn't want to leave her sisters for a job in Illinois, she realizes this may be their last chance.
The son of one of New York City's wealthiest entrepreneurs, Thornton Quincy faces a dilemma. His father is dying, and in order to decide which of his sons will inherit everything, he is requiring them to do two things in six months: build a sustainable town along the Illinois Central Railroad, and get married. Thornton is tired of standing in his twin brother's shadow and is determined to win his father's challenge. He doesn't plan on meeting a feisty young woman on his way west, though.
My Review: 6/10
It's been awhile since my feelings have been so mixed over a story.
Elise was annoying with her superior self-righteous attitude... and yet I liked that. I liked that she wasn't presented as perfect or right.
I liked that Fanny, who was immediately set up as Archnemsis, was not one dimensional and that there was resolution with her. Honestly, I would have been more interested in and moved by her story.
I liked the way faith was woven into the story.
I loved the advice to work among the people and how that changed and improved the plans.
And though I felt like some major threads were left loose and hanging, I felt like it added strength to the story and message of relying on God. And on futher thought, those are probably wrapped up in books 2 and 3.
While there was a lot to interest and enjoy, it seemed like there were equal things to detract from the story.
My biggest issue was with the train ride romance. Though little came of it, I thought Elise was beyond stupid to have dallied with a man at all. Her only remaining family was left in a very unstable situation in a dangerous area and facing starvation and violence. Elise's position with the Children's Aid Society was their only hope at this point, and she's going to risk her reputation (the only thing that got her this job) to wander off on multiple rendez-vous with a man she barely knows?! 99 to one, a strange man luring her off to hidden places would have attempted to seduce her at the very least, if not harm her or force himself upon her. I didn't find these instances charming or romantic, but dangerously naive fantasies.
I was annoyed by the way they both tried to deny their attraction and pass it off as friendship. In what world would anyone sincerely interpret things that way?
I didn't think Elise's sacrificial choice at the end was realistic or relatable. I think any normal woman would have done the opposite- would have desperately wanted to marry the super wealthy "land developer" which would provide immediate rescue to the people she loves most in the world. The sacrifice to potentially not get to work as a cook or live where she wanted would have seemed a better trade off for safety and provision for her family, not to mention being with the man she loved.
I wish Reinhold had been left out of the story entirely. I felt bad for him being used and thought his conceding defeat and wishing them the best was unnatural. I have never known anyone who, in the midst of rejection, loss, jealousy, hurt and broken plans, calmly states that they know the couple was right for each other, but just didn't want to face it, and then goes on to help them be together. That kind of acceptance usually happens after some time to process and move on.
Was I the only one who felt bad for Rosalind? This girl was all but engaged, planning their December wedding while her beau is playing with fire, constantly putting himself in the path of temptation, pursuing, flirting, and kissing another woman. She was betrayed and publicly humiliated. The only good thing I can say about the situation was that thankfully this girl was not portrayed as having any major character defects, as if that would justify their actions.
While I am invested enough in the supporting character to want to read the following books and get the full resolution, I would be careful who I recommend this book to- adults who are not likely to mistake wreckless liasons and infedility as romance, but will appreciate other aspects of the story.