Saturday, March 5, 2016

Book Review: Undaunted Hope

My Review:   

"I could give her a lifetime, but she'll always love you more than me."

Jody Hedlund - you write from the heart!  Undaunted Hope catapults from the first splash into the freezing waters in Eagle Harbor and dashes to the finish at the box lunches.  This refreshing love story isn't gardens and flowers and all things 'rosey' - it's a contrast with ice and winter.  Yet, just as love tends to do, there is such warmth in the pages of the blossoming relationship with Tessa Taylor and Alex Bjorklund that you almost forget it takes place in the bitter winter days.

Imagine late 1800's - an unmarried woman - shortage of wives - freezing winter months .... and a teacher who is willing to take all that on for the cause of making a difference in the lives of the coal mining children.  That's Tessa - strong, independent, faith-filled and making a teacher's career in a man's world .. and she's running from a blemished past.  Immediately after arriving at Eagle Harbor, Alex saves Tessa's life and they have immediate chemistry ~ matching wits and playfully bantering back and forth through-out the novel.  Alex lives with his brother, Michael, as lighthouse keepers and Alex helps take care of Michael's two children since his wife's passing.  Alex hasn't known marriage and parenthood, and until he meets Tessa, feels it's his fate to be a guiding light in the lives of his niece and nephew.  

There is joyful bantering between Tessa and Alex through-out this book, matching wit and bouncing one liners off of each other.  Naturally, both brothers fall for Tessa and an ensuing courting begins, pitting brother against brother until one sacrifices family above all things.  Tessa falls equally for Alex but has a hard time conveying that in a town filled with deception and hardship. The coal miners are suffering and going without while the conniving Percival (overseer of the coal mines) continues to cut costs and certainly at no expense of his own.)
I love that Jody Hedlund included the wholesomely sweet brother of Percival, in the novel, as the polar opposite who Tessa treats with respect and care. 

The connections to the lighthouse makes this book unique in that Tessa is not only running from blemishes in her past, but tragedy as well.  She witnessed her father's drowning and couldn't do much more than stand helpless on the shore.
She vowed never to set foot in a lighthouse again and yet she's drawn to Alex, Michael and her two students, Michael's children.  She has a special teacher's bond to Henry, developed after a real boy who was a bright student who left the school to work in the coal mines and ultimately fell to his death at just 13.   Just like Henry, some of the characters in this story are based on the real life accounts of people living in the town (minus the coal mines, says Hedlund).

This is my first Hedlund read, and, frankly, I'm hooked!  Even though the description states that this is book 3 in the Beacons of Hope series, I read it as a 'stand on it's own' book and it was a strong read, thoroughly enjoyable from cover to cover!

Disclaimer:  I received this book for an honest review from Bethany House,
a division of the Baker Publishing Group and was not required to write a positive review.  
Any reflection of such is my own and this review is an honest reflection of such.

From the Jacket:  
Tessa Taylor arrives in 1870s Upper Peninsula, Michigan, planning to serve as a new teacher to the town. Much to her dismay, however, she immediately learns that there was a mistake, that the town had requested a male teacher. Percival Updegraff, superintendent and chief mine clerk, says she can stay through winter since they won't be able to locate a new teacher before then, and Tessa can't help but say she is in his debt. Little does she know that Percival will indeed keep track of all that she owes him.

Determined to become indispensable, Tessa throws herself into teaching, and soon the children of the widowed lighthouse keeper have decided she's the right match for their grieving father. Their uncle and assistant light keeper, Alex Bjorklund, has his own feelings for Tessa. As the two brothers begin competing for her hand, Tessa increasingly feels that someone is tracking her every move, and she may not be able to escape the trap that has been laid for her.

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