Title: Unending Devotion
Author: Jody Hedlund
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Print Publisher: Bethany House
Audio Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Series: Michigan Brides, Book 1
Genre: Historical Romance
About the Book (from the Publisher):
Michigan, 1883. In Her Darkest Hours, Is He the Man She Needs?
Lily Young longs to find her lost sister or will die trying. Heedless of any danger, she searches logging camps and towns, posing as a photographer’s assistant. And then she arrives in Harrison, Michigan–and the sights of Connell McCormick.
Connell is determined to increase the fortune of his lumber-baron father and figures as long as he’s living an upright life, that’s what matters. But when Lily arrives in town she upends his world, forcing him to confront the truth that dangerous men have gained too much power while good men turn a blind eye.
Vexing but persuasive, Lily soon secures Connell’s help, drawing them ever closer to each other. Will standing for what’s right cost them both everything?
Thoughts on the Story:
I enjoyed this book. A lot. I’m glad I read it and I’m going to tell you what I loved about it. But first, I need to get a little rant off my chest. So here goes….
I liked Lily, honestly I did, but it drove me crazy the way she ignored offers of help and instead went off on well-meaning but foolhardy and poorly planned rescue attempts by herself. I’m reminded of the kind of advice I have to give my 3- and 6-year old kids on occasion: Just because the window didn’t break the last time you threw something at it doesn’t mean you can keep throwing things at it and expect it never to break. So yes, Lily, someone needs to do something quickly, but if you get yourself captured or killed in the process, then you’ll be in no position to accomplish anything for anyone. Yes, I realize you’ve rescued other girls before and you feel passionately about this. But that doesn’t make you invincible or negate the need to think things through ahead of time.
Okay, done ranting. Now I can move on to the things I loved about this book. Because I really did enjoy reading it. Despite my occasional irritation with the heroine.
The Northern Michigan lumber camps of the time period were vividly described right down to the last frosty detail. The historical information included was pretty fascinating. And the fact that the bad guy in this story and some of his actions were based on a real life person and real life circumstances was more than a little disturbing. The storyline definitely makes an impression!
Lily’s selfless determination to help others in need was admirable. And I found her love for her sister as demonstrated by the lengths she went to in searching for her touching. I thought Connell was a great match for her, helping to temper her impulsiveness, even as she spurred him on to action rather than complacency. At heart, he was a good guy, and very likeable. And I was glad to see his character growth over time.
This story has its tragic moments, and some of the issues dealt with were challenging to read about. But I absolutely loved the advice Connell’s mother, Mrs. McCormick, gave Lily, which I think makes a great take-away lesson. Here’s just a snippet of their conversation from Chapter 25 (and as an aside, I wish I could share this snippet of the audiobook recording instead of just transcribing the text. As it is, you’ll just have to imagine a lilting brogue in Mrs. McCormick’s voice for the first and third lines here, okay?):
“As long as man lives and breathes there will always be sin in this world and consequently injustice.”
“But that doesn’t mean we should give up, sit back, and do nothing.”
“You’re right. Nor can we fight against everything. We must instead discover where God wants to use us.”
So true. And I love the balanced and well-articulated way that idea is expressed.
Between the romance, the suspense, and the weighty issues dealt with, this book kept my attention riveted from beginning to end. I’m glad I took the time to read… or technically (since I bought the audio edition), listen to it.
Thoughts on the Audio Performance:
I thought the narration was well done with a clear and articulate reading, and I would encourage audiobook readers to seek out the audio edition. Despite a large cast of characters, narrator Julia Whelan manages to differentiate their voices well. I particularly enjoyed the Old World brogue incorporated into the voices of Mr. and Mrs. McCormick. Throughout the novel, each character’s voice was uniquely hers or his, yet consistent from scene to scene. In many cases, the voice selected was so well matched to the character’s personality that the voice became inseparable from the character in my mind. Quite the performance!
Have you read or listened to this book? What did you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section here, or over on the Bookshelves and Windows blog, where the first of the #HedlundChallenge2015 discussions is taking place today. (And if you want to learn more about the challenge and consider reading along, check out what Jamie and Cassie had to say about it in their inaugural posts. It looks like next month’s read will be Rebellious Heart over on the Books and Beverages blog.)