Book Review: Hearts Made Whole by Jody Hedlund

HeartsMadeWhole_mck.inddHearts Made Whole is the second in Jody Hedlund’s Beacons of Hope series, all of which are fictionalized histories of actual lighthouse keepers and lighthouses of the Great Lakes.  Set in 1865, this particular story is set at Michigan’s Windmill Point Lighthouse and the main characters are at least partially based on an actual couple who were its keepers.

Twenty year old Caroline has been tending the lighthouse ever since her father drowned, leaving her and her four brothers and sisters orphaned.  Though she excels at the job, the district lighthouse inspector is determined to evict Caroline and her family.  Ryan Chambers, a Civil War veteran who was wounded at Gettysburg (and a secondary character in the first Beacons of Hope book), is hired to replace her.

Caroline needs Ryan’s help to stay at the lighthouse, needing the work to support her siblings and to provide medication for her youngest sister. Ryan needs Caroline’s help to learn how to be a keeper and to tend the lighthouse when he is self-medicating with alcohol and pain pills. But as they reach a possible compromise, their plans are met with resistance and someone’s efforts to intimidate Caroline into leaving increase in violence.

As historical Christian romances go, this is a typical sweet and clean story with a few decently sized bumps in the road to happily ever after. The lead characters are sympathetic, the tensions – romantic and otherwise – are just right, and the secondary characters are varied and interesting. So it is hard to put my finger on why this book and this reader just didn’t jell. I enjoyed some parts of the story more than others, particularly the scene where Caroline first catches a glimpse of who Ryan is underneath the pain and whiskey. On the other hand, I wish that there had been some surprise with the identity of the intimidator and that the secondary characters had been more developed. I was also getting frustrated that certain options were not considered much earlier in the story, especially since Ryan was the brother of the heroine and so quite familiar with the events of the first book.

Overall, this is a nicely crafted story of two people who turn to God in their pain and uncertainty as they grow to love and attempt to trust in each other. Prior to receiving a review ebook copy from the publisher through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, I had read that Jody Hedlund had been criticized for some aspect of Hearts Made Whole. I chose not to read further, not wanting to prejudge the book.  I now imagine that it could be Ryan’s self-medication (which I found to be historically likely in light of his circumstances, and decently handled) or one of the other circumstances that provided dramatic tension and threatened to end any possibility of romance. If that is the case, I would say those criticisms are not ones I would agree with and that the one circumstance that I disliked involving Caroline’s sister Tessa would actually make me want to read the next book in the series. It definitely has potential. 3.5/5 stars.

Hearts Made Whole (Beacons of Hope #2) by Jody Hedlund | Bethany House, September 2015 | NetGalley ebook

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