Undaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund (review)

undauntedhope_hedlund_bethanyhouseI cannot manage to put my finger on a precise reason that I don’t fully enjoy this series.  Midway through the second book, which I was reading only to continue a series I had started, I resolved not to continue the series but then was intrigued by the thought of Tessa as a protagonist.  I do enjoy a redemption story line, and Tessa had a bit of redeeming to do with her ruined reputation.

“Can’t you stay for just a minute?” The man’s grin turned hard, and his attention focused on her mouth.  “And give me and my mates a kiss good-bye?”

“Absolutely not.”  She narrowed her eyes at him in what she hoped was a withering stare, but inside her stomach churned.  Had these men learned about her reputation?  Is that why they were being forward with her? (p.14)

There are elements here that should mean I would love the book – unique historical setting and occupation (lighthouse/light-keepers), suitably rugged male characters, a villain to make things interesting, a relatable heroine.  Well, sort of relatable.  I did find her to be a bit high-handed in her thought that she would be the one to improve the lives of all of the miners and their families in Eagle Harbor.

The were light-keepers, she reminded herself.  Even if they were both handsome men, she would never interest herself in them if she were in a position to do so, which she wasn’t.  She’d rather strap her body to a large boulder and drop in the middle of Lake Superior before she let herself become enamored with a lightkeeper. (p.86)

What I did enjoy was the Bjorklund family.  Brothers Alex and Michael provided some of the most entertaining scenes with their sibling rivalry centered on which of them would win Tessa.  The brothers were an interesting contrast to each other, and Michael’s children were adorable.  Particularly little Ingrid, and her repeated luring of Tessa out to the lighthouse in hopes of gaining a new mother.

Alex let out a sigh, pushing down a swell of jealousy.  He didn’t want Michael to like Tessa so much.  His brother’s affection would only contemplate matters when Alex finally swept Tessa off her feet. (p.103)

It was the interaction with the Bjorklunds that were the most enjoyable parts of this story, from Tessa’s first meeting with Alex to the romantic denouement, and the relationship between the brothers held my interest throughout.  Writing about them, I can almost convince myself that I truly did like the whole story, but this was sadly not the case.

This, I think, is just a matter of a series and a reader not quite meant for each other.  Perhaps the predatory villain was just a tad too skeevy (and his being based on an actual person just makes it that much worse) and the situations a bit too uncomfortable.  I think it likely that my lack of enthusiasm for the previous installments in the series may have become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

While this is possibly my favorite of the series, and in isolation there are aspects of this story that I quite enjoyed, it is not one I would reread.  That said, if you enjoy historical fiction and stories that are centered on lighthouse keepers intrigue you, then by all means give it a go.  Perhaps this series will be just the ticket for you.  At the very least, you will experience sweet light-house romances with faith renewed or strengthened.

Undaunted Hope (Beacons of Hope, #3) by Jody Hedlund | Bethany House, January 2016 | paperback, 384 pages

(Hey, psst… check out my review of Jody Hedlund’s Luther and Katharina here – a book I do recommend.)

This review refers to a print copy purchased at a library book-sale.  An e-galley was previously received through NetGalley, courtesy of the publisher.  All opinions expressed are my own.

From the Publisher:

Eagle Harbor, Michigan

In a Town Mired in Darkness,
She May Shine the Light They Need

Running from the mistakes of her past, Tessa Taylor heads to the uppermost reaches of Michigan, planning to serve as the new teacher to the children of miners. She quickly learns the town had requested a male teacher, but Percival Updegraff, superintendent and chief mine clerk, says she can stay through winter since it’s too late to replace her. Tessa can’t help but thank him and say she is in his debt.

Determined to make herself irreplaceable once spring thaw arrives, Tessa throws herself into her work, and soon two students have decided Miss Taylor is the right match for their grieving father. At the same time, charming assistant lightkeeper Alex Bjorklund makes his interest known, surprising Tessa, who has never had men fight for her hand before. But not all is well as she 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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