When was the last time you went to a book store?
Has it been a while? It has for me.
I remember the excitement building inside of me wandering the store, finding my favorite section, and finally perusing the shelves.
I miss that.
I certainly remember feeling that excitement when I picked up my first novel by Jody Hedlund, Unending Devotion, book one of her Michigan Brides Series.
I didn’t know anything about it – I didn’t know it was a series, I didn’t know what time period it took place in – nothing. When I finally picked it up again to read it, I was pleasantly surprised.
As I said – I knew nothing about this book. Though in my defense, I wasn’t rummaging through the Google searches for new releases (like I do now) at the time I bought the book. Ultimately, what grabbed my attention was the cover. A brunette – okay, why aren’t there more spunky brunette heroines? – with a brilliant crimson cape and determination in her eyes. That was enough for me to buy the book. Marketing people – it’s just good marketing.
Plot (Spoilers Ahead! Hold Onto Your Bowlers Gents!)
I hope, by now, I’ve established myself as a reviewer who is honest. I can honestly tell you – I loved this book – but there are plenty of things I would change about it.
I had a hard time at the beginning of the novel getting into the setting. While the mid-to-late 1800s is a good time period, this was my first look at a lumber town in Michigan. While that wasn’t what I was expecting – although the whole idea of a bunch of lumberjacks dressed like the guy on the Brawny Paper towel roll is not a bad image – the detail and personality of the characters made me fall in love with them.
Even though the setting took a little getting used to, there was something else the bumped me out far more.
You know, I love a good book that imitates the Pride and Prejudice dynamic: he likes her but is grumpy and won’t do anything about it and she won’t admit she likes him because he’s grumpy – it works. Usually.
Don’t mistake my language and word choice for insinuating that the romance and dynamic didn’t work in Unending Devotion. Because it did. Eventually.
Before I get too deep into characters, let me explain. When we read a book, watch a movie, listen to someone else tell them about someone we’ve never met, we have to draw from our own experiences or we can’t relate, we can’t visualize, we can’t empathize.
This is where the hero of Unending Devotion comes in.
Connell McCormick is a gentleman, I can definitely say that, but for most of the book he is spineless. He parades around the lumber camp pretending he has authority when he really is playing by rules he doesn’t agree with in an attempt to make his family proud. It sounds somewhat noble until our heroine, Lily Young, brings light to a problem so vile that no one wants to discuss it. Even today, as the problem still exists, not a lot is said about it.
Lily wants to take a stand against the actions of the townsmen who are taking part and profiting from what would be described today as human trafficking, whereas Connell wants to turn a blind eye because fighting never did anyone any good, right?
It’s all right and good until an innocent girl ends up dead.
Throughout the course of the book there is plenty of romance, and members where you think that perhaps this book might not have quite the happy ending we’re all hoping for. Connell certainly doesn’t seem like the kind of guy would would fight for anything, much less against the villain of the book, James Carr, (who by the way actually existed), who has the power to ruin the McCormick family lumber business they’ve worked for two generations to build.
While I don’t mean to sound like I was disappointed, I do believe the author meant for the reader to be disappointed in Connell at times, just as Lily is disappointed with him quite a few times throughout the course of the book.
As an author myself, it is a rare occasion that I find myself reading the characterization of a heroine and think to myself, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Lily Young has gumption that never runs out.
She motivates the men around her to stand up for what’s right, and when they grumble and try and come up with a plan, it doesn’t come together fast enough for Lily so she tricks them into thinking she’ll wait on them, only to sneak out in the middle of the night and do the dirty dangerous work herself.
She never gives up. She never stops fighting what those she loves, even when the disappoint her.
Staying Power – Should We Finish The Series?
Eventually, yes. I would like to. I expect that one of the trilogy centers around Lily’s sister, Daisy, who was missing for half of the book. Jody Hedlund has definitely proved herself to me as a talented writer and storyteller. My hat goes off to her from one author to another.
The Bottom Line
Don’t sell the genre or the setting short. Jody Hedlund did her research for her Michigan Brides Series, and it shows. I highly recommend the first book in the series, Unending Devotion, to all of my readers.
To purchase the book or to learn more, click here.