Saturday, December 20, 2014

'Love Unexpected' by Jody Hedlund

A Perfect Blend of History and Romance, with a Whisper of Mystery

All she's ever wanted was a home. But stranded at Presque Isle port after their steamboat sank, Emma Chambers and her brother, Ryan, couldn't be farther away from security. While Ryan at least can find work, Emma can't even find a place to stay. An unlikely solution arises when the lighthouse keeper, who recently lost his wife and is struggling to raise his young son, arrives in town. A traveling preacher believes they might be the answer to each others' problems, and after a hasty marriage, Emma is headed back to the lighthouse with this handsome but quiet stranger.

But nothing in her wandering life has prepared her for suddenly being asked to raise a child and keep a house. Struggling at every turn, Emma also suspects Patrick may be keeping something hidden from her. In town she hears whispers about strange circumstances surrounding his previous wife's death, and it seems as though Emma's answered prayer for a home and family may actually be something much more dangerous.


I like books with lighthouse settings. What an important job to take on, yet with a feeling of isolation and freedom for those inclined to live a quiet life. I've sometimes thought it would be perfect for an introvert who still wants to make a difference. It seems Patrick Garraty thought so too.
The setting creates a nice, melancholic feel for the plot, in which two people have their own desperate reasons to get married, having just met each other.

Gentle-natured Emma, who hadn't been brought up to be domestic, is thrown in the deep end! I felt her side of the arrangement involved a lot more stress than Patrick's. Most women get a chance to ease themselves into housework and childcare, without suddenly shouldering the full load with no experience. At times, she seems a bit saintly to be true. I hope not to sound like a grouch here, but I've had to babysit kids like Josiah, and find it incredible that never once was Emma tempted to call him, 'Little Menace' instead of that never-ending, 'Little Love', even in her thoughts. He was running rings around her, and she was letting him be boss. Although Bertie Burnham is not the most lovable character, I was pleased when she pointed this out.

Although I found the novel a breeze to read, I did get frustrated with the two main characters. Their nervous and secretive attitudes cause many hassles. Emma quietly decides what she thinks will work best for those she cares for (Patrick and Ryan) without giving them any idea what she's thinking, so she has no way of getting feedback from them. Perhaps it's natural that Patrick returns the same treatment, withholding important family information which Emma would surely want to know. No wonder when trouble comes, they are both left reeling, because they still don't know each other as well as they could at that stage.

It's good when child characters strengthen the plot instead of being just tacked on. Josiah controls a lot of the action. I'm sure we've all come across toddlers like him (or maybe you've had one or two). He has such a big, overbearing personality, they have to plan their own schedules around when he's in bed. He's demanding, he pushes boundaries, sometimes he makes me exhausted reading about him. There's nobody like a two-year-old for clinging to someone's leg one moment and throwing a tantrum the next. Not every character can believably undergo mood transplants to suit the story, but Josiah can easily.

I think my favourite character is Emma's brother, Ryan. He's always direct, a refreshing change from all the bottling up done by the two main characters. Ryan seems to have a more common-sense and decisive approach than his sister's, and I wouldn't mind reading a novel with him as the main character.

I like the nice little teaser for Jody Hedlund's novella, with the same setting. A fascinating bit a history between another young couple at the same lighthouse is hinted at within the pages of this story, and intrigued me enough to go and get hold of their story, 'Out of the Storm' which I'll review soon.

Thanks to Bethany House and Net Galley for my review copy.

3.5 stars

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