Tag Archives: Jody Hedlund

Book Review: With You Always

29 Jun

When a financial crisis in 1850s New York leaves three orphaned sisters nearly destitute, the oldest, Elise Neumann, knows she must take action. She’s had experience as a seamstress, and the New York Children’s Aid Society has established a special service: placing out seamstresses and trade girls. Even though Elise doesn’t want to leave her sisters for a job in Illinois, she realizes this may be their last chance.

The son of one of New York City’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, Thornton Quincy faces a dilemma. His father is dying, and in order to decide which of his sons will inherit everything, he is requiring them to do two things in six months: build a sustainable town along the Illinois Central Railroad, and get married. Thornton is tired of standing in his twin brother’s shadow and is determined to win his father’s challenge. He doesn’t plan on meeting a feisty young woman on his way west, though.

 

Winner of 2016 Christian Book Award for fiction and Christy Award for historical romance, best-selling author Jody Hedlund writes inspirational historical romances for both youth and adults.

Jody lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy children, and five spoiled cats. Although Jody prefers to experience daring and dangerous adventures through her characters rather than in real life, she’s learned that a calm existence is simply not meant to be (at least in this phase of her life!).

When she’s not penning another of her page-turning stories, she loves to spend her time reading, especially when it also involves consuming coffee and chocolate.

 

My Impressions:

Jody Hedlund writes excellent historical fiction, and With You Always is no exception. In fact, of all the novels I have read by Hedlund, this one is my favorite. Meticulous research, rich historical detail, complex characterization, and precise plotting make this book a truly exceptional read. I expect this one to go on my best of the best list this year earning it a highly recommended rating from me.

Elise Neumann and Thornton Quincy come from two very different worlds. In 1857 America, class distinctions are prevalent with resentments and prejudices on both sides of the divide. Elise is a German immigrant trying to support her siblings in the poorest area of New York City, while Thornton is the son of an ultra-wealthy land developer. The two meet and are immediately drawn to each other, but differences of birth and circumstances, not to mention a conniving twin brother, work to keep the two apart.

With You Always is a wonderful historical romance novel. Hedlund brings to life a time in American history I knew little about. The plight of immigrants and the poor are detailed as women travel the route of the orphan trains hoping for a new life. New York City of the 1850s with its disparity between the opulence of the rich and the squalor of the poor is vividly portrayed. Characters of both classes are well-developed and real — no stereotypes in this novel! While I loved Elise and Thornton, many of the secondary characters captured my heart as well, especially Fanny, a woman who had more than her share of heartbreak and abuse. Sadly, many of the accounts in the novel are based on real-life events — the gang riots, prostitution, physical abuse by employers, etc . But Hedlund infused With You Always with a message of hope — hope of God’s power, presence, and protection. As Elise contemplated the hardships she and her family and friends endured she came to believe the truth her mother had shared years before — When she was hurting and crushed by the weight of heartache, was God there holding on to her hand, telling her He’d never let her go? With You Always is rich in history and faith and . . . a very satisfying romance. Elise and Thornton have much to surmount, but a happy ending is definitely in their future.

With You Always is the first installment in the Orphan Train series and there are many stories left to tell. I can’t wait to travel along.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: older teens and adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Bethany House and the author for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

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Author, Author! — Jody Hedlund

9 Jun

 

 

By The Book is pleased to welcome Jody Hedlund to the blog today. Jody has just released the first book in a new series, With You Always, The Orphan Train series. Thanks, Jody, for sharing with my readers!

1. What is the inspiration behind your new Orphan Train series?

I have long been fascinated by the era of the Orphan Trains and the heart-wrenching stories of the homeless and helpless young orphans that were taken from the streets of New York City and other eastern cities and shipped West by the dozens. I was familiar with stories of those scared orphans who were placed out in what was thought to be a more wholesome, healthy environment of the newly settled Mid-Western states. Some of the orphans found happy endings and were adopted into loving families. Others experienced great abuse and heartache in their new homes.

While stories of the orphans who rode the trains have been told — and rightly so — the stories of the women who were involved in the movement are not as well known. One of the things I particularly like to do when telling my stories, is focus on women who have been overlooked by the pages of history. I consider it a great privilege to be able to bring forgotten women to life for our modern generation. Thus, throughout this series, I’ll be focusing each book on a different aspect of the Orphan Train movement, particularly from the perspective of women who experienced riding the trains in one form or another.

2. An e-novella, An Awakened Heart, kicks off the series. What is the novella about, and is it a must-read in order to understand the series?

An Awakened Heart is not a must-read in order to understand the series. But I do highly recommend reading it. (Plus it’s FREE, so you have nothing to lose by giving it a try!) The e-novella introduces a couple, Guy and Christine, who are both passionate about helping the poor immigrants crowded into the overflowing and dirty tenements of New York City. The novella shows their efforts to bring about change in the city, but also brings them together in a satisfying love story.

The novella also introduces the three orphan sisters who will each become main characters for the three full-length novels in the series. It gives some of the background information on their situation, particularly how they become orphans, which I think readers will find helpful as well as informative.

3. How did you come up with the idea for the first book in the series, With You Always?

For this first book in the series, I decided to base the story around the placing out of women that happened in 1857 as a result of a financial crisis and economic panic in the autumn of that year. Women laborers were already at a disadvantage with poor working conditions and low wages. In September of 1857, estimates of New York unemployment ran as high as forty percent. Female employment was cut by almost half. With prostitution already a main source of income for many women, the recession drove even more to desperate measures and the number of women in prison rose as well.

To meet the growing crisis, the Children’s Aid Society in New York, along with organizations in other cities, who were already sending children West, decided to set up special placement offices to find jobs for seamstresses and trade girls in the West. The associations only wanted women of “good character” and they were required to provide references. If the women met the qualifications, then they were sent on trains to towns in Mid-Western states, particularly central Illinois where the demand for cheap labor was prevalent. They were presented to western employers as “helpless females left without the means of support.” Placement of these women continued until the spring of 1858.

It was my hope through the first book in the series, With You Always, to give readers a glimpse into the disadvantage of women during this particular era by showing the heroine Elise Neumann’s struggle, first in New York City and then also the continued heartache and problems that arose after leaving her family behind so that she could attempt to start a new life in central Illinois.

4. What special research did you do in writing With You Always?

In the beginning phases of writing this series, I did a great deal of reading about the orphan train movement. In particular, I really loved Stephen O’Conor’s book, Orphan Trains, because he includes so many personal stories and details about real orphans, which are heart wrenching.

I also read, A History of New York City to 1898, by Burrows and Wallace, which gave me great insights into the lives of immigrants, particularly immigrant women. Masses of foreigners were arriving into New York City on a daily basis, and the book gave a detailed look into their pathetic housing situation, the difficult working conditions, as well as gang problems and the underworld.
Finally, another important aspect of the story that required a concentrated amount of research was the development of railroads. The mid-1800’s was an incredible period of growth for the railroad industry in the Mid-West. The new railroads aided the orphan train movement but also brought about the settlement of the Midwestern states, including Illinois, which is one of the settings of the book.

5. Many of your previous stories are set in Michigan. With You Always takes place in both New York City as well as Illinois. Why did you decide to change settings?

I definitely could have used Michigan as the Mid-western setting for this book since the very first orphan train went to Dowagiac, a small town in southwestern Michigan. However, as I studied railroads and town development, I decided that the plains of central Illinois would really add to the story, especially because the Illinois Central Railroad (IC) was built between 1851 and 1856 during the time of my story.

With this new railroad that ran the length of Illinois from north to south, investors were looking at attempting to build towns along the railroad in order to attract new settlers who would use the railroad. Since my hero, Thornton Quincy, is involved in the development of the IC, he and his family have an invested interest in seeing the growth of towns along the new railroad. Adding in a competition with Thornton’s twin brother for the development of one such town made the story and setting in Illinois come alive.

I also loved having my heroine, Elise Neumann, be able to travel from the crowded dirty streets of New York City to the plains of Illinois where she experienced a culture shock. She’s taken from a bustling city life to an isolated farming town that consists of only a few buildings when she arrives.

6. What do you hope readers take away from With You Always?

One of my hopes in telling this story is to leave readers with the reminder that God is walking with us in whatever dark valley we’re going through. Often, like Elise, we tend to pull away from God and let the bitterness of our circumstances drive us into a cave of isolation and self-blame and heartache. But God wants us to realize that even if we pull away from Him, He’s still there walking by our side, waiting for us to reach out our hand and grab ahold of Him. He never leaves us or forsakes us. He’s there waiting.

7. What is your inspiration to write?

I write because I love telling stories. I love the quote by Toni Morrison because it sums up part of why I write: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” Essentially, I write the stories that I LOVE to read! Of course there are other, deeper reasons I write too. But mostly I just really enjoy the process of creating imaginary people and places.

8. Is there something you tell yourself before writing?

Usually I tell myself to sit down, put my hands to the keyboard, and get to work. I don’t wait for inspiration or magical fairy dust to hit me before writing. I just do it.

But I also always ask myself, what could make this story better? How can I increase the tension? How can add more excitement? What can I do to make my characters more likeable? I’m constantly challenging myself to make my story more vibrant and alive.

9. What role does faith play in your novels?

While I try not to preach at my readers, I do weave faith themes through my books. My faith also motivates me to keep my stories “clean.” I believe Christian fiction is a much needed alternative, especially Christian romance.

I just recently got an email from a reader telling me she that she’d picked up several books and been really turned off by the explicitness within them, but that she didn’t realize the books contained such content until she started reading them. She wanted to know if there was a rating system or some way that she could tell if the book would be “clean” before she started reading. I was glad that I could point her to inspirational Christian fiction, that she would be guaranteed the sweet romance she desired.

10. With You Always is the third book you’ve released in 2017. How do you find time to write so many books?

I keep a very rigorous writing schedule, usually writing six days a week. I give myself a challenging word count goal—a certain number of words to write every day. Then, in the morning, I sit down and write until I meet my goals. It’s as simple . . . and as hard as that!

I like to compare being an author to a marathon runner. The person training to run a marathon doesn’t start off running twenty-six miles the first time she runs. Instead she begins with just a few miles, strengthens her muscles, builds her endurance, and slowly adds more miles.

Writing is the same way. Over the years, I’ve strengthened my writing muscles and built up my endurance so that now I can write faster and for longer stretches.

11. What are you working on next?

The second book in the orphan train series releases next summer in 2018. The story continues with Marianne Neumann. She gets involved in the orphan train movement as one of the placing agents and accompanies the orphans as they ride the trains west. I hope readers will enjoy Marianne’s story and also appreciate learning more about the orphan train movement from the eyes of the compassionate workers who tried to place the orphans into new homes.

12. Do you have any parting words?

I love hearing from readers! Make sure you stop by one of these places and say hello!

I hang out on Facebook here: Author Jody Hedlund

I also love to chat on Twitter: @JodyHedlund

My home base is at my website: jodyhedlund.com

Find me on Instagram: instagram.com/jodyhedlund/

Come pin with me on Pinterest: pinterest.com/jodyhedlund/pins/

 

Happy Book Birthday! With You Always by Jody Hedlund

6 Jun

 

Today is the Book Birthday for With You Always the first book in Jody Hedlund‘s new Orphan Train series. Check it out!

 

A Riveting Look at the Orphan Train from Historical Novelist Jody Hedlund

When a financial crisis in 1850s New York leaves three orphaned sisters nearly destitute, the oldest, Elise Neumann, knows she must take action. She’s had experience as a seamstress, and the New York Children’s Aid Society has established a special service: placing out seamstresses and trade girls. Even though Elise doesn’t want to leave her sisters for a job in Illinois, she realizes this may be their last chance.

The son of one of New York City’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, Thornton Quincy faces a dilemma. His father is dying, and in order to decide which of his sons will inherit everything, he is requiring them to do two things in six months: build a sustainable town along the Illinois Central Railroad, and get married. Thornton is tired of standing in his twin brother’s shadow and is determined to win his father’s challenge. He doesn’t plan on meeting a feisty young woman on his way west, though.

 

Winner of 2016 Christian Book Award for fiction and Christy Award for historical romance, best-selling author Jody Hedlund writes inspirational historical romances for both youth and adults.

Jody lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy children, and five spoiled cats. Although Jody prefers to experience daring and dangerous adventures through her characters rather than in real life, she’s learned that a calm existence is simply not meant to be (at least in this phase of her life!).

When she’s not penning another of her page-turning stories, she loves to spend her time reading, especially when it also involves consuming coffee and chocolate.

 

(I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley.)

 

 

Top 10 Tuesday — Summer Reading!

23 May

Summer is upon us, although here in the sunny South, we have had temps in the 90s for a few weeks now! When the weather is hot do you prefer a sizzling romance, a suspense-filled mystery, a riveting historical, or thoughtful literary fiction? All of the above? Me too! I love to read across all genres, and summer is a great time to abandon yourself in a good book. The folks at The Broke And The Bookish are hosting Summer Reads this week in their Top 10 Tuesday. Find out what other bloggers are packing in their weekender and beach totes HERE.

 

This week’s list is a mixture of books I’ve read that would be good take-alongs on your summer adventures and books that I will be reading this summer. More than 10? Maybe! LOL! But it’s summer. Indulge!

Top 10 Books for Summer Reading

 

What I’ve Read

If I Run/If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock (suspense)

Long Way Gone by Charles Martin (literary fiction)

The Promise of Jesse Woods by Chris Fabry (literary fiction)

Vendetta/Missing/Pursued by Lisa Harris (suspense)

The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton (historical)

What I’ll Be Reading

Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason (romantic suspense)

Deep Extraction by DiAnn Mills (romantic suspense)

Driver Confessional by David L. Winters (political thriller)

The One True Love of Alice-Ann by Eva Marie Everson (historical romance)

Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett (historical fiction)

The Runaway by Claire Wong (mystery)

Sailing out of Darkness by Normandie Fischer (women’s fiction)

True to You by Becky Wade (contemporary romance)

With You Always by Jody Hedlund (historical romance)

What will you read this summer?

Free Kindle Novella from Jody Hedlund

22 May

In anticipation of the release of the newest novel by Jody Hedlund, With You Always, the prequel novella, An Awakened Heart is now FREE for Kindle! The novella is part of the Orphan Train series. Check it out!

Trying to heal the ache she feels in her empty life, wealthy Christine Pendleton decides to volunteer at Centre Street Chapel. Ministering to one of the most deprived parts of New York City, the chapel aims at making a difference in the lives of the impoverished immigrants flooding the city. After seeing firsthand the hopelessness of the poor women and orphans, Christine is convinced more can be done to help them.

Guy Bedell has been serving at the chapel and pouring his heart out for the people he’s grown to care about. When Christine begins to challenge his methods and offers a new vision for reaching out to the community, can he trust that perhaps God has bigger plans in store for him — plans that may include this feisty socialite?

 

 

Winner of 2016 Christian Book Award for fiction and Christy Award for historical romance, best-selling author Jody Hedlund writes inspirational historical romances for both youth and adults.

Jody lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy children, and five spoiled cats. Although Jody prefers to experience daring and dangerous adventures through her characters rather than in real life, she’s learned that a calm existence is simply not meant to be (at least in this phase of her life!).

When she’s not penning another of her page-turning stories, she loves to spend her time reading, especially when it also involves consuming coffee and chocolate.

Top 10 Tuesday — Book Club Reads

7 Mar

While the folks at The Broke And The Bookish are taking a well-deserved rest, bloggers are sharing Freebie Top 10 Lists. This week I am sharing the books my two book clubs (By The Book and Page Turners) are reading this year. What is your book club reading?

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Top 10 Book Club Selections for 2017

(alphabetically)

Gathering The Threads by Cindy Woodsmall

If I Run by Terri Blackstock

Justice Delayed by Patricia Bradley

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The Long Highway Home by Elizabeth Musser

Luther And Katharina by Jody Hedlund

The One True Love of Alice-Ann by Eva Marie Everson

Still Life by Dani Pettrey

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Why The Sky Is Blue by Susan Meissner

The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton

A Yankee in Atlanta by Jocelyn Green

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What is your book club reading this year?

March Book Club Selections

1 Mar

Can you believe it is already March?! Whew, this year is flying by fast. Here in middle Georgia the signs of Spring are everywhere — everything is blooming! And the weather has been warm, warm, warm! Perfect for grabbing a book and enjoying the sunshine out of doors. This month my book clubs are reading Still Life by Dani Pettrey (By The Book) and Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund (Page Turners). Won’t you join us? We would love to know what you think of these books.

51gr5xas3sl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Blacklisted in the photography business over a controversial shot, Avery Tate answered an ad for a crime scene photographer. She expected to be laughed at, but crime scene analyst Parker Mitchell hired her outright–and changed her life. But six months ago, when her feelings for Parker became too strong, she left his employ to sort out her heart.

Now, for the first time, Avery is facing the world that rejected her to attend the gallery opening of a photography exhibit and support her best friend, who modeled for the show. But the only image of her friend is a chilling photo of her posing as if dead–and the photographer insists he didn’t take the shot. Worse, her friend can’t be found. She immediately calls Parker for help. As Avery, Parker, and his friends in law enforcement dig into the mystery, they find themselves face-to-face with a relentless and deadly threat.

 

 

51iwqdkk1zl-_sx336_bo1204203200_She was a nun of noble birth. He, a heretic, a reformer…an outlaw of the Holy Roman Empire.

In the 16th century, nun Katharina von Bora’s fate fell no further than the Abbey. Until she read the writings of Martin Luther.

His sweeping Catholic church reformation—condemning a cloistered life and promoting the goodness of marriage—awakened her desire for everything she’d been forbidden. Including Martin Luther himself.

Despite the fact that the attraction and tension between them is undeniable, Luther holds fast to his convictions and remains isolated, refusing to risk anyone’s life but his own. And Katharina longs for love, but is strong-willed. She clings proudly to her class distinction, pining for nobility over the heart of a reformer. They couldn’t be more different.

But as the world comes tumbling down around them, and with Luther’s threatened life a constant strain, these unlikely allies forge an unexpected bond of understanding, support and love.

Together, they will alter the religious landscape forever.