The Edge of Mercy by Heidi Chiavaroli

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Welcome to the Blog Tour and Giveaway for The Edge of Mercy by Heidi Chiavaroli, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Edge of Mercy final large fileTitle: The Edge of Mercy
Author: Heidi Chiavaroli
Publisher: Hope Creek Publishers
Genre: Split Time/Women’s Fiction
Release Date: April 9, 2019

Two women, three hundred years apart, must face the devastation of all they hold dear…

Suspecting her husband is having an affair, Sarah Rodrigues fights to appear unbroken while attempting to salvage her family. Though distracted by her own troubles, Sarah is summoned to an elderly friend’s deathbed for an unusual request—find a long-lost daughter and relay a centuries-old family story.

Determined not to fail her friend, Sarah pieces together the story of her neighbor’s ancestor, Elizabeth Baker, a young colonist forced into an unwanted betrothal but drawn to a man forbidden by society.

While Sarah’s family teeters on the edge of collapse, her world is further shaken by the interest of a caring doctor and a terrible accident that threatens a life more precious than her own.

Inspired by the unconditional love she uncovers in Elizabeth’s story, Sarah strives to forgive those who’ve wounded her soul. But when light shines on the dark secrets of her neighbor’s past and the full extent of her husband’s sins, will looking to a power greater than herself rekindle lost hope?

PURCHASE LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository


Disclaimer: I received a free copy from the author. All opinions are my own.  

My rating: 4/5

The Edge of Mercy, by Heidi Chiavaroli, is a bit deceptive in its cover art. All right…a lot deceptive. The cover art implies a Regency or Victorian-era setting. However, instead the book is predominately contemporary, with the journal entries of a Puritan woman running throughout. So, it took me a little bit to reconcile my expectation of the book from the cover with the actual content.

However, I must say this book exceeded my exceptions by a large margin. I wasn’t quite sure what to think with the opening pages. I was worried about the writing style, and confused about the setting. It only took twenty pages, though, for me to get swept up in the story of Sarah, Matt, and Kyle.

I wasn’t expecting this to be a Christian book, but it is. And it’s actually really well done. Chiavaroli deftly describes the relationship between Sarah and Matt and it’s easy to see where things are falling apart. What I liked best was how Sarah feels realistic, seesawing between anger at Matt and guilt about her own actions, so that it paints a clear picture that the crumbling marriage is in large part due to failure on both ends. I also really liked how even though Matt went further than Sarah in terms of rebellion and breaking down the ties between them, it’s clear that Sarah did things that were equally as damaging (if different in action). There’s blame placed on both sides, and Chiavaroli handles it with nuance and skill.

I’m not sure how I feel about the subplot. To be honest, Elizabeth Baker’s journal entries were the least exciting part of the book. I practically shuddered when I discovered that the journals were about Elizabeth’s relationship with a native. It’s such a romanticized, overdone stereotype. I must admit, though, that I was pleasantly surprised when things took a different direction, even though I was already checked out in terms of enjoyment of that particular story. I found myself rushing through the journal entries to get back to the story I was actually interested in.

Misleading/terrible cover art aside, I really enjoyed The Edge of Mercy. It was much better than I expected it would be, and I was way more invested than I thought I would be. Chiavaroli manages to avoid many of the pitfalls of Christian novels and produces a compelling, emotional story of a failing marriage and the effort Sarah puts in pulling it back together. The ending is, perhaps, a bit rushed—I felt that Matt’s turnaround was too abrupt and wasn’t explained very well—but I had trouble putting the book down, which is one of the highest praises I can ever give a book.

Warnings: None.

Genre: Realistic, Christian

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

heidi chiavaroli

CONNECT WITH HEIDI: website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram


the edge of mercy blog giveaway

TOUR GIVEAWAY

(1) winner will win this beautiful prize pack from Heidi Chiavaroli, including:

  • Rustic Metal Lantern
  • Bordeaux Journal
  • Country Potholder
  • Colonial-Inspired Hand Glazed Mug
  • Simple Life Notepad
  • Be Still and Know Magnet
  • Plymouth Rock Bookmark
  • Fresh & Clean Goat Milk Soap
  • Handmade Rustic Book Decor
  • Signed Copy of The Edge of Mercy

Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight April 9, 2019 and last through 11:59 pm April 16, 2019. US Mailing addresses only, due to shipping costs. Void where prohibited by law. Winners will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

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The Seamstress by Allison Pittman

Disclaimer: The Seamstress, by Allison Pittman, was provided by Tyndale. I received a free copy from the publisher. No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

My rating: 4/5 

The Seamstress was inspired by the ending of A Tale of Two Cities, where a seamstress meets up with That Guy (to avoid spoilers) and talks to him briefly before they are both beheaded. The Seamstress is basically the story of that seamstress, detailing her life and circumstances leading up to and during the French Revolution.

Pittman says she spoils about 50% of A Tale of Two Cities, but I didn’t see it. Of  course, I read Dickens’ novel in high school, so my memory of the book is not great. The Seamstress is much more like a historical fiction set during the French Revolution than a spin-off of A Tale of Two Cities, and, in fact, the ending of the novel, where Pittman most clearly references TTC, is the weakest, as Pittman clearly borrowed dialogue from Dickens’ novel, where it stands out like a sore thumb because Pittman doesn’t write like Dickens.

To be honest, I thought the story about the seamstress, Renee, was the weakest of the novel. The story involving Renee’s cousin, Laurette, was the best part. That was a story laden with forgiveness and grace, of a young woman’s desperate attempts to find love and the way she feels when those attempts give her nothing but emptiness and shame. I normally don’t like perfect men, but Gagnon is exactly the character he needed to be to temper Laurette’s wildness. Laurette’s story is the reason I gave this book such a high rating—and Renee’s story is the reason why it didn’t get higher.

Pittman utilizes the dreaded “first-person, third-person” switch: Renee’s story is in 1st person, and Laurette’s in 3rd. I see no reason why it had to be that way, and it’s jarring and frustrating to keep switching back and forth. And compared to Laurette’s beautiful story, Renee’s is timid and historically thin (Pittman admits she painted an idealistic portrait of Marie Antoinette); Renee herself is given paper-thin motivations for her actions and most of the time is simply a passive observer to what’s happening around her. And the reason Pittman gives for her arrest leading up to her death sentence is laughably unrealistic—plot convenience shines throughout that particular portion.

Yet, the power of the setting and Laurette’s story manage to offset and overshadow many of the flaws of Renee’s story, giving a lush, detailed look at the French countryside and the path leading to the French Revolution. The stark contrast between Renee’s life at court and Laurette’s life in the country helps paint the strong divide between rich and poor that was the catalyst in the Revolution’s start. And Renee’s arrest, imprisonment, and execution helps show the bloodthirsty rage that fueled the Revolution and kept the guillotine dropping.

It’s definitely not perfect, but Laurette’s story alone makes The Seamstress worth a read.

Warnings: None.

Genre: Christian, Historical Fiction

You can buy this here: https://amzn.to/2SznyiA

Lady of a Thousand Treasures by Sandra Byrd

Disclaimer: Lady of a Thousand Treasures, by Sandra Byrd, was provided by Tyndale. I received a free copy from the publisher. No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

My rating: 3/5

Lady of a Thousand Treasures takes us to the world of art-collection fiends in Victorian England, starring the female curator/evaluator Eleanor and the intrigue, drama, and danger she faces after unearthing the seedy underbelly of the art world. There’s also romance because of course there is.

I did really like seeing into the art collection side of Victorian England. There was a lot of depth and explanation in every aspect of Eleanor’s job. There was also some subtle looks into females trying to establish their own careers and their own footing—the real-life Lady Charlotte Schreiber (first female accepted into a previously all-male curators club) and Elizabeth Garrett (first female physician in England) make appearances. Dante Rossetti shows up, too—you know, the brother of Christina Rossetti, of “Goblin Market” fame.

So, basically, I really loved the setting. The plot paled in comparison. There’s intrigue, and suspicion, and forgeries, and scandal, and debts, which sounds very exciting and tense, but to be honest, I spent most of my time wondering why Eleanor made the decisions she did. She is too quick to trust in one scenario, and too quick to doubt in another. She does really stupid things, then follows those up with some swift, quick-thinking decisions that are smartly thought-out. As a character, she is all over the place. I liked the mystery aspect of the plot, but the characters didn’t hold up on their end.

The romance was okay—nothing special. It ends as inevitably as you might suspect, with as much drama and progression as you might expect. I didn’t really like that Harry was used as a device to fuel Eleanor’s doubt, and then swoop in and get her out of trouble, and the parts involving him, his father’s collection, and the secret rooms in his house were some of the most confusing in the novel.

I loved the setting, mostly enjoyed the plot, and tolerated the characters in Lady of a Thousand Treasures. It didn’t blow me away, but I didn’t have strong feelings in the negatives towards it, either. It was an average book for me. I liked it better than many other Christian fiction I have read.

Warnings: None.

Genre: Christian, Historical Fiction

You can buy this here: https://amzn.to/2RChuBR

Everything She Didn’t Say by Jane Kirkpatrick

Disclaimer: Everything She Didn’t Say, by Jane Kirkpatrick, was provided by Revell. I received a free copy from the publisher. No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

In 1911, Carrie Strahorn wrote a memoir sharing some of the most exciting events of twenty-five years of shaping the American West with her husband, railroad promoter and writer Robert Strahorn. Nearly ten years later, she’s finally ready to reveal the secrets she hadn’t told anyone—even herself. Certain that her writings will be found only after her death, Carrie confronts the pain and disappointment of the pioneering life with startling honesty. She explores the danger a woman faces of losing herself within a relationship with a strong-willed man. She reaches for the courage to accept her own worth. Most of all she wonders, Can she ever feel truly at home in this rootless life?

My rating: 2/5

My experience with Jane Kirkpatrick has been similar for each book I’ve read of hers: appreciation for the historical research, but boredom with the overall storyline. As I mentioned in my review of The Road We Traveled, “there were parts of the book where I went “Hmm, this is interesting,” and then there were more parts where I wondered when the book would be over.” I really don’t understand how a book could be so carefully researched, yet falter in terms of pace and holding the reader’s attention entirely. Or perhaps I simply really don’t like books that just meander through someone’s life (as I’ve also mentioned in my previous Kirkpatrick reviews).

The format of the book was very confusing to me. Obviously, the excerpts at the end of each chapter are from Carrie Strahorn’s actual memoir, Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage. Yet, there are also journal entries at the beginning of each chapter—are these Carrie’s actual journals, or things made up by Kirkpatrick so the reader knows what year it is? I also had issues with what I must assume are severe creative liberties on the part of Kirkpatrick—she is filling in the gaps only with what she thinks is true, based off of the few things we have about Carrie. And I get that this is historical fiction, not biography, but the picture built of Carrie, of this strong woman who managed to hold her own and carve her own path despite her husband’s domineering nature, is a fictionalized picture. Were any of the thoughts and feelings in this book part of the real Carrie Strahorn? I guess I wouldn’t mind so much if I didn’t think so highly of context and accuracy.

Everything We Didn’t Say is a good look at a woman I knew nothing about, who helped pave the way in the West along with her husband, Robert Strahorn. This Carrie is a good model, and there are many points in this book ripe for discussion, but I left the book without a solid idea of what the true Carrie was really like. In true Kirkpatrick style, the research was great, the actual grip and hook of the book…not so much. I would enjoy her so much more if she was just a little more exciting as a writer, though I suppose that’s the draw—she documents more aspects of someone’s life than simply the “exciting” parts. I just wish, in this case, there was more of a clear idea that she was actually crafting a true representation.

Warnings: None.

Genre: Christian, Historical Fiction

You can buy this here: https://amzn.to/2xmsbA1

The Crescent Stone by Matt Mikalatos

Disclaimer: The Crescent Stone, by Matt Mikalatos, was provided by Tyndale. I received a free copy from the publisher. No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

Madeline Oliver has never wanted for anything, but now she would give everything just to breathe. Jason Wu skates through life on jokes, but when a tragedy leaves him guilt stricken, he promises to tell only the truth, no matter the price. When a mysterious stranger named Hanali appears to Madeline and offers to heal her in exchange for one year of service to his people, Madeline and Jason are swept into a strange land where they don’t know the rules and where their decisions carry consequences that reach farther than they could ever guess.

My rating: 3/5

The Crescent Stone is a decent fantasy novel of the Narnia subtype: two people find themselves entering a mysterious new world, where there’s magic, strange new people, and a battle to fight. Along the way, they discover things aren’t what they seem. The worldbuilding is good in terms of lore; there are all sorts of things in the appendix to help establish that. I wasn’t swept away in wonder, but I found the fantasy world interesting, for the most part.

Less good is the heavy-handed way that Mikalatos incorporates his cultural relevancy. Two of the characters are delivered a sermon about their perceived ignorance, and the fantasy world itself hinges on Mikalatos’s interpretation of the way the real world works. Except, while the magical aspect is fine, taking it and applying it to reality falls flat on its face. See, Mikalatos’s magic system is a zero-sum game: make something big, something else becomes small. But applying that to the real world, which is what he wants the reader to do, makes little sense. Money is not a zero-sum game; me getting $50 does not stop someone else from getting $50. My use of electricity does not prevent someone else from using electricity. There’s truth in some of what he says, but it’s hidden by the exaggerated magical message.

Other things that fell flat for me: the made-up books that Mikalatos includes to inspire the characters and create in them that longing for a fantasy world. The dialogue of those books is laughably cheesy, made even more so when the characters start quoting lines to each other. The heavy-handedness/preachiness is something I’ve already mentioned. Mikalatos sticks to rigid tropes and stereotypes, which is ironic considering the message he’s trying to get across. Towards the end, MacGuffins abound, and the plot points get muddled and confusing.

For a Christian fantasy, The Crescent Stone is pretty good in terms of worldbuilding, something that oftentimes can slip between the cracks in favor of message. But Mikalatos’s message stretches the bounds of reality—it makes sense in a fantasy world, but start applying it to the real one and it falls flat. A much more subtle approach would have gone over much better, with less preaching, absurd scenarios, or unbelievable concepts to clutter up the good message of compassion and equality.

Warnings: None.

Genre: Christian, Fantasy

You can buy this here: https://amzn.to/2MtoORj

A Daring Venture by Elizabeth Camden

Disclaimer: A Daring Venture, by Elizabeth Camden, was provided by Bethany House. I received a free copy from the publisher. No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

My rating: 4/5

I really like Elizabeth Camden. She has a knack for making compelling stories with characters that don’t fit the same old outline of the majority of other Christian historical romances. She also tends to have strong stories that aren’t pushed to the side for the romance. This story is about the battle to chlorinate water—a true story—and deliver clean water so that water-borne diseases, such as cholera, aren’t as frequent. The two main characters, Rosalind and Nick, do have a sort of insta-love, which I never really like, but Camden made it super cute and emphasized aspects of it that made me actually like it this time.

I also liked that the romance was void of a lot of tired tropes. That may also have contributed to my liking of it, since it seemed so new in comparison to the past books I’ve read. And I liked that Rosalind and Nick got to shine as characters, rather than as vehicles for romance. The characterization was really good, though Nick’s turn-around in terms of his view of chlorination was abrupt. And I liked all the court intrigue and the drama that revolved around the plot, though some of it was a little too over-the-top, such as pretty much everything that went on with Aunt Margaret.

This book is the second in a series, but luckily it’s not necessary to have read the first (I didn’t). It would have led to much greater insight into two of the characters, as well as Nick’s background, but overall it wasn’t too bad to fill in the blanks with what Camden gave.

A Daring Venture had a compelling plot, a romance that was sweet (and not annoying, so it gets bonus points from me), and solid characterization. A few elements were a miss for me, such as some of the more dramatic moments and Nick’s abrupt change of mind, but overall, I really enjoyed this book.

Warnings: None.

Genre: Christian, Historical Fiction

You can buy this here: https://amzn.to/2MsuGac

12 Faithful Men by Collin Hansen and Jeff Robinson

Disclaimer: 12 Faithful Men: Portraits of Courageous Endurance in Pastoral Ministry, by Collin Hansen and Jeff Robinson, was provided by Baker Books. I received a free copy from the publisher. No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

My rating: 3/5

When I got 12 Faithful Men, I thought it would be twelve stories of famous Christian people who courageously endured, as the title implies, through trials and suffering. And I was right, in a sense, but I wasn’t expecting the pastoral audience the book is clearly aimed for. This was a book written by pastors, for pastors, and so the “portraits” weren’t as detailed or as lengthy as I would have liked.

That being said, I did enjoy the stories of these 12 men. I ended up skipping a lot of the application and simply read about the 12 men, so it was a pretty quick read. Most of the people that Hansen and Robinson wrote about I had already known about, such as Paul, Jonathan Edwards, and John Newton, but some I had never heard about. I especially enjoyed the chapters on Janani Luwum, a Ugandan pastor, and Wang Ming-Dao, a Chinese pastor, because it gave me some insight into the trouble that brewed, and is possibly still brewing in Uganda (and Africa in general) and in China. I knew about Mao, but I didn’t know about Idi Amin, the “African Hitler,” who slaughtered thousands of his own people in his quest for power.

I really wasn’t expecting 12 Faithful Men to be as devotional as it was, so it was a little disappointing, but I did find the lives of the people inside interesting. I could also think of a few other people that the authors didn’t highlight that would have fit right in with the theme of the book, so I think there’s something to be said about endurance in suffering in religion in general, and Christianity in particular. There were some good things said about suffering and faith, too, though I did end up skimming a majority of that part when the authors directed it specifically towards pastors. The book really didn’t fulfill what I thought it would, but I did learn some things nevertheless.

Warnings: None.

Genre: Christian

You can buy this here: https://amzn.to/2MdQEh6

River to Redemption by Ann H. Gabhart

Disclaimer: River to Redemption, by Ann H. Gabhart, was provided by Revell. I received a free copy from the publisher. No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

Orphaned in the cholera epidemic of 1833, Adria Starr was cared for by a slave named Louis, a man who passed up the opportunity to escape his bondage and instead tended to the sick and buried the dead. A man who, twelve years later, is being sold by his owners despite his heroic actions. Now nineteen, Adria has never forgotten what Louis did for her. She’s determined to find a way to buy Louis’s freedom. But in 1840s Kentucky, she’ll need all of the courage and strength she possesses—and more.

My rating: 3/5

River to Redemption is a refreshing, non-romance-centric (of sorts) novel based on a true story. While too character-driven for my tastes, and thus slow and meandering with little happening to pick up the pace, I enjoyed the break from the normal historical romance that this book gave me.

It’s really interesting to me to see Christian fiction tackle the Civil War era, as each author seems to want to emphasize something different each time. I thought Gabhart did a good job of integrating the societal feeling of the time while also maintaining the Christian aspect of it. It seems jarring to us, in the modern age, to read a book like this and wonder why the Christians in the novel aren’t all abolitionists. But the character Ruth points out something important towards the end of the novel: that the culture that these people grew up in has influenced them too much in seeing slaves as invisible, and that it took the compassion of Louis for them to see humanity in all the people around them. I think people too often dismiss the power of culture in the minds of individuals. The behavior and thoughts exhibited by some of the people in the novel should be rightly criticized, but maintaining historical accuracy is important, too.

Now, I did say this was “non-romance-centric,” though that’s not exactly true. There is a romance in this book, but since I considered Adria the main character, I didn’t really consider it important enough for a “romance-centric” tag. The romance does take up a lot of the plot—maybe too much, considering the glacial pace of the book—and it is quite predictable and all that jazz, but it was nice for the main character to realize that there are things more important in life than pursuing relationships immediately.

If there had been a bit more action or something to make the pace go more quickly, River to Redemption would have elevated itself significantly in my mind. As it stands, it’s a good book, but too slow for my liking. Many people prefer character-driven books, so this would be a good fit for them. It also handles the “Christianese” and the setting in a good way, integrating them nicely and not leaving too much to complain or rage about in terms of accuracy or portrayal.

Warnings: None.

Genre: Christian, Historical Fiction

You can buy this here: https://amzn.to/2O9ni4V

Engraved on the Heart by Tara Johnson

Disclaimer: Engraved on the Heart, by Tara Johnson, was provided by Tyndale. I received a free copy from the publisher. No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

Reluctant debutante Keziah Montgomery lives beneath the weighty expectations of her staunch Confederate family, forced to keep her epilepsy secret for fear of a scandal. As the tensions of the Civil War arrive on their doorstep in Savannah, Keziah sees little cause for balls and courting. Despite her discomfort, she cannot imagine an escape from her familial confines—until her old schoolmate Micah shows her a life-changing truth that sets her feet on a new path . . . as a conductor in the Underground Railroad. Dr. Micah Greyson never hesitates to answer the call of duty, no matter how dangerous, until the enchanting Keziah walks back into his life and turns his well-ordered plans upside down. Torn between the life he has always known in Savannah and the fight for abolition, Micah struggles to discern God’s plan amid such turbulent times. Battling an angry fiancé, a war-tattered brother, bounty hunters, and their own personal demons, Keziah and Micah must decide if true love is worth the price . . . and if they are strong enough to survive the unyielding pain of war.

My rating: 2/5

I was interested by the summary of Engraved on the Heart and hoped it would have lots of intrigue, sneaking around, and escapes from danger, as befitting the promise of the setting. I hoped the romance would be imaginative and original, though I didn’t really have too many high hopes in that regard.

I like it when authors introduce elements to the story that make it more unique, and Johnson did that with Keziah’s epilepsy and exploring the stigma associated with the illness. I wish a little bit more time had been spent on it, but at least it was an established part of her character. I liked Keziah in general and her characterization and growth were overall okay. Micah was a typical male love interest, and he didn’t stand out much in any way except for a bit at the end.

Most of the events that happened in regards to the Underground Railroad were pretty plausible. I recently read a book on the topic, and much of what happens in the book fits. My only quibble is that I don’t remember if they were actually calling it “the Underground Railroad” at the time. I also think getting a peek at Lucy’s escape would have been nice, since it seemed way too easy and vague. I also thought the way the plan was communicated to Lucy was dubious and unbelievable.

I won’t harp on the romance, but I’m getting tired of reading the same thing over and over. This romance played out exactly like most of the others in these sorts of books: love at first sight between two amazingly good-looking people, one or both has secret doubts about pursuing a relationship, they refuse to be in a relationship but still end up holding each other/kissing, etc. etc. etc. This romance in particular seemed incredibly similar to the one in the last book I read. It’s clear this sort of thing is being written to please the audience rather than to give something original and exploratory.

Warnings: None.

Genre: Christian, Historical Fiction

You can buy this here:https://amzn.to/2md5QQ4

Read an author Q&A here.

Together Forever by Jody Hedlund

Disclaimer: Together Forever, by Jody Hedlund, was provided by Bethany House. It is the sequel to With You Always. I received a free copy from the publisher. No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

Determined to find her lost younger sister, Marianne Neumann takes a job as a placing agent with the Children’s Aid Society in 1858 New York. She not only hopes to offer children a better life, but prays she’ll be able to discover whether Sophie ended up leaving the city on an orphan train so they can finally be reunited. Andrew Brady, her fellow agent on her first placing-out trip, is a former schoolteacher who has an easy way with the children, frim but tender and friendly. Underneath his charm and handsome looks, though, seems to linger a grief that won’t go away—and a secret from his past that he keeps hidden. As the two team up, placing orphans in the small railroad towns of Illinois, they find themselves growing ever closer…until a shocking tragedy threatens to upend all their work and change on of their live forever.

My rating: 2/5

Together Forever tells the story of Marianne Neumann, the sister of Elise Neumann, the protagonist of With You Always. It picks up the plot thread of the missing sister, Sophie, but very quickly sidelines it for a romantic plot, which is a shame because the missing sister is the most interesting thing in this series, and sidelining it really doesn’t make the characters look good. More on that later on.

Yes, this book is a romance, and boy, does Hedlund really accentuate that. There must be dozens of stolen glances, thoughts about the “delicate” and “elegant” features of Marianne, thoughts about the “strong jaw” and “toned muscles” and “warm skin” of Drew, and multiple looks of desire and/or longing. Hedlund throws in some events to make everything more dramatic, such as Reinhold, Marianne’s old (one-sided) flame, a murder, and some orphan children.

I think I might have enjoyed this book more, cliché and unoriginal romance (and tropes used) aside, if I had liked the characters more. Yet there’s really nothing that drew me to Marianne or Drew; Reinhold was more interesting, but showed up far too infrequently. The problem with Drew is that he’s the typical love interest in these sorts of books—handsome, clever, capable, with some sort of dark past that comes back to haunt him and throw tension into his relationship. The problem with Marianne is that for someone who’s so devoted to finding her sister, she barely does anything about it throughout the course of the book beyond read a few pages of a logbook. The rest of the time she’s busy flirting with Drew, when she’s not contemplating the fate of the orphans she’s placing. There’s also an absurd scene at the end of the novel that’s so contrived and such a dumb thing to do on the part of the characters (basically, it’s a “let’s pretend this is real and lead people on even though we know it’s wrong” decision) that I grew even more irritated at the romance between the two.

If I can say anything positive about Together Forever, it’s that Hedlund shows both sides of the orphan train. She shows it from the point of view of how many of the orphans who would have been living on the streets otherwise were taken in by families and cared for. But she also shows the side of how well those families will treat those orphans, as well as the idea that it’s basically selling children. I appreciated that she showed both perspectives. To be honest, I didn’t know much about orphan trains, so it was nice to see that part of history explored. The rest of the book, though, I could have done without.

Warnings: None.

Genre: Christian, Historical Fiction

You can buy this here: https://amzn.to/2sUxQuW