Emma Chambers has always longed for a home of her own, but she’s spent most of her adult life following her brother, Ryan, as he searches for work. Each time Ryan takes on a new job, Emma hopes they’ll settle down for a while, long enough for her to feel secure. When the steamboat taking them to Detroit—on yet another job hunt—is set upon by pirates, Emma and Ryan find themselves forced to temporarily settle at Presque Isle while Ryan attempts to earn back the money the pirates stole from them. While Ryan is able to earn his living by chopping wood, Emma quickly discovers that the inhabitants of Presque Isle have no use for a single woman. None of them, that is, except Patrick Garraty, the lighthouse keeper.
Patrick doesn’t have long to grieve the untimely death of his wife, given that he has a lighthouse to keep and a toddler son to raise. He has no idea how he’s supposed to balance both these tasks when his work requires him to be away from his son every night, tending the light in the tower. When the travelling preacher introduces him to Emma, a woman in need of a home, he isn’t sure if he’s doing the right thing in marrying her. While his son desperately needs a mother, and Emma longs for security, Patrick worries that she’ll be just as unhappy as his first wife. Can any woman be happy with a man like him, with the secrets that his past holds? His first wife was disgusted when she learned of his prior life—will Emma react similarly? Should Patrick keep the truth from her, for the sake of their family?
Spending many a holiday along the coasts of Scotland, I have fond memories of the various lighthouses I visited as a child. I’m fairly certain that many of them were no longer in use (in fact, at least one had been turned into a tea room) but the occupation of the lightkeeper and the immense responsibility their position held has always intrigued me. The realities of the pressures that lightkeepers faced were revealed to me in all their fullness in Love Unexpected. As beautiful and fascinating as lighthouses may be, I didn’t envy Patrick’s job in the slightest. Having finished the book, I’m still unsure as to how he managed to tend the light, make repairs, fish, cook, and care for his son on so little sleep—even with Emma’s help! Lightkeeping is not a glamorous job, nor does it pay well. Patrick was definitely a refreshing change from the titled aristocrats in other romance novels I read this month.
I imagine that Emma’s position is not unlike that of many displaced Irish immigrants in this period. Many Irish children were left without a parent—or both—following the potato famine, or even the journey that took them away from their homeland. Emma and her brother want different things out of life, but she doesn’t have any option other than to keep following Ryan until she can find a husband.
I’m sure that many readers can relate to Emma’s longing for a home, especially if—like her—you can barely remember what “home” feels like.
That said, I’m not sure if I could be as brave as Emma. Even with the recommendation of a preacher, could you marry a man you’ve only met once?
Love Unexpected definitely falls into the “marriage of convenience” category of romance novels, which is a personal favourite. I really enjoyed the way that Emma and Patrick’s relationship developed. Given that their family lives at the lighthouse, a fair distance from the rest of Presque Isle, a large part of the book is focused purely on the interactions between Emma, Patrick and Patrick’s son, Josiah. We get to witness the hard work that goes into running a lighthouse, caring for a toddler and the mundane tasks of keeping a family in food and clean clothing. I appreciated that Emma wasn’t a natural when it came to cooking and housekeeping, and that she struggled to calm Josiah’s tantrums. I’ve read too many books that feature heroines who take to the task of keeping house perfectly, in spite of their previous lack of experience. Given the recent and very sudden loss of his mother, it seemed entirely realistic that Josiah pitched a fit whenever his dad set off in his boat and left him with Emma. Emma’s struggles to keep up with the day-to-day tasks of keeping house and looking after Josiah made her all the more a relatable character. I also appreciated that Patrick was not a stranger when it came to cooking and cleaning. I’d love to see more historical heroes who pitch in to help their women around the home!
I was initially cautious about the conflict in this story, given that it largely stemmed from secrets that Patrick was keeping from Emma, and gossip that was spread about the true nature of these secrets.
I’m not a big fan of the Big Misunderstanding/Lack of Communication trope, mostly because I’m far more likely to discuss an issue as soon as it arises, rather than overreact and run away before it can be explained. Thankfully, Emma was a woman after my own heart, and did make an effort to sort out matters with her new husband. I don’t want to give too much away about the conflict in this novel, but I will say that it involves pirates! Who else loves a good pirate romance? I’m sure I’m not the only one.
With Patrick running his lighthouse, fishing and brooding over his dark past, and Emma learning the cook, washing mountains of laundry and chasing Josiah around, it did seem like our hero and heroine would never have time to fall in love. And I suppose that their situation probably represented a true marriage of convenience, where a man seeks a wife because he literally has no time to tend to his home and children. Do not fear—there is plenty of romance in this book! It takes a while to develop, but I loved the shy interactions between Emma and Patrick. Readers will soon learn just why Patrick is so hesitant with his new bride, and the truth will endear him to them all the more. There were some incredibly romantic scenes in the lighthouse that I absolutely adored. And since this is a novel about a married couple, the romance in this novel pertains to more than just kissing—but without being overly explicit. I always appreciate it when Christian novels hint at true happily wedded bliss. This isn’t something to be hidden away, folks!
Love Unexpected is a beautiful novel full of romance and redemption.
Patrick and Emma are realistically flawed protagonists who are able to put aside past secrets and gossip to forge a future together. Since none of us enters a relationship without any lingering baggage, their story is a great reminder of the effort that is often required to make a marriage work.