Undaunted Hope

Undaunted HopeUndaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund
Series: Beacons of Hope
Genres: Historical Romance
Published by Bethany House on January 5, 2016
Pages: 384
Also in this series: Love Unexpected, Hearts Made Whole
Also by this author: Love Unexpected, An Uncertain Choice, Hearts Made Whole, Luther and Katharina, A Daring Sacrifice, Newton and Polly

 

About Undaunted Hope (from the back cover):
Eagle Harbor, Michigan

In a Town Mired in Darkness, She May Shine the Light They Need

Fleeing mistakes she’d love to forget, Tessa Taylor escapes to the uppermost reaches of Michigan to accept a position as the new schoolteacher. She hopes the mining community of Eagle Harbor will be a refuge for her.  Instead, upon her arrival, she learns that the town had expected “T. Taylor” to be male… and, while the superintendent Percival Updegraff allows Tessa to stay (at least through the winter), the gleam in his eye suggests there might be unwelcome conditions to his apparent show of goodwill.

The community definitely takes some adjustments for Tessa – from the weather to the bedbugs to the food. But especially difficult for her to accept is how Percival runs the town – and how everyone seems to let him. In the midst of her struggle to make herself irreplaceable without placing herself under Updegraff’s thumb, Tessa forms a special bond with several of her students, including a pair of siblings who think she would be the perfect addition to their motherless family.  As their grieving father Michael begins to agree, another man – the charming assistant lightkeeper Alex Bjorklund – makes known his own interest in Tessa.

Men fighting for Tessa’s heart. A reformed woman fighting for her job. A tyrant fighting for power. A town fighting for hope. Who will win in the end?

 

Jody Hedlund is one of those authors who is just consistently GOOD. I know whenever I pick up one of her books that I will be swept away by the writing, the history, the characters, the romance (blissful sigh!!), and the message of faith.  Every single time. Including Undaunted Hope.

Jody Hedlund is one of those authors who is just consistently GOOD.

Up until I began Undaunted Hope, my favorite romantic hero of Jody’s has been Carl from A Noble Groom. But now … I don’t know, y’all… Alex is giving him some serious competition.  I cannot resist an incorrigible flirt, especially one who is so great with kids.  In fact, even before all the flirtatious goodness started, I knew Alex had a solid chance of toppling Carl from his first place ranking.  Right from chapter one, as a matter of fact, when my romantic heart swooned over something as simple as Alex acting like he was merely fishing when in fact he was aware of everything going on with Tessa in the background. Yeah, I know – it doesn’t take much lol.

Tessa was – in a word – all kinds of awesome. Ok, so that was four words but one general idea.  She’s fierce when she needs to be, tender in the meantime, and as Jamie over at BooksandBeverages said, “she’s been keeping things sassy since 1871, so she’s what we call… MY PEOPLE.” Yes. Tessa’s sass + Alex’s Alex-ness = romance reader heaven.  But then there were Michael and his kids … and oh my heart.  I almost had to put the book in the freezer at one point. And then at other times, I almost had to put myself there. 😉

I almost had to put the book in the freezer at one point. And then at other times, I almost had to put myself there. 😉

Besides the characters, one of the things I adore most about Jody Hedlund’s books is her mastery of the setting.  In a matter of words, she immerses her readers in the world of her story – the sights, the sounds, the smells, the sensations.  In the case of Undaunted Hope, I almost had to go grab another blanket to battle the harsh Michigan winter. (I adore winter and cold and snow… but I think that would have been a bit much even for me!) Tessa’s living conditions were a whole handful of nope as far as I was concerned, and I admit to shivering a time or two at Jody’s vivid descriptions.

But perhaps the thing I loved most about Undaunted Hope was the theme that swirled through Tessa’s story: Whatever your past mistakes, who you are now is all that matters. Whatever your past fears, what you do now is all that matters.  Perhaps you, like me, needed to hear that today too.

Jody Hedlund has once again crafted a beautiful story of love and hope set against an exquisitely-researched backdrop of history.

Jody Hedlund has once again crafted a beautiful story of love and hope set against an exquisitely-researched backdrop of history.  Nearly all of your emotions will be engaged while you read Undaunted Hope, and you may even need to invest in a good fainting couch to survive some of the kissing scenes! (What a way to go!) It’s sassy. It’s sweet. It’s swoon-worthy.  It needs to be in your collection.

–Carrie


I love it when an author takes a previously unlikable character and gives them the chance to redeem themselves and turn to their life around, especially when they devote an entire book to this journey! Tessa was definitely an annoying character in the previous Beacons of Hope novel, manipulating her family members and situations to get what she wanted. She wasn’t your stereotypical villain, just a misunderstood teenage girl searching for love in all the wrong places. Tessa’s actions might have been a bit outlandish at times (trying to trick her older sister’s beau into marrying her, in particular) but what teenage girl hasn’t felt the same as Tessa—overlooked, unloved, out of place? Tessa did make me want to bang my head against a wall in frustration in Hearts Made Whole, but I was also intrigued by her, and hoped that the third book in the series might be devoted to her.

After all that hoping and waiting, did this book live up to my expectations? Mostly! I absolutely loved the first two books in the Beacons of Hope series and wasn’t sure if Jody could keep up her fantastic streak. Often in a series, there is one book that doesn’t quite live up to the others. It’s not a sign of a bad writer, just that the reader likes one character more than another, or one situation appeals to them more. From the start of this novel, Tessa’s situation intrigued me. Even if I didn’t know her backstory (and I think you could probably read this book as a standalone), the strange situation she finds herself in makes for an interesting opening. She’s a teacher in a town that’s basically a dictatorship run by the mining superintendent, who is desperate to get rid of her. The lighthouse link felt a bit shaky at times, but does become more present as the story develops.

If the thought of a love-triangle puts you off, I’d recommend giving this book a shot anyway. This isn’t Twilight with lighthouses, trust me.

I’ll admit straight off that I’m not really a fan of love triangles. I always have to fight the urge to roll my eyes when two men are in love with the same woman. Maybe it’s just because no one’s ever fought for my affections, but it always feels a bit unrealistic. In this case, it didn’t feel quite so unbelievable—Alex does genuinely have feelings for Tessa, while Michael is pushed into the situation by his children and the desire to find a mother for them. Tessa is basically the first single woman he’s met since the death of his wife, so it’s not like there are a lot of options out there. I appreciated that Tessa struck up friendships with both men, so it wasn’t a case of them both pining for her from a distance and just being infatuated with her beauty, or anything annoying like that. They both like her, just in different ways. If the thought of a love-triangle puts you off, I’d recommend giving this book a shot anyway. This isn’t Twilight with lighthouses, trust me.

The details about the mining industry and the corruption in the town were really interesting. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating—I love how Jody Hedlund finds the gritty and previously overlooked parts of history and brings them to life and makes you realise just how interesting they really are. I know a bit about mining as I went to school in a former mining town in Scotland, but Undaunted Hope really highlighted how bleak and dangerous the mining life was. I hurt for Tessa as she attempted to help break families out of the cycle of poverty and death associated with the mining life. There is a lot of sadness in this book. Jody doesn’t shy away from the real struggles of the miners.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating—I love how Jody Hedlund finds the gritty and previously overlooked parts of history and brings them to life and makes you realise just how interesting they really are.

From the beginning of the novel, Tessa is worried about the townsfolk discovering the reputation that she made for herself back home, and she makes a lot of fuss about her actions not being misconstrued, especially when she spends time with Michael and Alex. I was initially concerned about this story thread, as one of my pet peeves in Christian Fiction is the infatuation with how others perceive our actions. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how well you act, someone somewhere will find fault with what you do, or misinterpret something they see or overhear! Thankfully, it turned out that this was the lesson Tessa had to learn, as well as letting go of her fear of what others thought and just focusing on doing what she knew was right. I think Jody managed to get a good balance between the historical ideals of respectability and presenting a valuable lesson having freedom from fear and anxiety. This is a hard line to tread in historical fiction, especially with a character who has a “reputation” linked to (perceived) sexual sin. I’ve always found that Jody writes about sexuality from a historical viewpoint very well, and this book is no exception to that rule.

I’ve always found that Jody writes about sexuality from a historical viewpoint very well, and this book is no exception to that rule.

Although I’m not a a big fan of love-triangles, this didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying Tessa’s story arc and cheering her on as she fought for the rights of the miners in Undaunted Hope. There is a lot of bleakness in this book, but there’s plenty of encouragement too. I’ve really enjoyed this series and was pleasantly surprised to see that a fourth book is due to release in the summer, featuring a character who was briefly introduced at the end of this book. Here’s hoping it’s just as good as its predecessors!

–Rachel

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