I was honored to be included on the influencer list for Jody Hedlund's debut Bethany House historical, The Preacher's Bride.
Here's a blurb from Jody's website:
She was determined to serve a wounded family.
He was determined to preach the truth.
Neither expected to fall in love.
In 1650s England, a young Puritan maiden is on a mission to save the baby of her newly widowed preacher—whether her assistance is wanted or not.
Always ready to help those in need, Elizabeth ignores John’s protests of her aid. She’s even willing to risk her lone marriage prospect to help the little family.
Yet Elizabeth’s new role as housekeeper takes a dangerous turn when John’s boldness from the pulpit makes him a target of political and religious leaders. As the preacher’s enemies become desperate to silence him, they draw Elizabeth into a deadly web of deception. Finding herself in more danger than she ever bargained for, she’s more determined than ever to save the child—and man—she’s come to love.
This really was such a pleasure to read, for two main reasons. One, Jody's writing speaks for itself. Her word pictures and metaphors bring the characters and countryside to life, making it easy for me to transplant myself from my couch in California to 17th century England.
Two, Jody is a blogging buddy of mine and this was the first published book I've read from one of "our group." A bunch of us started blogging at about the same time, and we all hooked up with each other online and were able to meet at the 2009 ACFW conference. Jody was a double finalist in the Genesis contest that year, and things really picked up for her super quick! We've all been enthralled reading about her journey to publication at her blog, Author, Jody Hedlund.
So it was a double joy to read because it was so super special to know the ins and outs behind it. I encourage you to read Jody's back posts regarding how this dream became a reality for her, as it's very inspiring.
Back to the book, though! I was immediately captured in the first chapter as young Elizabeth Whitbread is caught up in the whirlwhind that originates when the wife of preacher John Costin dies, leaving John with three young children and a tiny infant to manage. Elizabeth feels the call to minister to this family as a housekeeper, even though her services aren't initially wanted or even desired by the grieving widow. Read: tension! It was lovely.
John's grieving is splendidly written. I was worried about how the romantic connection between Elizabeth and John would happen, given that John lost his wife at the very beginning of the book, but the passage of time is perfect and their growing connection realistic and satisfying given the circumstances.
As a therapist, and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at that, my interest centered on John's calling as a lay preacher and the very immediate danger in which this put him and his family. I could easily put myself in Elizabeth's shoes and see myself begging with my husband not to go out and preach, because I simply wanted him to live to come home to dinner and a warm bed one more day.
Jody handled this really well, as John did begin to doubt his calling due to Elizabeth's requests, as any man might do. And Elizabeth struggled with feeling second rate to John's calls, and many preacher's brides feel this exact way. Marriages have suffered because a balance couldn't be found, and this made me think about my own marriage and any undue stress I might be placing on my husband's calling, or vice versa.
I would encourage anyone reading this book to not skip over the Author's Note at the end. I have a tendency to skip those, and this was one time I'm glad I didn't. Jody's Note adds depth and realism to the story that would have been lost on me otherwise, and it brought home the true sacrifices we are called to when we enter the holy state of matrimony. Thank heavens for the saints who have gone before us as utmost examples of how to handle this awesome responsibility with grace and perseverance.
Thanks, Jody, for such a wonderful book to pass away the very few hours it took me to devour it. I can't wait to see many more from you in the future!