Several years ago, while I was in college, I stopped reading Christian fiction. The more I learned about writing and literature, the less impressed I was with the inspirational market. I felt the books were poorly written and too preachy. I don’t like shoe-horned themes or author agendas shoved in my face even when the author and I share a faith.
Then a few years ago, I gave it another chance after a review of Francine Rivers’ book Redeeming Love* caught my eye. That book was so good it convinced me to give the Christian fiction market another try. And I’m glad I did, or I wouldn’t be writing about the book that’s the subject of today’s post.
- please note that links in this post marked with an * are affiliate links, which means that at no additional cost to you, I’ll receive a small commission if you click on the link and make a purchase.
Jody Hedlund’s A Reluctant Bride kicks off her new Bride Ships series series with a heartwarming slow-burn romance. This historical fiction novel, set in the Victorian era, follows the story of Mercy Wilkins. Mercy — a compassionate, selfless young woman who grew up in one of the poorest areas of London — follows her sister’s advice to immigrate to Vancouver with a group promising jobs. It’s only after she’s on board the ship that she learns the women sailing with the Columbia Mission Society will be offered jobs only temporarily. This is a bride ship, and those traveling on-board will be expected to marry once they arrive — something Mercy has no intention of ever doing.
As one would expect from this type of story, there’s a man on board this ship with the potential to change Mercy’s mind. Lord Joseph Colville is heir to one of the noble families of England. Since the death of his parents and brother, he’s been delegating his political and social responsibilities to his aunt and focusing on his passion for medicine. He’s the doctor aboard the bride ship and fully intends to continue traveling for a few more years before settling down. But when Mercy becomes his assistant, they both start thinking that maybe marriage wouldn’t be so bad. Unfortunately, he’s supposed to marry someone from his station and she’s supposed to marry one of the men waiting in British Columbia.
I’ll not spoil anything about the ending for you, since I hope some of you will decide to read this for yourselves. But I will say I loved the characters. The faith elements weave through the story naturally and the plot kept me turning pages eager to see how events played out.
I always appreciate when historical fiction engages with the characters’ time period in a believable fashion. Lord Colville’s choice to work as a doctor and romance a poor working-class girl is an unusual one. However, it’s handled in a way that seems fairly realistic — including the reactions of people around them and Joseph’s and Mercy’s own recognition of the challenges they face. Parts of their romance remind me of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice,* which is one of my favorite books.
I’d never had the chance to read and promote a book pre-release before, so I was very excited when Jody Hedlund opened up applications to her Reader Room group, and even more excited when I became part of the release crew for A Reluctant Bride. I love her YA medieval romance series,* and I wasn’t surprised to enjoy this book as well.
A Reluctant Bride will be out on June 4th. You can click these links to order it and to learn more about Jody Hedlund’s work. (A note for those who, like me, enjoy print books: you won’t be disappointed with this one. The cover is absolutely beautiful, the paperback feels amazing, and pictures can’t do it justice.)