As a Jody Hedlund fan, I was thrilled to receive a copy of her newest book A Bride of Convenience to read and review before its release. This is the third book in her Bride Ships series. I’ve also reviewed the other two: A Reluctant Bride and The Runaway Bride.
Pastor Abe Merivale has no intentions of getting married during his five-year mission to spread the gospel in British Columbia. Not even to beautiful Zoe Hart, a former mill-worker among the women to arrive on the latest bride ship. But shortly after their meeting in a hospital, one of Abe’s parishioners shows up and extracts a promise that they’ll find a good home for the infant daughter he hasn’t been able to take care of since his native wife died. Zoe takes to the baby immediately, and Abe finds himself taken with Zoe almost as quickly.
After a series of impulsive decisions, the two find themselves agreeing to a marriage of convenience. Marrying Zoe gives Abe a way to sooth his recent heartache and fulfill his promise to care for the baby, and marrying Abe protects Zoe from a less-desirable match while making it possible for her to keep baby Violet. Abe’s Bishop doesn’t approve of the hasty marriage, though, nor of the half-breed child. Tension and attraction in Abe and Zoe’s relationship rise as they discover this marriage might not be so convenient after all.
The central characters
Any good romance novel should have a swoon-worthy hero, and Abe certainly fits that description. After being somewhat disappointed with Pete in the second book in this series (he reminded me a little too much of an ex-boyfriend), I was very happy with Pastor Abe. He’s not perfect, but he’s a good man and worthy of being the hero of a story like this. I also enjoyed reading the note in the back and learning that Abe is based on a real-life minster named John Sheepshanks.
Zoe’s a good character, too, and I loved her heart for orphans. I thought her name seemed unusual for the time period, but I know Jody Hedlund researches these sorts of things so I’m sure she found Zoe in some record of historical names. Out of curiosity, I did some research of my own (I’m fascinated by name meanings and history) and found it has been in use in English since the 19th century, though it was much more common in Eastern Europe,.
This romance had a bit more heat than the others in this series, I assume because the two characters got married near the beginning of the book. There are some great kissing scenes. It’s also something of a slow-burn, though, and their relationship never felt rushed to me. I enjoyed seeing Abe and Zoe fall in love with each other more and more as they became friends and partners. I guessed early on how it would end, but that didn’t make me any less happy to see the direction they took their ministry in the final chapter of the book.
Overall thoughts on the book
I enjoyed A Bride of Convenience, much as I did the other books in this series. It’s an interesting time in history. I’m also looking forward to the final book in this series, Almost A Bride, especially now that we’ve met the hero. Zoe’s brother Zeke is a key character in A Bride of Convenience and I’m eager to see how his story turns out.
I don’t really have any complaints about the story, although one of my strongest reactions to this book was the desire to give Bishop Hall a strongly-worded lecture on the book of James. Abe keeps getting in trouble with this bishop for tending to the physical needs of parishioners, building relationships with the locals, and trying to help an orphaned half-Indian girl. That should be a good thing! “Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father” involves visiting “the fatherless and widows in their affliction.” In addition, “faith apart from works is dead” (James 1:27; 2:14-26). Seems to me Abe’s not the one with the problem.
Of course, the story isn’t in favor of Bishop Hall’s views any more than I am. As Zoe says, “If God gives us our ministry, then no one else has the power to take it away.” And, by extension, we ought not to compromise in pursuing the missions God has given us. This book’s strong themes of trusting God and pursuing His plans for us make it not only a sweet romance, but also a story with a powerful message.
A Bride of Convenience will release a week from today on June 30th. You can click the links below to pre-order it and to learn more about Jody Hedlund’s work. My thanks to Bethany House publishing, Jody Hedlund, and NetGalley for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
- A Bride of Convenience purchase link (please note that this is an 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 website
- My Goodreads review