Hearts Made Whole
About This Book
Can She Forgive the Hurting Man Who Costs Her the Role She Loves?
After her father’s death, Caroline Taylor has grown confident running the Windmill Point Lighthouse. But in 1865 Michigan, women aren’t supposed to have such roles, so it’s only a matter of time before the lighthouse inspector appoints a new keeper—even though Caroline has nowhere else to go and no other job available to her.
Ryan Chambers is a Civil War veteran still haunted by the horrors of battle. He’s secured the position of lighthouse keeper mostly for the isolation–the chance to hide from his past is appealing. He’s not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who’s angry with him for taking her job and for his inability to properly run the light. When his failings endanger others, he and Caroline realize he’s in no shape to run the lighthouse, but he’s unwilling to let anyone close enough to help. Caroline feels drawn to this wounded soul, but with both of them relying on that single position, can they look past their loss to a future filled with hope . . . and possibly love?
Full disclosure: I don’t write my reviews immediately after finishing a book. I make notes while I’m reading, leave updates and comments on my Goodreads page as I go along, and always write my initial thoughts there when I’m done. Just a little paragraph to jog my memory when it comes time to write my full review. Why? Because there’s just too much in my head. I get so fully immersed in what I read that, if I try to encapsulate it right then and there, I literally can’t. I will instead ramble on for several thousand words, gushing about what I loved or virulently dissecting what I didn’t . . . and let’s face it, no one wants to read a review like that. And I don’t want to write one! So I always close the book (or Kindle), finish my short notes, then leave the book alone for several days, sometimes several weeks. Then, when it’s time to write and submit my review, I open my notes, my memory is instantly jogged, and I can pen a reasonable review based on what has stuck with me, what really resonated with me, and what burrs got under my literary saddle, so to speak.
All this to say, I read Hearts Made Whole on April 23rd, but when I sat down to write my review this week, I found myself stumped. My Goodreads notes didn’t jog one single memory of this book. I re-read the description, skimmed other people’s reviews, and . . . still nothing. Granted, I’ve 18 books since April 23rd, but of the 81 books I’ve read so far this year and the 36 I’ve actually liked well enough to review, this is the first time my system of delay has ever come up empty.
I think that’s because, while Hearts Made Whole is a superb historical romance written by one of my very favorite authors, it didn’t quite rise above the crowd as Hedlund’s other books have for me. And ultimately, I think that’s a question of connecting with the characters. Or not, in this case.
Ryan and Caroline were well-written, and played their hero/heroine roles to perfection, but they were difficult for me to really relate to, especially Ryan with his drug addiction. It’s a tough subject that few Christian fiction authors may be willing to tackle, but Hedlund did an incredible job making Ryan’s situation not only historically accurate, but understandable in the context of his war-ravaged past. However, it did create a barrier for me as a reader and made him difficult for me to like or root for. No one likes squeaky-clean, picture-perfect heroes because they are wildly unrealistic, but can they go too far in the opposite direction? Perhaps, although that’s certainly subjective. For my part, I think Ryan did cross a likability barrier, which is why he hasn’t lingered in my memory like other Hedlund heroes.
Caroline, on the other hand, was a very strong heroine whom I liked immensely and could really relate to. She fought for her family, for her job, and for her home, and while her battle did lean a little toward the melodramatic in the end, it was nicely wrapped up in a way that paid homage to one of Michigan’s real-life woman lightkeepers. Her cautious-yet-gracious approach to Ryan’s appearance in her life was also admirable, but since I had a tough time really caring about Ryan, I likewise didn’t get 100% invested in the outcome of their romantic relationship. They did have some pretty swoon-worthy encounters, however, that fans of the historical romance genre will gobble up.
Through these two characters, and also through some of the minor characters, especially Caroline’s invalid sister, Hedlund did weave some powerful spiritual themes of redemption, grace, and God’s goodness even in the midst of trials. Hearts Made Whole deals with some pretty tough topics, including drug addiction and terminal illness, which might make it a bit too much for younger readers, but parents who read it first can use the story to initiate a lot of great discussion with their teen and young adult children. As a movie, this would be rated PG-13.
Reading a Jody Hedlund novel is perhaps the closest thing to time travel we 21st Century readers can come. The historian in me always loves how Hedlund’s fiction is based on real people and events, and Hearts Made Whole is no exception. The historical detail is second-to-none, and really brought the setting and era to life in my mind. I am definitely looking forward to more from this author, and more in this series!
Available June 2, 2015 from Bethany House Publishers