by Gina Welborn
(Notice: For FTC purposes, this book was sent to me by the publisher.)
She was determined to serve a wounded family.
He was determined to preach the truth.
Neither expected to fall in love.
A couple weeks ago I pulled the saffron-padded, from-Bethany-House envelope out of my mailbox and thought, "Ooooh, Karen Witemeyer's book 2!" Well, maybe I didn't think the exclamation point. Still, I giddly opened the package because I was excited to read Karen's book.
Only it wasn't her book.
It was Jody's.
THE PREACHER'S BRIDE.
I'd totally forgotten I offered to endorse A PREACHER'S BRIDE. Here's probably the moment to confess that I made the offer to Jody without even knowing what her book was about. I liked Jody so I concluded I'd like her book. Here's also probably the moment to confess that while I thought "lovely cover," I had a jolt. Amish?! Granted, I enjoyed Vannetta Chapman's A SIMPLE AMISH CHRISTMAS and was happy to endorse it, but I feared...well, *sigh.* I'll happily read another of Vannetta's Amish books but don't count me Amish-loving-converted yet.
Fortunately for me (and Jody), I turned the book over.
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.
Ooooh. Not only wasn't it Amish, but it was a European-set historical. Eeeks!!! I love Euopean-set historicals. *sigh*
Okay, so since I'm on a roll with the moments of confession, once I had that epiphany of what genre the book really was, I went "duh. Jody's in His Writers, the writing group of gals with a passion to read and write European-set historicals."
I'm blaming my duh-ness on having five children. And since Jody has five children too, I know she'll totally empathize. I know many will say "There's a big difference between Amish attire and Puritan attire." I, sadly, am not one of those clothing experts. Now enough about my lack of expertise.
I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK.
In fact, I wish I had bought the novel myself instead of getting an endorser copy.
While I've read more than a handful or two romances this year--and basically enjoyed most of them, especially Julie Lessman's A HOPE UNDAUNTED, Laurie Alice Eakes's WHEN THE SNOW FLIES, Mary Coneally's MONTANA ROSE, Melanie Dickerson's THE HEALER'S APPRENTICE, Vannetta Chapman's A SIMPLE AMISH CHRISTMAS, and...uggh, I know I'm forgetting several goodies (sorry to those I drew a blank on)....anyhoo
One of my favorite scenes is around the 42-page mark. Our heroine Puritan Elizabeth Whitbread is housekeeping/babysitting (not to his pleasure) for our hero Preacher John Costin. She's interferring with his status-quo, which, while not being the best of status quos, is endurable to John becuase he knows he has to endure because that's what a person of faith does. At this point in the novel, John is convinced Elizabeth--and her selfless willingness to help his family--only add to his life's stress. Well, she does.
Now in this scene John's four kids are doing what kids do best: be loud and disruptive when the parent(s) want quiet. (I'm happy to report my kids are nicely and quietly secluded away. Probably giving the dog's tail a haircut again.) One thing after another happens and a kid--or four--are crying.
The door to the study banged open, and Brother Costin stumbled out, rubbing his eyes.
Elizabeth caught only a glimpse of him before shreiking and yanking her apron over her face to shield her vision. Heat rushed to her cheeks. Brother Costin was immodestly attired--from his breeches upward, his chest was bare and broad shoulders exposed.
'Twas embarrassing to happen across the immodestly of another woman, as she had with Lucy from time to time, but to see a man unclothed, even if only partially, was altogether horrifying. 'Twas not decent nor appropriate for her, a young unmarried woman, to be anywhere near such a man.
What happens next made me laugh. Poor Elizabeth is utterly mortified, and John has no awareness of her embarrassment. Thus, their dialogue exchange amid four squalling children of various ages...all the while Elizabeth has an apron over her head and John is oblivious as to why...okay, I'm skimming the page again and chuckling. Here's a shortened exchange:
John: What are you hiding?
Elizabeth: Only my eyes.
John: What's wrong with your eyes that you must hide them from me?
Elizabeth: Nothing is wrong with my eyes. Indeed, they are working all too well this day.
LOL. If I hadn't have liked Elizabeth already, I would have decided she was an utterly worthy heroine by how she handled John and his denseness. You go, girl! She had confidence in her words and with speaking her mind without being disrespecting or demeaning. Oh, to be more like Elizabeth Whitbread.
Which leads me to say that throughout this book, Jody did a fabulous job using dialogue to define her characters. As a writer, I want to do that, but the key is knowing one's characters well enough to know what they would and wouldn't say. Years ago I was a fanatical reader of a certain ABA romance author. Then as I was reading (at that time) her newest release, I realized all her characters had witty, snarky, clever responses...all the time. No one always says witty, clever, snarky responses all the time. And even if they do, what are the odds that all their friends and acquaintences will do too? Which is why I say writers need to be careful about not having all their characters sound alike. Kudos, Jody!
So back to the book....
The timeline of the novel was about two years (which Jody makes a note about at the end of the novel). I appreciated that John and Elizabeth didn't begin their relationship with immediate physical awareness/attraction. Instead, Jody took time to show their growing physical, spiritual, and emotional connection.
John's first real impression of Elizabeth was that she was "bold--rebuking him this way" yet also "quite ordinary" in appearance (both on page 73). Almost 200 pages later, his impression changed not because Elizabeth really had changed, but because John himself saw her differently because of her character. "Her smile was fresh and guiless and reminded him of the godly woman she truly was....She was completely unaware of the freshness and vitality of her womanliness, and that only added to her allure."
Reminds me of the sermon on dating that my husband preached a month or so back during high school worship. He said that whatever a girl/woman uses to hook a man is what she has to use to keep him.
I could say more about chapter 23, but it would give away too much of the plot. Jody has a discussion guide that readers and book clubs can download. Alas, she doesn't have a question related to this chapter and John's struggle with what he wanted and what he obligated to do. Might be something good to add to your book club's discussion.
My favorite line in the book actually wasn't part of the novel itself. In the author's note at the end, Jody wrote, "God used [John and Elizabeth's] hardships to strengthen their love for Him and their love for each other."
As a preacher's wife, I hope someday people will say that about hubby and me.
Read an Excerpt of THE PREACHER'S BRIDE here.
Find out more about Jody and her novel by going to http://jodyhedlund.com/.
THE PREACHER'S BRIDE can be purchased online or at your local Christian bookseller.