Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Jody Hedlund: Together Forever

By Kelly Bridgewater

Marianne Neumann has one goal in life: to find her lost younger sister, Sophie. When Marianne takes a job as a placing agent with the Children's Aid Society in 1858 New York, she not only hopes to give children a better life but seeks to discover whether Sophie ended up leaving the city on an orphan train.

Andrew Brady, her fellow agent on her first placing trip, is a former schoolteacher who has an easy way with the children--firm but tender and funny. Underneath his handsome charm, though, seems to linger a grief that won't go away--and a secret from his past that he keeps hidden. As the two team up placing orphans amid small railroad towns in Illinois, they find themselves growing ever closer . . . until a shocking tragedy threatens to upend all their work and change one of their lives forever.

From Amazon

My Thoughts:

Together Forever is Jody Hedlund's second full length novel in her orphan train series. With historical romance, I expect to be taken for a journey through some historical event or element and follow two characters as they fall in love. With Hedlund's story, Together Forever, she definitely does that.

The writing is clear and concise. I had no problem visualizing the settings and roaming around the countryside with the main characters and all the orphans. She does allow me to understand and see the character's different emotions and internal dialogue as they work through situations.

At the beginning of the story, Hedlund spends a little time giving backstory. She starts the story with action then explains the life of the orphans to lead them to their current situation, then she jumps back into a little action, then repeats the same backstory, a little action, more backstory before jumping into the forward moving story. This took me out of the story instantly. Delete the first couple of chapters and weave in the backstory as they story moves along. Only once.

As for the characters, Marianne and Drew, I really didn't empathize with either character. The characters you meet at the beginning of the novel are the same at the end of the novel. No transformation at all. They didn't learn anything or change at all. They were static characters. Marianne is a sweet, loving woman who desires to find her missing sister and tries to look for clues in the opening chapter. But after that, she really doesn't do anything in the rest of the novel to keep looking for her missing sister. Similarly, Drew knows how to put enough force to keep the orphans in line, but he also has a tender heart to show them he loves them.

The romance bothered me the most. Marianne and Drew got engaged pretty quickly in the book and the sparks fly all over the page, confusing me and probably Marianne and Drew too. I found their courtship really unrealistic even though there were a number of obstacles in their way throughout the rest of the novel.

The historical element of placing orphans outside the city to learn skills and to be educated is a neat idea. I have never heard of it. But the way the story was written, I wasn't really interested in what was going on with the orphans. They didn't appear to be the main part of the novel. The story centered around Marianne and Drew and their unbelievable romance.

Overall, Together Forever by Jody Hedlund surrounds a historical element I didn't know happened. While the synopsis gripped my attention, the plot, characters, and romance fell short for me. I really had a hard time paying attention and couldn't wait for the novel to be over with, so I could read something better.

I received a complimentary copy of Together Forever by Jody Hedlund from Bethany House Publishers, but the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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