Wealthy and titled Joseph Colville leaves home and takes to the sea in order to escape the pain of losing his family. As ship's surgeon, he's in charge of the passengers' welfare aboard the Tynemouth, including sixty brides-to-be. He has no immediate intention of settling down, but when Mercy becomes his assistant, the two must fight against a forbidden love.
With hundreds of single men congregating on the shore eager to claim a bride from the Tynemouth, will Mercy and Joseph lose their chance at true love, or will they be able to overcome the obstacles that threaten to keep them apart?
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London, England May 1862
Hang on a little longer, my lamb." Mercy Wilkins shifted the listless infant in her arms without slowing her pace.
Clara had stopped responding on Chilton Street, but the slightly warm breath coming from between the little girl's colorless lips told Mercy she wasn't too late ... so long as the Shoreditch Dispensary wasn't crowded and so long as Dr. Bates was available. He'd treat the infant even though Mercy had no way to pay for his services.
"Don't you fret," she murmured. "If Dr. Bates isn't there, I'll sell my shoes to pay the fee."
Mercy ignored the cold dampness between her toes, the puckered skin on feet that hadn't been dry since spring had chased away the chill of winter and invited a familiar tormentor in its place — rain.
The frequent showers not only soaked her half boots but also turned the streets into swamps of mud and horse manure. The mixture oozed through the holes where her toes had worn through the leather and threatened to suck the shoes off her feet.
She'd tied the frayed laces tight, causing them to break and forcing her to knot them yet again. Though the strings didn't reach the top of her boots anymore, she was lucky to have them, lucky to have boots at all when so many wore nothing on their feet but rags.
"I'll gladly trade my boots for you to be seen to by a doctor, my sweet one." She brushed a kiss against Clara's cheek. The infant's face was as pale as the fog that hung over the rooftops, and as thin and hollow as the terraced houses that lined either side of the street.
Several boys bumped against Mercy, jostling her. Fingers darted in and out of her skirt pocket with the nimbleness of an expert thief. She had nothing for the boys to steal. The looks of her should have told them that. Except that with the sick infant, maybe they supposed she had a halfpenny tucked away to pay the doctor.
She caught sight of the face of one of the boys, recognizing him in spite of the layer of soot and filth. "Mr. Martins is looking for another boy to clean the streets. Go talk to him and earn your bread the honest way. D'ye hear me?"
The boy didn't acknowledge her comment except to hunch further into his man-sized greatcoat and tip his round cap down to shield his face.
Mercy shook her head but plodded forward. If Mr. Martins would only offer her the street-cleaner job, she'd take it in a snap. But no amount of her pleading had changed his mind about giving the work to a young woman.
"Heaven save us all," he'd exclaimed. "What's the world coming to with women thinking they can do a fellow's job?"
Mercy had wanted to retort that dodging betwixt horses and carriages to shovel up steaming piles of dung didn't take any special talent. Surely a woman could do the job just as well as a man. But Mr. Martins made it clear enough he wouldn't hire her, just like the dozen other people she'd approached that day.
"No matter," she whispered. "I'll find something. Just you wait and see."
Clara's head lolled, and Mercy shifted the infant again. Not quite two years old, the child didn't weigh much more than Twiggy's newborn babe. Even so, after carrying the girl for blocks, Mercy's arms burned from the burden.
Through the foggy mist hovering in the narrow street, she glimpsed the Shoreditch Dispensary. Like the surrounding businesses, it leaned outward and was propped by beams to the building across the street. The beams were almost like canes, meant to keep the aged, tottering structures from collapsing into the filth below.
Between high windows hung strings of soggy garments, so threadbare and gray they resembled the rags Twiggy sorted at the factory. Their soaking from the recent rain would wash away the grime for a moment, but never for long. In this part of London, the filth was as constant a companion as the rats.
"Almost there, dear heart." If only she'd known how sick the girl was, she would have brought her earlier. At least in the late afternoon, the streets weren't as crowded. And at least the rain had decided to show some compassion.
Upon reaching the dispensary door, Mercy fumbled at the handle, kicking her boots against the brick step, attempting to dislodge the muck. As she entered, the dark gloom of the hallway greeted her.
An old man crouched in the corridor cradling his arm. A mother sat opposite him, holding a bundle of blankets with a tiny bare foot poking through the fabric. The babe's stillness, as well as the mother's vacant gaze, told a story Mercy had heard too many times.
"Doctor!" Mercy strode down the hallway, her footsteps squeaking and squishing with each step. "I'm in desperate need of help."
"Wait your turn, you young cur," growled the old man. "There be others needing the doctor first." He nodded to the mother and babe. The woman stared at the faded green wallpaper, the remnants of a time when the home had been fancy and belonged to a family of means. Such families had long since moved away and built larger homes in parts of London Mercy had only heard about but never seen.
Mercy regarded the babe's unmoving outline, then faced the older man. "The doctor may be able to save a life. Do you want two children dead instead of one?"
She held his angry gaze until finally he dropped his sights to the muddy footprints that caked the wood floor.
"Doctor," Mercy called again as she made her way to the room Dr. Bates used as his office. "Please, I need your help. Straightaway."
Seeing the door was ajar, she bumped it open with her hip. The massive desk positioned near a boarded window was cluttered with books and papers and inkpots. A lantern was lit and illuminated its dusty globe painted with delicate flowers. But Dr. Bates wasn't there.
The door of the adjacent room swung open, and a young man exited, his hand swathed in bandages. He didn't spare her or the others a glance, as if they didn't exist.
Mercy supposed it was easier for some people to pretend the problems weren't there. The heartache, the burdens, the needs ... it was all so overwhelming at times.
Clara's weight dragged at Mercy. For an instant, she was tempted to slide down next to the mother with the dead babe and stare at the wallpaper too. But at a clank from the open doorway, Mercy forced herself to move, gathering the strength to fight for one more life.
"Doctor?" She entered the room unbidden. "Can you give a look at my little lamb?"
At the room's lone table, a young man stood in front of a basin of water where he was washing his hands. Beside the basin lay a scattering of instruments and supplies — a scalpel, small scissors, ligature thread, and needles. He'd discarded his coat over the back of a nearby chair to reveal a striped waistcoat and a finely tailored shirt, its sleeves rolled up to his elbows. His dark brown hair was tousled, likely the result of a long day of rushing from one urgent need to the next.
His face was unfamiliar, not one of the usual doctors who gave of their time at the dispensary. Since Clara needed immediate attention, this man would have to do.
He glanced up and paused in his scrubbing. Exhaustion crinkled the corners of his eyes and forehead. "I shall be with you in a moment." He didn't speak unkindly, just wearily.
"I don't have a moment, sir." Mercy crossed the room toward the cot. "This sweet child is failing fast, that she is."
Gently Mercy lowered the girl, whose limbs flopped about, her strength and life all but gone. Mercy dropped to her knees beside the cot and caressed Clara's cheek and forehead, brushing back strands of matted hair. The girl's dirty face was shriveled, her eyes shrunken, her lips cracked.
"Don't you leave me, dear heart. The kind doctor will fix you up. I promise."
Thankfully, the doctor didn't delay and instead crossed to them quickly. He knelt on the opposite side of the cot and checked the infant's pulse, an air of urgency emanating from every brisk movement he made. "What are your daughter's symptoms?" he asked as he lifted first one eyelid and then the other.
"She's not ..." Clara wasn't Mercy's daughter. Yes, they shared the same blond hair. But couldn't the doctor see Mercy wasn't wearing a wedding band?
As soon as she asked the silent question, she chastised herself. A wedding band wasn't Necessary to have children, especially not where she came from. This doctor apparently knew it too.
He placed an instrument against Clara's chest. "Her symptoms?"
"She can't keep anything down, sir. No liquids or solids. It all comes out one way or the other."
The doctor rose so suddenly that Mercy started. "How long has she had the vomiting and diarrhea?"
"It began last night —"
"And you are just now bringing her in?" Irritation edged his voice.
"I'd have brought her earlier if I'd known, sir," Mercy replied. If only Clara's mother had thought to call for her sooner.
"Come and gone."
The doctor muttered something under his breath as he rummaged through supplies in a chest. He returned with a teaspoon and a small brown vial. "I would normally suggest having the child drink a mild solution of salt and warm water until the poison is eliminated and vomit runs clear."
"Her symptoms point to cholera infantum."
A chill crept up Mercy's spine. Most people called it summer diarrhea because it occurred in the summer months when the heat made the foulness of streets and ditches almost unbearable. She'd watched helplessly last August as a dozen little ones in her neighborhood had wasted away, including her own baby brother.
"That cannot be it, sir," Mercy said. "It's not summer yet."
"Cholera infantum can strike at any time of the year." The doctor unscrewed the lid on the brown bottle and poured a scant amount into the spoon. "The condition is related to tainted food, possibly spoiled milk."
Mercy used her fingers to comb back Clara's hair. Milk was rare in the slums. Had Clara's mother found some? If so, she'd have given the treat to the girl expecting it to nourish, not poison, her.
"Raise her head," he instructed.
Mercy lifted Clara's body.
He brought the spoon to the girl's mouth. "She's too dehydrated and won't rouse to drink. Our best hope is to administer the acetozone every ten to fifteen minutes."
With surprising tenderness, he tipped the contents between her lips. He watched the pale unresponsive face for a long moment before holding out the spoon and brown bottle to Mercy.
She took the items hesitantly. "Sir?"
"You may administer the next dose when I tell you it is time. Meanwhile, I shall prepare an enema for her."
He crossed the room and searched in the chest again. Then he laid out a syringe and catheter and began mixing a solution from a number of bottles. From the fine cut of his garments to the way he held himself, she could see he was a gentleman. But strangely his face and arms were as sun-bronzed as a dockhand's.
Perhaps he'd recently returned from India or Africa or one of the other tropical colonies. She'd heard such places were blissfully warm all the year long. Those were the kinds of places that occupied her dreams during the winter when they had only enough coal to keep from freezing to death but never enough to be warm.
"You're new to the dispensary, sir?" she asked, letting her curiosity get the better of her as usual.
"No." His stir stick clanked against the glass container as he swirled the cloudy liquid. "I'm only helping Dr. Bates for a few days now and then while I'm in town."
"Oh, Dr. Bates. Now, he's a right fine gent." Not only didn't he charge her for his treatments, but he was always kind and offering her helpful advice.
She swished the contents of the brown bottle. How much would this new doctor charge her today? Would the offer of her shoes be enough? They were the last thing she owned of any value. She'd long since pawned the rest of her possessions. Would she, like some of the women she knew, have to start trading favors for what she needed?
The very idea repulsed her. But as she ran a finger along Clara's delicate nose and traced the outline of her face to her chin, she could begin to understand what drove some women to such desperate measures.
Mercy glanced at the doctor and caught him staring at her. She half expected he'd read her thoughts, that she'd see lewd calculation in his eyes the same that she'd seen in Tom Kilkenny's eyes when he'd told her she could be a serving wench in his pub. She knew as well as everybody else that Tom's wenches did more than hand out mugs of beer.
She'd told Tom she'd rather go to the workhouse.
He'd only laughed and warned her the workhouse would ruin her pretty features and turn her into a hag so that no one would ever want her.
Mercy had only to think about how much Patience had changed in the few months she'd lived at St. Matthew's Bethanl Green Workhouse. Before going in, Patience had been like a rare blade of green grass poking through the piles of garbage in a dark alley. But she'd withered so that whenever Mercy visited the workhouse, she hardly recognized her sister anymore.
All the more reason why Mercy needed to find a job, so Patience could live at home again.
The doctor shifted his attention to Clara, but not before Mercy glimpsed the compassion in his expression. He felt sorry for her because he thought Clara was her daughter. She ought to correct him, but what if his assumption motivated him to work harder to save the child?
"It's time for another spoonful of the acetozone," he said as he readied the catheter.
Mercy poured the medicine into the spoon, cradled Clara in her free arm, then slowly tipped the liquid into the girl's mouth the way the doctor had. "There you are, sweet one."
She envisioned Clara's adorable smile, the one she'd given Mercy yesterday morning when Mercy had delivered half rolls to the children who lived in her building. Occasionally Mr. Hughes, the old baker over on High Street, gave Mercy the rolls that had gone stale. It was a kind gesture. She supposed he did it because she'd once stopped a boy from thieving a basket of fresh bread from his shop.
Even if the rolls were harder than a pewter pot, they were nourishment all the same. And Clara was just one of the children Mercy made a point of helping whenever she could.
She bent and pressed a kiss against Clara's sunken cheek, waiting to feel the faint warmth of the little one's breath. Instead, there was stillness. Mercy sat up only to find the gray liquid dribbling from the corner of Clara's mouth.
Her stomach twisted with a deep knowing, one she wanted to ignore. She dragged the spoon under the leaking medicine and brought it back to the girl's lips. "Come now, lamb. You have to take this."
She attempted to pour it in, but it trickled back out. She tried again and again, murmuring, "Please sweet one, please ..."
Finally she became aware of gentle fingers tugging at the spoon, attempting to pull it from her. She tore her gaze from Clara to find the doctor across from her. His brows slanted above eyes brimming with pity.
How dare he give up so easily? She wanted to shove his hand away, to scream her protest and cling to the spoon, as if by doing so she could cling to hope. But having seen death too many times in her eighteen years, she knew the fight would be futile.
She released her hold and let her hands fall to her lap. The pain in her chest was not as easy to release. It gripped so tightly she fought to suck in a breath. Then she fought to push away the ache just as she always did. She'd learned long ago to stuff it out of sight or she might just go mad from the sorrow.
"I'm sorry." The doctor sat back on his heels, haggardness grooving more lines into his face.
Mercy bent low and kissed the little girl's forehead, praying her kiss would anoint the child as she journeyed to a better place.
Surely anyplace in heaven or earth would be better than London.CHAPTER 2
You'll be back again tomorrow, will you not?" Bates placed the last of the medical supplies into the chest and closed the lid.
Joseph Colville finished rolling down his sleeves and fumbled at his cuff links, grasping for any excuse he could find to avoid another day at the Shoreditch Dispensary. "I'm afraid I already have plans for the morrow." His game of cricket at Marylebone Cricket Club was as valid a reason as any.
"What about the day after?" Bates persisted.
"You know I'll be leaving soon for Wiltshire. I must visit the estate and my aunt before too much time passes."
Bates stood to his full height, which fell well below Joseph's chin. At six-feet-two, Joseph didn't consider himself overly tall, but he towered above Bates. Even though his old friend was diminutive in stature, he had a boundless energy that Joseph envied. And boundless compassion.
The simple truth was that Dr. Bates was a saint. How else could the man devote so much time to London's poorest of the poor?
"Then upon your return from the country, you must consider joining me," Bates said. "I would put a good word in for you at the college, and you could teach a few classes."
"They won't want an inexperienced and young doctor like myself."
"Nonsense. They'll want you, and we both know it."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Reluctant Bride"
Copyright © 2019 Jody Hedlund.
Excerpted by permission of Baker Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If you are looking for a historically intriguing read about an event you may not know about or a romantically told tale that goes soul deep, look no farther than A Reluctant Bride. First off this story is about bride ships, one that took women from England to British Columbia in the hopes of becoming brides for the many single men there. Author Hedlund shows the desperate situations that could lead to the fateful choices some of these women made to get on that bride ship. Focusing specifically on Mercy Wilkins story, we see the abject poverty she and her family lived in. The jobs her family must endure to pay rent and put a little bit of food on the table. The sacrifices that must be made with children and the lengths that their mother would go to just to survive. For Mercy, marriage was not a rescue, nor was working in the unhealthy conditions of the workhouse, or working the streets; none of these options were a way to a happy future or a long life. Battling circumstances beyond her control, Mercy becomes a passenger on this ship headed for a world unknown to her in hopes of a better life for her and eventually her beloved sister. Joseph Colville the ship’s doctor is also running from his life in a different way. He is a man who is not only skilled as a doctor, but also has wealth and is a lord. However he is quite surprised at what cargo the ship is carrying and through the storms of the travel and the strict watchful eyes of the chaperones, he and Mercy form a friendship that soon begins an attraction to each other. This story does not shy away from the details of the poor in London and shows their great desperation and the unbelievable difference and prejudice within the class distinctions. What Mercy and Joseph feel for each other is forbidden in their culture. And while they both know this, their romance blooms despite it all. Mercy is a woman without many choices, not only just being poor but also being a poor woman. Joseph has an opportunity to make a difference; Mercy has a chance for a different life. What will each of them choose? Be sure to read the author’s notes on her research with this story. I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. I was not required to post a positive review and all views and opinions are my own.
A Reluctant Bride by Jody Hedlund is a wonderful story about bringing brides from England to British Columbia in 1862. The women who boarded the Tynemouth did so not knowing what their fate would be upon their arrival. They left all behind and there would be no turning back once the ship sailed. Our heroine, Mercy Wilkins, knew she was just one more burden to her family if she stayed at home and wasn't going to settle for life in the workhouse or on the streets. But marriage was definitely not in he plans. She was a gifted nurse, with no formal training except love for others and the desire to care for the sick. It was her talent for nursing that led the wealthy Dr. Joseph Colville to seek her assistance among the sick aboard ship. Working side by side worked out well for some time since they both had no intention of marrying. The best intentions, however, don't work out at times. I like this book because at the heart of this story is a young woman who had very little that she left behind. She saw what her parent's lives were like with little or nothing coming in to support a large family. Poverty caused her mother to do things that Mercy never wanted to emulate in her own life. It took courage for her to swallow her pride and board ship. She, like the real life women who left England to help settle the western part of our world blazed the trail for life as we know it today. This book is Mercy's story but there were others on board that ship and not all were poor, at least not financially. For whatever reason that led the women to seek that new life, they were all starting over from scratch, with no class or society to dictate. Once again, Jody Hedlund has written an amazing historical novel that I recommend with 5 stars. Her research, as usual, is impeccable and the story is one that is very compelling. A Reluctant Bride is Book one in The Bride Ships series and already, I am eagerly waiting for the release of book two, The Runaway Bride in March 2020!
Jody Hedlund's books are always fascinating to me! I love the way she takes a bit of history that is often overlooked or not even known about and creates a beautiful love story around it! This book, and the ensuing series, give us a peek into the lives of women who found themselves on one of the "bride ships" headed to the other side of the world. Mercy and Joseph were both great characters! Though they came from completely different stations in life they both had a heart to help others in need. I loved how even though Joseph was an aristocrat he never hesitated to help those who society deemed beneath him, regardless of what his peers thought. And Mercy had a servant's heart willing to literally give the clothes off her back if it meant someone else was taken care of. They had some obstacles to work through in their relationship but their romance was sweet. This book didn't have a lot of surprising twists and turns or any huge dramatic moments but I honestly really enjoyed that fact. It was at it's core just a beautiful romance set during a unique part of history. Definitely another win from an amazing author! I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.
I was not familiar with the concept of bride ships but leave it to Author Jody Hedlund to do her research and find this unique tidbit in history and then write an inspirational story. With Mercy Wilkins’ parents having too many children to feed and clothe due to the abject poverty and hopelessness in London, she finds a way to leave and joins a bride ship sailing to British Columbia, even though she has vowed to never marry or have children. On board the ship is Dr. Joseph Colville, who is wealthy and titled. When Mercy assists Dr. Colville during the long, arduous trip, they develop a friendship. Mercy and Joseph are two people from entirely different backgrounds and any kind of romance seems unlikely since she is beneath his station. Will Joseph stop running and accept God’s calling for his life? Will Mercy find happiness and security? I enjoy historical romance and thoroughly delighted in this story as it had just the right amount of romance. I look forward to the next in this series! I was given a copy by the publisher. All opinions are my own.
A Reluctant Bride By Jody Hedlund Mercy Wilkins unknowingly lives out her name as she cares for those around her in the slums of London. Without hope for a future and as a promise to her sister, Mercy decides to apply for a spot on the Tynemouth sailing for British Columbia. Lord Colville has gone against convention in becoming a doctor and now restless decides to be the surgeon on the Tynemouth. Little does he know that the women he last treats in the slums of London will also be aboard the ship. Trapped on the rough seas Lord Colville and Mercy find themselves crossing paths to aid the people around them. While working together Lord Colville and Mercy share their hearts not realizing that love is blooming. Can they see beyond their classes and struggles to a future together? I really enjoyed this book as it was well written and catching. This is the first book to the Bride Ships series and I can say I look forward to reading more.
Jody Hedlund pens another winner! It did not take long for me to fall in love with the characters in this novel, for they are realistic with trials that pull at your emotions and make you connect with them as a reader. The plot is interesting and the author gives exquisite details about a fascinating part of history. There is conflict in the story to keep you as a reader guessing and wanting to learn more, and I found myself staying up way too late one evening to finish it! I always look forward to great historical books by this author and I am pleased that this new series is off to a fantastic start! I most highly recommend this book! I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. The opinions of the review are my own and I was not required to write a positive review.
Mercy Wilkins is an Angel of Mercy on the streets of London, seeing only a bleak future ahead of her if she stays she heeds her sister's urging and joins the bride ship headed for British Columbia. Dr. Joseph Coville is titled and wealthy, a sought after match for many looking to secure a husband for their accomplished daughter. Joseph has encountered much loss in his life, and is caught between running away and his calling to make a difference in the lives of those without access to care. He signs on with the bride ship, and is struck early on by Mercy's selfless care for others, her compassion and beauty. Mercy is determined not to marry, but is it possible that God has other plans? The very first in a brand new series by Jody Hedlund, this book explores the situations and hopes for a fresh start that made women choose to take a chance on a new life. I was surprised by how much of this was inspired by a true story. Ms. Hedlund highlights the differences in class that held poor women back in London, and the opportunities awaiting them in a new home. Mercy is compassionate and selfless, automatically taking on a mother-like role for the younger girls on the ship, caring for them through every storm. While she is fearless when championing others, she struggles to see value in what she herself has to offer. Her natural nursing skills lead her to assisting Dr. Coville as he tends the sick during their long, rough journey. I admired her love for others, she is humble to a fault at times, with a courage that not even she knows. Joseph feels pulled in many directions, he feels called to help the less fortunate, yet has a passion for seeing the world. He is inspired by Mercy's selflessness and unassuming nature never expecting something in return, unlike his peers in society. As he gets to know Mercy, he begins get just a taste of her experiences, realizing that maybe he isn't as blind to class as he thought that he was. I think all of us can see a bit of ourselves in Joseph, everyday I myself have my eyes opened to the realities of this world through relationships with and the experiences of others. Strong tension throughout, whether from chemistry between the characters or through through situations. I was inspired by the bravery of these women headed to a place they had never been in hopes of a bright future where they could be anything. Ms. Hedlund does an excellent job of realistically showing the binds of class, and how it was so big a part of life for many in the 1800s dictating marriage, opportunity, etc. I loved Mrs. Moresby and how she represented the opportunities ahead for the women in British Columbia. Miss Lawrence is a kind and silent ally, an I am excited to read her story in the near future. A strong start to a new series, great character development and interaction. You won't want to put it down! I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
I've been a fan of Jody Hedlund's novels that retell fairy tales. Her new novel, A Reluctant Bride, is the first of her historical fiction novels that I've read. While the idea of vicariously experiencing what a bride ship might be like is interesting, I find that the novel is much too focused on the love story aspect for me. In fact, what I appreciated about her fairy tale novels is that they focus more on the heroines of each story and their unique life experiences their struggles and their growth, while the love stories were just in the background. Don't get me wrong, A Relcutant Gride is a good read and an escape from every day life. But in a world where romance novels (yes, even the Christian ones) follow a pattern and usually present men as more emotive and communicative than in real life, I find they often set up relationships and marriages to fail. So when a book focuses more on the love story aspect than the characters' real-life struggles, growth and transformation, the plot loses something for me. Again, it's a Christian tale, so you won't find any of the garbage you'd find in secular novels. It's entertaining and clean. If that's what you're looking for, the Hedlund's novel A Reluctant Bride will not disappoint.
A Reluctant Bride is the first book in a new series, Bride Ships, by Jody Hedlund. With great attention to historical detail, Hedlund takes the reader on a journey from the poorest slums of London to hope for a better life in British Columbia. I enjoyed meeting the well-crafted and colorful characters and learning more about bride ships and the part they played in history. The settings in both London and British Columbia in the 1860s intrigued me and made vivid backdrops for the story. With just the right touches of suspense, romance, and inspiration, this book kept me riveted, while messages of hope, faith, courage, and the value of each individual added to my enjoyment of the story. Hedlund’s distinctive historical detail, along with her memorable characters and brilliant story-telling make this a must-read for those who enjoy compelling historical fiction based on actual happenings. The author’s notes in the back of the book were an added bonus, and I was intrigued by some of the fascinating research she uncovered while writing the story. This book is headed right for my keeper shelf, and I’m anxiously awaiting the next in the series. I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy from the publisher/NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
My Review: Genre: Romance, historical, fiction. My Rating: 4 and 1/2 stars. My Favorite Character/s: Mercy was so different (in a good way, I promise!), her character so strong and kind — never caring for herself, but for others. I don’t really understand where she was coming from and it was nice getting to see why she did what she did. My Verse for Mercy is Luke 10:33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, (King James Version.) Joseph was a wonderful character and he was so good for Mercy even if they didn’t know it at first, and I enjoyed reading when he put a curtain . . . Mr. Collins (Pride and Prejudice) like character in his place. My Verse for Joseph is Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (King James Version.) My Thoughts: In the past, I’ve heard of Bride Ships, the idea of them was odd, interesting, and yet slightly romantic and scary . . . I guess? I’ve read Mrs. Hedlund’s books before and enjoyed them, which led me to sign up for the launch team with little hope of getting on since I hadn’t been on any launch teams for the author before . . . But, after a while, I got an email saying I got a place and to expect my ARC paperback in the mail soon. Long story short I got it in the mail a few weeks later and, um, read it within hours. I just couldn’t put it down, the romance was perfect, the characters bond so sweet and loving. In all this is a wonderful novel from Hedlund! I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review and am truly happy to provide it.
It is so exciting to read Jody Hedlund's first book from her new Bride Ships series. I loved Mercy from the start. Her bravery and courage made her a fabulous character. It was great watching her friendship with Joseph grow. I am giving A Reluctant Bride a well deserved five plus stars. I can not wait to get my hands on the second installment, The Runaway Bride, in 2020. I highly recommend this one. I received this book from the author, but was not required to write a review. This review is 100% my own honest opinion.
It is so exciting to read Jody Hedlund's first book from her new Bride Ships series. I loved Mercy from the start. Her bravery and courage made her a fabulous character. It was great watching her friendship with Joseph grow. I am giving A Reluctant Bride a well deserved five plus stars. I can not wait to get my hands on the second installment, The Runaway Bride, in 2020. I highly recommend this one. I received this book from the author, but was not required to write a review. This review is 100% my own honest opinion.
There is so much to love about this book. Who doesn’t love the opportunity for someone who’s living in unimaginable circumstances to change their life? Mercy lives in the slums and is surrounded by hunger, filth, and need. For as long as she can remember she has taken care of her siblings, and helped the neighbors with theirs as well. Living in a place where it isn’t uncommon for children to die of hunger or sickness wears on a persons’ soul. By chance, Mercy is given an opportunity to go somewhere where life will be much easier. The downfall is, she may never see her family again. When the sister who practically raised Mercy begs for her to take the opportunity, she can hardly refuse. Once aboard the ship Mercy sees a doctor that she met before when bringing in a child in need. Joseph seemed like a kind man, and seeing him there puts her a little more at ease. A lot can happen in a trip across an ocean. Mercy knows a little about hard work and determination and that’s just what Joseph needs when helping patients. Working together has caused more than a few heads to turn, but they both know that a love between their classes would be forbidden. Being a titled gentleman, Joseph knows there is much expected of him and the bride he chooses. Not only that, but sixty ladies including Mercy, are meant to be brides for a colony where women are in short supply. Can their forbidden love overcome so many obstacles? Or are they destined for heartbreak? I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Historical Fiction. The characters are easy to love, and I enjoyed seeing life through such different eyes. I couldn’t help but get swept up in the story and found it hard to put down. I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers and was in no way forced to post a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.
I always enjoy getting the opportunity to delve into a Jody Hedlund novel, and this newest story is no exception. Right from the beginning I was pulled headlong into the story and swept blissfully along on a journey that I won’t soon forget! This story is so much more than a journey across the ocean from England to the Canadian Colonies of Vancouver. It is a journey of growth, and a journey of learning how to let go of past hurts. Along the way there are storms, but it is more than the physical storms. Yes, there are damaging sea waves and howling winds. But more than that this story is about the emotional storms we face and a gentle reminder that no matter what walk of life we come from, God sees us as equal. No one person is better than another. Mercy Wilkins’s struggled touched my heart. While I have never faced the same hardships she faces, I can identify with her struggle to see herself as God sees her versus how people around her do. It is so easy to accept the labels that others slap on our backs and forget to look up and into the face of our loving heavenly Father. Joseph Colville has been running from the pain of devastation loss ever since he lost his entire family to a cholera outbreak. But when he stands to lose his very heart, will he stand and fight or will he continue to run? I reached the end of the story feeling like I had lived it with the characters. Even the secondary characters, you either love or loathe. I loved every moment I spent reading this story. I look forward to reading more stories in this series. I can’t wait to see who we get to learn more about next. I’m hoping that Miss Lawrence is next. I highly recommend this story to anyone and everyone. Grab yourself a copy today! (I received a copy of this book from the author/publisher. I am not required to write a positive review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.)
I believe that this will be one of my favorite books by Jody Hedlund ever. I loved the history behind this because I had never read about these bride ships before. I loved the characters. I enjoyed getting to know a bit about many of the minor characters as they interacted with Mercy and Joseph. I especially liked to see how Mercy was able to overcome some of her ingrained habits. It is nice to see someone grow as a person throughout a story. I received a copy of this book from the author for a fair and honest opinion that I gave of my own free will.
A Reluctant Bride by Jody Hedlund is the first in the series Bride Ships. It is set in England and British Columbia in 1862. Mercy Wilkins has a servant’s heart but she is caught in poverty. Chapter 4: “Was death so common a visitor in these parts that people expected it, maybe even welcomed it as the only true savior from the pain? Or had they, like her, closed off their heart to the pain in order to continue on?” She embarks on a ship to the British colonies in order to give her siblings a better chance to survive in their London slum. “She longed for the chance to finally stand on her own. This trip, this voyage, might be the only possibility she’d ever get to do that.” The only thing she wasn’t told is that she is expected to choose a husband when she arrives. Joseph Colville is a nobleman but is fleeing his responsibility after the death of his family. He has become a doctor and is helping the destitute in the slums. Joseph and Mercy meet on the Tynemouth where Joseph is the ship’s surgeon and Mercy sometimes assists him. This was a very sad story for most of the book. Ms. Hedlund eloquently conveyed the utter squalor of Shoreditch slum of London and the poverty that beset the city in 1862. She vividly portrayed the deep privations of the sea voyage that took many months. Yet hope was in the story too. Mercy and Joseph learned a lot about God, themselves and eachother. They showed their humbleness even in rough times. They also progressed in their faith and trusted in God to show them His leading. A thought provoking, epic historical book, once again proving that Jody Hedlund is a phenomenal writer who is not afraid to tackle a hard subject. *I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House. I was not required to give a favorable review. All opinions are my own.*
A Reluctant Bride is an incredible journey from poverty stricken London, and the impossible living conditions in the slums. Mercy Wilkins finds her way to a bride's ship bound for British Columbia. Conditions on the ship are grim, and Mercy's only saving grace is that the ship's surgeon recognizes her compassion for those who need her. He requests her assistance in nursing the sick aboard ship, and the two share a unique camaraderie which develops into a strong attraction forbidden by Mercy's chaperones and the doctor's position in life. Filled with danger on the high seas and plagued by seasickness among other serious illnesses suffered aboard the Tynemouth, the sadness and losses that Mercy suffered at home appear to have followed her aboard. Hedlund's cast is strong and well developed. True life situations are heart wrenching, but true strength of character is one of the highlights in those represented in this book. A great deal of research was obviously undertaken in order for true life events to have been portrayed through Mercy's story. This is a fast paced tale of the torments of the time, and yet a blossoming love story creates a charming quality that surpassed my expectations. Don't miss this deeply touching story. I highly recommend it! Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book. All expressed opinions are honest and my own.
We can’t get caught upon seeing problems from our view. God’s so much bigger and has things worked out in His ways - ways we can’t begin to understand”... A Reluctant Bride. Wow! I’m totally in love with Jody Hedlund new series! I love Historical Romances and Jody is absolutely one of my top favorite authors! I love that her stories are usually based on true stories, even if the characters are sometimes fictional, but they manage to reflect so well how people lived under such hard circumstances, and how all this hardship made them strong and compassionate for others. There’s always an inspiring message in her books, and this was no exception, and I love that it doesn’t feel preachy at all. Mercy Wilkins lives in one of London’s poorest slums. She’s totally devoted to taking care of her younger siblings and helping feed and care for other needy children in her slum. But the more she does, the more she realizes it’s never enough. She has heard that God provides for all his children, but has she, as well as so many people surrounding her, been forgotten and neglected from Him? Suddenly, her mother gets fired from her work, and she overheard her mother and her husband questioning who will have to leave the house next, since they can’t feed so many mouths anymore. When she hears they are thinking of sending her young brother to live in the docks, she knows she won’t allow it so she takes a providential opportunity of joining a ship to start a new life in British Columbia, where women are scarce. She’s just not aware that she’s sent as a bride to be for one of the many men that live there... Joseph Colville is a wealthy man, Baron of Wiltshire. But his estate and the social life attached to it is the last thing he wants after watching his whole family die to a cholera epidemic that ravaged London. So he instead devotes to study medicine and later to serve as a surgeon in long ocean voyages to India and other places. His mentor, Dr. Bates offers him partnership in his medical office for the needy people of London slums, where he sporadically helps, but he’s not ready to compromise. He wants his freedom and the excitement of exploring new worlds. So when he’s offered the chance to be the surgeon of the Tynemouth, he knows he can’t lose this opportunity of a new adventure... But life in the ship proves more difficult than expected and both Joseph and Mercy meet again, after having met at Dr. Bates office, when Mercy brings in a very sick little girl. Dr. Bates told Joseph afterwards that Mercy really was an “Angel of Mercy” as she was always helping someone in need, in one way or another. But it’s not until meet again in the ship that he has a chance of experience himself what Dr. Bates meant. At the first sea storm, where many people fall ill and get injured, it’s Mercy the one who assists the doctor in taking care of the sick. Soon she’s an essential aid to the doctor in assisting him to care for the sick, as there are many needs that he alone can’t take care of. This forges a deep and beautiful relationship based on caring for others, that slowly grows into something more. But a romance in their circumstances is prohibited and when they get to British Columbia, there will be many men vying for her hand. Will they have a chance at love after all? Or will circumstances keep them apart from each other? This was a beautiful story! I loved the depth of the characters, the vivid historical setting, I was captivated until the last page! Recommended!
Book Review: Can love break the barriers of class, work and society’s expectations? A Reluctant Bride (The Bride Ships Book #1) by Jody Hedlund Jody Hedlund’s newest series, The Bride Ships starts with A Reluctant Bride. She takes us to the slums of 1862 London, England. Mercy Wilkins is the “angel of mercy” that cares for the young children not only in her family, but those who live in the tenements around her. When she rushes in a sick, neighbor child to the medical clinic she meets Lord Joseph Colville, the substitute on-call doctor. Tragedy strikes and her mother loses her job. Mercy desperate to not burden her family, agrees to go to British Columbia with the Columbia Mission Society to find work in a new land. On the ship she runs into Lord Colville again who is now the ships surgeon. Mercy becomes caretaker to the younger women of the Columbia Mission Society, that inform her she is expected to be a “bride-to-be” when they arrive at their destination. Realizing that Mercy was an asset as a nurse, Joseph requests her assistance from her chaperones. During the trip across the seas, a love blossoms that neither wants to admit is happening. Mercy never intended to be a bride. Joseph wasn’t ready to settle down. Of course, his title stands in the way and her commitment to the Society keeps her from acting on her feelings with him. So many things threaten to keep them apart when it is obvious they belong together. One of my favorite quotes from the boom is from the ships captain, “My advice,” said the captain, his voice turning gentle, “do not let the barriers of class interfere with anything. Not work. Not life. And certainly not love.” Another quote, “Who determined their stations? Why did the world need such stations anyway? Would not the world be a better place if a man simply lived in humility and loved his brother or sister as himself, regardless of one’s birth?” Is so poignant that it applies to today as well as the past. Jody Hedlund again not only entertains, but gives inspiration of how love can conquer so many things if only our hearts allow. I look forward to many more books in this series if they are as wonderful as The Reluctant Bride. Be sure not to miss this one! Please visit her website at https://jodyhedlund.com FTC Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this title by Bethany House publishing and NetGalley for review purposes only; no other compensation was awarded.
Victorian England, to the settlement of Victoria Island, Canada...What.an.adventure. And so much real history! Even the main characters were inspired by real people!!! I have always admired how Jody Hedlund can seamlessly weave romance into her stories in a real, passionate, and Godly way. The faith is genuine and the struggles Mercy and Joseph face in their relationships with God are relatable and familiar to us. The setting in this story is unlike any other book I have read. I didn't even know that there were bride ships that came to the west coast of Canada! (I'm a Washington State native myself.) But it makes so much sense and I am really looking forward to learning more history about the mining settlements. Although, I have no idea where Jody will be taking us next in this series. Mercy was such a great woman to get to know. I felt connected to her. Even though I can't relate to a lot of the things she went through. She was an easy person to listen to, to learn about, to become friends with. Joseph was a bit of a mystery to me at first. It was great to watch him come into his own and to realize things about himself that he didn't understand before. All said and done, I really think this is one of my favorite stories Jody has written. Between the romance, the friendships, and the unique setting, this story definitely holds a special place in my heart. Oh! And just a word of advice, don't start this book at 11 o'clock at night unless you intend to stay awake reading for several more hours! I received a complimentary copy of A Reluctant Bride from the publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.
A new Jody Hedlund book is always something that I meet with great anticipation. When it’s the opener of a new series, even better! A Reluctant Bride is a lovely start to her Bride Ships series. I love that Hedlund tackles another intriguing historical event, this time women being a part of a bride ship to be sent to marry complete strangers. This is something I have vaguely heard about before but have never read any fiction concerning this happening. Our main character Mercy is a desperate woman. Given the option of the workhouse, living on the streets, or perhaps an even worse fate, Mercy decides to forgo them all and agrees to sail on one of the bride ships. Bound for a colony and potential marriage to men they have never met, Mercy and the other women are kept under strict separation by their chaperones. Mercy, however, has a gift for tending to those who are ill, and becomes a great help to the ship’s doctor. This doctor, Joseph Colville, happens to be an aristocrat, and the stark contrasts between their stations in life is one of the fascinating elements of this story. From living conditions in London to sailing conditions on the ship, Hedlund shows the contrast between the sheer desperation of the poor and the ease of the rich. While this novel is classified as a historical romance, the plot doesn’t suffer any from that distinction. Plenty of plot points held my attention, and I also enjoyed Mercy and Joseph trying to work through their obvious differences in stations of life. The romance is easy to root for, of course, and readers looking for some sigh-worthy moments will not be disappointed. I’m hopeful that some of the secondary character from this story will be back with a story of their own in coming books. A Reluctant Bride is the perfect summer read to sink into with its fascinating history, endearing characters, and tender romance. I am eager to see where Hedlund takes the series next! I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher. I was not required to post a positive review, and the opinions expressed here are my own.
Jody Hedlund writes another wonderful book! A Reluctant Bride is the first book in her new series (Bride Ships) featuring Mercy Wilkins from the London slums who has no hope for a better life. So she signs up to go to British Colombia to begin a new life, not knowing she will be expected to marry. Joseph Colville is the ships surgeon, a wealthy, titled man who is running from a painful past. Continually thrown together to help the passengers through a harrowing journey they have a deep attraction to one-another. Trusting in God to make a way for them both they resist temptation. An exciting story based on true events, Jody writes with wonderful details and great characters. I can't wait for the next book in this new series. I received this book from Jody Hedlund/Bethany House Publishers and all opinions are my own.
I could not go through what Mercy did. She gave up everything and still kept her sweet helpful nature. She had people looking down on her just because of where she was born, but did not let that stop her. She was able to find the best in her circumstances and I loved how it all turned out. Mercy finds herself on a bride ship as she is trying to get out of a bad situation. While on the voyage over, she finds herself helping others, a carry over from her previous life. She was able to make the long voyage from London to British Columbia more bearable for many on the ship. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to the next one in the series.
I'm not reluctant about recommending this book. What book is that you may ask? Well, my answer is A Reluctant Bride by Jody Hedlund. And why would I want to recommend this book so much. Well, I have an answer for that also. One reason is that I enjoyed learning more about bride ships and think others might enjoy this too. I've heard that bride ships are an overused topic in fictional works. However, in all the books I've read, and I have read a lot, I quite honestly do not remember ever reading a book on bride ships. Now, after reading A Reluctant Bride, I'm fascinated by them. I am also very thankful I didn't have to travel around the world on a ship to meet my husband! Another reason is that after reading about Mercy, it made me realize just how much I have. Despite Mercy's lack of material possessions, she has so much, and I want to be more like her. She has so much compassion for others. Even when she has nothing, she takes the time to care for others instead of herself. Almost everything she does is for someone else's good. Sure, I know she is a fictional character, but I still learned from her. Lastly, I love a good Cinderella story. I don't want to give away the what happens, but I was definitely sighing happy sighs at the end of this book. It was absolutely a book worth reading and recommending. I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys historical romance. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.