Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Review: Rebellious Heart


Rebellious Heart is a stand-alone novel by one of my favorite authors, Jody Hedlund. Set in the Boston area prior to the American Revolution, this captivating story is inspired by one of history's most famous couples, John and Abigail Adams, the second U.S. President and his First Lady.


Massachusetts, 1763
A Love That Would Shape History Forever

Because she's a woman, higher learning was always closed to Susanna Smith. But her quick mind and quicker tongue never back down from a challenge. And she's determined to marry well, so she'll be able to continue her work with the less fortunate.

Growing up with little to his name, poor country lawyer Benjamin Ross dreams of impacting the world for the better. When introduced to the Smiths, he's taken by Susanna's intelligence and independent spirit, but her parents refuse to see him as a suitor for their daughter.

When the life of a runaway indentured servant is threatened, Susanna is forced to choose between justice and mercy, and Ben becomes her unlikely advisor. But drawing closer to this man of principle and intellect lands her in a dangerous, secret world of rebellion and revolution against everything she once held dear.

My thoughts

When it comes to historical fiction, Jody Hedlund is among the best. Rebellious Heart (Bethany House) grabbed my attention from the first sentence - "He's guilty of murder!" - and it isn't long before Jody takes the reader on a wild ride from one riveting scene after another. So many elements combine to make this a fascinating read.

Outstanding characterization -- Ben and Susanna are charismatic lead characters, and there's a strong cast of supporting characters as well. Ben Ross is a poor country lawyer, secretly involved in sedition against oppressive British laws. He fights against injustice "to give the downtrodden, like himself, a fair chance in a world in which those with the most power and wealth made the rules" . . . and he thinks he needs a wife with the right connections and social standing in order to increase his prestige.

"If you marry for ambition, will it only be
the first of many compromises you make
for the sake of improving your reputation?" 
- Pastor Wibird

Susanna Smith, the witty and intelligent daughter of a wealthy parish minister, yearns for the kind of education denied to women at the time and feels she also has to marry well in order to achieve her goals. It is great to watch Susanna grow from the young child who told Ben, "I could never marry you. . . . You're a nobody" to a courageous woman who wasn't afraid of doing what was right in the face of injustice.

Fast-moving narrative -- There's not much time for a deep breath because Jody keeps the action flowing with the extreme cruelty of British Lieutenant Wolfe and his efforts to expose the molasses smuggling operation . . . to secret passageways, hidden tunnels and nighttime flights of escape.

Romantic tension -- Oh yes! I want to save the element of surprise about the scene between Ben and Susanna in Arnold Tavern when Lieutenant Wolfe walks in, but it's worthy of rereading a few times. And then there's the scene where Ben measures Susanna's foot so his father can make new boots . . .

Ethical issues -- I thought the book's cover a little unusual at first, but then realized that it beautifully depicts an unsettled Susanna as the political situation in Colonial America causes her to wrestle with a belief ingrained from childhood, that of giving unquestioned obedience to those in authority over her. Compelled to help Dotty, an abused servant fleeing for her life, it comes down to a matter of justice vs. mercy. "Perhaps this very situation was beginning to happen between the colonies and Great Britain. They were indeed living under the authority of someone who could perpetuate abuse without recourse."

Historical detail -- The Colonial setting of the Boston area, Braintree and Weymouth is vividly conveyed, and Jody doesn't hold back on the realism of the times. The fact that Ben and Susanna were inspired by John and Abigail Adams created much interest and made me want to read more about our President and First Lady. It was fun to imagine what their courtship might have been like, and I loved their witty sparring. Jody provides an Author's Note at the conclusion which gives much interesting detail.

The story ends with these encouraging words spoken by Susanna's Mother:  "You will never be content living an ordinary life. I believe you were born to do greater things. . . . You will do those great things beside a great man."

Rebellious Heart is a compelling and thoroughly enjoyable novel, one that I highly recommend.

Jody Hedlund

       "I was really interested in writing another story inspired by a famous couple from history similar to my books, The Preacher's Bride and The Doctor's Lady. So I compiled a list of various couples that I thought had unique courtships and fascinating lives.
       "During the course of my research, I came across several biographies regarding John and Abigail Adams. As I read more about them, I realized that the stories about how they met and courted would make a wonderful book, especially because they faced numerous obstacles in their quest for love.
       "As most history buffs know, John and Abigail Adams had a wonderful marriage full of love and friendship. They penned numerous letters to one another during their lifetime. Although much has been recorded of their marriage, very little has been written about their early days and courtship. I thought it would be fascinating to bring them to life for our modern generation."  -- Jody

Colonial America

I love it when authors take the time to put together a Pinterest board for their novels, and Jody's Rebellious Heart board is fantastic! Be sure to check it out at

To learn more about Jody and her books, visit her website at

This book was provided by Jody Hedlund in exchange for my honest review.

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