Thursday, June 4, 2015

Review: Hearts Made Whole

Hearts Made Whole
By Jody Hedlund
Beacons of Hope, #2
Bethany House, 2015


Windmill Point, Michigan

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 been given the post as lighthouse keeper, and the isolation where he can drown in drink and hide from his past is appealing. He’s not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who’s none-too-pleased to be giving up her position. They both quickly realize he’s in no shape to run the lighthouse, but Ryan’s unwilling to let anyone close, ravaged by memories and guilt. Caroline is 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?

My thoughts

All the trademarks of a Jody Hedlund novel are here - tender romance, poignant drama, and gripping suspense, all set within the framework of an interesting period in America's history. As with all of Jody's stories, my attention was captured on page one and never waned. There are a few instances of animal cruelty and while uncomfortable to read, they are realistic for the time period and a particularly villainous character, appropriately fitting into the overall storyline.  Hearts Made Whole is #2 in the Beacons of Hope series, but easily stands alone. Please click on the title, Love Unexpected, to see my review of the previous book.

Windmill Point Lighthouse, 1913
Jody excels at drawing from actual people, events, and locations in history and weaving together a fascinating story. Michigan's Windmill Point Lighthouse is the setting for Hearts Made Whole, beginning in the year 1865. Something that I'm especially enjoying is the historical background this series conveys about Michigan lighthouses of the past.

Characterization is another strong point and I found Ryan and Caroline, as well as several secondary characters, extremely appealing. Ryan, a wounded Civil War veteran, is appointed lightkeeper at Windmill Point, effectively replacing Caroline, who had faithfully kept the light since the death of her father. Caroline is a strong yet feminine woman, dedicated, who unselfishly takes care of her younger siblings. Ryan is the flawed hero type that I love so much in literature - wounded during the war, plagued by inner demons, and with a hard-to-resist need for opium and alcohol to assuage physical pain and haunting memories.

Lighthouses are always a strong draw for me, because I can't help but reflect on the spiritual themes they represent - danger, lostness, rescue, hope, safety, all epitomized in Jesus. Jody uses one of my pastor's favorite sayings, that "God is good . . . all the time" - and sometimes we just need to be reminded again of that truth. For a long time, Ryan sought relief from sources that could never heal or fulfill, just as we often do. It is so touching to see how the message of the beloved hymn, I Need Thee, is woven throughout.  I loved the scene where, as Ryan looks out over the vast ocean and colorful sky, he first admits his need for God.

I don't know what Jody has planned next, but we see a cross carved from driftwood being passed on through this series, and Ryan gives it to Caroline's sister, Tessa, toward the end of this story. Tessa's actions often made her difficult to like, but the promise of change is evident and I hope to see more of her.

Hearts Made Whole is a wonderfully entertaining story that I am glad to recommend to all who enjoy historical romance.


Jody Hedlund is the bestselling author of seven novels, including Captured by Love, A Noble Groom, winner of the 2014 Carol Award for Historical Fiction, and The Preacher's Bride, winner of the 2011 Award of Excellence. She received a bachelor's degree from Taylor University and a master's from the University of Wisconsin, both in social work. She lives in Midland, Michigan, with her husband and five busy children.

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Thank you to Jody Hedlund and Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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  1. Great review! Can't wait to read it. I just love lighthouses and the stories of the keepers!

    1. Thank you, Chris! I've always been drawn to lighthouses and would pick up almost any book that had one on its cover. Jody has done an excellent job with historical setting and storyline in this series. I've even got a couple of books about lighthouse keepers somewhere on my bookshelves that I need to pull out and read. Thank you for commenting, Chris.

  2. This books sounds like it's just what I need to read. I love the time period. I love lighthouses. And, I love strong women's characters.