Jody Hedlund. Love Unexpected. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2014. See here for Bethany House’s page about the book.
In Love Unexpected, the year is 1859. A young woman named Emma Chambers and her brother Ryan are on a steamboat that is attacked, robbed, and destroyed by pirates. Not long after Emma, Ryan, and others from the boat come ashore, a traveling preacher, Holy Bill, recommends that Emma marry Patrick, the recently widowed keeper of the local lighthouse. Patrick has a toddler named Josiah. Emma has not exactly been successful at courtship and finding a man to marry, so she agrees to marry Patrick, who likes how Emma relates to Josiah. Emma does not know how to cook, and she bumbles her tasks as a housewife and mother, but Patrick loves her, encourages her, and does small acts of kindness for her. Emma thinks that her husband is a good God-fearing man, yet she hears rumors from her gossipy neighbor, Bertie Burnham, a relative of Patrick’s late wife Delia. Does Patrick have an unsavory past? Is he the type of man who would have an affair? Was Delia’s death truly an accident?
I was expecting the book to be very suspenseful, but it did not meet my expectations in that regard. I was wondering what exactly Patrick’s secrets were, and that was one factor that kept me reading, but I would not say that I was on the edge of my seat. At the same time, I was a bit afraid when Emma shared Patrick’s secrets with Bertie, for I wondered what Bertie might do.
The book also was not particularly deep.
Overall, though, I enjoyed the story. I appreciated its themes of second chances, of the vulnerability of those with an unsavory past as they try to start anew, of thoughtfulness to others, and of love for others, even when they do not follow what one considers the right path. My favorite parts of the book were when cynical characters stepped forward and did the right thing. In some cases, they were motivated by their own pain, which produced in them compassion for others.
I also liked the Author’s Note at the end, in which Jody Hedlund said which parts of the book were based on historical events, and which were not.
The publisher sent me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.