Thursday, June 11, 2015

Hearts Made Whole by Jody Hedlund - Review

Lighthouses have a mystic about them and when you mix that with a wonderful romance story it's pure bliss. And so it is with Jody Hedlund’s new novel, Hearts Made Whole.

Here is the back-cover blurb:

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 secured the position of lighthouse keeper mostly for the isolation--the chance to hide from his past is appealing. He's not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who's angry with him for taking her job and for his inability to properly run the light. When his failings endanger others, he and Caroline realize he's in no shape to run the lighthouse, but he's unwilling to let anyone close enough to help. Caroline feels 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?

While this blurb is good, it doesn't begin to tell the depth and scope of the story and the characters. Because of her father's death, Caroline takes on the great burden of raising her siblings: Tessa, a sister who is only a few years younger than Caroline; Sarah, the sister who is an invalid; and her trouble-finding twin brothers, Harry and Hugh. Caroline's biggest flaw is she’s always thinking of others before herself. And it's not because she's been forced to. She worries about everyone, even Ryan, a man who drowns his troubles with alcohol and pain medicine. She sees him as a man with a shadowed past and suffering with great sorrow.

Ryan, though damaged by the war, desperately wants to right the wrongs in his past. To do this he needs the lighthouse job or otherwise he'd just leave, so Caroline could keep the post. He also learns that even if he were to leave, his boss would hire someone else because he believes only a man should hold such a job (makes you glad we live in this day and age, doesn't it?).

As always, Jody delivers a gripping fictional story based on real lives and places. If you enjoy tender love scenes served with a hint of mystery you will love this book.

 Jody did an interview where she answered some of the most asked questions about this book and also how she juggles being a full-time writer with being a mom of five busy children. Here are a few of the questions she answered.

How do you manage to balance your life as a full time author and a mom to five busy children?

It’s definitely not easy to manage my busy household of five children and squeeze in time for writing. But fortunately my husband is very helpful and pitches in to help wherever possible. We really work together as a team to support each other in our pursuits and work.

For example, when he’s home he often takes over the household responsibilities, runs kids to activities, and pitches in with homeschooling so that I can have concentrated blocks of time to write.

We’ve also simplified our home life and outside commitments as much as possible. We expect our children to shoulder responsibilities around the home. And last, but certainly not least, I rely upon my mom for lots of help too. She helps homeschool, cook meals, and even runs my kids to activities.

Do you do a lot of research for your novels? Do you do it before, in the middle, or after you write your novel?

Since I write historicals, research is an integral part of my writing process. I usually spend anywhere between 4-6 weeks on initial research, reading biographies, getting a feel for the time period, and digging into the meat that will comprise the plot of my book.

Once I start writing the first draft, I have to stop from time to time to do a little more research, particularly if I switch settings within the story. But usually, if I don’t know something, I’ll highlight it and then do more research during my editing phase.

How did you come up with the idea for Hearts Made Whole?

Historical textbooks are full of stories about men like George Washington, Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, and so many more. And while such men are truly remarkable, all too often their stories overshadow equally courageous and remarkable women. One of my goals as an author is to help bring forgotten women of the past to life.

 In the Beacons of Hope series, I’m focusing on historical women light keepers who have often been kept in the dark by the more prominent stories of their male counterparts.

As I researched for writing a lighthouse series, I came across a fantastic book called, Ladies of the Lights: Michigan Women in the U.S. Lighthouse Service. The book is a tribute to the approximately 50 or so women who served either as primary or assistant keepers in Michigan Lighthouses.

 I based the heroine in Hearts Made Whole on one of those women light keepers. It’s my hope to bring her and the other women keepers out of the historical shadows and into the spotlight.

Knowing that you based Hearts Made Whole on one of the women light keepers, can you tell us which one?

The woman light keeper in Hearts Made Whole is inspired by Caroline Antaya. Caroline lived at the Mamajuda Lighthouse on the Detroit River a short distance away from Windmill Point Lighthouse.

Caroline’s husband served with honor in the Union army during the Civil War, losing several fingers on his hand at Gettysburg. Eventually after returning from the war, her husband was named as keeper of the Mamajuda Lighthouse, but he passed away of tuberculosis.

Part of what really impressed me about Caroline Antaya’s situation was that she had been doing a fantastic job as a light keeper. But the district lighthouse inspector trumped up charges against her saying that she was in ill-health and incompetent. He took away her position simply because she was a woman and gave it to a man instead. Fortunately her community rose to her defense and enlisted the help of a Michigan Senator to help her get her position back and she went on to serve as a light keeper for another three years.

In those days, when women were regularly discriminated against because of gender. Caroline’s story is inspirational and an encouragement to persevere in the face of injustice. I admire Caroline’s will to stand up for herself and to pave the way for women coming after her to use their God-given talents and abilities in roles and jobs that had previously been closed to women.

You also like to base your villains on real Michigan criminals. Who inspired the villain in Hearts Made Whole?

The villain of Hearts Made Whole is Stephen Simmons, a real rogue from the pages of Michigan history. While he lived in the early 1800’s in the decades before the Civil War, I used this villain as the basis for Mr. Simmons in the book. He had a tavern outside of Detroit and was a Goliath-of-a-man. At first he gave the impression of being cultured and educated. But once people got to know him, they realized what a brute he really was.

The community where Simmons lived grew to fear him because when he was under influence of alcohol, he searched out his enemies, picked fights, and inflicted painful beatings. Eventually he killed his wife in a drunken rage.

What do you hope readers take away from Hearts Made Whole?

Readers familiar with my books will know that I’m not afraid to tackle really tough issues. That’s especially true in Hearts Made Whole. Since the hero is coming home as a Civil War veteran, he’s facing some post-traumatic stress as well as debilitating war wounds that leave him addicted to his pain medicine.

At the same time the heroine is struggling to act as both father and mother to her four siblings while holding down a job as light keeper. She has the overwhelming job of trying to take care of everyone and everything while always remaining strong.

Both characters come to a point where they recognize they can’t face all of their overwhelming troubles on their own and cry out to God their desperate need for Him. I hope that readers will take away a desire to turn to God in their most desperate need too and know that He is there waiting to comfort and help them.

Now you can see why I love Jody's books. Not only does she take you on a wonderful adventure, but she fills them with flawed characters who learn to overcome their challenges by leaning on God.

Jody is celebrating the release of Hearts Made Whole with a Facebook party where you can chat with Jody and she is also having a beach giveaway. Talk about awesomeness!

Here’s info on the Giveaway.

And here’s info on the Facebook Party.

Hearts Made Whole was published by Bethany House. I received a copy of this book to review, but I reviewed it because I loved the story.


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