With You Always – Jody Hedlund – Orphan Train #1 – Bethany House – Published 6 June 2017
One of the many immigrants struggling to survive in 1850s New York, Elise Neumann knows she must take action to care for her younger sisters. She finds a glimmer of hope when the New York Children’s Aid Society starts sending skilled workers to burgeoning towns out west. But the promise of the society’s orphan trains is not all that it seems.
Born into elite New York society, Thornton Quincy possesses everything except the ability to step out from his brother’s shadow. When their ailing father puts forth a unique challenge to determine who will inherit his railroad-building empire, Thornton finally sees his chance. The conditions to win? Be the first to build a sustainable community along the Illinois Central Railroad and find a suitable wife.
Thrown together against all odds, Elise and Thornton couldn’t be from more different worlds. The spark that ignites between them is undeniable, but how can they let it grow when that means forfeiting everything they’ve been working toward?
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to read all three books in the Orphan Train series all together (one benefit of waiting for an entire series to be published before starting book one). And I am so glad that I could, because as soon as I started the first book in the series I knew I wanted more of this charming family facing such difficulties. More of swoon-worthy romance. More challenges overcome through faith, love and community. As soon as I finished each book I eagerly picked up the next. While each of the three titles in the Orphan Train series could be read as a standalone, I believe that it is much better to read them as a series, better to understand the depth of each of the characters, their relationships and their journeys, separate at times and yet each interconnected.
With You Always is the first book in the Orphan Train series. Elise Neumann has lost so much in her life – both parents, their beloved bakery and home in Germany and now any way to support her family. She is determined to do everything she can to keep her sisters and the two young children in their charge together. Leaving behind the desperation of New York, Elise travels to the new town of Quincy to find employment. When she meets Quincy’s founder, wealthy businessman Thornton Quincy, Elise is surprised to discover a shared quick banter and spark between them. But Thornton and Elise come from different worlds, and as Thornton fights to win the future of his father’s company and Elise must sacrifice everything for her family, any future between them seems uncertain.
I was captured and held entranced by this wonderful book. I did so enjoy the relationship between Elise and Thornton. Jody Hedlund is so adept at capturing the sparks and chemistry between them. It wasn’t hard at all to image these characters coming alive before my very eyes. The setting and the poverty and desperation of New York in 1857 is palpable. The harsh details of life are not brushed over for the sake of modesty and I enjoyed Hedlund’s devotion to the history of the time in which she places her story.
I quickly fell in love with Elise and her family. Elise is a stubborn, headstrong young lady and I loved that she had no problem standing up against injustice, even if it meant confronting those in positions of power. The banter and teasing between Elise and Thornton was so delicious. While I did not much care for Thornton at the start of the book, he is blinded and uncaring and takes advantage of Elise, his character growth and willingness to learn was one of the best parts of this story.
This truly is a beautiful and thoroughly enjoyable series and I highly recommend it to readers who like Christian historical romance.
Genre: Christian historical.
Themes: Romance, family, poverty, employment, orphan trains, sisters, brothers, town development, employment conditions.
Published: 6 June 2017 by Bethany House Publishers
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook. 359 pages.