With You Always by Jody Hedlund is the first full book in the “Orphan Train” series. I say “first full book” because Hedlund released a prequel novella to the series, which is currently free on the Kindle platform, and is entitled “An Awakened Heart”.
Elise Neumann is a German immigrant who, with her siblings, has lost everything, including her parents. Now as she tries to make a life for herself and sisters in America, she must rely on God and the charity of others. When riots and gang rivalries happen on the streets, the rich and poor clash together to find safety. Will this mixing of social circles remain after the storm passes? Or will things go back to the way they were? Can Elise and her sisters survive when the market crashes and she loses the job she fought so hard to get? What will become of the fragile life she has built for herself? Will she have to apply for a job out west and leave her siblings behind?
Thornton Quincy is the son of one of the most influential and wealthy men in New York City. As his father’s death nears, his father issues a challenge to Thornton and his twin brother. Whichever brother can create a successful town along the railway and find true love in six months will receive the inheritance. When his world collides with Elise’s, will his eyes be opened to the hardships of the poorer classes, or will he move on with his life?
I liked the premise of this story. Orphan train novels have always had the ability to tug at my heartstrings, and given that the main character was a young German immigrant, which I can relate to seeing as my grandmother was such, I expected to fall in love with this story from the outset. However, I felt the story was very slow moving, and the way Thornton met Elise and related to her for the first 60-70% of the story struck me as being more on the creepy side than on the tender side. Additionally, there wasn’t really an “orphan train” element to the story, more of a “women sent out west looking for work”. I liked the end of the story though, although it was predictable. I was able to believe Thornton’s motives and come to like him as a person/character in the last 30% of the book, and Elise’s character began to gain some sympathy from me as well. Hopefully this series will get better with every book, as Hedlund’s lighthouse keepers series did.
Thank you to Bethany House publishers and Net Galley for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own and were not required to be positive.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention/review it on my blog. I was not required to give a positive review, only my honest opinion – which I’ve done. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.*