With You Always
Bethany House Publishers, 2017
Things are finally looking up for Elise Neumann and her younger sisters, until the mission that employs her as a seamstress loses it’s contract for sewing work. Faced with returning to the streets, Elise joins a group of women that have been promised jobs and a better life out west. Though she agonizes over the decision to leave her family behind, she knows she must do something to get them off the path of poverty they have been traveling. Things begin to change for her when a chance encounter with a man she met once before sends her down a winding path of love and longing for something she doesn’t think can ever be hers.
Thornton Quincy is doing all he can to win the competition with his brother that will finally earn him the respect of his dying father. The rules of the game are simple: the brothers have six months to each build a thriving town and marry a woman they love in order to win leadership of their father’s vast company. The town is coming along nicely, and Thornton is courting a beautiful society girl that is everything a man of means could want in a wife. So why does he find himself so drawn to Elise? As she challenges him to change his perspective on the impoverished people he employs, he also finds himself changing the way he thinks about himself and his future. Thornton must decide if he is willing to win the competition at all costs or abdicate to his brother in order to maintain his integrity.
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With You Always is Jody Hedlund’s latest, published in June 2017, and it feels a little different from the other books of hers that I’ve read. Her work varies widely in terms of setting, both in location and time period. She has books ranging from a young adult series set in the medieval Europe to a lighthouse series for adults that takes place in the late 1800’s, with many other times and places in between. I love how she merges romance with adventure, and weaves those threads around a social justice theme. In this book the theme is working conditions and fair wages for working class Americans, particularly for women and immigrants.
The leading lady in this story, Elise, is a German immigrant. She and her sisters are orphans and living in a mission and working as seamstresses after having run away from the guardianship of their violent uncle (more back story available about them in this novella). When the mission loses it’s contract Elise realizes that she has to do something to support her family, but employment opportunities are limited for a young women in the 1850’s. Since becoming a prostitute is out of the question, she decides to take a risk and join up with an organization that is supplying women for female dominated jobs like laundry, cooking, and sewing in developing western towns.
Enter Thornton Quincy. He is very handsome, very kind, and very, very wealthy. He also has a twin brother with whom he has always competed for his father’s affection and respect. Now his father is dying and has issued a challenge: the brother who successfully builds a town along the Illinois Central Railroad and marries a woman that he loves will get to be in charge of his vast business holdings when he dies. So both brothers set out to win the challenge and Thornton feels like this is his last chance to gain his father’s respect. On one of his business trips back and forth between his developing town of Quincy, Illinois and New York, he stumbles across Elise, whom he had met briefly before at the mission.
Related: For Love and Honor
As they renew their acquaintanceship and begin to fall for each other, their perspectives begin to change. Elise is unlike any other woman he has ever known, especially for her social level, because she stands up to him. She isn’t shy about calling him out on the way his workers are treated, and the abysmal pay and lodging they receive. In his defense, once he becomes truly aware of the situation he does all he can to rectify the wrongs.
But as they get to know one another they are both forced to confront common stereotypes – all wealthy gentleman are selfish, uncaring snobs, and all poor people are lazy and ungrateful. Obviously neither one of those is true, but that’s something each of them has to work through on their own. It should also be noted that their are many delightful misunderstandings that get in the way of this process including three imagined love triangles. Not just one, three! Makes for some fun conflict.
If you are interested in this book I would recommend reading the prequel novella An Awakened Heart before picking up With You Always. It’s short, but it gives you a better understanding of Elise and what motivates her, and as of the writing of this post it’s free for Kindle users! I really enjoyed this book and will definitely be reading the next one in the series.
Other Jody Hedlund books I enjoyed: