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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

With You Always: Intriguing Setting, Uplifting Story

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

With the 1857 financial crisis causing panic all across The United States, families are becoming more and more desperate.  Farmers receiving less money for their grain are losing their homes and land.  Penniless parents are shipping their hungry children off on orphan trains.  Young working women like Elise Neumann are growing increasingly panicked as their meager earnings fail to cover the needs of their families.  Unable to properly care for her younger siblings, Elise reluctantly decides to take advantage of a program that's sending skilled workers to other states where jobs are more plentiful.  If she can send home enough money, she can save her family from starvation.

Thornton Quincy may not be destitute (not yet anyway), but the 24-year-old has problems of his own.  His dying father has issued a tantalizing challenge to Thornton and his brother—whoever can build a sustainable town along the Central Illinois Railroad and marry a suitable woman with whom he is truly in love within six months will inherit the old man's considerable fortune.  Determined to prove himself to his father once and for all, Thornton plans to win the bet.  What he doesn't plan on is meeting the beautiful, intriguing Elise Neumann.  The better he gets to know her, the more Thornton questions the value of what he's doing with his life.  Can he win both his father's respect and Elise's heart?  Or will he have to choose one over the other?

Although I expected With You Always, the first book in Jody Hedlund's Orphan Train series, to be about, well, orphan trains, it really isn't.  At least not yet.  This initial volume focuses instead on the adventures of Elise and Thornton as they establish new lives in the emerging town of Quincy, Illinois.  Theirs is an interesting time and place and I found the historical details in this novel fascinating.  I enjoyed the characters as well, although I would have liked to see plucky Elise save herself a few times instead of being rescued by others.  Although With You Always tells, overall, a hopeful, uplifting story, it doesn't shy away from tough subjects like poverty, women's lack of opportunity/rights, discrimination, etc.  I liked that, as well as the book's clean, upbeat feel.  Although this is technically a Christian novel, it never feels preachy or cheesy—which is exactly how I dig my faith-based fiction.  On the whole, then, I enjoyed With You Always and am definitely planning to continue with the series.

(Readalikes:  Um, I can't really think of any.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence, mild innuendo, and vague references to sex and prostitution

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of With You Always from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.


  1. I enjoyed this one, too. And I appreciated that the characters felt authentic and not your typical romance cliches. And it had some funny moments. :)

  2. I am on a historical fiction run lately. It's so much fun to learn about another time and place while reading a good story.


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