Friday, June 26, 2015

"Hearts Made Whole" by Jody Hedlund - high stakes and high tension

Cover ArtIn the second Beacons of Hope novel, a series focusing on female lightkeepers on the Michigan coast, Caroline, who has been running the lighthouse singlehandedly since her father's death, is suddenly evicted from her post, along with all four of her siblings, in favor of a war veteran with no experience. Ryan Chambers is not capable of running the light, and he knows it--the pain from his war wounds keeps him addicted to opium and alcohol, and he doesn't have the strength to fight it. Recognizing his inability, he allows Caroline and her siblings to stay on indefinitely, if she would teach him how to properly run the light. However, someone is intent on scaring Caroline away. When the saboteur threatens her family, who will she turn to for help?

I really like Ryan as the hero. He has a number of things to overcome, but he is both fun and gentle. He knows when to be humble, and yet he is not afraid to step into authority. I cannot help but compare him to Arnie, who, under his father's thumb, is more boy than man, for all that he is no child. Ryan is all man. A wounded man, but a mature man who has survived the world, who, when in his clear mind, will not let himself be dominated.

However, it's clear that Ryan's addictions to both opium and alcohol cripple him more than his missing fingers and wounded arm. Not having experience with addictions such as these, I can only guess at the best route to success, but I think the author portrays a reasonable path to healing. There is balance: Ryan needs help to overcome temptation; on his own, he cannot find the motivation or encouragement to break free, and that is where Caroline is so good for him. However, there is also a time when he has to leave the nest and no longer rely on other people to keep him on the right path. God has given us friends, partners, and fellowship so we don't have to go it alone, but ultimately, at the heart, we have to rely on Him, not just human support.

The sibling rivalry between Caroline and Tessa is well written, and the invalid sister Sarah upped the stakes in the tale. However, I would have liked more attention and personality bestowed on the twins, who felt more like a plot device than real boys. After how realistically the child in Love Unexpected was portrayed, I was a little disappointed in this one. It will definitely be interesting to see how Tessa manages in the next book, given her choices and dislike of lighthouses.

I have to say, the author is talented at taking a bad situation and making it even worse (but in a good way). Certain moments made me cringe and groan and want to bury my head beneath a pillow to block out the horror, but they also kept the story moving at a fair clip, once I gathered the nerve face them. As usual, Hedlund maintains tension masterfully, whether it be through conflict, inner turmoil, or romantic tension, before finally arriving at a satisfying conclusion.

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for providing an e-copy for review. I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own.

Beacons of Hope
0.5. "Out of the Storm"
1. Love Unexpected
2. Hearts Made Whole 
3. Undaunted Hope

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