Pressured into impressing a wealthy politician into a marriage proposal, Lydia King is happy to do her part for the Teaville Moral Society. However, the task set up by the politician's mother--convincing the wealthy but notorious Nicholas Lowe to contribute a donation--proves difficult when the man refuses. After much persistence on Lydia's part, the man agrees to contribute to charity, but not in the way she expects. Neither can foresee the effect their work will have on the town--or their own hearts.
Considering the heavy topics addressed in the story, the author does a good job of keeping it a story and not devolving into a sermon. Lydia and Nicholas's romance develops steadily and believably, and I especially enjoyed the excitement of the latter half of the book, when the pace picks up and the consequences of people's choices become apparent.
I appreciated the realism portrayed in the story; while we want to read about prostitutes leaving their work and creating a new life, the reality was much less optimistic--former prostitutes rarely got out and stayed out, and even fewer had a happy ending. This book leaves the reader with hope for some of the characters, but no guarantee of their future: realistic, yet not without hope.
For a story set in the early 1900's, it sure is still relevant and convicting today. There is a strong focus on works and charity, or more importantly, the motivation behind them, but judging takes a strong role too as Lydia and Nicholas butt heads with each other and the town. I'm glad that the author took care to balance Lydia and Nicholas, so that both have good insights yet neither is wholly right. Nicholas might be correct that the church contains some pretty awful hypocrites, but Lydia is right that the church should not be condemned for a few; there are still many in it who are seeking God.
It's definitely thought-provoking. The sort of book to push you out of your comfort zone.
Thank you Bethany House for providing a free book to review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.
The Teaville Moral Society
0.5: "Engaging the Competition" (from the With This Ring? novella collection)
1. A Heart Most Certain
2. A Love So True