Love Unexpected: Beacons of Hope, Book One
Can one woman’s deepest dreams and desires come true?
On the surface, to Emma Chambers, it seems not. Her fondest hope and wish has been a home and a family of her own. But her life has been full of great struggle, and male admirers have not only been rare, they’ve been nonexistent. Emma and her younger brother, Ryan, are orphaned, nearly destitute Irish immigrants in 1859 Michigan. Having lost their mother as children, the siblings have recently endured their father’s passing as well. Hoping to improve their lot in life, they leave Mackinac Island in search of better work. Yet on Lake Huron, the steamboat they’re traveling on is attacked (of all things) by a greedy and violent band of pirates, who take everything of value on the ship, including the last coins Emma and Ryan have left. As the pirates leave the steamboat, they toss a kerosene lamp on the deck, which breaks and starts a fire that cannot be contained.
"Jody Hedlund is enormously gifted in taking historical figures and bringing them to life with great believability.... She accomplishes exactly this with her newest heroine, Emma. You’ll cheer her on in her adventures with life, love and pirates."
Emma and Ryan manage to escape the ship; paddling alongside a floating barrel, they swim toward the shore. Seeing a bright light in the distance, the two kick towards what emerges from the darkness as a lighthouse; they’re hoping to reach shore before their sodden clothes pull them under. Just as Emma’s last bit of strength ebbs away, a pair of strong arms pulls her out of the water and into a boat. They indeed have been rescued, by the Presque Isle lighthouse keeper, Patrick Garraty.
All Emma has ever wanted was the imagined home and family, like the real one in her distant memory, before her mom died and her father fell apart. Yet, as the years passed by, no one pursued her. And her dreams were pushed down, replaced by the hard work required for survival, and by caring for Ryan. Now, as they’ve lost their money and their few belongings to the pirates and the burning, sinking steamboat, Emma’s dreams seem farther away than ever.
Yet, perhaps not! The day after their rescue, Emma meets the local circuit preacher, Holy Bill, who believes he has the perfect solution for her dilemma.
Holy Bill has returned to Presque Isle to conduct a funeral. Patrick’s wife, Delia, met with an accident, falling down the lighthouse’s steps to her death. She has left behind not only her husband, but also their toddler son, Josiah. Both Holy Bill and Patrick know that there is no way he can run the lighthouse all night and care for his young son all day. The circuit preacher believes that Emma’s appearance and lack of prospects are a direct answer to his prayer for both Patrick and Josiah.
Faced with her own lack of resources and Holy Bill’s fervent approval of Patrick as a godly man of great character, Emma agrees to marry the lighthouse keeper. She doesn’t know him at all; she doesn’t know too much about children or marriage; and she knows nothing about keeping a lighthouse. She also doesn’t know about the secrets of Patrick’s past. But what other options does she have?
Upon their marriage, Emma starts learning just how much she doesn’t know. Young Josiah begins to test her, and she has no idea how to respond. She has never cooked anything but coffee, and finds her limits tested and exceeded in the kitchen. She befriends the local gossip, who does provide excellent cooking lessons but proves less than a trusted friend. And she begins to know Patrick…very slowly. Will Emma’s dreams of a home and family be fulfilled, or is her new husband unworthy of her?
Jody Hedlund is enormously gifted in taking historical figures and bringing them to life with great believability. I have often read her books, thinking I was reading about someone who was completely fictional, only to discover that she had taken an actual person and breathed such life into her that I almost would have expected to meet the character on the street. She accomplishes exactly this with her newest heroine, Emma. You’ll cheer her on in her adventures with life, love and pirates.
Reviewed by Melanie Reynolds on February 26, 2015