Saturday, October 5, 2013

Rebellious Heart.

Last fall, I won Jody Hedlund's book Unending Devotion in a Goodreads giveaway. I wasn't too excited about reading it, but I ended up really loving the story. So when I saw that she was releasing a new book this fall, I knew I wanted to read it.

Before I say anything else, I have to say that I loved Rebellious Heart. It ranks among the very best historical fiction I've read this year...probably tied with Julie Klassen's The Tutor's Daughter. :)

Sometimes it takes me a while to feel settled in a story, especially when it comes to historical fiction. Does that make sense? I remember that happening with Unending Devotion. That wasn't the case with this book. I was drawn in right from the beginning. The book starts with a pretty dramatic courtroom scene that sets the tone for the entire book. Sure, this is a romance, and the focus is on the relationship between Susanna and Ben. But there is so much more than just romance happening in the story.

The pre-Revolutionary War setting was interesting. This is only the second piece of historical fiction I've read that takes place in colonial times. You can just feel the tension and growing discontent among the colonists as the king's demands get worse. I've never really thought about it before: how dangerous it was to voice opposition to the king during this time. And Susanna's beliefs about this were especially interesting, though a bit annoying sometimes. The setting seemed so real to me. Sometimes I read HF and even though I know the time period and place it's supposed to be occurring, I don't have a real grasp on what that means and the setting feels kind of generic. But with this story (much like The Tutor's Daughter, which is probably why they feel similar to me), I could imagine the seaside setting and see every scene as it played out.

There is so much suspenseful action in this book. Seriously....there are constant threats and close calls and at several points in the story, especially toward the end, I was wondering how on earth everything could work out for a happy ending. It makes you feel sort of helpless when the good characters can't prove the wrongdoings of the villains. I don't want to spoil the ending, but I was really pleased it, especially Dotty's outcome. Speaking of Dotty, it annoyed me so much that Susanna had to keep the fact that she was helping an abused runaway indentured servant a secret! I understand that, at that time, it was illegal to aid runaways, but that drives me crazy. I don't see how anyone could have thought it was wrong to help someone who had been abused (and severely punished her for running away from that situation!).

The romance in Rebellious Heart was sweet and definitely swoon-worthy. :) I have to admit it that it bugged me at the very beginning when it seemed like their relationship was built on physical attraction only. They clearly disliked each other, but they were still getting pretty close, and I was like, is their relationship really going to be all about how much they want to kiss each other? :) And also, some of their behavior seemed pretty forward and modern (nearly scandalous?) for that time period. But don't worry, it gets much better (after a few awkward moments). Further along in the story you see them really falling for each other in a deeper way than before. I like how Susanna and Ben change throughout the story and how they influence each other for the good. They sort of soften each other's flaws.

So yes...I really loved this book. It was so much better than I expected. If you're looking for a romance with a wonderful colonial setting with suspense and courtroom drama and suspicious Redcoats and runaway indentured servants (or even if you're not :), you need to read this book. I look forward to checking out more of Jody Hedlund's books!

"In 1763 Massachusetts, Susanna Smith has grown up with everything she's ever wanted, except one thing: an education. Because she's a female, higher learning has been closed to her, but her quick mind and quicker tongue never back down from a challenge. She's determined to put her status to good use, reaching out to the poor and deprived. And she knows when she marries well, she will be able to continue her work with the less fortunate.

Ben Ross grew up a farmer's son and has nothing to his name but his Harvard education. A poor country lawyer, he doesn't see how he'll be able to fulfill his promise to make his father proud of him. When family friends introduce him to the Smith family, he's drawn to quick-witted Susanna but knows her family expects her to marry well. When Susanna's decision to help an innocent woman no matter the cost crosses with Ben's growing disillusionment with their British rulers, the two find themselves bound together in what quickly becomes a very dangerous fight for justice." - Summary written by Goodreads

*Note: I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.*

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