I always find it interesting when an author takes an unlikable secondary character from a previous novel and makes him or her the main character in another novel. Sometimes this works; sometimes it doesn't; but I'm always intrigued.
In Undaunted Hope, Jody Hedlund takes the rather despicable Tessa from Hearts Made Whole and turns her into a spunky heroine. And it works magnificently.
Tessa Taylor arrives in 1870s Upper Peninsula, Michigan, planning to serve as a new teacher to the town. Much to her dismay, however, she immediately learns that there was a mistake, that the town had requested a male teacher. Percival Updegraff, superintendent and chief mine clerk, says she can stay through winter since they won't be able to locate a new teacher before then, and Tessa can't help but say she is in his debt. Little does she know that Percival will indeed keep track of all that she owes him.
Determined to become indispensable, Tessa throws herself into teaching, and soon the children of the widowed lighthouse keeper have decided she's the right match for their grieving father. Their uncle and assistant light keeper, Alex Bjorklund, has his own feelings for Tessa. As the two brothers begin competing for her hand, Tessa increasingly feels that someone is tracking her every move, and she may not be able to escape the trap that has been laid for her.
When Undaunted Hope begins, Tessa, who really was the bane of her sister Caroline's existence in Hearts Made Whole, has become a school teacher who longs to put her checkered past behind her. When she meets Alex and Michael Bjorklund, they both fall for her. Complicating matters even more is Tessa's determination to stay away from lighthouses, as Michael is the light keeper, and Alex is his assistant.
Though Undaunted Hope does contain a love triangle, the reader never questions which brother Tessa will ultimately choose (though Hedlund does throw in a few twists to keep things interesting). Tessa did pick the brother that was right for her, but I vastly preferred the other brother, and I would enjoy reading his love story.
You know how sometimes your own feelings can be projected onto what you're reading? Well, I was highly turned off by Alex's insistence that Tessa was "his" after a few kisses. Excuse me, sir, but a woman isn't "yours" unless she has chosen to be! (Mildly feminist rant over.) So I know that tainted my perception of the romance, which overall was highly satisfying ... once I got past Alex's caveman tendencies.
My issue with the romance aside, there were other aspects of the novel that I simply adored. Percival Updegraff was just about the perfect villain—smug, smarmy, and seemingly untouchable. While I couldn't wait for him to get his comeuppance, I was truly surprised and pleased with the way in which he came to his downfall. Percival's brother Samuel was one of my favorite characters (though I didn't anticipate that at all from his first appearance on the page), and I loved the relationship Tessa cultivated with him. Plus, Michael's children were completely adorable, and they added much to the novel.
Overall, Undaunted Hope is a wonderful historical romance—it is exactly what I have come to expect from Jody Hedlund. 4 stars.
Buy the book.
Read my reviews of Hedlund's Hearts Made Whole (book one in the Beacons of Hope series, 5 stars), An Uncertain Choice (5 stars), The Vow (a prequel novella to An Uncertain Choice, 4 stars) A Noble Groom (5 stars), Unending Devotion (5 stars).
Jody Hedlund is an award-winning and bestselling historical fiction author. She won the 2011 Inspirational Reader's Choice Award, the 2011 Award of Excellence from the Colorado Romance Writers and was a finalist for Best Debut Novel in the 2011 ACFW Carol Awards. Currently she makes her home in central Michigan, with her husband and five busy children. She loves hearing from readers on Facebook and on her blog.
Find Jody online: website, Twitter, Facebook