Monday, September 30, 2013

A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund -- OPTIONAL

Hedlund, Jody A Noble Groom, 369 pgs. Bethany House Publishers, 2013. $15. Content: PG-13.

German Pioneer Annalisa Werner finds herself widowed, pregnant, and destitute in the 1881 Michigan wilderness. If she doesn't work her land, she'll lose her homestead, but the feat is impossible without a husband, so her father writes to his brother in Europe, requesting a match for Annalissa. In the meantime, she's stuck with Carl, a stranger who seems, well, a lot more noble than he claims.

Rich, entitled Carl von Reichert will soon face execution for a crime he did not commit. But Annalisa's uncle saves him on one condition: he will travel across the ocean to America, a land of peasants, and help Annalisa work her homestead until her real husband arrives. While noble-born Carl has his misgivings -- after all, what does he know about the backbreaking work of farming? -- it's his only choice. Tough as his new existence is, however, it has unexpected perks. Not only is the exhausting and stressful life of a farmer intensely rewarding, but he's beginning to fall in love with Annalisa. Too bad she's totally inappropriate. After all, she's poor, uneducated, and far from the noble bride his father would have approved of. Not to mention she's promised to another man. Of course, Carl's not perfect either. He's got a secret so huge that if Annalisa discovers it she'll never choose him over the stranger to whom she's promised.

Although written for an adult audience, the voice, language, and characters in this inspirational would be approachable for a number of teens, especially those who are ready to move toward adult novels but aren't mature enough for the more risqué scenes in many books. There are some references to bedroom happenings, but the constraints of the inspirational genre mean such incidents occur behind closed doors and are limited to married couples. The romance is sweet, respectful, and well-developed, and Hedlund did an admirable job of making the poor immigrant settlers' experiences come to life. Giant swaths of introspection -- especially with the main characters asking themselves question after question -- lend the book a melodramatic feel in some spots and seem to push readers toward particular conclusions instead of letting them arrive there on their own. Still, the characters' reactions do deepen the emotional resonance, and the quick pacing and action-packed plot outweigh the excessive ruminating. The religious element does come into play, although it is not preachy and seems fitting for the time period and backgrounds of the characters.

HS, Adult -- OPTIONAL. Reviewed by: Caryn

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