Saturday, September 24, 2011

Christian Fiction Book Club: The Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund

Don't you just hate those hoity-toity book clubs where you have to get all dolled up and pretend like you know which wine pairs with which meat before you even get to even sniff a book in the air, let alone talk about it? Well, good news: we don't play that game here. Here at the Christian Fiction Book Club, you can show up as pretty as a picture (or as pretty as Lovely Lydia, our host for this month) or like I usually do: unshowered, hairy-legged, and still in my jammies. So... whether you're dripping in diamonds or drooping in your fave sweats... welcome!

As I mentioned above, this month's CFBC selection is being hosted by Lydia at The Overweight Bookshelf and features a romantic historical novel, The Preacher's Bride, by author Jody Hedlund.

Here's the sitch, as it appears in the blurb at the Barnes and Noble website:

In 1650s England, a young Puritan maiden is on a mission to save the baby of her newly widowed preacher—whether her assistance is wanted or not. Always ready to help those in need, Elizabeth ignores John's protests of her aid. She's even willing to risk her lone marriage prospect to help the little family.

Yet Elizabeth's new role as nanny takes a dangerous turn when John's boldness from the pulpit makes him a target of political and religious leaders. As the preacher's enemies become desperate to silence him, they draw Elizabeth into a deadly web of deception. Finding herself in more danger than she ever bargained for, she's more determined than ever to save the child—and man—she's come to love.

I'll be honest. I did not enter this book with a positive attitude. For one thing, it looked like a typical, Christian bonnet-book, to which I hold a bit of, ahem, prejudice against. And secondly: I hated the title.

When I see the word "bride" in a novel's title, I tend to expect a way-too-sweet, formula romance -- the kind that makes you want to go suck on a jalapeno just to temper the aftergag. But...

... that's not what I got with Jody Hedlund's new novel.

I got a thoughtfully written, emotionally straining, and sensually written story.

In all honesty, I enjoyed this book on so many levels that I actually felt some mild pangs of guilt about my preconceived ideas about brides and bonnets on this cover. It was a good book. It was a well-written book. It was a sensual book.

"A sensual book?" you ask. "About Puritans?"


Hedlund translates the restraint of the Puritan culture so beautifully that even the most seemingly innocuous touches between John and Elizabeth seem almost scandalous; yet within the framework of that culture of innocence and restraint, those moments are written in alluringly passionate prose. It's been a long time since I've read such an innocently sensual book.

HOLD UP! This is, after all, a Book Club Discussion, not a regular review. So before I tarry any longer (and risk getting all hot and bothered thinking about those hand holds and long-moment glances) I'd better get after a question or two from the author's online Discussion Guide.

1. Elizabeth compares her physical appearance to the women around her and feels like a plain moth among beautiful butterflies. Why do women have such a tendency to compare themselves to others? What are the results of such comparisons? And how can we avoid the comparison trap?

Can I first say that I seriously wanted to clap when Samuel got married? Sorry, but that was justice, peeps. But to answer the question: ARGH! Why do we do that to ourselves? I made a note in my Kindle after one particular passage: How many women suffer from "look at me, I can't expect better." and end up with some loser?

What's sad is that, even in our modern society this still goes on. I don't know why we do it. -- Why I do it. -- Or how to avoid it. I suppose if I/we knew why, then I/we wouldn't do it. And then the therapists would all be broke, wiping down tables at Chilis. And what would THAT do to our economy, eh?

6. When Elizabeth lost her baby, she felt abandoned by God and by John. Have you ever felt abandoned by God or someone you love? How did you recover? What do you think of Sister Norton's statement, "Hardships are the Lord's greatest blessings to a believer. Without them we would love the Lord only for what He does for us. Our troubles teach us to love Him for who He is."

I miscarried a baby between my two girls. I felt abandoned, yes. By God, my husband, and the myriad people who said insensitive things. Sister Norton's words didn't bug me in the novel -- they came off as wisdom. And it IS wisdom. But looking at them here, imagining them spoken to me during my grief? Well, it seems a bit like Elizabeth just got Jesus Juked. Sometimes you just need someone to come along side you in silence or in agreement: "This sucks. I am so sorry this happened to you." When you feel abandoned by God in real life you don't need someone to tell you "Chin up, God will make this be awesome for you someday." Grief is big. It doesn't negate what you KNOW about God, it simply blankets it with what you FEEL about Him. When you feel abandoned, you need time, silence, friendship, and compassion. The words of wisdom, the graceful guidance, the merciful leading -- that comes later. But... it works in a novel and, therefore, I'll let Sister Norton slide by this one time. ;-)


Until I read the author's notes at the end, I didn't realize that The Preacher's Bride was based on true story. It was gratifying to see a piece of history and a hero of the faith (and of Story) fictionalized with such finesse, and I greatly enjoyed the tension-riddled, but beautiful love story within The Preacher's Bride. I found this novel to be engrossing, sensual, and beautifully written. Read it, if you haven't. If you have, please join in on the Book Club discussion -- even if your legs are hairy and you smell funny, you are most welcome to join us!

Serena's Rating:

This month's Christian Fiction Book Club is being hosted by Lydia at The Overweight Bookshelf. Be sure to link up your discussion questions over there! Thanks for dropping by!


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