The Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund is a retelling of the epic romance between John (writer of Pilgrim's Progress) and Elizabeth Bunyan and her vital role in his ministry. Elizabeth Whitbread has resigned herself as being unattractive and lucky to have the attention of town cooper, Samuel Muddle, when she is asked to take on the job of housekeeper for tinker John Costin and his four children. John often travels the countryside preaching, so he needs someone to care for the children, especially Mary, who is blind, and Thomas, who is only a few weeks old and slowly starving to death after the death of his mother from childbed fever. John is unconvinced as to his need of a housekeeper, especially when the town elders immediately begin encouraging him to marry. Elizabeth fights to save Thomas' life by finding him a wet nurse and soon falls in love with all of the children and they her, but John's distrust of her, then his courtship of another woman keep the couple apart, despite their growing feelings. Hedlund's writing captures the paranoid era at the end of Cromwell rule in England, with the cracking down of Anglicans on local preachers without education, which soon threatens John's life. Elizabeth, like her sister Catherine says often, is a little too perfect, but she's a woman who constantly keeps her eyes on God at all times, with enormous strength and courage. The story is compelling and filled with suspense, a thoroughly enjoyable read. I look forward to reading more from Hedlund in the future.
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Christy Lockstein (ChristysBookBlog1)
I'm a happily married mother of three. I review books daily on my blog Christy's Book Blog. I love to read, and I love the Lord. Those four things really define my life.
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Hedlund's debut novel is no light-hearted romp through history. Instead, this double finalist in the 2009 ACFW Genesis Contest for unpublished writers takes on 1650s England during the final days of Cromwell's reign. The Puritans had enjoyed years of freedom, but as Royalists begin to regain power, preachers like John Costin face danger. Costin's wife dies, leaving four children behind, one of them blind and another, newborn. Elizabeth Whitbread, who sees children in need, volunteers to become Costin's housekeeper. She comes to love the children and, eventually, John, yet she is bound by strict Puritan standards and her promise to marry another. Elizabeth faces the threats of a Royalist, the rebukes of powerful Puritans, and the turmoil of her feelings as political events threaten all she holds dear. Hedlund, who based her tale on the life of John Bunyan, writes well of life in Puritan England, though the middle drags and readers will become annoyed with the stubbornness of Costin. Yet this is a fine beginning for a writer we'll hear from again. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.