Monday, November 5, 2012

"A Promise to Love" Review

Ingrid Larsen finds herself in the woods of Michigan in 1871 after emigrating from Sweden. She and her twin brother, Hans, have plans to make a great life for themselves in America. But Ingrid has not been able to locate her brother, who is in one of the many lumber camps throughout the state, and she is currently employed by a harsh taskmaster.

Joshua Hunter faced many battles during his time in the Union army, but nothing prepared him for the loss of his beloved wife. With five young children to raise and many in the town questioning his wife’s mysterious death, Joshua does not know where to turn.

When Ingrid and Joshua impulsively decide to get married, they think that many of their problems will be solved. But their challenges are only beginning.
Will Ingrid be strong enough to fight for her new family, and will Joshua ever feel more for his new wife than just gratitude? Ingrid and Joshua will both have to rely on their faith in God and their promise to each other to find their way to love.

Marriage of convenience or mail-order bride novels seem to be favorites among historical fiction authors, but they are also some of my favorite stories to read. A Promise to Love started as a marriage of convenience story but turned into so much more.
I especially liked how the plot partially incorporated Joshua’s late wife, Diantha. Many marriage of convenience books barely mention the first wife or if they do, they portray her as a saint. I thought it was genuine that Joshua’s first wife would have a major role to play in his new relationship with Ingrid. The investigation into her death also added dimension to the plot. It was interesting that Diantha was portrayed as a less-than-perfect wife and mother which stood in stark contrast to Ingrid’s instant love for the children and excellent work ethic. I appreciated how Joshua and Ingrid handled the things that came to light about Diantha, but I wish they had been a bit more compassionate when thinking about her.

This novel was a bit gritty at times and difficult to read because of its straightforwardness and because of its emotion, but this made the characters and the situations seem very realistic. Ingrid’s Swedish ‘accent’ was hard to read and follow at times, but I soon got used to it and it lent to the credibility of the novel. While Ingrid’s way of speaking was convincing, I kind of wondered why all of these people who were from Michigan spoke in what read like Southern accents. Maybe most of the people had migrated from the South after the war or maybe the accent was supposed to be more ‘country’ than Southern, but it just felt a little out of place.
I thought this novel was engaging and, aside from the accents, I thought the characters were written very well. I really felt the emotions of the main characters, and the secondary characters came alive (the evil characters were really evil) without overshadowing the two primary characters.­ However, I thought that some of the sentence structure was awkward. Occasionally I would have to read a rather long sentence two or three times to get its meaning. I also thought that the scene changes (from Joshua’s thoughts to Ingrid’s thoughts) were frequent and sometimes abrupt. I am hoping some of this was due to the electronic copy that I had – there was nothing to note scene breaks – and not to the style in which the book was written.

The romance between Joshua and Ingrid was fairly typical for a marriage of convenience story, but it was still interesting to read. I thought that Ingrid fell in love a bit too quickly but that Joshua’s side of things was more true-to-life. Even though I thought Ingrid’s infatuation was not quite convincing at first and that she was trying too hard to earn Joshua’s love, I loved the moment in the book when she gave all of her work over to God. That was really a touching moment.
The spiritual side of this book kind of went back and forth a lot. Sometimes it would come across really clearly, and other times it would be really vague. But I guess this once again contributed to the realism that was portrayed in this book. When the main characters were struggling, then their faith did not shine through. But when they turned to God and relied on His strength, then His love shone brightly.

The ending of this novel was very exciting and almost completely satisfying. I would have liked a little bit more detail on where Joshua and Ingrid went from there – maybe even an additional chapter showing us what happened rather than an epilogue telling a bunch of facts about what would happen.
In this novel, there was a lot going on. It seemed to have more meat to it than the typical historical romance and marriage of convenience story. The events and the characters – both their strengths and weaknesses – all contributed to a realistic story that was knitted together with faith, hope, and love.

I will give A Promise to Love … 3 ½ BookWorms.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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