Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"Rebellious Heart" Review

Susanna Smith, a young woman living in Massachusetts in 1763, has almost everything she could ever want. The one thing lacking in her life is that she has been unable to receive as complete an education as her younger brother. Since she is a woman from a highly respected family, there is not much more expected from Susanna than to marry well.

Susanna has all but resigned herself to this fact when she is reacquainted with Benjamin Ross, a country lawyer who, despite his Harvard education, is lacking the wealth and status that Susanna’s mother requires in a match for her daughter. But the more time Susanna spends with Ben, the more she wonders if there could be more to a marriage relationship than just a societal match.

Before long, Susanna finds herself involved with Ben in much more than just a burgeoning friendship. Susanna discovers a runaway indentured servant and enlists Ben’s help in aiding the poor girl. In addition, Ben is outspoken about his beliefs over the rights and liberties of the colonists, and the British army is determined to discover who is behind the smuggling that is taking place all over Massachusetts – no matter the cost.

In these uncertain times, will Ben and Susanna have the strength to choose do what is right despite the obstacles that stand in the way of their freedom and of their love?

Based on the romantic relationship between John and Abigail Adams, Rebellious Heart is a rich description of the tumultuous times leading up to the American Revolution and those who had a part in the pursuit of American liberty.

As was true of Jody Hedlund’s other novels, Rebellious Heart immediately swept me into the story, both historically and with the characters. I could picture the landscape and feel the emotions of the characters as the story was told. This was especially true with the adventure of Susanna and Ben helping Dotty, the runaway indentured servant. I was breathless at times as they were being chased while trying to transport Dotty to safety.

Throughout this novel I marveled at how historically rich it was and how it seemed to be so realistic to the times. It was so interesting to see bits and pieces of the various things that led up to the American Revolution. I sometimes think of this as a shorter time period, but in reality, there were years and years of oppression by the king that led to the declaration of independence in 1776 and then finally to war. I thought it was fascinating to see these years fleshed out even more in a historical fiction novel.

While Susanna’s dilemma of having to obey her parents and marry well instead of for love is a much-used plotline in historical fiction, this one had more depth to it than some novels do.  There was more wrapped up in Susanna’s not being able to be with Ben than just her mother’s opposition. Susanna knew how much Ben was involved in the growing dissonance towards the king, and she had to decide for herself what she was willing to sacrifice to be with him.

Even though Ben and Susanna’s relationship had some interesting romantic obstacles and they shared some difficult circumstances, their romance wasn’t as interesting as I had hoped. Susanna longed for someone to see her as more than just a pretty face, and Ben did fulfill this role. But some of the descriptions of their times together were just too much for me. I got a bit bored with hearing once again how Ben took Susanna’s hand and kissed her wrist or how he longed to kiss her neck and her lips. I don’t mind these descriptions in a romance – after all, the main characters need to be attracted to each other. I just got tired of reading about it over and over and over in this novel. I just wasn’t as engaged in their romance for some reason. I kept wanting to get back to the other storylines.

I also thought that the mystery aspect of this novel, along with the story about the runaway indentured servant, was gruesome at times. While it did make the story more realistic, it was sometimes too much.

The message of this novel was something that came across very clear. Should we always submit to earthly authority? What about times when obeying God will cause us to defy that authority? Shouldn’t we oppose tyranny and live according to the laws of a holy God rather than imperfect man? This novel really makes you think about these situations and what the Bible says about it.

I will give Rebellious Heart ... 4 BookWorms.

Rebellious Heart
by Jody Hedlund
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: September 15, 2013

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House 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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