In Her Darkest Hours, Is He the Man She Needs?
Lily Young longs to find her lost sister or will die trying. Heedless of any danger, she searches logging camps and towns, posing as a photographer’s assistant. And then she arrives in Harrison, Michigan–and the sights of Connell McCormick.
Connell is determined to increase the fortune of his lumber-baron father and figures as long as he’s living an upright life, that’s what matters. But when Lily arrives in town she upends his world, forcing him to confront the truth that dangerous men have gained too much power while good men turn a blind eye.
Vexing but persuasive, Lily soon secures Connell’s help, drawing them ever closer to each other. Will standing for what’s right cost them both everything?
Inspired by true events, Unending Devotion places a spotlight on the lumber industry’s apathy towards white slavery and human trafficking in the late 1800s through an emotive and compelling fictional story of one woman’s relentless search for her indentured sister. This book is not only a work of historical fiction, but a medium through which to consider the present state of society and the prolific human trafficking trade that continues to thrive through the exploitation of women and children.
I read this book sitting curled up in my favourite armchair with the last remnants of summer bathing me in warmth; yet, I did not feel that warmth for how deeply I was drawn in to the frigid Michigan winter. Rarely have I experienced being so immersed in the experience of a novel (especially historical fiction) as I was with Unending Devotion. The scents–from sweet spice of white pine, to the soiled stench of clothing after hours of labouring–and sights of a place and time I have never visited became eerily familiar.
Lily is a character that loves fearlessly and fights with brave conviction. Willing to sacrifice her safety and future to find her young sister in the midst of the chaotic and morally infested logging towns of northern Michigan, she is equally as dedicated to rescuing young women along the way. She is a human rights activist and urban missionary before those roles were even recognized. Her passion and–yes– unending devotion make her a heroine that few can find fault in, in spite of her impetuous nature.
I had a definite image of Connell imprinted in my imagination and was pleasantly shocked that the same actor’s face that flitted in my mind’s eye was pinned on Jody’s inspiration board for this novel: Chris Hemsworth. There is no other face that suits Connell and the fact that this fictional character could stir such a recognition in my consciousness is a testament to Jody’s skill at character description. While Connell was cast in the traditional role of hero, he had his own character arc and growth that enriched story and brought complexity to the plot.
In light of the thematic nature of this novel, Jody had to tread carefully when penning Lily and Connell’s relationship. Theirs was a passion of restraint and tension that had a pulse racing effect. She clearly juxtaposed the lewd lust and debasing actions that Lily was arduously fighting against with the nurturing love between her and Connell. For comedic relief amidst the depth of the plot there was Oren, Lily’s cantankerous and loveable adoptive father that made sure that the fear of God was placed in any man that breathed in Lily’s direction.
Jody Hedlund is still a relative new comer but based on her works thus far, you would never know. She holds a coveted place on my bookshelf alongside my favourite historical fiction writers such as Laura Frantz, Liz Curtis Higgs, Julie Lessman, Deeanne Gist and Siri Mitchell. Treat yourself to a reading experience you will not soon forget.
**Disclosure: Review copy provided by Litfuse Publicity**