cover image A Reluctant Bride

A Reluctant Bride

Jody Hedlund. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-7642-3295-4

Hedlund (With You Always) opens the Bride Ships series with a lively story about the Victorian class system; the workings of bride ships, which traveled to the English settlement of Vancouver Island; and the place of women in that society. In 1862, Mercy Wilkins lives in the London slums, and after finding a dying infant and bringing her to the hospital, she meets Lord Joseph Colville, an aristocrat filling in for the regular doctor. Then, desperate to escape her destitution, Mercy reluctantly signs up for a bride ship sailing for Vancouver, and she meets Joseph again onboard the Tynemouth, where Joseph is the ship’s surgeon. Although she gets onboard by agreeing to become a bride, she actually has no intention of marrying once she arrives. Mercy becomes Joseph’s assistant when seasickness strikes the passengers, and he comes to admire her caring spirit. There are many who want to keep them apart, with the rigid class system of the day and the ship’s gossip forming a barrier between Mercy and Joseph. Once in Vancouver, they encounter new prejudices, but also new freedoms that allow them to get to know one another. Weaving in faith elements organically, Hedlund explores the prejudices, restrictions, and moral codes of the Victorian era, as well as what it means to know oneself and to love someone. This excellent series launch will leave fans eager for the next entry. (June)