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When a financial crisis in 1850s New York leaves three orphaned sisters nearly destitute, the oldest, Elise Neumann, knows she must take action. She’s had experience as a seamstress, and the New York Children’s Aid Society has established a special service: placing out seamstresses and trade girls. Even though Elise doesn’t want to leave her sisters for a job in Illinois, she realizes this may be their last chance.
The son of one of New York City’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, Thornton Quincy faces a dilemma. His father is dying, and in order to decide which of his sons will inherit everything, he is requiring them to do two things in six months: build a sustainable town along the Illinois Central Railroad, and get married. Thornton is tired of standing in his twin brother’s shadow and is determined to win his father’s challenge. He doesn’t plan on meeting a feisty young woman on his way west, though.
One of my FAVORITE aspects of historical fiction is the spark that makes readers want to dig deeper into the history surrounding the story and find out more. Jody Hedlund consistently excels at creating that spark, bringing history to life while also crafting an authentic, entertaining, and heartwarming story.
The danger, destitution, and desperation of New York City’s poor immigrants during this period is vividly portrayed and contrasted against the abundant work opportunities available across the fresh, wide open expanses of central Illinois farmland. Elise Neumann’s life in the city is in a constant state of “between a rock and a filthy, hard place.” She and her younger sisters are literally fighting for survival while struggling to care for a pair of young orphans.
Thornton Quincy has the potential to become a great leader. Despite his ignorance of the hardships endured by the working class, his moral compass is true. Thornton has a lot to learn about the cost of a hard day’s work and he needs to weigh what he discovers against his father’s expectations for his business and future.
This story touched my heart and had me looking up old railroad maps from the time period. I’m eagerly anticipating each new story in this series and highly recommend this book!
I requested the opportunity to read this book through the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.
About the Author
Winner of the 2016 Christian Book Award and finalist for the Christy Awards, best-selling author Jody Hedlund writes inspirational historical romances for both youth and adults.
Jody lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy children, and five spoiled cats. Although Jody prefers to experience daring and dangerous adventures through her characters rather than in real life, she’s learned that a calm existence is simply not meant to be (at least in this phase of her life!).
When she’s not penning another of her page-turning stories, she loves to spend her time reading, especially when it also involves consuming coffee and chocolate.
What year was your hometown (or current city) established? Was your town founded on a specific industry (railroad, farming, shipping, lumber, etc.)?