I make it no secret that I love, love, love the stories that come from Jody Hedlund’s brain. (She doesn’t pay me to say that; I’d say it for free. But I did get a free copy of the book in exchange for my review.)
What a treat to have a second new release from her this year, Rebellious Heart. (If you missed my review of A Noble Groom, you can find it here.)
I thought that one would be hard to top, and it was. Is. In fact, I was a little disappointed when I finished Rebellious Heart because it didn’t leave me with the same sigh-worthy feelings as A Noble Groom.
So I did something I rarely do with any book: I read it again. In the same week.
Because I knew it was a good story, but I felt like I had missed it. And what I learned in the re-reading is that this story crafted by Hedlund is almost like a symphony. I’m no music expert, but I know it takes a trained ear to discover the nuances of all the instruments working together. I think the same could be said of this book. In Rebellious Heart, there’s a story on the surface: a fictional re-creation of the courtship of John and Abigail Adams. (In the book their names are Ben Ross and Susanna Smith.) They have history with each other, unpleasant at times, with similar obstacles to Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. We see their relationship change and bloom in 1760s Massachusetts, and overall, it is an enchanting love story.
On second reading, I appreciated the little things so much more. John and Abigail Adams are known for their letters to each other, showing a sweet love that spanned five decades. They referred to each other as “the dearest of friends.” In the book, Ben and Susanna often trade witty comments in a sort of intelligent flirtation. It’s the sort of romance that is based on intellectual stimulation as well as physical attraction, the former adding to the latter. As a lover of words, I savored their exchanges.
Ben takes notice early in the book.
The intelligence and decisiveness of her responses were like a shot of energy in his veins. There was something entirely refreshing about a young woman who wasn’t afraid to voice her thoughts and spar intelligent words with a man. Most women he’d met didn’t have the slightest interest in the latest political situation involving the king, nor did they have any thoughts about treason or anything else important. (33)
They wrestle not only with their feelings for each other but with the laws of England and whether to obey the king and his soldiers.
Here, I think, is where the beauty of the book lies. While the story of their courtship is heartwarming and sweet, knowing what is to come for the couple (revolution, war, danger), makes their relationship that much more meaningful.
I had goosebumps reading these words from Susanna:
Perhaps I need to have more faith that God will use me someday to be a steady light for someone going through a dark travail. (89)
Whether Abigail Adams said those words or not, she would indeed be that for her husband in the days and months leading up to the Revolution.
If you have even a casual interest in the Revolutionary War era, I recommend this book. It wasn’t my favorite time period when I married my husband, but his favorite musical is 1776, and I have to say, the time period is growing on me. (Confession: The actor who plays John Adams in the movie version of 1776 was the man I envisioned, sort of, for Ben Ross as I read. I think that’s a compliment to Hedlund, as she has captured Adams’ mannerisms and speech patterns, as portrayed in other stories of his life.)
And if you’re a fan of historical romance, I’d recommend it as well, although it has a bit of a different feel to it than some historical romance I’ve read. Not a bad difference at all.
I always look forward to what’s next from Hedlund, and Rebellious Heart has left me wanting more.