“”Hang on a little longer, my lamb.” Mercy Wilkins shifted the listless infant in her arms without slowing her pace.”

Opening lines of The Reluctant Bride by Jody Hedlund

The idea of bride ships piqued my interest when I read the back cover of The Reluctant Bride, the latest release from Jody Hedlund and the start of a new series. Our leading lady, Mercy, is amongst the poorest of the poor in London and desperate to save her sister from the workhouse. The opportunity to travel to British Columbia, where jobs are available aplenty, is one she can’t pass up. Unbeknownst to her, she joins a bride ship full of women from across the economic scale seeking husbands.

Our leading man, Joseph, is escaping the pressure of society to behave in the manner expected of a member of the titled gentry. Instead, he has become a ship’s surgeon exploring the world, and simultaneously avoiding the pain in his past.

These two worlds collide on the long sea journey full of drama and illness. Mercy’s compassion and empathy surprises and draws Joseph in. Joseph’s lack of class prejudice allows the friendship to flourish. Christianity is central to the story and the discussion between the two and the debate is thought-provoking but beautifully handled.

Unsurprisingly, those without money suffer greatly both from lack and injustice. Whilst this pain and sadness is central to the plot of the novel it doesn’t taint the atmosphere of novel, which is one of hope. The adventurous nature of the sea journey and the exploration of a new world keeps the pace up and allows for the light relief of humour.

I thoroughly enjoyed both characters and their supporting cast. I found the history fascinating and so accurate and I am looking forward to the next in the series. I highly recommend it, five out of five on the en-JOY-ment scale.

From the back cover:

Living in London’s poorest slum, Mercy Wilkins has little hope of a better life. When she’s offered an opportunity to join a bride ship sailing to British Columbia, she agrees. After witnessing so much painful heartache and loss in the slums, the bride ship is her only prospect to escape a bleak future, not only for herself but, she hopes, someday for her sister.

Wealthy and titled Joseph Colville leaves home and takes to the sea in order to escape the pain of losing his family. As ship’s surgeon, he’s in charge of the passengers’ welfare aboard the Tynemouth, including sixty brides-to-be. He has no immediate intention of settling down, but when Mercy becomes his assistant, the two must fight against a forbidden love. 

With hundreds of single men congregating on the shore eager to claim a bride from the Tynemouth, will Mercy and Joseph lose their chance at true love, or will they be able to overcome the obstacles that threaten to keep them apart?

I received a complimentary copy of the book from Bethany House. through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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