• Grace A. Johnson

Review: Never Leave Me by Jody Hedlund


*Warnings*

#1 This is a long review, so pull up a chair and grab a bowl of popcorn. You’ll be here awhile. #2 When I read a review, I want substantial information. So I will not skimp on the details. Which may mean some spoilers, so watch out.


Stars: 3.5

Synopsis: When Ellen Creighton witnesses—and experiences—the supernatural healing power of the ancient water, she finds herself in the realm of business espionage and intrigue...and in the 14th century. Will she be able to return to the future and reveal the enemy’s evil plot in time to save herself and her friends?

Never Leave Me picks up right where Come Back to Me leaves off, following suit in many ways—such as not quite reaching its full potential.

Ellen and Harrison I believe had much deeper development and characterization than Marian and Will in the previous book—in part because of the fact we’d already gotten to know them, to a degree, in the first book. I really appreciate that, and, for the most part, I think Hedlund managed the transition from Come Back to Me into this book quite well.

Unfortunately, I never did establish a connection with Ellen. She had more going for her than Marian, I reckon, but I could never get a read on her personality or her true character, so she just never really clicked for me. Typical of heroines, eh?

Harrison, on the other hand, I loved in the first book...but in here, I feel like he lacked his novelty. He seemed a bit forward, a tad immature, and perhaps a teensy smidge out of place. Okay, a lot out of place. What rankled me the most, though, was that he didn’t act at all like a nearly forty-year-old man. A twenty-year-old kid from 1930, yes—which honestly shouldn’t be much different from a forty-year-old man in the 2020s. My point is that for all his aristocratic airs, age, and intelligence, not to mention his years spent as a paralytic, he simply acted like a brash young American. And when I’m promised a refined, wisened older Englishman, I find that sorely disappointing.

Seriously. I love older heroes (and Harrison wasn’t all that old), but when they differ none from the kid who’s half their age, it’s basically pointless. So perhaps I’m overreacting to a pet peeve, but you’ve got to admit that characters who don’t act their age (or act like they are mature as their circumstances would make them seem) are unrealistic, therefore unbelievable, therefore difficult to connect with.

Not to mention Harrison himself made a big deal out of being thirty-nine and seemingly too old to be a father. Believe you me, had he had a child, he would in no way act like their grandfather. (My dad was in his late forties when my baby brother was born, and suffice it to say that he doesn’t act like a grandfather to him at all. On top of that, my great-grandfather was fifty-two when my grandmother was born, and he lived to see his grandchildren. No issues with age there either. I honestly find that argument shaky and selfish, but that’s just due to my experiences.)

Apart from that, at least they had more development and more of an emotional connection to each other than Will and Marian did. I can appreciate that.

However, where the characters possessed a bit of substance, the plot did not—the opposite of CBTM. There were so many plot points—from the healings and the vacation to Ellen’s capture to Harrison’s arrival in the 14th century to that extremely rushed ending—that I feel like none of them were given enough time to be fleshed out. Especially the dumb marriage of convenience (if convenience is even the right word in this context) toward the end there. I’m sorry, but I can’t stand MoCs that are just thrown in last minute to add some spice to the book. Trust me, they don’t. They seem like cliché and unnecessary plot devices and I hate them. Now, if you want to make the whole book about the MoC or just focus on the MoC in the beginning (like More Than Words Can Say by Karen Witemeyer and The Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham), I’m all for that. We get the development we need to really pull that off, so how can I complain?

But when you just slip it in there within the last fifty pages and you use it to manufacture unneeded drama, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. Especially when you, like Jody Hedlund, have written at least fifty marriage of convenience stories.

Let’s see...there’s A Bride of Convenience, Hereafter, A Cowboy for Keeps, Searching For You, Come Back to Me, Love Unexpected, A Noble Groom...the list goes on, my dears.

It’s getting old. Just sayin’. Next time you need a catalyst for drama or something to move the story along, try something new or pull from the material you already have. Don’t just conjure something up—especially something that everyone has used a gazillion times.

(Y’all may use this to discourage me from ever doing the same thing in the future, if you’d like. Can never have too many officers on the Plot Police force. *winks*)

I still like the time travel method, though. And the thread of suspense and intrigue. I really wish there’d been more of that—it was what kept the story interesting, after all.

And I do appreciate the faith content—Hedlund never leaves God out—but what bothered me was that Ellen and Harrison both seemed to have struggles in their walk with God that were never touched upon. Ellen even went so far as to say that she’d been doubting God so much, pushing His away, and not trusting in Him...but instead of turning that into a theme or message or a faith arc for Ellen, it was left to lie. And that was sorely disappointing, because I feel like there was so much that Ellen and Harrison needed to work through before the end.

Speaking of the end, may I add that a book that ends with “they decided to not have kids” does not constitute as a happy ending? I know everyone’s opinions on this differs, but I personally believe what the Bible says: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Ellen and Harrison up and making the executive decision to not have kids based on Ellen’s uninformed assumption that she could pass down a disease that she didn’t even have was just foolish. That is a very, very important decision that can only be made after seeking the Lord’s will and following His direction.

But y’all don’t let me get preachy on y’all—I know how much y’all hate that.

Long story short...Never Leave Me followed the previous book perfectly, meshing timelines and characters, mysteries and romances, effortlessly. It also provided the same quick and enjoyable reading experience. However, the plot lacked depth and development, probably due to how short and fast-paced this story was. With a finer focus on the better plot points and more time for development, I think this could’ve been a fabulous story. But alas, such was not the case.

Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher, publicist, or author, including NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

 

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About the Author

Jody Hedlund is the author of over thirty historicals for both adults and teens and is the winner of numerous awards including the Christy, Carol, and Christian Book Award.


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.

#review #bookreview #timetravel #contemporary #medieval #romance #christianfiction #historical #speculative


Bookishly Yours,

Grace

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