Love Unexpected - Jody Hedlund

All Emma Chambers ever wanted was a home, but when her steamboat sinks just outside Presque Isle, she's left destitute and with no place to stay. An unlikely solution arises when the lighthouse keeper arrives in town. He's just lost his wife and is having a difficult time caring for his child. So a traveling preacher gets the idea that the keeper and Emma might be the answer to each other's dilemma. After a hasty marriage, she finds herself heading to the lighthouse with this handsome but quiet stranger. Nothing in her aimless life, though, has prepared her for parenting a rambunctious toddler, as well as managing a household. Emma soon suspects Patrick may be hiding something from her, and then she hears a disturbing rumor about the circumstances surrounding his late wife's death. It seems as if her wish for a home and family of her own could end up leading her once more into turbulent waters.




This story opens in the year 1859 in the Lake Huron area of Michigan.  Emma and her brother Ryan are on a steamship that gets overtaken by pirates. A fire starts, causing Emma and Ryan to abandon ship. Patrick Garraty, the lighthouse keeper on nearby Presque Isle spots the flames from the lighthouse tower, rushes out to sea to pull them out of the water. Emma is nearly unconscious by the time Patrick pulls her into his boat. All was good and dramatic for me until we get to just a few hours later when it's mid-morning of the following day... and Emma is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, sweeping the porch of a woman who agreed to take her in the night before. 


I don't know, I just couldn't get behind someone healing THAT fast after floating out in the Great Lakes to the point of sporadic moments of consciousness. And while the story in general was cute, that's not the only plot point that had me mentally screaming REALLY?! SERIOUSLY?!


Ryan finds their being saved and brought to Presque Isle a stroke of good luck, as he and Emma were on their way to find a fresh place to start after leaving behind a life of grim, depressing days with a drunk for a father. {FYI, forgot to mention, Emma & Ryan are in the late teens - early 20s age range}. Somehow, in the few hours that the sun rises and Ryan leaves his sister on her own so he can go look for work, Emma witnesses lighthouse keeper Patrick burying his first wife, hears him confess his tale of woe regarding said dead wife, Patrick proposes to Emma -- reasoning he needs "a woman around the house" for him and his son and she needs a place to live, she accepts, and Ryan comes back to find himself walking up on his sister's impromptu wedding. All in the first few chapters! Who has time for insta-love, even, these days! LOL. Now, I read a lot of history and historical fiction, I know things were done a little differently back in the day but realz though -- she's only been on land a few hours! 


I also found it eerie that Patrick's son took so quickly to calling Emma "mama". I mean, it was instantaneous. That is partly explained later on in the story, but still... even with the backstory, I found it a little odd that a child would be so at ease accepting a woman he honestly JUST met as his new mom with hardly a question or concern over it. 


Then there was the romance between Emma and Patrick. This is where Christian fiction tends to drive me crazy. Everyone flipping out over a pre-marriage hand brush or innocent kiss. Calm down, Christianity doesn't have to equal Puritanism. But these two, yeah.. whole lotta nothing there, heat wise. And if I'm being completely honest, I didn't love Emma as a character in general. Her dialogue sounded like she was trying to be Ariel the mermaid or something -- all innocence and coy smiles. Plus, the hypocrisy on her part -- when Patrick tries to be upfront about his past. Every time he tries to go into it she immediately shuts him down with a "your past doesn't matter, it doesn't define you" speech, of course leaving him to think wow, what a great, understanding girl! But the second girly finds out the true story, she turns on him and spits out "you should have told me everything right away!!" Ugh. The eye rolls this girl pulled out of me.


As a whole, it struck me a cute, fluffy story that lacked lots of what I tend to love in storytelling. The characters were over-the-top (IMO) with the innocence and purity standards, and sometimes their reasoning was just confusing. There wasn't a ton of tension to keep me glued to the story, but I did like that the whole thing was inspired by real people and real historical places. In this case, I think I found the afterword a little more interesting than the story itself.