Pleasantly Surprised

English Lady

4 Stars

January 17, 2017

This novel was a pleasant surprise, as I have been sorely disappointed by other novels by this author, especially her YA series. It had just amount of Romance blended with adventure, intrigue and historical detail. I was grateful that the Romance was not too overdone or mushy.
The friendly banter between Newton and Polly was quite well written, and she did not spend all her time pining when he was away. Unlike in other books I have read by the same author, there is no over-the-top violence, especially against women. That alone was welcome.

Instead, it was a simple old fashioned good story about the love of two young people over the course of several years apart- a love which ultimately led to the salvation of a dissolute, selfish and bitter young man who went on to become author of the world's favourite hymn. Polly Catlitt did not come over as simpering or needy, even though she was deeply in love. She actually seemed like quite a sensible, practical lass most of the time. I knew a little of John Newton's background, but this really bought it to life in a vivid, imaginative way.

The historical detail was well used and accurate. Immersive without being too distracting, and of course there was a sound salvation message, as it’s about the journey to faith of John Newton (and to some extent Polly), presented realistically and sensitively. That said, his religious doubts did not come over as contrived or patronizing, as they do in some stories written by Christians.

If I had any complaints, I would say they were shortcomings common to many books like this- namely stories set in Britain or featuring British characters written by Americans who have never set foot in the British Isles. Sadly, Mrs Hedlund conflates England and Britain throughout the novel- in fact I don’t think the term Britain was ever used to refer to the entire UK which includes England, Scotland and Wales it was just (wrongly) called ‘England’.
Even in the historical note it’s said the slave trade was abolished ‘in England’- when it was Britain and throughout the British Empire. There were also numerous Americanisms like ‘fall’ instead of ‘Autumn’, and certain minor historical details that were incorrect about the Political system.

As much as I would like to see problems like that fixed, it did not detract from my enjoyment of the story. Recommended.

I requested an electronic copy of this book from the Publisher Waterbrook via Blogging for Books and purchased the audiobook of my own volition. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions expressed are my own.