~ About the Book ~
Now remembered as the author of the world’s most famous hymn, in the mid-eighteenth century as England and France stand on the brink of war, John Newton is a young sailor wandering aimlessly through life. His only duty is to report to his ship and avoid disgracing his father—until the night he hears Polly Catlett’s enchanting voice, caroling. He’s immediately smitten and determined to win her affection.
An intense connection quickly forms between the two, but John’s reckless spirit and disregard for the Christian life are concerns for the responsible, devout Polly. When an ill-fated stop at a tavern leaves John imprisoned and bound, Polly must choose to either stand by his side or walk out of his life forever. Will she forfeit her future for the man she loves?
Step back through the pages of history, to uncover the true love story behind a song that continues to stir the hearts and ignite the faith of millions around the globe.
~ Excerpt ~
“There you are.”
She jumped at the sound of John’s voice so close. Close enough that she could feel the warmth of his breath in the hollow part of her ear.
“You’ve been avoiding me since I returned.” The words came out soft and feathery against her skin.
She shook her head. “I’m sure you’re mistaken.”
His shoulder leaned into hers. “Susanna and I only kissed, that’s all.”
“You did?” Her question came out louder than she’d intended.
John laughed lightly. “No. Of course not.”
She relaxed against the wall. But he tugged her forward in the dark, sliding along until they were wedged into a corner. For a long moment they were both silent, listening for anyone else who might be nearby.
Then John’s voice was near her ear again. “I told you that you were jealous.” At the cockiness of his tone, she gave him a playful push. He feigned falling away from her and grabbed her hand as though needing it to keep his balance.
As his fingers closed around hers, she sucked in a sharp breath at the contact. He resumed his position next to her in their hiding spot, this time their intertwined hands resting between them.
At his nearness she was rendered immobile.
“I like that you’re jealous,” he whispered.
“I can admit that I’m jealous whenever I see you with Billy.” His confession stopped her denial.
Was he teasing her again? She didn’t think so. His voice was much too serious. “You needn’t be jealous.”
“Aye, but I am.” He pressed his face into her hair and took a deep breath. “You’re beautiful. And Billy knows you’re a treasure just as much as I do.”
Beautiful? A treasure? Was she dreaming his words? Her pulse doubled its speed, and her legs liquefied like melting snow. Without the solidness of the wall bracing her, she would have collapsed.
“And you know”—his words brushed the hair near her ear—”I would never consider kissing Susanna.”
“That’s good to know.” Her whisper felt incoherent.
“There’s only one woman I’m considering kissing.”
She shivered, whether from his implication or his proximity, she knew naught. All she knew was that she needed this sweet torment to end before she swooned. She needed to pull away from him and return to their safe camaraderie.
~ Review ~
What an amazing story! This book really did not deserve to languish in my TBR pile for as long as it did, because I was spellbound from the moment I picked it up. I have no hesitation in saying this is the best I have read of Jody Hedlund!
I had a vague idea that Newton had been a bit of a reprobate in his younger years, but until I read this story I didn’t fully appreciate just how lost he had been. And I had no idea about the woman who inspired him. This, then, is the story of a passionate love, but also a painful love for many years, both for Polly and for Newton. In all honesty, if John Newton had been a fictional character—or, more to the point, if I hadn’t known how his story turned out—I would have been tempted to throw my iPad at the wall at the way he continually sabotaged himself. Even so, I was holding my breath until the end, never fully convinced that things would turn out the way I wanted them to until I read the words with my own eyes.
Such a powerful story is no doubt a significant part of what made this novel so incredible, but full credit also needs to go to Jody Hedlund for the way she wove the story together. The writing was excellent, and she did a great job of showing the emotional bond that grew between Newton and Polly, but also contrasting it with their individual struggles: Newton rationalising his poor choices, and Polly struggling to reconcile her head and her heart. Part of Polly’s father’s advice will always stay with me:
“If we hold true to God’s Word and walk according to his way—no matter how tempting it is to take the easy path—he’ll bring us to green pastures eventually.”
Newton’s journey, on the other hand, is truly summed up best in his own words:
“Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.”
It can’t be said strongly enough: This is a truly memorable must read!
I received a copy of this novel through the Blogging For Books program. This has not influenced the content of my review.
Release date: 20 September 2016
~ About the Author ~
Winner of 2016 Christian Book Award for fiction and Christy Award for historical romance, best-selling author Jody Hedlund writes inspirational historical romances for both youth and adults.
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.