Could Following the Opportunity of a Lifetime Cost Them the Love of Their Lives?
One of the many immigrants struggling to survive in 1850s New York, Elise Neumann knows she must take action to care for her younger sisters. She finds a glimmer of hope when the New York Children’s Aid Society starts sending skilled workers to burgeoning towns out west. But the promise of the society’s orphan trains is not all that it seems.
Born into elite New York society, Thornton Quincy possesses everything except the ability to step out from his brother’s shadow. When their ailing father puts forth a unique challenge to determine who will inherit his railroad-building empire, Thornton finally sees his chance. The conditions to win? Be the first to build a sustainable community along the Illinois Central Railroad and find a suitable wife.
Thrown together against all odds, Elise and Thornton couldn’t be from more different worlds. The spark that ignites between them is undeniable, but how can they let it grow when that means forfeiting everything they’ve been working toward?
Over the years I’ve seen many stories about the orphan trains – but never one about the women who were sent from New York on those same trains to work and populate the Midwest towns. The author, Jodi Hedlund, does such a phenomenal job of bringing the past to life, with all its difficulties, in a way that just keeps me wanting to read more.
One of the many things I loved in this book was the portrayal of the young adults – they really are only teenagers having to make life changing decisions – and even though, on one hand they may seem mature, they don’t always make the wisest of decisions! Elise Newman is a young German immigrant who came to the United States with her parents and siblings. Unfortunately, her parents died, their children became homeless, and, at the start of the book, have just found shelter in the new Seventh Street Mission. But with the economic collapse of 1857 they need to figure something else out – a way to make a living honorably, so Elise heads out west. Wealthy Thornton Quincy is building a town on the railway and needs workers and Elise is sent to his town. But what men were paid and what women were paid were very different. When Elise complains about the wages, calling it “slave labor”, and “A job that will kill me before I can pay off my debts” she is told by Quincy’s assistant that it is a job and “Any number of women out east would trade places with you in an instant if given the chance.” So how can Thornton Quincy build the town, pay fair wages and yet make the money his father expects him to?
I really loved the ending of this story – but I won’t tell it – and also the historical facts Jodi gives at the end in the author’s note – “In September of 1857, estimates of New York unemployment ran as high as forty percent. Female employment was cut by almost half. With prostitution already a main source of income for many women, the recession drove even more to taking desperate measures, and the number of women in prison rose as well.” What a difficult time to be a woman. The author’s hope is “to give readers a glimpse into the disadvantage of women during this era by showing Elise Neumann’s struggle in New York and the heartache and problems that arose after she left her family behind so that she might start a new life in the Midwest.” I think Jodi Hedlund does a remarkable job of giving that glimpse! I look forward to reading the next book as she also says she’ll “be focusing each book on a different aspect of the Orphan Train movement, particularly from the perspectives of women who experienced riding the trains in one form or another.”
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it! I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher to help promote it. No review was required but I am freely writing one. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
The Author: Jody Hedlund
Winner of the 2016 Christian Book Award and finalist for the Christy Awards, best-selling author Jody Hedlund writes inspirational historical romances for both youth and adults. She is the author of over a dozen novels, including Love Unexpected, Captured by Love, Unending Devotion, The Preacher’s Bride, and A Noble Groom, winner of the 2014 Carol Award for historical romance. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in social work.
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. She loves hearing from readers on Facebook and on her blog at http://www.jodyhedlund.com.