With You Always By Jody Hedlund
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?
I loved Thornton right away. His first chapters nailed it. I related so much to him wanting approval like his brother receives.
While I didn’t like Elise as much, I did relate to her trying to protect and take care of her siblings.
While both he and Elise developed negative traits that made them unlikeable at times (see below), maybe that was the whole point. None of those negative traits stuck around until the end. They overcame them in the course of the story. They became better people. And isn’t that what life is?
The tension was brilliant. By instituting the bet between Thornton and this brother, it kept me turning pages even through slower sections. The concept felt fresh and unique.
Reinhold was fantastic as the other corner of the love triangle. He was supportive even when Elise didn’t reciprocate his feelings. We need more characters like that. While Thornton had me rooting for him, I have to admit, there were a couple times when Thornton was being obsessed and creepy that I wondered if Reinhold was a better option. I'm hoping Reinhold appears in the next book in the series.
At time, both main characters were extremely unlikeable. Elise was very wishy-washy and a bit on the weepy side. Characters repeatedly called her strong and independent, but she didn’t really think or act that way (especially not in the beginning).
Thornton was obsessed and selfish. And the way he kept sneaking up to Elise and touching her? I think it was supposed to be romantic, but it was really just super creepy, especially since Elise was not consenting to this action.
None of these traits were set up in the first act and just blasted onto the page somewhere in the second act (unless I missed the set up). It was a bit of a jolt.
I really, really disliked Marianne. She drove me insane. She was constantly weeping and whining and throwing herself at this guy. And then lied to him and about him. And then when she got in trouble for it, had the nerve to weep and whine some more about her misfortune. Maybe this will be developed more in the second book and she will be made more likeable, but she really didn’t add a whole lot to the current plot, especially since most of her story was summed up in Reinhold telling Elise about her letters. While I want Reinhold to appear in the next one, I really hope for his sake and mine that he doesn't get paired up with Marianne.
With You Always isn’t a perfect book. Neither are its characters. But that’s part of the intrigue and beauty of this book.
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