Tuesday, June 13, 2017

With You Always

With You Always
Orphan Train, Book 1
Jody Hedlund
(Bethany House)
ISBN: 978-0764218040
June 2017/368 pages/$15.99

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?

Read an excerpt.


Jody Hedlund 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. She lives in Michigan with her husband and five children. She loves hearing from readers on Facebook and on her blog at jodyhedlund.com.


It's a happy day when Jody Hedlund releases a new book, especially one that kicks off a great series! With You Always takes the reader on a touching journey to the orphan trains of the nighteenth century and the disparate world of wealth and want. As always, Hedlund's dual gift of historical accuracy and character development make this book impossible to put down. As someone who was not very familiar with the orphan trains, I was simultaneously fascinated and heartbroken at the bleak reality that faced so many of the children and families impacted by the lack of jobs and opportunities. Elise and her family immediately found a place in my heart! Thornton garnered my sympathy as well, as his situation is a reminder that wealth doesn't ensure contentment. Don't miss this endearing story, and be prepared to read it in one sitting, happily ignoring all other responsibilities!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Jody Hedlund and Bethany House for a blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


1. What’s the inspiration behind your new Orphan Train series?

I have long been fascinated by the era of the orphan trains and the heartrending stories of the helpless young orphans taken from the streets of New York City and other eastern cities and shipped west by the dozens. I was familiar with stories of the scared orphans who were placed out in what was thought to be a more wholesome, healthy environment of the newly settled Midwestern states. Some of the orphans found happy endings and were adopted into loving families, while others experienced abuse and heartache in their new homes.

While stories of the orphans who rode the trains have been told—and rightly so—the stories of the women who were involved in the movement are not as well known. One of the things I particularly like to do when telling my stories is focus on women who have been overlooked by the pages of history. I consider it a great privilege to be able to bring such forgotten women to life for modern-day readers. Throughout this series I’ll be focusing each novel on a different aspect of the Orphan Train Movement, particularly from the perspective of those women who experienced riding the trains in one form or another.

2. An e-novella, An Awakened Heart, kicks off the series. What is the novella about, and is it a must-read in order to understand the series?

An Awakened Heart is not a must-read in order to understand the series. But I do highly recommend reading it. (Plus it’s FREE, so you have nothing to lose by giving it a try!) The e-novella introduces a couple, Guy and Christine, who are both passionate about helping the poor immigrants crowded into the overflowing and dirty tenements of New York City. The novella shows their efforts in bringing about change in the city, also bringing them together in a satisfying love story.

The novella also introduces the three orphan sisters who will each become main characters for the three full-length novels in the series. It gives some of the background information on their situation and how they become orphans, which I think readers will find helpful as well as informative.

3. How did you come up with the idea for the first book in the series, With You Always?

For this first book, I decided to center the story around the placing out of women that happened in 1857 as a result of a financial crisis and economic panic in the autumn of that year. Women laborers were already at a disadvantage with poor working conditions and low wages. 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 a result.

To meet the growing crisis, the Children’s Aid Society in New York, along with organizations in other cities that were already sending children out west, decided to set up special placement offices to find jobs for seamstresses and trade girls in the west. The associations only wanted women of “good character” who were required to provide references. If the women met the qualifications, they were sent on trains to towns throughout the Midwest, particularly central Illinois where the demand for cheap labor was prevalent. They were presented to employers as “helpless females left without the means of support.” Placement of these women continued until
the spring of 1858.

My hope for With You Always was to give readers a glimpse into the disadvantage of women during this era by bringing to life the heroine Elise Neumann and her struggle, first in New York City, and later the continued heartache and challenges that arose for her after leaving family behind so that she might start a new life in Illinois, one with greater opportunity.

4. What special research did you do in writing With You Always?

In the beginning phases, I did a great deal of reading about the Orphan Train Movement. I really loved Stephen O’Connor’s book Orphan Trains, because he includes so many personal stories and details about real orphans, which are heartbreaking.

I also read A History of New York City to 1898 by Burrows and Wallace, which gave me insight into the lives of immigrants, especially the women. Masses of foreigners were arriving into New York on a daily basis, and the book gave a detailed account into their pathetic housing situation, the difficult working conditions, as well as gang problems and the city’s underworld.

Finally, another important aspect of the story that required a concentrated amount of research was the development of railroads. The mid-1800s was an incredible period of growth for the railroad industry in the Midwest. The railroads aided the Orphan Train Movement and brought about the settlement of the Midwestern states.

5. Many of your previous stories are set in Michigan. With You Always takes place in both New York City and Illinois. Why did you change settings?

I could have used Michigan as the Midwestern setting for the novel since the first orphan train traveled to Dowagiac, a small town in southwestern Michigan. However, as I studied railroads and town development, I decided the plains of central Illinois would add much to the story, especially because the Illinois Central Railroad was built between 1851 and 1856, the time period of my story.

With this new railroad that ran the length of Illinois from north to south, investors were looking at building towns along the railroad to attract new settlers who would use the railroad. Since my hero, Thornton Quincy, is involved in the development of the railroad, he and his family have an invested interest in seeing the growth of towns along its route. Adding in a competition between Thornton’s twin brother for the development of one such town made the story and setting in Illinois come alive.

I also loved having my heroine, Elise, be able to travel from the crowded dirty streets of New York to the plains of Illinois where she experienced a culture shock. She’s taken from a bustling city life to an isolated farming town that consists of only a few buildings when she arrives.

6. What do you hope readers take away from With You Always?

One of my hopes in telling this story is to leave readers with the reminder that God is walking with us in whatever dark valley we’re going through. Often, like Elise, we tend to pull away from God and let the bitterness of our circumstances drive us into a cave of isolation and self-blame and heartache. But God wants us to realize that even if we pull away from Him, He’s still there walking by our side, waiting for us to reach out our hand and grab ahold of Him. He never leaves us or forsakes us. He’s there waiting.

Many thanks to Jody Hedlund and Bethany House for this fascinating behind-the-scenes look at this novel!


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