Hearts Made Whole by Judy Hedlund {review}

[I received a copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.]


You know how I've mentioned that Christian fiction romance isn't really my genre?

Yeah.  That.

After her father's death, Caroline Taylor has grown confident running the Windmill Point Lighthouse.  But in 1865 Michigan, women aren't supposed to have such roles, so it's only a matter of time before the lighthouse inspector appoints a new keeper--even though Caroline has nowhere else to go and no other job available to her.

Ryan Chambers is a Civil Wars veteran still haunted by the horrors of battle.  He's secured the position of lighthouse keeper mostly for the isolation--the chance to hide from his past is appealing.  He's not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who's angry with him for taking her job and for his inability to properly run the light. When his failings endanger others, he and Caroline realize he's in no shape to run the lighthouse, but he's unwilling to let anyone close enough to help.  Caroline feels drawn to this wounded soul, but with both of them relying on that single position, can they look past their loss to a future filled with hope…and possibly love?

Well.  Wow.  I'm not exactly sure how to write this review, because I don't want to be unnecessarily harsh or sarcastic.  It's just…let's say that I wasn't exactly impressed by this book.  (But hey, it's got a gorgeous cover.  Seriously, it's really almost breathtaking in person.  I was happy:D )

Maybe I should start with the bad first, and then go to the good.

Um…okay, I'll be blunt, because that's really the only way I can express my thoughts on this book.  Basically, it was cheesy, overdone, a wee bit unoriginal (but not actually as bad in that way as I initially thought).  Oh, and did I mention this genre's tendency to focus on kissing?  Yeah.

I kid you not, the following selections are actually in that book (and keep in mind that these snippets are coming after approximately a few days of knowing each other):

~ Her fingers closed around his on the reins.  And when she squeezed the pressure went deep and soaked into him.  He drew a deep breath, and it was like getting a fresh gasp of air for the first time in years.  A sense of purpose surged through him, something he thought he'd never feel again.

~ His vulnerability squeezed her heart.

~  The power of his presence radiated between them…

~  She didn't want Ryan to die either.  In fact, the very thought of life without him filled her with an aching hollowness.

~  Ryan thrashed.  "Don't hurt her!  Kill me, set me on fire!  But let her go."  (Well, okay, in this one, they'd known each other for a little longer than a few days.  But seriously?  'Kill me, set me on fire, but let her go'?!  How cliché can you get?)

My main problem with this book was that it moved waaaaaaaaay too fast.  And I mean way.  I think the fact that the sad parts didn't often elicit any emotion at all from me is partially due to the pacing.    

Aaaand…I'll try to be delicate, here, but when dealing with indelicate things, delicacy is sort of…anyway.  Moving on.  One of my biggest issues with the Christian fiction romance genre in general is  that so often, the "relationship" is founded on nothing more than a super overwhelming physical attraction.  And this book, unfortunately, was no exception.  They were kissing after a few days' acquaintance, and throughout the majority of the story, you kept getting this disconcerting feeling that their romance was fueled by nothing more than the fact that they really, really wanted to have sex.  Sorry to be so blunt, but that's basically what it was.  Some of the passages seemed to do nothing more than glorify the temptation to have sex and the valor of resisting said temptation.  Behold:

~ She couldn't resist one more peek at his broad chest outlined beneath his shirt.

~  The rational part of her warned her that she couldn't marry him simply because she wanted to kiss him again, that a marriage needed to be built on much more than physical attraction.

~  The kiss had been full of all the passion and desire that simmered between them.  And now it had boiled over, searing and taunting them about what could never happen again.

~  She couldn't stop herself from grazing a finger across the bare skin of his back just above the bandage.  He tightened, gave a soft groan, and then bolted off the stool, knocking it over in his haste.

And those are some of the more appropriate sections.  I didn't even include a sample of a kiss scene.  Some of the scenes made me slightly uncomfortable and extremely disgusted.  Let's just say that there was a lot of facepalming, book-slapping, and mental gagging that went on during my reading of this book.  Like, every form of facepalm known to man, physical or otherwise (be warned, lots of gifs follow).

Another problem was that the writing was a little repetitive.  Many phrases were used a bit oftener than necessary.  And I know Ryan's Irish and all, but the use of "aye" seemed awkward instead of authentic.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe it was just me. 

Here's the ending paragraph (I promise that I'm not spoiling much for you.  CFR is nothing if not predictable):  They smiled at each other, and when their lips finally met, they both knew that the wait had been worth all the pain, that their hearts were made whole now, and they would be able to share a lifetime of pleasure.  Together.  Ewwwwwwww.  

But moving on to good stuff.

There were some plot lines that aren't typical of CFR, so that was nice.  And…I guess the name Ryan was cool for the main guy (it's not a name you run into very often in books.  Wonder why…).  There were a few phrases that were cleverly turned and amusing:)  Oh, oh, and I'll admit that the sentimental part of me did like the part when Ryan was leaving the lighthouse toward the end of the book.  That scene was good, even though it too was a bit overdone.  And the fact that he knew that he had to learn to rely on God instead of Caroline.

So, overall, I didn't really like it.  It…rather revolted me at times, to be honest.  I feel like perhaps it'd make a better movie than book, if the script were toned down.  But there were a few good points, so…yeah.  



  1. LOL parent trap, Hiccup and Mycroft :) by the way, how did you get a deal where you write reviews and get free books??

    1. Heehee, right? I was so happy to find a Parent Trap gif:D

      I get free books to review through Bethany House's blogger review program. Here's a link:

      I'm also going to look into some other programs, so we'll see:)

  2. I've got to tell you, I laughed almost all the way through this because GIRL I UNDERSTAND. This sounds just like me. I cannot STAND books like this, to be blunt. I read (or rather, tried to read) Jody Hedlund's Captured by Love, and my reaction was basically everything you said here: facepalming, mental gagging, book-slapping. Yup. It's just so.....gross.

    I love how you're totally honest here-- I dread having to review books I didn't like (actually sometimes it's wickedly fun, but I never like to be really mean ;-P), but honesty is best.

    So, yeah. This review is hilarious. Jody Hedlund is not an author I will be picking up again.


    P.S. Lovely header!

    1. Haha, good! I'm glad you enjoyed it (frankly, I did too). :)

      Yup. It basically rekindled all my good natured animosity toward that genre. Really, really gross.

      Hee, thanks. I understand--we want to vent about books we disliked but we also want to maintain some grace and poise;)

      Thanks! Glad you liked the review and the header:)

  3. Those snippets though! Oh my goodness. "Grazing a finger across the bare skin on is back..." Seriously? I just... ewwww.

    1. Ugh, I know, right?! Some of them were PAINFUL to type out. I mean, I'd be reading, and then some phrase would come up (like that one) that would make me think, "What the heck?"

  4. OH MY GOODNESS. This is EXACTLY what I hate about some of the books in this genre. I've never read a book THIS bad, though. GOODNESS HOW AWFUL. Kissing after three days; seriously? And those quotes? WHHHHHAAAAATTTT. Never reading this. :-P Your review and your little rant made me grin, though - but those quotes. YUUK.

    Don't give up on Christian Fiction, though - there's loads of lovely ones. I HUGELY recommend Lynn Austin - try Wonderland Creek! :-) I recommend any Lynn Austin book. :-)

    ~ Naomi

    1. I agree with Naomi-- don't give up on CF entirely! There's still so many good authors out there. You just gotta weed through the mediocre ones.

    2. Naomi, RIGHT?! I feel rather bad saying it, but…I think it was actually a little worse than the average CFR. Some of the parts, I literally was having trouble grasping that this was a book that was supposed to be taken seriously. Heehee, thanks. It was fun to write:-P

      Oh, yes, I agree with both of you; there are certainly some good ones. I haven't read a ton of Lynn Austin, but I have liked the little bit that I have come across. And there is this one CFR trilogy that I totally fell in love with a few years ago--it's called 'Heart of India.' Looking back, it IS a little cheesy, but it has more depth to it overall, and it's still pretty good:D

  5. Sounds a little like a book that wanted to be in a more adult/erotic romance genre, but was trying to smoosh it into a Christian Romance. I would say maybe the author doesn't fully know the best genre to write for? I would have to say though, the excerpts you gave are pretty G rated compared to many books I've read. I seem to always pick books that sound awesome, then am completely jarred when I run into an unnecessary and out of place full on sex scene. Why? Why! I really think books should have a rating system like movies, and have that printed somewhere on the back cover. That would make things soooo much easier.

    1. Exactly! I was thinking, "This is borderline erotica"…and yeah, I know! Those were really tame compared to some of the stuff one reads *scowls at the annoying authors* Yeah, trust me, there was some stuff that was worse than what I shared here in that book. It still wasn't what many would call that bad, but for a genre dubbed 'Christian'? It was ridiculous :-/ YES, why can't we have a rating system?!?!?!?! My brother was saying something like that yesterday, actually...

    2. I have been saying that forever! I think that is why I have such a hard time finding books I really like...I am always annoyed when I come across those scenes that seem to ruin the book for me. But everything you read on the back of the book never even hinted to any of that! Someone once told me, well juts look it up and read reviews. That is super annoying to do when you are enjoying time browsing in a book store...to have to keep looking things up to just see if it is R rated!

    3. Ugh, yes. We should really petition whoever's in charge of these things to rate books. How are we supposed to know how to buy books, like you said?! And about looking up reviews, that's fine and all, but what if the person is trying to avoid spoilers, major or minor?

    4. May I recommend a website that provides ratings for books based on content? It's called Novel Book Ratings, and it's very helpful. Doesn't have every book ever, but the ratings are provided by users, so if you read a lot of Christian fiction and want to help others avoid books like this, consider getting an account and rating some books! I was really active there a couple years ago, though I haven't been keeping up with it like I should of late.

  6. Uuuggghhh....I haven't read a LOT of Christian fiction, but I've certainly stumbled upon some that just really shouldn't be labeled as Christian fiction. When I read that this book was set in Michigan I was sort of intrigued....aaaand yeah. Not any more. :P
    Hahaha, I can't believe the snippets you included are the "better" scenes. SO gross.
    It's just really really sad and disturbing that so many "Christian" authors seem to think lustful attractions are what love is based on. I mean...have they ever read the Bible?? How could they read their own books aloud without cringing or blushing? It's ridiculous!

    1. Ugh, yes, I feel ya, Natalie. Hehe, yeeaaah…not one I'd recommend. Unless, of course, anyone wants a laugh, because frankly, at times it's so outrageous that it was amusing. There were some nice descriptions of the scenery around their lighthouse, though.

      I know. Absolutely disgusting, some of them were.

      Isn't it? It's a bit disconcerting that books in genres that aren't labeled as Christian often have a deeper foundation for the romance. Urgh. You're right, it is ridiculous!

  7. I highly agree. CF is usually either cheesy, too not Christian, or built upon an insufferable piousness that is in fact self-righteousness. I have only encountered one Christian fiction that was actually enjoyable. It was The Threshold series. There were a couple things that were mentioned that I wasn't entirely sure about, but overall, it is a good series. I'm not saying all this to be one of those devoted fans begging for people to read a certain book, but instead to say that not all CF is bad. :) But most of it is pretty awful. ;P

    1. Absolutely. Preach it, Laura. Hmm, maybe I should give The Threshold series a chance. Have you ever read the 'Heart of India' CFR trilogy? It's pretty good:)

    2. No, I haven't. I'm assuming that since you mentioned it, it's worth reading. I'll have to look it up. :)

    3. Yeah, I'd say it's worth a try, at least:)

  8. Oh my! Christian romance! Those books bring out the sarcasm in me like nothing else! :) I can so totally relate to your feelings (face palming and everything!).

    This particular book that you reviewed sounds pretty awful. Those snippets! *Oh, groan!* Don't you get so tired of hearing about the hero's muscles all the time? Really! You'd think there'd be something else about him that was worthy of mention. Makes me want to write a book about a skinny, scrawny hero whose got more backbone and character to him than all those typical heroes put together! :) That's another thing that frustrates me. The hero and heroine's lack of backbone. They're forever putting themselves in compromising situations and then we have to hear all about their temptations--and feel proud of them when they manage to stand strong and not give in! Well, hurrah for them! I'd much rather they show their strength of character a little sooner and refrain from putting themselves in those situations to begin with.

    Oh, and we really don't need to hear about how much the heroine wants to kiss the hero. That's just not of general interest! I wish modern day authors could take a lesson from their predecessors. There's plenty of old books that are totally romantic and they never even mention kissing!

    Anyway, enough of my ranting. Sorry this comment got so long. :/

    Good review, Olivia!

    ~Miss March

    1. Haha, in me, too, Miss March! So. much. facepalming.

      Yeah. Just spare yourself the aggravation;) YES I KNOW. It's like, wow, woman, have you never seen a man before? (It's funny, though, in this case, the girl really hadn't seen many men before, so…yeah.) That's a good idea! It's so frustrating how in CFR, the main characters are ALWAYS (with very, VERY rare exceptions) described as absolutely 'the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen' or 'his broad, muscular shoulders.' Have some variety, peeps. Sheesh. And YES! Why do you put yourselves in those scintillating scenarios ON PURPOSE?! UGHGHGHGHG!

      I know. For reals. Yes! Read Louisa May Alcott or Elizabeth Gaskell or another old author and LEARN THEIR WAYS.

      Haha, no, don't apologize! I loved it:)


  9. Someone once loaned me a book by Tracie Peterson. I had pretty much the exact same reaction -- I couldn't even finish the book.

    No romance books for me, thanks, Christian or otherwise.

    1. (But I have no problem with a book that has a romance in it. Just... not romance books. There's a difference.)

    2. Yeah. I've read (or tried to read) a number of books by Tracie Peterson, but they went downhill soooo often. Eck. Haha, I get it;)

  10. I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN!!!!!!!! I like reading Christian Romance but SERIOUSLY!!!!!!!! That book needs some help! But really, I can't believe some of the things that are classified as 'Christian Romance' these days. The only Christian Romance that I have found that I like is Janette Oke (historical) and Jillian Hart (modern). And sometimes even Jillian Hart's makes me sick!!!!! Ok and there is the odd book that I find every now and then that isn't to bad.

    1. Uck, yes. It's upsetting. Janette Oke is pretty good, though. I really like her 'Song of Acadia' series, as well as the first book in her Love Comes Softly series:D


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