After the last novel I read by Jen Turano, I discovered that she'd written a novella as the start of her new series. I read the first novel first. When I discovered the novella, I enjoyed reading it, but wished that I had read it first. I've noticed that several authors have started to do this. So, when a new novel arrived in the mail recently for me to read, I first went online to see if the author had written a novella to kick off the series. And... she had!
The series is the Orphan Train by Jody Hedlund. The novella that begins the series is An Awakened Heart. It can be found on Amazon to download for free to read on your kindle or kindle app on your tablet. The novella tells the story of Miss Pendleton and the Reverend Bedell. Miss Pendleton is only thirty years old, yet already considered a spinster in the times she lived in--New York City during the 1850s. That novella tells her story of finding purpose and not giving up. It is a sweet story and it also sets the stage for the first book of the series, With You Always.
This book begins where the novella leaves off--which is why I'd definitely encourage you to read the novella first. Some novels are stand alone, but in this case, I think the novella is needed. At the beginning of the novel, we find Elise Neumann and her sisters staying at the Seventh Street Mission. How she ends up there is explained in the novella. With You Always follows Elise as she travels to Quincy, Illinois, seeking to support her sisters and adopted siblings. Before she heads off to Quincy, she meets Thornton Quincy. The story follows them and the adventures that lie in Quincy, Illinois.
The story flows and keeps going at a good pace. The characters are enjoyable and engaging. This book is simply light-hearted reading. Jody Hedlund's books are similar to Tracie Peterson's or Kim Vogel-Sawyer's books. This book and the novella are a fun, afternoon read. If you enjoy lighthearted Christian historical romance, then this book will be right up your alley!
Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House but these opinions are entirely my own.