With You Always (Orphan Train #1) by Jody Hedlund | Historical Fiction Review

With You Always (Orphan Train #1) by Jody Hedlund

Book review disclosure.

Orphan Train #1
Historical Fiction

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?


My Thoughts

I have always been fascinated by the history of the westward expansion. It seems to me that you would have to be pretty brave to go into such uncharted territory. Leaving behind everything that is known to venture out hoping to find a better life just seems scary to me. But as a lifetime Midwestern girl I'm very grateful for those brave and daring souls that did it. 

Jody Hedlund's newest novel, With You Always, explores a little known or talked about aspect of that great adventure. The main character is Elise Neumann, she's the oldest sister in the family that has lost both their father and mother. They find themselves living on the streets of New York with little hope of a better situation. Eventually they find housing and a means to support a meager existence but when that becomes unstable as well Elise is faced with an unbearable decision. She must leave her siblings to start a new job and future in Illinois.

It's widely known that the Children's Aid Society had orphan trains that transported orphans from the precarious situation in New York to the Midwest where they would be placed with families. What's less known is that the Children's Aid Society also placed young women of upstanding character in these towns that were springing up along the railroad routes. They were given jobs such as laundress, seamstress, or domestics. It was hard backbreaking work but many found it to be a way to start a new life.

I found this to be a very interesting read. As I said I'm fascinated with the idea of leaving all you know to hopefully find a better life. Jody Hedlund explores so much with these characters. But here's my warning . . . this is a series so there are questions left unanswered at the end of book one. I can hardly wait for book two to come out. By the way there is also a prequel novella that gives background on some of the characters. It's called An Awakened Heart. I've not yet read it so I have to say that it isn't absolutely necessary to read it to enjoy the series but I'm sure it would be a bonus. I plan on going back and reading it soon. 

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