I took a rare step back in time to the late 1920s America in order to read a Julie Lessman novel published by Revell. A Hope Undaunted is vaguely reminiscent of the heart of Pride and Prejudice for me in a different culture but with lots of sisters, a couple of brothers, and the defiant and independent youngest girl by the name of Katie O’Connor determined to have her own way in every area of her life. At 18 years of age, she’s got it all figured out until she oversteps her boundaries one too many times and reaps the results of her rebellious behavior.
After one too many curfew violations, her father demands she act as a volunteer for an orphanage organization the entire summer after her high school graduation without seeing her friends or her boyfriend, the wealthy and insolent Jack who intends to be a lawyer just like she does and who indulges her every whim. The spoiled diminutive Katie with a temper and a fiery independent streak whines to her mother for a reprieve, but her dad prevails and off she goes to work.
Little does she know who her coworkers will be, and one of them provides the shock of her young lifetime. In a mishmash of hormonal outbursts and carrying-on, Katie learns the hard way that her life is much more out of order than she ever intended it to get in spite of doing everything she can to make impossibilities happen the way she’s planned.
Her older sisters and brothers face their own crises while Katie watches everything she’d hoped for erupt into chaos. Brought up in a home of faith, Katie never exactly had time for God’s plans since she didn’t technically need Him to help her figure out what she wanted. That is until she discovers her designs leave her wanting and forcing circumstances which don’t truly fit the way they should.
Equaling her on the stubborn-factor meter is the man “Luke” who cannot be resisted, ignored, or toyed with the way she’s used to doing with the other men in her life. Just when we think everything’s going to work out the way it’s supposed to do, there’s a serious roadblock. Or two.
The title A Hope Undaunted speaks for many individuals in this story. The peripheral characters get careful consideration in the scope of the tale, presenting the unique family components and how they mesh into each other’s lives. When their faith is challenged, they look to each other, pray, and allow God to do what He does so well, and several difficult and seemingly impossible situations gradually turn around after crisis hits hard. While God drives the characters of faith, the mention of Jesus appears only once.
I read this novel to see how Julie Lessman handled romance and passion. I’d been told she did it well and with honesty. I agree. I think because of the eras in which she writes, the intensity of attraction and the resulting actions play well. (Her other novels are farther back in historical fiction.) There’s still a certain innocence in the component of the passionate scenes, but there’s plenty of innuendo and wonderful attraction goin’ on between Katie and her nemesis/love of her life as well as with her married sisters and husbands, and between her mom and dad which is extremely refreshing.
From the writing standpoint, the conflict seemed endless. At times Katie seemed all of her 18 years in her conduct and Luke seemed old beyond his years which he would’ve been to a certain extent because of how he was forced to grow up. As my regular visitors here know, I have a serious problem with female characters who whine and play games with themselves and others. So Katie’s little temper tantrums and fickle flings, plus her downright cruel words at times drove me a little nuts. She’s portrayed as such a young feminist that it seemed incongruent for her to slip out of one man’s arms and into another’s. Most feminists tend to be self-absorbed, some even man-haters. Katie definitely fit the self-absorbed portion but seemed to need a man in her life regardless if it was the right one. However, as the story arrived at the three-quarters mark, we could finally see some growth in the young woman without understanding why she favored the martyr tendency concerning her marriage. Luke is the classic hero, stubborn, drop-dead gorgeous with major sex appeal, cockiness with that vulnerability which grabs female hearts easily. His loyalty, sense of duty, and the willingness to make a noble sacrifice rival that of a soldier’s. Again, writing-wise, there were several pet phrases repeated throughout the novel which became tiresome.
For the lovers of innocent romance stories who enjoy a period piece set in America with plenty of sparks and conflicts before arriving at a satisfactory conclusion, Revell’s A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman is the novel for you.
Available September 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.