Author Jody Hedlund is beginning a new series of books: The Beacons of Hope. Many of the books feature a lighthouse setting in historically researched fiction. Out of the Storm is a novella that is intended to kick off the series. It is a historical fiction that takes place in the mid-nineteenth century at the beautiful Old Presque Isle Lighthouse.
Former British Captain Thornton, a powerful bulldog of a man, lived as keeper of the lighthouse with his daughter Isabelle. The surrounding area was wild, deserted, and ruggedly appealing. Neither father nor daughter minded the isolation. At the opening scene of this story, there has been a shipwreck. Flash storms were not unusual on Lake Huron. In the morning, the Captain and his daughter were looking for survivors. As they pulled bodies out of the water, Isabelle discovered a man clinging to some debris. They brought him inside to nurse him back to health.
Over time they learned that this young man was the son of a lumber magnate. He was aboard a steamer with his business associate–his adviser and family friend, Charles, purchasing stands of timber on behalf of Cole Enterprises, when the storm overtook the ship. His friend and advisor did not survive. One more factor surprised the Thorntons. Along with hypothermia and burns, Henry had been shot. It took him awhile to recover from this experience.
While she nursed Henry, Isabelle became better acquainted with him. He was a jovial type of man, not taking much of anything very seriously. He was pampered and the life of the party, used to gaining the attention of women everywhere he went. His was a life of leisure, lacking in true purpose and drive. His father was disappointed in him and sent him on this trip hoping it would mature his son. The storm jolted him out of his complacency; he’d lost a close friend and he felt responsible. Isabelle’s nature was the opposite of Henry’s. She was reserved, quiet, serious and studious, yet happy and contented with her life. In spite of their differences, the two became friends.
Slowly, as Henry recovered from his wounds, he was given light tasks to help earn his stay in the Keeper’s home. He was also warned by the Captain to keep away from his daughter. But the young people’s relationship grew into more than friendship. Henry taught her different games, including checkers. Isabelle read to him from the Bible each day.
One day some men showed up at the door who claimed to represent Henry’s father. They were to go down to Detroit together. But once they got into the boat, the situation changed. Isabelle saw the men tie him up and hold a knife to his throat. She asked her father to rescue Henry; he did, reluctantly. It became apparent to both men that staying at the lighthouse was putting Isabelle and her father at risk from the ruthless competitors until Henry could travel down to Detroit to file his claim of ownership. He had to make a decision to leave before winter temperatures froze the lakes and commerce was closed until the Spring thaw. Isabelle was uncertain he would return. She loved him, but she may never see him again.
Yes, this is a short novella, with barely enough pages to develop a plot and build strong characters. Yet in spite of these limitations, Jody Hedlund has accomplished quite a few feats in this story. First, she has captured and described the unique responsibilities of lighthouse keepers all along the shores, no matter what state or country they were located. Before the days of electronic communications, all the warning ships had about avoiding treacherous rocks near the shores were from these lights. Before the days of the Coast Guard, there were few means available to rescue survivors of shipwrecks except for random citizens living near the seas and lakes. Lighthouse keepers were often among these rescuers.
Second, the author has described the incredible panoramic views available from the positions where lighthouses were often placed. These locations are often difficult to access today from the inland. Many people love lighthouses and collect items decorated like them, but not as many have visited them.
Third, a historical background of the lumber industry is alluded to in this story, and will no doubt continue to be expanded upon in the series. The Great Lakes lumbering industry operated on two fronts: one from the investor’s point of view, where business was conducted almost entirely among the rich, on the Great Lakes. Competition to cash in on the “green gold” was fierce, where some competitors were ruthless and unethical in their dealings. The second front was from the perspective of the actual laborers, the foremen, the lumberjacks, and the local businessmen and representatives that depended on the influx of such workers. Historical industries like this are the foundation many stories are built upon.
Fourth, the author employed a simple classic love story to complete this introduction to the series. Boy meets girl…girl has doubts and boy has doubts…girl’s parent interferes…a crisis happens…the crisis allows barriers to crumble…boy gets girl (and vice versa)…both learn life lessons demonstrating some growth of character. There’s a happily ever after. It’s a pattern that works well for many readers. We enjoy it and its endless variations. I enjoy the author’s writing style demonstrated by this introductory novella. I’m looking forward to reading the Beacons of Hope series.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. 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.”