Monday, September 17, 2012

Book Spotlight: Romance Novels Set in Michigan

Today I wanted to introduce you to two novels I've been waiting all summer to read. They're both set during Michigan's historical logging boom, which started just after the close Civil War and lasted until the end of the nineteenth century.

The first book is Unending Devotion by Author Jody Hedlund:

In Her Darkest Hours, Is He the Man She Needs?

Lily Young longs to find her lost sister or will die trying. Heedless of any danger, she searches logging camps and towns, posing as a photographer's assistant. And then she arrives in Harrison, Michigan--and the sights of Connell McCormick.

Connell is determined to increase the fortune of his lumber-baron father and figures as long as he's living an upright life, that's what matters. But when Lily arrives in town she upends his world, forcing him to confront the truth that dangerous men have gained too much power while good men turn a blind eye.

Vexing but persuasive, Lily soon secures Connell's help, drawing them ever closer to each other. Will standing for what's right cost them both everything?

I just read this book two weeks ago. (Okay, actually I admit to being a total book geek and having the release date set on my calendar, then waking up on September first and downloading the book to my eReader before I even got out of bed. Pathetic, I know. But that's what happens when you're a book geek.)

Anyway, Jody Hedlund did an excellent job of portraying the logging industry as a rugged, lonely, and even dissolute means of employment. She shows two different sides of the logging industry: both the side that provided timber and affordable housing to settlers in the west, and the side that mercilessly stripped Michigan of it's virgin pine forests and destroyed river life as the logs were floated downstream to sawmills.

On the opposite side of the table, you have Serena Miller's A Promise to Love, which releases the beginning of October:

Ingrid Larsen, a young Swedish immigrant, arrives in Michigan in 1871 to search for her brother who has disappeared into the woods to work the dangerous lumber camps. Destitute and barely hanging on to hope, she encounters a newly-widowed farmer who is struggling to raise five children on his own. Marriage would solve both of their problems, and so Ingrid proposes to a man she barely knows. She will fight to protect her new family--but the hardest battle of all will be winning the heart of her new husband.

You may wonder why I expect Serena Miller's novel to be opposite of Jody Hedlund's. After all, both have the same setting and contain a search through Michigan logging camps for lost siblings. But I expect Miller's novel to have a sweeter flavor than Hedlund's. Miller's already written one book set during Michigan's logging boom. It's called The Measure of Katie Calloway (I reviewed it here), and it was full of realistic yet quaint pictures of life in a Michigan lumber camp.

While Miller doesn't ignore the debauched lifestyle loggers often lived, she creates a rather wholesome lumber camp that offers safety rather than danger in the Measure of Katie Calloway. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Hedlund's novel looks at the debauched lifestyle that often went along with logging. It contains a bitter fight for morality in a world that is blatantly immoral and also looks at the large-scale picture of logging. Miller's last novel looked at a very specific logging camp.

Conclusion: Since I'm terribly fascinated with Michigan's logging history, I personally think everyone should read both these novels. But if you have to pick between them, I'd base my choice on the type of novel you like reading. For fans of sweet, gentle stories choose either the Measure of Katie Calloway or A Promise to Love by Serena Miller. If you like action-filled scenes and lifelike, flawed characters, then I'd go with Undending Devotion by Jody Hedlund.

Have any of you read these books? I'm curious to know your thoughts and whether you enjoyed the backdrop of Michigan's logging boom? 


  1. They say, "You can't judge a book by it's cover," but in this case, I think you can a little.

    The dark, wine colored cloak and the bare winter branches on the cover of Unending Devotion sort of foreshadow that this book will have deep and dark themes.

    The crisp white blouse on the model and her sweet, innocent look, coupled with the lovely spring blossoms on the cover of A Promise to Love certainly convey a lighter, happier feel to the viewer.

    I always gravitate toward books set in Missouri too. I live just north and east of Branson, so books that say "Ozark Mountains" always catch my eye.

  2. Excellent point about the cover giving some good clues about the tone of the book! I hadn't even thought about that.

    And yeah, I can see how books set near where you live would catch a person's eye. In fact, I just blogged about that over on Craftie Ladies of Romance yesterday. :-)