I’m apart of several reading and writing groups on Facebook, but recently, someone threw out the question, what books have you read that changed the way you looked at someone or something? I need to add this one to my list.
In early 1900s Kansas, Mercy McClain, determined to protect Teaville’s children from the bullying she experienced as a child, finds fulfillment working at the local orphanage and serving on the school board. When Aaron Firebrook, the classmate who bothered her more than any other, petitions the board for a teaching position, she’s dead set against him getting the job.
Aaron knows he deserves every bit of Mercy’s mistrust, but he’s returned to his hometown a changed man and is seeking to earn forgiveness of those he wronged. He doesn’t expect Mercy to like him, but surely he can prove he now has the best interests of the children at heart.
Will resentment and old wounds hold them back, or can Mercy and Aaron put the past behind them in time to face the unexpected threats to everything they’re working for?
This book takes some very contemporary issues and explores them in a historical context. Specifically bullying and the idea of loving your enemies. Over and over again, Aaron apologizes and makes comments about how much he actually admired Mercy because she never retaliated. But the more Mercy gets to know Aaron, the more she changes her view of him. Maybe people aren’t just “born mean.” And if they aren’t born, but made, then maybe he needed her prayers more than her resentment.
And while I don’t think everyone will grow up to marry their tormentor, Mercy makes the point that if people can’t change, then we’re all doomed. And I think that is just such a needed reminder. Admittedly, I was skeptical about the pairing when I first read the back cover, but Jagears does such an amazing job of humanizing Aaron and really developing his backstory.
Now, reader beware, while Jagears is very careful with her language, Aaron does have a pretty gnarly history. It’s done tastefully, but it’s not as straightforward as it seems when you first begin the book. You can tell there’s something there, but as it spills out, your heart will really break for him. My only comment is that Aaron could/should have been a whole lot more wounded that he comes across, especially as an adult. But this is historical romance and if Jagears went there, it would have been a much darker story.
Nevertheless, I loved the story, I loved the characters. And the orphans Mercy and her family work with are very endearing (give it a bit and you’ll start rooting for Jimmy too). And I don’t usually like stories where a club, society or circle is at the center of what brings a series together, but I genuinely liked the Moral Society. I felt like their little group was very well done. Definitely worth the read.
I received a free copy from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed here are my own.