Together Forever (2018) — A Celebrate Lit Tour: Guest Post, My Thoughts, and a Giveaway

Together forever copy

About the Book

Together ForeverTitle: Together Forever, Orphan Train Book 2

Author: Jody Hedlund

Genre: Inspirational Historical Romance

Release Date: May, 2018

Determined to find her lost younger sister, Marianne Neumann takes a job as a placing agent with the Children’s Aid Society in 1858 New York. She not only hopes to offer children a better life, but prays she’ll be able to discover whether Sophie ended up leaving the city on an orphan train so they can finally be reunited.

Andrew Brady, her fellow agent on her first placing-out trip, is a former schoolteacher who has an easy way with the children, firm but tender and friendly. Underneath his charm and handsome looks, though, seems to linger a grief that won’t go away–and a secret from his past that he keeps hidden.

As the two team up, placing orphans in the small railroad towns of Illinois, they find themselves growing ever closer . . . until a shocking tragedy threatens to upend all their work and change one of their lives forever.

Click here to purchase your copy!

About the Author

Jody hedlundJody Hedlund is the author of over a dozen novels, including Love Unexpected, Captured by Love, Unending Devotion, The Preacher’s Bride, and A Noble Groom, winner of the 2014 Carol Award for historical romance. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in social work. She lives in Michigan with her husband and five children. She loves hearing from readers on Facebook and on her blog at www.jodyhedlund.com.


Guest Post from Jody Hedlund

30,000 Abandoned Children

By Jody Hedlund

Imagine a city where 30,000 abandoned and homeless children live on the streets.

Sounds like something from a futuristic dystopian novel, doesn’t it? Or something that might happen after a war or apocalypse or major disaster, right?

This exact thing actually happened in the 1850’s. And the city was New York City.

It’s hard to believe, but an estimated 30,000 homeless children roamed the dirty city streets and alleys of New York City.

30,000. Children. Let that sink in for a minute. That’s the size of a town.

Historians look back on that time and try to make sense what led to such horrific conditions for children. Of course, the influx of immigrants was at an all time high. Jobs and housing were scarce. Diseases were rampant. Hunger and poverty became a norm. (Orphan Train Depot)

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As more and more people became aware of the enormous problem within the crowded slums, courageous heroes rose up and attempted to do their part to make a difference.

While we may not always agree with the methods that were used to save the thousands of homeless children, we can admire the men and women who could no longer sit idly by.

The Children’s Aid Society was started by Charles Loring Brace as one such attempt to help the hordes of homeless children. His “Emigration Plan” is better known today by the term “Orphan Trains.”

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Together Forever

My latest series tackles various elements of the orphan train movement. Together Forever, releasing in May, highlights the placing agents, those devoted people who rode the trains with the orphans. The agents spent weeks and months on the road caring for the children, all the while trying to place them in loving homes.

(If you’d like to try out the series, start with my FREE novella, An Awakened Heart.)

Like the brave men and women who came before us, may we always strive to do our part to make a difference!


My Thoughts

I absolutely love anything Jody Hedlund writes. She is an amazing story teller. Together Forever is beautifully written, highly engrossing, and, at times, completely heart breaking. I loved every minute of this book and tore through every page! I am actually very sad that my time with Marianne and Drew is over, but I am eagerly anticipating the third novel in this series, Searching For You.

As I wrote in my review for With You Always, I had never heard of the Orphan Train before, and I found the further depth in the topic in Together Forever absolutely fascinating and heartbreaking all at the same time. In her first book, Hedlund discusses the Orphan Train through the lens of the women transported out of New York to help start up new cities along the train route that would one day be placement stops for the Orphan Train. In this book, the reader is shown what it was like to be the children and the placement agents on the Orphan Train. The kids! How do we get to a place where children, innocent and fragile and beautiful children, become nothing more than trash on the side of a building? How was it ever OK to walk past a hurting, hungry, homeless child and think it was nothing? This aspect of the novel really broke my heart. I found myself needing to hug on my daughter a lot as I was reading this book!

Marianne works for the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) as a placing agent. This means she prepares a classroom-size group of children, roughly 30+, to board a train that will hopefully see them to a new family. These children vary in age from near-infant to early teen. Marianne makes sure that the children have packed properly the two brand-new outfits given to them by CAS. She then prepares the food and other necessary items to make traveling with 30+ children of all ages a doable feat. When all is ready, and the train had arrived, Marianne boards the train with the children in order to care for them for the weeks it would take to place all of the children. Of course, Marianne, as well as the real-life placing agents, fell in love with these children and found it very difficult to say good-bye. Then, there is the constant worry…did the children get placed into good homes? Will they have food and clothes? Will they be loved? Will they be raised by people who love Jesus? Did she do the right thing? And, on and on the questions, doubts, and insecurities go.

As a teacher, I completely understand Marianne’s attachment issues. I call my students my children. This is in no way meant to disrespect my students’ parents or take their place, but I do take seriously the responsibility I have to care for my kiddos each and every school day. I want every one of my students to have the best English education possible, and I work really hard to make sure that they do. I absolutely care about their grades and their academic progress, but I care more about their well being. I worry every weekend. Will I see my kids on Monday? Will they get enough to eat? Are they safe? I love what I teach, but I love who I teach more! As Drew ruminates at one point in the book, a good placing agent, like a good teacher today, must love and care about his/her students, but must know when to let go. I can tell you from personal experience, the loving part is easy. The letting go part is a little harder, which Marianne experiences in this book.

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In a later part of the novel Marianne ponders her reversal of situation. The reader is told, “All she could think about was being here the last time with Drew and the children and that now she was alone.” This moment struck me because it is so like life. I can’t tell you how many times in my life something BIG and BAD has happened and it seems like all of my people have disappeared. When I crave the advice of my mother in these moments she is busy. And, it seems like my best friend and husband are typically busy and unavailable in these moments, too. These are the exact moments I desperately want someone to be there for me, but I find myself totally alone as Marianne feels in this moment in Together Forever. In reality, we are never alone. God is with us always. I think these moments of “aloneness” are God’s way of reminding us that we need to go to Him in these BIG and BAD times because He is the only One who can get us through them successfully. I used to get so depressed in these moments. I would think, “Seriously?! I come from a large, loud, butts-into-your-business, Italian family, and I can’t find one person to talk to?” I used to really get discouraged, but now I almost immediately realize I need to go to God first. When we find ourselves in moments where we are overwhelmed by the world and no one seems to be available to help, that is a clear sign God is calling us to go to Him.  It really does make me feel like I can handle the BIG and BAD a little better and more efficiently when I go to God first. Marianne comes to this conclusion too.

Like all Hedlund novels, there are about 700 more things I could talk about, but I won’t because I don’t want to spoil a single second of this book for anyone. Suffice it to say, I adored this story. The action is constant, the romance between Marianne and Drew is beautiful and genuine, and the historical detail is stunning in its depth. If you are looking for a phenomenal historical fiction novel, then I cannot recommend this book enough! Go to your local bookstore and pick up a copy of this awesome story. You will not be disappointed that you did.

I received a review copy of this novel in eBook form from the author and Celebrate Lit via NetGalley. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.


Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Jody is giving away a grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card!!

Click to enter: https://promosimple.com/ps/cee5/together-forever-celebration-tour-giveaway


Blog Stops

By The Book, May 22

Pink Granny’s Journey, May 22

Blogging With Carol, May 22

ansel book blog, May 22

Reflections From My Bookshelves, May 23

Moments Dipped in Ink, May 23

Genesis 5020, May 23

Blossoms and Blessings, May 23

Reading Is My SuperPower, May 24

Chas Ray’s Book Nerd Corner, May 24

D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, May 24

Christian Bookaholic, May 24

Just the Write Escape, May 25

Among the Reads, May 25

The Power of Words, May 25

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, May 25

Radiant Light, May 26

The Christian Fiction Girl, May 26

The Avid Reader, May 26

Janices book reviews, May 26

Daysong Reflections, May 27

Mary Hake, May 27

Carpe Diem, May 27

Jeanette’s Thoughts, May 27

Kathleen Denly, May 28

History, Mystery & Faith, May 28

A Baker’s Perspective, May 28

Simple Harvest Reads, May 28 (Guest Post from Mindy Houng)

Faithfully Bookish, May 29

God’s Little Bookworm, May 29

Christian Chick’s Thoughts, May 29

Cover to Cover and Everything in Between, May 30

Neverending Stories, May 30

Maureen’s Musing, May 30

Bigreadersite, May 30

Inklings and notions, May 31

To Everything A Season, May 31

Two Points of Interest, May 31

Christian Author, J.E.Grace, May 31

Have A Wonderful Day, June 1

Lighthouse Academy, June 1

Godly Book Reviews, June 1

Red Headed Book Lady, June 2

For the Love of Books, June 2

Vicky Sluiter, June 2

proud to be an autism mom, June 3

Bibliophile Reviews, June 3

Texas Book-aholic, June 3

Connie’s History Classroom, June 4

Pause for Tales, June 4

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, June 4

Reader’s cozy corner, June 4

16 thoughts on “Together Forever (2018) — A Celebrate Lit Tour: Guest Post, My Thoughts, and a Giveaway

  1. Jody Hedlund says:

    Thank you so much for your insightful and inspiring review. I appreciated how you related the story to your own experiences as a teacher as well as taking away spiritual truths that apply to us no matter where we’re at! Although I missed being able to talk with you more personally at the reader’s retreat in Grand Rapids, I’m happy to put a name and face together now! Blessings to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • bellesmoma16 says:

      Yes! I am so sorry I never seemed able to have a one-on-one conversation. I have read all of your books and wanted to get the opportunity to tell you how much I adore your books. But, time got away from me. That one day was amazing but it was jammed packed with so much! Hopefully next year, but until then…I really adore your books and writing style!!! God bless, Jody.

      Like

  2. Kay Garrett says:

    Thank you so much for your fabulous review which makes we want to read “Together Forever, Orphan” by Jody Hedlund and the more. Appreciate your being part of the book tour. It’s definitely on my TBR list.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    Liked by 1 person

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