Sunday, September 26, 2010

‘A Hope Undaunted’ by Julie Lessman – Book Review

Buzz this

One era of our country’s history that has always been interesting to me is the 1920s – also known as the ‘Roaring ‘20s.’ Julie Lessman’s latest novel, ‘A Hope Undaunted’ is set beginning in 1929, which also marks the beginning of the Great Depression.

Here is the synopsis of this book:

What happens when the boy she loved to hate becomes the man she hates to love?
The 1920s are drawing to a close, and feisty Katie O’Connor is the epitome of the new woman – smart and sassy with goals for her future that includes the perfect husband and a challenging career in law. Her boyfriend Jack fits all of her criteria for a husband – good-looking, well-connected, wealthy and eating out of her hand. But when she is forced to spend the summer of 1929 with Luke McGee, the bane of her childhood existence, Katie comes face-to-face with a choice. Will she follow her well-laid plans to marry Jack? Or will she fall for the man she swore to despise forever?

Here is the biography of this author:

Julie Lessman is an award-winning author with an intense passion for both God and romance. Winner of the 2009 ACFW Debut Author of the Year and Holt Medallion Award of Merit for Best First Book and Long Inspirational. Julie is also the recipient of thirteen Romance Writers of America awards. She resides in Missouri and is the author of The Daughters of Boston series, which includes A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied.

The main character in this book is Katie O’Connor, who comes from a large and loving Irish family. She is very determined and head-strong, which can be both good and bad… Here is the opening paragraph from this deeply moving novel:

Now this is how love should be – nice and neat. Katie O’Connor sucked the last of her Coca-Cola through a straw and studied her steady beau Jack Worthington with a secret smile. No, siree, no dime-novel notions of love for her. Love requires a focused plan, she thought to herself with certainty. Cool, calm, rational thinking, not a moment in time where one lovesick glance seals your fate. With a loud, hollow noise, she drained her soda and pushed the glass away, assessing Jack through approving eyes. Her lips slanted. Love at first sight, my foot. (p. 7)

She loved her father, although she fought his authority at every turn:

Katie blinked to dispel her sudden onslaught of guilt. Not that she didn’t love her father. No, Patrick O’Connor was the one man who Katie truly did respect and love, the one man whose approval she longed to win with every fiber of her being. A knot of hurt shifted in her throat. But it seemed her father’s approval was never been able to achieve, no matter how she’d excelled in school. Total submission seemed to be all Patrick O’Connor wanted and the one thing Katie couldn’t give, at least willingly. She sighed, his words haunting her as she stared out the window. “You’re a handful, Katie Rose, and God knows if I don’t keep you in line now, some poor man will shoot me later.” (pp. 13-14)

Katie had high professional ambitions:

She drew in a deep breath, hope winging at the thought of attending Boston’s prestigious Portia Law School. Established exclusively for women in 1908, Portia’s generous admission guidelines required only a high school degree, and the prospect of going to law school at the same time as Jack thrilled her to the bone. This was her chance – an era where women were flying high into their futures – literally – like Amelia Earhardt with her world record for female pilots. A shiver of anticipation raced through Katie. Well, she intended to set a record of her own – to be the first truly independent woman in her family. To pursue women’s rights – first as a lawyer, then as a congresswoman someday. And Portia Law School was just the start. It was there where her plan would unfold to help women who couldn’t help themselves, and there where she’d sow the seeds for her own financial freedom. And in Jack, she had the perfect complement – a man who not only shared her vision, but who enjoyed the distinct advantage of connections.  Her lips slanted into a smile. Connections that included an attorney father who presided over one of the most prestigious law firms in the city, not to mention winning a senate seat last year. (pp. 24-25)  

I will forgive Julie and her editors, etc… for misspelling the name of one of my idols, Amelia Earhart

All of Katie’s family had a strong faith in the Lord; Katie wasn’t so sure. Here is an exchange between Katie and her sister, Faith, when her father forced her to volunteer during the summer at the Boston Children’s Aid Society, a legal firm assisting children, with Luke McGee, her childhood nemesis:

She folder her arms with a grunt, her body suddenly stiff. “So let me get this straight – I’m supposed to kowtow to whatever Father wants me to do, even something as awful as slaving for someone I despise? And then God wants me to forgive them both in the process?” Her acute annoyance escaped in a noisy blast of air. “Impossible.”
A hint of a smile curved at the edges of Faith’s lips. “Difficult, yes, but not impossible, trust me. Not with God’s help.”
“Oh, and I suppose if Collin forced you to do something that completely went against every shred of common sense and emotion in your body – and I’m not talking something as insignificant as grousing about your job – that you would just lie down and surrender without a fight.”
Faith sucked in a deep breath and released it slowly. “No, not without a fight, certainly…but the fight wouldn’t be between Collin and me, hopefully.” She looked up, capturing Katie’s gaze with a silent plea. “It would be between my will and God’s. And if I’ve learned anything from painful experience, Katie, it’s that God’s will is the path to my ultimate happiness…and yours.” (p. 57)

As the summer went on, Katie discovered some interesting feelings on her part:

          God help me…I’m attracted to Cluny McGee!
A faint, pitiful groan issued forth as she wavered, still reeling from the shock of the encounter. Dear Lord, how could this have happened? When had prickles of annoyance turned to prickles of heat? Katie put a hand to her stomach and sucked in a deep breath, painfully aware that no man had even made her feel this way. She thought of Jack with his easy manner and hungry kisses, and knew they’d never made her feel like she did right now. Her knees all but buckled at the thought. (p. 103)

Luke’s feelings ran along the same lines:

Over the summer, he’d made the startling discovery that Katie O’Connor was everything he wanted in a woman, and somehow he’d known it from the age of fourteen. With little or no effort on her part, she had won his affection – from a cold shoulder at the age of ten, to a teasing smile at the age of eighteen – and Luke would give anything to be more than friends. But they had a deal, and she had a boyfriend, and Luke was a man of his word. (p. 222)

After a series of setbacks, Katie decided that she wanted to take God up on his offer of salvation:

Her voice quivered, but her resolve was sure. “God, Faith says you’re up there, that you care for me and have a plan for my life. If you are, and I’m not just talking to a ceiling, will you show me? Reveal yourself to me, your love, your purpose for my life. Please, God, come into my heart and make me the woman you want me to be.”
She opened her eyes then, and somehow the room seemed different…
Dear God, can it really be this easy?
Her eyelids fluttered open and she looked at her sister, her words soft with wonder. “I never knew…never knew that it could be so easy…so real.”
A smile lighted upon her sister’s lips as Faith placed a gentle hand to Katie’s face. “Believing in him is easy, Katie, because he gives us that tiny seed of faith. And loving him is even more so, because when you see how he moves on your behalf, your heart will spill over with joy. But unfortunately, living for him is not so easy. Feelings and doubts will come and go, but his Word stands forever. Study it, commit it to memory, and learn through his Bible what he wants you to do. Because everything in this world will come and go – people we love, financial security, jobs – but God is a constant, and his promises endure forever.” (pp. 406-407)

This book is full of lots of soap opera-type drama. In fact, it reminded me a lot of the very dramatic movies from that era and the 1940s. Mrs. Lessman writes with a flair for the dramatic, but there are also lots of moments of light humor and great familial love. I grew to really care for the characters in this book, and I look forward to future novels in the ‘Wind of Change’ series. I will not give away the ending of the book, but suffice to say that I liked the outcome, and it whetted my appetite for the next book in the series.

You can order this book here.

Available September 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. This book was published by Revell Books and provided by them for review purposes.


Julie Lessman said...

WOW, Andrea, it feels a little strange to read my own words in your review, but somehow thrilling at the same time! THANK YOU for your kind words -- MUCH appreciated!

And I cannot believe I misspelled Amelia's name -- my humble apologies -- but I'm sure glad you're a forgiving woman!:)

Don't know if you are prone to posting your reviews on or, but if you are, I'd be thrilled. But if not, no worries.

Have a blessed week, Andrea -- you sure helped to bless mine!


Andrea Schultz said...

Hi Julie -
Thanks for coming by!
I did also post the review on Amazon; it should show up soon on there.
I loved your words; you put them together very well!
Blessings -
Andrea said...

I also enjoyed A Hope Undaunted and am a big fan of Julie Lessman.

I found the characters to be fairly three dimensional and enjoyed the interaction between the two main characters, Katie and Luke - although at times I was surprised by Katie’s sudden abrupt turns. The O’Connor family is true to form in their larger-than-life sort of Irish personalities and entertaining as always.

I posted a more in-depth review of my own at


Clicky Web Analytics