Wednesday, August 31, 2016

REVIEW: Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund

Luther and Katharina
by Jody Hedlund

Publisher: Waterbrook Press
Page Count: 386
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Format: Trade Paperback

How got: personal buy; via Amazon

First attention getter: the leads

Synopsis:

From GoodReads:

Katharina von Bora has seen nothing but the inside of cloister walls since she was five. In a daring escape, Katharina finds refuge with Martin Luther and seeks his help to pair her with the noble, wealthy husband she desires.

As class tensions and religious conflicts escalate toward the brink of war, Martin Luther believes that each day could be his last and determines he will never take a wife.

As the horrors of the bloody Peasant War break out around them, the proud Katharina and headstrong Martin Luther fight their own battle for true love, in one of the greatest love stories of history.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 4.5

Jody Hedlund, where have you been all my life?! LOL I never thought I’d find a Christian author that I love as well as Elizabeth Camden, but find her I did. Jody has a way of blending realistic characters, dramatic historical storylines, and riveting romance with a Christian message that doesn’t overpower her non-Christian readers (me included). She does fall into a relationship trope but balanced against everything else and given the personalities of the leads, I can see where the trope might be justified.

Book’s best feature hands down: its leads and their relationship. I loved how the author made such an iconic figure as Martin Luther human and relatable to a modern audience. She still gives him his religious devotion to change and reform, his compassion and drive. Yet, she also makes him stubborn as a mule and sometimes to idealistic to see the world the way it truly was, a dreamer.

For as well-known as Martin Luther is, the fact that he was married probably isn’t known by your average person nowadays. Hedlund makes her as real as he; she has the same compassion and drive to help others escape untenable situations. However, she’s also VERY proud of her aristocratic background to the detriment of her relationships with both Luther and others in her life. To accompany that pride is a deep well of stubbornness to rival Luther’s.

Jody portrays their relationship realistically as well. It’s not a sterile one without chemistry between Martin and Katharina (think goodness ‘cause nothing kills a romance quicker!). There’s definite sexual tension and appreciation for the emotional and physical aspects of such a relationship. Yet, the Christian sensibilities of most of Jody’s reading public are respected as well. Actual sex encounters are not present, only implied. The author has struck a great balance between the two sides of this aspect.

The only hitch in the book occurs here, though. There were times when the stubbornness of both parties made them assume and miscommunicate. This was an ever occurring theme that got overplayed. Given their personalities, I can see this being a realistic relationship problem. Yet, for this tale and how the trope was used, it dragged down the narrative in places and just got tiresome rather than realistic.

As well as the main romantic tale, the author explores a rarely done part of history, that of the early years of the Protestant Reformation and the pangs of a new religious identity being born. Emotions are high, actions are volatile, and people are dying. The author explores the high tension of these years on both sides, Catholic and Protestant, as well as the class distinction of the era/location. I liked how she portrayed both sides of Christianity as very human, both had their zealots and their saints.

The Christian elements were handled fantastically. This work was definitely portrayed as a Christian work, no bones about that. Yet, the author doesn’t preach nor moralize at her audience. The lessons of too much price/stubbornness, taking life as it comes at you, and loving your partner as they are rather than how you wish them to be came through clearly but without hitting me over the head like a 2x4. Not too many Christian authors handle this part of writing as well as Hedlund and Camden do.

This work was a very pleasant introduction to this author and a great discovery. I got to explore some little known history, meet well-known (and lesser known) historical figures, and see a romance develop as it might have historically. Despite that one trope, this book ranks as a fantastic example of Christian historical fiction done right, where it appeals to a wider audience than just the Christian market. I’ll be reading Jody Hedlund again!

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