Roses & Thorns

Roses & Thorns

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Willing Heart by by Mary Andersen



Bristol, England

Following a tragic crime against her, Sarah Matthews must make a difficult decision—whether to remain at her childhood home and hope there will not be a repeat offense, or to flee in the dead of night and take her chances alone. Though neither is a suitable option, she chooses the latter. Little does she know that her choice will allow her to be kidnapped and forcibly taken to a ship which is bound for the colonies, where she will be sold against her will as an indentured servant.

Maryland Province

John Clark is in desperate need of a laborer to help him with the never-ending work on his tobacco plantation. Since workers are hard to come by, he decides it is best to purchase the contract of an indentured man. His plans take an abrupt turn, however, when he encounters, instead, a young woman on board the ship. Her wilted, yet feisty demeanor catches his attention, and he cannot help but come to her aid by purchasing her papers. Being a moral man, John refuses to live alone with an unwed woman. Impulsively, he chooses to marry her that very day before taking her home. Whether or not she likes the idea does not matter a whit. It is his decision to make, after all.

Marry him?

Surely, John Clark is mad! Perhaps if she tells him of her tainted past, he will abandon this foolish idea. After what she's been through, Sarah can't bear the thought of marriage to anyone, let alone this uncouth, backwoods stranger, no matter how handsome he is. Will she ever be able to forgive those who have wronged her so terribly, and find the will to open her heart to this man?


I can’t say enough about Andersen’s use of historical facts. Not only are they accurate, but they are woven into the story in a believable manner. Truly, Andersen’s use of historical facts is some of the best I’ve read in a long time. Andersen’s writing style is easy and enjoyable to read, and the characters of John and Sarah are endearing, as is their growing relationship.

However, the plotting could be stronger and the psychology is weak. At the beginning Sarah, in an effort to flee her brutal stepfather, runs away. While that is reasonable given her state of mind, it’s not reasonable that she walks into a stranger’s house, undresses to her chemise, and curls up in front of the fireplace for the night. A small child perhaps might make this choice, but a teenage girl does not. If nothing else, she would be concerned about finding the same brutality in a stranger’s house.

Also, the plot devices in the middle had little to do with each other. Sarah gets lost in the woods, she twists her ankle, she gets a sunburn, she gets sick. None of these had much to do with the other or the overall story arc (which was never very clear to begin with).

I also did not like the fact that two-thirds of the way through the book, we leave John and Sarah’s story and suddenly we are following her Aunt Elizabeth’s story. While her story arc does tie in to plotting elements near the beginning of the book, the fact we have seen nothing of Elizabeth until the last third of the book, only heard about her through Sarah’s character, creates a jolt in the plotting. At the very least, there should have been a few scenes before this of Elizabeth learning of her niece’s kidnapping and her worries over her niece’s fate.

But far by the biggest issue with the novel is the fact that the villains (and there were two in this book, which also thins the plot) suddenly feel repentant and ask forgiveness. I really dislike it when the characters who have suffered at the hands of such characters just willing grant forgiveness. Life isn’t that simple. Forgiveness, especially in Sarah’s case, would be particularly difficult and would take work. It also made no sense that Sarah was able and willing to forgive the man who perpetrated the harsher crime on her more easily than the one who had invoked lesser crimes.

The fact her step-father is never prosecuted for his brutality did not bother me. In that day and time, men were not punished. In fact, women were almost always blamed. But the fact Sarah accepted him into her home later, and even named her first born son after him, disturbed me. The fact her husband is so forgiving is even more bothersome. Men are less likely to forgive than women, and it seemed out of character for John to do so.

I have given A Willing Heart 2.5 roses because of the plotting/psychology issues, even though there is a lot of good going on in the book. If you are looking for a good read, and wish to try a new author, I would still recommend this book. The historical details are spot on, the romantic relationship between John and Sarah is endearing, the characters are drawn well, and Anderson’s sentence structure and prose is well done and makes for easy, enjoyable reading. And for the record, I will read the second book in the series as A Willing Heart appears to be Andersen’s first book. I know how much a writer can grow from book to book, and there is enough here to capture my attention for a read of her second novel.

Length:  418 Pages
Print:  $12.94
Digital: $0.99

Thanks for visiting. Rose, Julie, Donna & Rochelle

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