Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: ♥♥♥ three out of five hearts= okay
Book two in the Orphan Train series
Marianne Neumann has a heart for the dirty and hungry orphan children of New York City, partly because she can relate to their story- her past wasn't all flowers and sunshine. Working with a local orphan society, her first placing trip is coming up. She'll be heading towards the West, stopping along the way to find homes for the children in her care. What her employer doesn't know, however, that part of the reason she's looking forward to this trip is to hopefully find for her long-lost sister, Sophie- whose loss Marianne feels responsible for. However, she didn't expect to be making this trip with charming fellow placing agent Andrew Brady.
Born into privilege, southerner Drew Brady hasn't told anyone about the past he's trying to flee. Working as a placing agent may not be the easiest job, but he's good at what he does, and he loves the kids- even the teens who seem bent on refusing his friendship. Plus, the trip will give him the opportunity to get to know the lovely Miss Neumann, whom he seems to feel a connection with.
Sure, Marianne and Drew share a strong attraction, but will it be enough to stand the test of their pasts?
Despite the many Jody Hedlund books I've loved over the years, something felt off about this one. Maybe because I didn't read book one and therefore wasn't enmeshed into the Neumann family, which certainly could be part of the problem. It was also hard trying to figure out what had already gone on in the character's lives and how things fit in. Some may not have this problem, but I would recommend reading book one, With You Always, just in case, so you have a more enjoyable read.
As for the characters, I liked Drew's confident personality, and Marianne was fine too, but I still think I would have gotten more out of their characters (Marianne, anyway) if I'd read the previous book. I didn't feel very connected with them, and their problems and successes.
The writing also seemed choppier than Mrs. Hedlund's previous works. Like I said before, I feel as if I would be able to, perhaps, give this novel a better review had I read book one first (which, sadly, I was unable to do). But still, if a book grips me in the middle of a series, I just count that as a very good book. If you start a series from the middle, the book just has to work harder and be very good to get you into the action and characters (just my opinion), and Together Forever failed to do that. Sadly, then, I'm afraid my review hasn't been very positive so far. I wasn't hooked.
Of course, not everything was a disappointment- there were some good points to the novel as well. Drew was charming and energetic (my favorite character, although nothing was wrong with Marianne) and I enjoyed seeing how the orphans were placed out in 1800's America. It's always interesting to see how things were done way back when. And I am curious now to see how the series began, and also how it will end.
Hopefully I'll be able to read book one at some point and maybe then I'll have a different opinion. But as of now, my advice is, read book one before you try this novel. You may be more invested and better able to understand the happenings in the story.
Note: I got this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.