Review: Rebellious Heart by Jody Hedlund
In 1763 Massachusetts, Susanna Smith has grown up with everything she’s ever wanted, except one thing: an education. Because she’s a female, higher learning has been closed to her, but her quick mind and quicker tongue never back down from a challenge. She’s determined to put her status to good use, reaching out to the poor and deprived. And she knows when she marries well, she will be able to continue her work with the less fortunate.
Ben Ross grew up a farmer’s son and has nothing to his name but his Harvard education. A poor country lawyer, he doesn’t see how he’ll be able to fulfill his promise to make his father proud of him. When family friends introduce him to the Smith family, he’s drawn to quick-witted Susanna but knows her family expects her to marry well. When Susanna’s decision to help an innocent woman no matter the cost crosses with Ben’s growing disillusionment with their British rulers, the two find themselves bound together in what quickly becomes a very dangerous fight for justice.
Jody Hedlund brings true stories to life like no one else – and this story is one of my favorites.
The love story of John and Abigail Adams is the stuff of legends – literally – and Jody does a great a job of bringing them to life.
Ben is a Patriot, though they’re not truly up and running like they would be a decade later. Abigail Adams is credited with saying, “John is so ambitious, he is always the first in line to be hanged.” You can see in Ben how John became that man. John was one of the main agitators for Independence and the British were determined to bring them all down. Of course, they don’t, but that’s neither here nor there in Rebellious Heart. In fact, it ends long before the Revolution truly begins.
Ben is a poor farmer-turned-lawyer, defending the innocent, though everyone else believes his client is the one who did the awful things he’s accused of. John was willing to defend the British soldiers after the Boston Massacre because he believed it would be worse for them to be represented by an incompetent barrister and have those soldiers be executed given the nature of the massacre itself [look it up; it wasn’t quite the massacre the papers etc of the time made it out to be]. Ben was that kind of man.
Abigail was a shrewd business woman [seriously – the woman found a way to make oodles of money LEGALLY and not unethically during the War – having John send home goods from France and selling them at even a modest profit was A LOT of money]. You see the seeds of who Abigail becomes in Susanna. She risks everything for a runaway who needs her help. She loves Ben unreservedly despite the difference in their ages and stations in life.
Though the story doesn’t follow that of John and Abigail exactly, it’s true to their characters and who they would become in the quest to become a country. Life in the colonies is often brutish with controlling British forces. So it is here, but Ben and Susanna not only survive but thrive and go on to become the founders of our country.
Or something like that ;).
John and Abigail spent much of their marriage apart. During this time they wrote letter after letter, often addressed to “My Dearest Friend.” You can find some of their letters available for download from Project Gutenberg as The Familiar Letters of John and his wife Abigail Adams during the Revolution. Many more letters can be found with a simple Google search or you can purchase other collections from Amazon [I may have gotten one of them last week] or elsewhere.
I went into this book expecting to love it and I wasn’t disappointed.
Rebellious Heart gets 9.25 out of 10 stars, and not just because of the Adams connection.