This is the first time I've read Judith Miller and it was a delightful read. During my research for this book and blog I discovered that Ms. Miller loves history and traveling. That definitely rings true as this story is rich in detailed history and information. It was fun to read about the brick making process.
The Brickmaker's Bride is book 1 in a new series by Judith Miller titled Refined by Love. An excerpt is available from the publisher.
First things first - I love book covers. and this one was so intriguing to me. I found myself referring back to it several times as I read. The beautiful young woman on the front has a lifetime of stories written in her eyes and was a perfect match for the Heroine Laura Woodfield.
The story takes place beginning in 1868 as America is rebuilding after the war. Down in the Tygart Valley of West Virginia one family in particular is trying to recover after losing the patriarch of their family. Laura and her mother decide to sell the beloved business, a brick yard. Laura holds it incredibly dear to her heart as she spent many hours there as a child alongside her father. It is important to her that the yard be sold to the "right" people. However at the point the story begins there haven't been many buyers or offers at all. Except one ... Ewan McKay and his uncle Hugh Crothers, Irish immigrants.
The hero of the story, Ewan is an interesting character. He is grounded in his faith, loyal to his family and determined to work hard with honesty and integrity. A wonderfully created contradiction to his abrupt, rude and addicted Uncle; who happens to hold the decision making reins and the purse strings in their fickle partnership. Once the sale of the brickyard is agreed upon Ewan must immediately balance his self-centered relatives with the kind and generous Woodfield family. This tension makes for excellent story-telling. Miller creates many entertaining scenes both funny and bittersweet to showcase all that Ewan is juggling.
His noble motivation that moves him forward despite some drastic and crazy odds is the desire to bring his three younger sisters across the ocean to America to live with him. He is their only immediate family.
Laura agrees to help Ewan establish business contacts, set up records and workers all in the hopes to see her father's life work succeed beyond him. Ewan gratefully accepts but soon finds himself drawn to her in a manner other than business. The love story between these two characters is slow and steady - like burning a brick for a lifetime of sturdy strength. The romance is sweet and without blemish.
I want to address the plot point of Laura being courted by another gentleman, Winston Hawkins, but I feel unable to say my peace without adding spoilers. So, I will say this ... by the end of the book I can only congratulate Judith Miller for writing a great love story. At first I didn't agree with the two men - polar opposites with one completely and notably unworthy of the heroine. It seemed no competition. Yet the author added the twist of a secret that binds our heroine to follow a path she doesn't want to in regards to a marriage partner. This is the element of the story where the faith aspect felt the most real. By the end of the story we see how often we view our options and our opportunities through the lens of our weaknesses. Yet our loving Lord and Saviour sees our future days unencumbered by anything.
The side plot of Ewan's aunt, driven only by climbing the social ladder at the expense of every person around her is at times entertaining and also poignant. The damage that can be done to our relationships when our motives are not of God is astounding. Miller shines a light on the effects of materialism and greed through the lens of the aunt and uncle.
This is a solid story with enjoyable characters, deep and abiding faith woven through and a wonderfully gripping historical base. I definitely would recommend this to others.
Thanks to Bethany House for the opportunity to receive this book free of charge in exchange for my honest review. This thoughts are my own and I am not required to review it positively.
Opps! I forgot the back cover blurb. Sorry ;)
In the clay-rich hills of the newly founded state of West Virginia, two families tentatively come together to rebuild a war-torn brickmaking business.
Ewan McKay has immigrated to West Virginia with his aunt and uncle, promising to trade his skills in the clay business for financial help. Uncle Hugh purchases a brickmaking operation from a Civil War widow and her daughter, and it's Ewan's job to get the company up and running again.
Ewan seeks help from Laura, the former owner's daughter, and he quickly feels a connection with her, but she's being courted by another man--a lawyer with far more social clout and money than Ewan. Resolving that he'll make the brickworks enough of a success that he can become a partner in the business and be able to afford to bring his sisters over from Ireland, Ewan pours all his energy into the new job.
But when Hugh signs a bad business deal, all Ewan's hard work is put in jeopardy. As his hopes for the future crumble, Laura reveals something surprising. Can she help him save the brickworks, and will Ewan finally get a shot at winning her heart.
By the way, if this topic intrigues may I recommend the family, dove approved movie The Last Brickmaker in America. Check out the trailer.