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?
The Brickmaker’s Bride by Judith Miller is the first book in her new Refined by Love series, but it is not the first novel by her I have ever read. However, I was disappointed to find I did not enjoy this book nearly as much as I had hoped I would. The plot was fairly slow—it took me a little while to get into the story—and I found many parts of it to be very repetitive. It also felt very predictable to me, and the many, many descriptions of the brickworks got old after a while. I did enjoy learning about how bricks are made, but eventually all the small details became a bit much. Fortunately I did enjoy the ending, but then, who doesn’t love a happily ever after?
Although I know Laura Woodfield is supposed to be the heroine of the story, I found it difficult to like her. She seemed constantly sorry for herself, and I just couldn’t understand why she felt she must continue on with her relationship to the horrid Winston Hawkins. While her attitude towards her situation sometimes irked me, I did love her spirit. She was constantly standing up to Winston and speaking her mind, and that was something I admired in her. I also loved how she didn’t let society define her, but rather threw the confines of ‘proper etiquette’ aside when it got in the way of what she felt was right.
And that brings us to her mother, Mrs. Woodfield. Although she was a sweet woman who obviously loved her daughter very much, she cared entirely too much about what others would think, what was right for people in their station, what was ‘proper’. For a Christian woman, I expected more of her, and was sadly disappointed when she constantly looked to society to judge what was acceptable. One thing I did like about that quality in her, however, was the fact that it did lend to the ‘no one’s perfect’ theme that Judith portrayed very well throughout this book.
Now we get to Ewan McKay. I wanted to love him, I really did, but he just didn’t live up to the ‘hero of the story’ expectation I had in my head. He was a sweet man, though, and I loved the way he related to his sisters and how much he cared for them. His hardworking attitude was inspiring, and the way he kept his temper even when dealing with his gambler of an uncle was very admirable. However, I couldn’t stand how quickly he appeared to fall in love with Laura. It seemed as if, from the very first moment they met, he was on her side, and I just cannot bring myself to believe in love at first sight in such a way. To me, it almost felt as if—at first—he was choosing her just to spite his aunt and uncle, who couldn’t stand her. Eventually, his love for her became the sweetest part of the story, but I just didn’t like how quickly it started.
All in all, I still give this story four bookshelves, as—despite its somewhat slow nature—I never once found myself just skimming the pages, and I did love the ending (did I mention that yet?). I also found the historical facts to be impeccable and interesting, and I did eventually grow to like most of the characters (Ewan’s aunt and uncle could never stop being insufferable, but I believe that was intended). I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this novel, but I am still planning on reading the second book in this series—The Potter’s Lady—which is about Ewan’s older sister and releases on August fourth, so I wouldn’t say this book was anywhere near a total flop.
If you would like to try this book for yourself, or if you’re also looking forward to the second, you can find them both here.
All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Judith Miller and Bethany House Publishers.