After downloading the book I wanted to get a few chapters read before bed. Ha. What a joke. It's okay to laugh at me. I'm laughing at me right now. My email request to Jody at 3:06 a.m. that same morning began with this line. "Okay now I feel stupid for having waited so long to read this."
Carl lived up to his cover, to all the hype around this novel and then some. He was such a different hero right away, a little arrogant and a lot cerebral. In fairness that's part of the charm. A nobleman physicist inventor with a lab full of every chemical imaginable turned gentleman vagabond fugitive. God knew exactly what He was doing as the difficult task of following Michael Hosea was going to require a special hero indeed. Carl Richards was the right one for sure.
About A Noble Groom (released April 1, 2013):
Recently widowed Annalisa Werner has the feeling her husband was murdered but can't prove it. Alone with her young daughter in 1881 Michigan, she has six months left to finish raising the money needed to pay back the land contract her husband purchased, and the land is difficult to toil by herself. She needs a husband. With unmarried men scarce, her father sends a letter to his brother in the Old Country, asking him to find Annalisa a groom.
For nobleman Carl von Reichart, the blade of the guillotine is his fate. He's been accused and convicted of a serious crime he didn't commit, and his only escape is to flee to a small German community in Michigan where he'll be safe. He secures a job on Annalisa's farm but bumbles through learning about farming and manual labor.
Annalisa senses that Carl is harboring a secret about his past, yet she finds herself drawn to him anyway. He's gentle, kind, and romantic--unlike any of the men she's ever known. He begins to restore her faith in the ability to love--but her true groom is still on his way. And time is running out on them all.
Excerpt from A Noble Groom:
The flicker from the long match lit the narrow chamber and revealed a torch on the wall. Matthias wasted no time in lighting it and leading the way into a tunnel.
"Let's pray there are no collapses in the wall or ceiling." Matthias stooped low.
Carl's back grazed the top of the tunnel, and he had to arch his neck at an awkward angle to see Matthias. "I take it my father hasn't been down here in a while?"
"There haven't been too many sieges recently."
The wryness of Matthias's tone brought a sense of renewed calm to Carl's spirit. "True." He inhaled a deep breath of the earthiness of wet soil.
"So where am I going?"
Carl stumbled to a halt. "You cannot be serious."
America was a place for homeless serfs, unhappy peasants, and discontent miners. He'd heard his father tell more than one of his employees who'd come to him with complaints over wages or working conditions, "If you don't like it, go to America."
That distant country an ocean away was not a place for a nobleman like him.
"I couldn't possibly go there."
Matthias stopped, and his eyes censured him. "What? You're too good for America?"
"There must be a place more suitable to my status."
"Well, now you're penniless and homeless." Matthias started forward. "So you'll fit right in."
"What about England?" Maybe he could find another position as a tutor. Or a professor at one of the universities.
"And if Lord Faust hears of your return?"
Carl sighed. If his former employer, Lord Faust, discovered he'd stepped foot in England, the man would track him down and put a bullet in his heart. Lord Faust wanted him dead just as much as the duke did.
"So there's no other place?" He scrambled after Matthias.
For a moment they trudged in silence, the steady drip of runoff water echoing with their footsteps. The light of the torch illuminated the winding tunnel, aiding their navigation through the roots and stones. The damp chill penetrated Carl's coat, and he tried to shake off the depressing thought of having to leave his homeland.
He should be grateful. The Lord had graciously answered his prayers and decided to spare his life. He would get to keep his head on his body--if he made it out of the tunnel and the castle without being caught.
But America? Could he really go there? It was so far away. So foreign. A place for poor dissidents. Besides, where would he live?
"You'll go live with my brother," Matthias said as if he'd overheard Carl's thoughts.
"I didn't know you had a brother."
And its echo in the tunnel confronted Carl and made him stumble with shame. How much did he know about the personal life of his faithful servant who'd been a part of his father's household for more years than Carl had lived?
Apparently not much.
"I received a letter from my brother two days ago. He wants me to send him a groom for one of his widowed daughters."
"Wait a minute!" Carl straightened and bumped his head against the rocky soil of the ceiling, sending a shower of dirt down upon himself. "If I must go to America, then so be it. But I won't marry a complete stranger as part of the deal."
Matthias stopped and turned. The torchlight cast long, eerie shadows over the walls and turned his servant's face into that of a ghoul. "Of course you won't marry my niece." His voice was hard, and the glimmer in his eyes pierced Carl with a strange shaft of guilt.
Certainly Matthias knew he couldn't marry a woman who wasn't of noble birth.
"I'm sure your niece is a nice enough girl." For a peasant.
Excerpt used with permission. All rights reserved.
Gallant ScoreCarl is a good man in every sense of the term. He's authentic and as often as he wants to run from a challenge, his sense of honor and decorum won't allow it. So much of the pleasure of this read is following Carl through his journey from "that guy" above, hehe, to the satisfied sigh of awesome when you reach the end. Therefore I'm going to tread extra light and stay spoiler free. Carl's nobility runs deeper than his blood. In the depths of his spirit, he is all that is noble and good in a hero and the reader is treated to that side of him again and again. It never stops bothering Carl that he's deceiving everyone with his identity, not because he wanted the recognition, but because he knew it was wrong. Then there was that moment in the field when he "fell" and tried to order Annalisa and her daughter to leave him and save themselves. This hero-girl teared up and was so proud of him, even more than when he took on the, we'll say "bad man," knowing with his smaller stature he stood zero chance of coming out on top of that fight.
Wounded ScoreCarl has a past and some history, but no emotional baggage or unhealed wounds of the past to overcome. So that I loved him as much as I did as quickly as I did completely surprised me. He's going to get several direct hits to the heart deep in the novel, but how he weathers them is part of why he is here.
Softie ScoreNo woman can read this book and not fall in love with Carl. I'm very comfortable making that claim and now understand why the hero-girls clamored long and loud for Carl to be featured. If I'm ever blessed with a daughter of my own, I want her to have her own magic talking horsey to ride on his back, save her puppy, and tell her stories. Every little girl deserves a Carl Richards. This side of him really hit hard for me when he recounted his one battle as a soldier. What he had to do, what he went through because of it, and I'll tell you guys, it made me hate what war does in the hearts and lives of those who wage it all the more.
Stupid StrikesNo. The red-blooded American in me wants to pop him one here for his early views on America, LOL, but I can't. The thought of giving Carl a stupid strike makes me nauseous, he is THAT GREAT a hero.
Swoon ScoreYep. I've been doing this over a year now and judging by how much the blog has grown in that time, I'm pretty good at it. Now who's arrogant? LOL. Seriously though, I'm only saying that because even so, I know I couldn't fully capture the awesome that is Gottfried Charles von Reichart III, better known as Carl Richards. Or horsey, depending on who is calling him, hehe. I don't need to tell you he's handsome. The cover does that. I've shown you in his scoring there is so much more to him than that and urging you not to make the mistake I made. Read it now. Seriously, don't wait to see if you win it. Borrow it from a friend. Sell some stuff on Craig's list for guilt free book-buying. Carl is SO worth it.
Jody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of the bestselling Unending Devotion and The Preacher's Bride. She holds a bachelor's degree from Taylor University and a master's degree from the University of Wisconsin, both in social work. Jody lives in Michigan with her husband and five busy children. Learn more at JodyHedlund.com.
This is Jody's second hero to appear here at FHF, the first being Dr. Eli Ernest from The Doctor's Lady.
Jody's schedule didn't permit our FHF exclusive, but we thank her first for writing us an orange-head worthy hero and second for sharing him here with us.
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The giveawaysI'm as serious as a wildfire you should just buy this book now. But because I know I'm not the only one with more books I want than paycheck I'm going to give away a copy too. Be sure you tell me in the comments to enter you in the drawing for the book, print or e-book, winner's choice.
(Note: After I wrote that, I felt compelled to add I don't mean to be insensitive to our friends and family in Colorado. Please continue to pray for them. Wildfire has always been deadly, requiring quick thinking and courage. A Noble Groom readers will see that was as true in 1881 as it is today.)
For existing readers, you all know the drill. Leave me the name of a character not used in the excerpt. Once that character's name has been used, you'll need to choose another. That drawing is for a $10 giftcard to Amazon or Barnes & Noble, winner's choice.
Winners will be randomly drawn at midnight central time on June 29th. Now let's talk. For those who have read this, let's rave on Carl and convince the rest of them he's a must read. =)