Secrets are powerful things. Anyone who's ever made the promise "not to tell" understands the weight of committing to keep something in confidence. Even when the something shared is good news, or a special surprise for someone else- it's still a burden. Even worse than keeping someone else's secret, is keeping one of your own. Especially when you know, if told, this thing would hurt other people- people you care about. This secret could destroy everything you love. And life will never be the same. This is a story about secrets. About a girl who is trying desperately to keep her brother's madness hidden from the world. About a man who truly longs to do the right thing, but can't seem to shake the shackles of his past. This is the story of what happens when the truth is revealed, but the consequences are more than you can bear. This is the story of having nothing left to hold on to but Jesus, and praying that He will hold you through your darkest night. And the next night. And the next. It's a story about a journey of faith. You know what? Sometimes life doesn't happen the way we plan. But when we trust Him even through the deepest valley, we can believe that the sun will rise on the other side, because He has made a way for us. Now I'll let you in on a secret - this book is powerful. While Christian fiction can be accused (justifiably) of producing largely lighthearted "happily ever afters", A Heart Deceived shatters that mold in a million pieces. This book is deep. This book is dark. But you don't find rare gems just lying around on the surface, do you? So take courage, hero girls, and get ready to go down with me. Because this is the story of Ethan Goodwin- in all of his orange-headed glory- and I promise you he is well worth every moment.
Excerpt from A Heart Deceived:
He pushed off the table and flung the bottle against the far wall. Glass shards exploded. Liquid splattered. A bold move, to be sure, and hopefully not a mistake.
"What are you doing?"
Startled, he wheeled about. Miri stood just inside the doorway, eyes wide.
"I . . ." Blinking, he tried to select one of the countless excuses parading through his mind. But as she stood there, the picture of innocence in her white day dress, he knew that each fabrication would be a further stain upon his character. He'd ruined one too many relationships by building on a foundation of lies- not this time. Not with her.
He lifted his chin. "I broke the bottle of laudanum."
His blinking was contagious.
"I see. Well . . . not really, but . . . " her skirts swished as she took hasty steps to the table and set down a small covered dish. "My apologies. It is a meager breakfast I bring."
He scrubbed his hand across his jaw. Amazing. She'd not asked a string of endless questions - not even one. What kind of woman was this Miri Brayden? He closed the gap between them, standing near enough to inhale her freshly scrubbed scent. "Are you not going to demand an explanation?"
She remained silent for so long, he began to think she would not answer.
At last she faced him. "Look, Mr.-"
She frowned. "You owe me no explanation. What you choose to do or not is entirely your concern."
A rogue urge struck him to reach out and trace the dimple in her chin, the sweeping curve of her cheek. Instead, he clenched his hands so tight, his knuckles ached. "You are more than accommodating, for I feel I owe you my very life."
The blush of a June rose highlighted her cheeks, and she averted her gaze. "Do not even think it. I did no more than-"
"You did more than many others. Please." He laid a hand on her forearm. Beneath the fabric of her sleeve, an interesting mix of frailty and strength met his touch. "Accept my gratitude. Without you, I would have perished."
The enormity of his own words hit him hard. He owed the Brayden family his life twice over now. Without forethought, he ran his thumb back and forth along her arm.
She did not pull away. Neither did she look up. She merely stared at his hand. "I hope to return your clothing by the end of the day. I am sure you would like to be on your way."
Leave - now that he'd discovered her? "No!"
She snapped her gaze to his, fear and curiosity competing in her eyes. As much as he desired to calm her, his hand would not be stopped. He reached up and touched a wispy lock of her hair.
Miri jerked free and scurried for the door.
A pox on his street-harsh ways! He stepped toward her, then stopped. Chasing her would serve only to frighten her further. He held up his hands, palms out. "Forgive me. I fear my manners are lacking."
She paused at the threshold, rubbing the place on her forearm where he'd touched her, then slowly turned. A phantom of a smile softened her face. "Oft I am reminded of my own lack. Seems you and I have a thing or two in common, Mr.-"
"If nothing else, sir, you are consistent. Good day . . ." Her smile grew. ". . . Ethan." Closing the door behind her, she left as silently as she'd come.
Copyrighted material. Excerpt used with permission. All rights reserved.
Gallant Score:Ethan gets a rocky start in the gallantry department. I mean, he's an opium addict who's only thought is his next fix, and who ends up on the run with another man's blood on his hands. This all changes when he meets one John Newton (this would be the man who wrote the much-loved hymn, Amazing Grace). Suddenly Ethan realizes he hasn't been living at all. Take a walk with him through his victory over opium, and the orange flame kindles. Go a little further and you see his intercession for Miri, literally standing between her and an abusive brother, and boy-howdy look out. Standing up for the helpless fans that flame into a blaze warm enough to keep you toasty. And then, there's the man unwilling to give up on his promise- unwilling to forsake the woman he loves, no matter what stands in his way. There is no expense too great, no distance too far, and no dungeon too dark.... Can someone open a window? ...there's an inferno going on in here. ;)
Wounded Score:Ethan is keenly aware of his wasted years. He mourns for the life he lived, and the mistakes he made. But his biggest wound comes with a death- one he knows is his fault. In the end his grief is doubled, as he carries not only his own pain, but Miri's as well.
Softie Score:Ethan isn't much of a softie. There is a worldliness about him that makes him confident, even cocky. But love has a way of changing one's character. Ethan certainly has his moments of tenderness, there just aren't many. (More on this in the swoon score.)
Stupid Strike:While I am against keeping secrets from someone you love, I can't give Ethan any marks here, because I really believe he would have told Miri the truth if circumstances hadn't literally spiraled out of his control.
Swoon Score:Time to be honest. It's not Ethan's appearance (although it certainly isn't lacking) that gives him solid orange here. Ethan is a hero of actions. It's the little moments that mean the most. The way he becomes a shelter for Miri- the only thing that is right and safe in her cold, harsh world. It's his staying power. His choice to be the best man he can be, and help Miri, instead of taking what he can get from her. His restraint when he realizes he could take if he wanted- electing instead to respect Miri and do things right. Ethan has every reason to become bitter and walk away from God. But he chooses to continue believing, even when it looks like there is no way out. And, as I said above, he never gives up on Miri. When a man chooses to love a woman when everything that was physically beautiful about her is gone- ladies- that man is as orange as orange can be. It's an added bonus when he happens to call her "love" in a way that turns this gal's heart to mush.
Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas…professionally, however, for the past 10 years. She resides in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, where she teaches history and writing classes for a local high school co-op. Her latest release, A HEART DECEIVED, is available by David C. Cook. You can find her at: www.writerofftheleash.blogspot.com, www.michellegriep.com or on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.
FHF Exclusive from Michelle Griep:
Ethan sometimes has a hard time controlling his temper. In fact, I had to tone down the scene where he’s trying to find Miri and confronts Squire Gullaby and Clive Witherskim in church. Originally, he yanks Witherskim outside in a headlock and wallops the tar out of him. Not a very heroic thing to do, though it was highly satisfying. Then, when Ethan meets Mr. Spyder at the asylum, he threatens to jump over the table and write Spyder’s name on the dead list. . . in his own blood. I had to soften that one as well.
But something that even Miri didn’t find out about until after they were married is that Ethan has a 2” wide scar on his backside. As a lad, he frequently scuffled with his brother, but being the younger of the two, he took the brunt of the skirmishes.
One time, his brother ate the dessert Cook had set aside for him. After much name calling—Ethan’s tongue developed quicker than his muscles—his brother grabbed an ornamental sword from the wall and chased him with it. In an effort to get away, Ethan backed through a glass-paneled door. It took ten stitches to seal that up. It's not a particularly gallant scar to boast of, but it is a good reminder for him to keep his anger in check. . . and one Miri is keen to tease him about.
***I just love this exclusive, and I want to say a special 'Thank You!!' to Michelle, who agreed to let us host Ethan in the midst of planning wedding for her daughter. At the time she sent me this the wedding was only 2 weeks away.***
The Giveaways:Ya'll know the drill! We're giving away one copy of A Heart Deceived e-Book or paperback (winner's choice) to a random commenter. Here's how you enter: let us know if you want your name tossed in the hat for the book drawing, and leave your email in a spam fighting format, like: a_wretch_like_me(at)Heartdeceived(dot)com.
For those of you who have already read this book, we're also giving away one $10 gift card for B&N or Amazon. To enter the gift card drawing, make sure you say "Please enter me in the gift card drawing"- and I also want you to share what you loved best about A Heart Deceived (please, NO SPOILERS for our friends who haven't yet read the book).
Drawing on March 14, 2014.
And here's our discussion topic: John Newton eventually came to be well known for his stand alongside William Wilberforce against the slave trade. What tragedy would YOU like to see end in this world?
Let's have some fun! On your mark...get set...GO!