February 15, 2014

Luca & Marcello Forelli

Hey there, hero girls! Joy here. It is great to be back after an extra long (and unintentional) blog hiatus. Not to be confused with a book hiatus, because that was definitely not the case. I tell ya what, ladies- hero hunting can be exhausting! But thankfully, not fruitless.Thanks for hanging in there with us while we’ve searched, and a special hug to all of you who have pressed our lovely little Nomination button and shared your hero hearts with Nancy & I. We are super excited about a whole new year of heroes- and we are supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (Yes, I just wrote that) excited about this feature! When Lisa Bergren’s Waterfall came up as a nomination, I had a total face-palm moment. See, I read the whole series 2 years ago, but it was before I knew Nancy or had discovered FHF. I loved every minute of every page, especially enjoying Gabi’s candid 21st century observation of the "handsome Italian hotness" that surrounds her.
Of course my response to Nancy’s info about the nomination (after said face-palm) was “Oh yeah. Definitely orange. You need to read it. It would be great to feature this one.” Nancy read the book, and totally agreed. And here we are.
There was just one problem, hero girls. “Problem?” you say. “But you agreed on the book!”
Ah, yes, but it’s not that simple. You see, Lisa’s series is a veritable hero buffet. And Waterfall introduces not one, but two orange-headed heroes. The more the merrier, right? Normally, yes. But this complicated things for Nancy and I. Because while our blog proudly ranks one hero each book, this time, we had 2 to choose from. And girls, we couldn’t agree on which hero to feature.
You see, I have been firmly Team Luca since I read the books 2 years ago. Nancy, however, took a shine to Marcello. You see our dilemma?
After a little debate (in which we both behaved in an extremely mature fashion, saying things like: “My guy’s better than your guy, nana nana boo-boo…”) I decided to take a page from the River Tribe handbook. After all, there’s more than enough love to go around for both heroes, right? So why not, (I asked Nancy) have a Fiction Hero Double Feature?

Nancy here, hero girls, and I know what you’re thinking. How did I NOT fall for the green-eyed hero? I did. I just fell for Marcello harder. And everything Joy said is true, except Joy was the only one being mature when we realized we each wanted to feature a different hero. I might have behaved a little… well… a little Lady Rossi hehe. (A very apt description, I must say- JD) So even though I will now have to question Joy’s hero taste from this book forward, (Just Kidding—mostly) I agreed to her solution.

Luca’s Excerpt from Waterfall

A knock sounded on my bedroom door as the sun was sinking lower in the sky. I turned from my chair at the window and wearily went to answer it.
Luca stood there, a crooked grin on his lips. “You’ve sat at your window far too long.”
I glanced back at it, wondering if he might have seen me there, then realizing he assumed it.
“Come,” he said, lifting his hand. “You can see the well from where I’ll take you. Let me teach you the dances of Toscana.”
I lifted my brows, knowing I had asked this of him, but now wondering at the wisdom of it.
“Come, come,” he said, flicking his fingers, sensing my hesitation. “I have found someplace private where we can practice.”
I studied him a moment and then agreed. It was far better to suffer embarrassment with him, someplace private, rather than in the middle of a ballroom floor. He cocked a grin and offered me his arm. “M’lady.”

From Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren released by David C. Cook
Excerpt used with permission. All Rights Reserved.

Marcello’s Excerpt:

(Hero girls, THIS is how close Joy and I are linked without knowing it. My excerpt for Marcello is from that same scene, and I didn’t know that till it was time to put our features together. Crazy!)

His hands left me, but then slid back in place, at my waist, but wrapping a bit more behind my back this time, as if a tiny bit more possessive.
My eyes fluttered open. And encountered Marcello.
I stopped, glancing at Luca, his profile aglow in the setting sun. He shrugged. “What m’lord asks, he receives.”
I looked up at Marcello and stared hard into his eyes. “And what the lord wishes is to dance with a sword-carrying girl with a penchant for running off?” I asked.
“Tonight that is my wish,” he said, his voice strangely husky, his eyes unwavering. He began to count off the dance again, and I, apparently devoid of will, followed it.

From Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren released by David C. Cook
Excerpt used with permission. All Rights Reserved.

Gallant Score :

Luca is definitely gallant. It helps that it’s a part of their culture, but gallantry is still a choice. Luca knows how to treat a lady, and he does so in a swoon-worthy way. Since Marcello has other responsibilities through much of this story (tsk, tsk!) it often falls to Luca to watch over Gabi. Her protection is his first priority, and despite his light-hearted, flirtatious manner, Luca is all business when the situation calls for it. I love the fact that Luca always has Marcello's back, and because of their friendship, he has Gabi's back as well. 
Marcello is a knight. I mean, he’s the guy in this picture for crying out loud. I was going to ignore Joy’s tsk tsk there but then decided not to because she started it! While Luca is doing a fine job taking care of Gabi, Marcello is doing a fine job of oh, I don’t know, keeping their entire land and castle safe. In the middle of a bitter feud with those guys who were trying to kill everyone and snatch Gabi at the beginning of the story. And if I may be so bold (why yes Nancy, you can) Marcello has it much harder than Luca to maintain gallantry because he’s betrothed to Lady Rossi and their arranged betrothal is vital to the survival of their castle and the people inside it. So Marcello has to be gallant and above board with his betrothed, and with Gabi, and God bless him finds a way to always be gallant toward them both even when his heart and allegiance is torn between them.

Wounded Score :

Luca doesn’t have any past wounds or baggage. But he definitely carries around the weight of rivalry, past and present. You have the neighboring castle, defended by the unscrupulous Paratores, and on a larger scale the pending Sienese/Florentine conflict. There are enemies on every side, and the battle lines are clearly drawn. Gabi quickly learns to be very careful which side she stands on.

It’s hard to be Marcello. For lots of reasons. He must maintain an attitude of strength and togetherness to be the leader that he is, but it’s taken a toll on him. One of the things I most admired about his character is not so much that he hid this from others, but that he managed it so well (ugh, I must grudgingly admit with Luca’s friendship) as to not let it adversely affect his decision making or have him feeling sorry for himself. Marcello has a staggering about of responsibilities. To his family, to his people, to his servants, and then Gabi and her quest get added to the list. As it is with all great men, there’s always a bruise of some sort on their spirit simply from the staggering burden of being who they must. So if Marcello isn’t quite as charming and occasionally flirty and carefree like Luca, it’s because he’s killing himself trying to ensure the future of everyone who looks to himincluding Gabi.

Softie Score :

Um, yes. Luca is a softie, or whatever the equivalent of ‘softie’ was 700 years ago. And he can afford to be. The weight of command sits pretty heavily on Marcello’s shoulders. His position of authority has trained him to be hard and unapproachable. Luca, on the other hand, tempers Marcello’s severity with levity. His willingness to teach Gabi how to dance properly is one example of his soft side, as is his compassion towards Gabi and care for her in a particular moment of despair. These earn him big points on the orange scale.

Marcello has a soft side, but not much of one. He really can’t afford to, but when it shows now and then, it’s so tender and romantic. (Ha! I just paused to see what Joy said about Luca and she pretty much summed up Marcello there too. So I’ll finish this category with… what Joy said. =) No wait. I HAVE to mention how much I loved the scenes of Marcello with his brother. They just rocked my hero-girl heart so much for a minute I was all like, Luca who? (I concede that I loved these scenes, too-Joy) 

Stupid Strike:

Nothing to report here. Luca does things right, telling Marcello what he needs to know, keeping him in the loop so Gabi will stay safe.
Nope. And not just because I don’t want hate mail from all the Team Marcello River Tribe folks. Not only does Marcello never do anything I’d consider worthy of a stupid strike, he keeps most everyone else from doing something stupid too. Even if he has to enforce his authority to do so. Gotta love a man who knows how to be in charge!

Swoon Score

Luca’s famous line: “Saints in heaven, I believe I’m in love,” about sums it up! You girls will have to forgive me the comparison, but I think Luca is a relative of Tangled’s Flynn Rider. I can totally see Luca breaking out “the smolder” to use on a poor, unsuspecting maiden. (If you’ve seen his picture, you will totally get where I’m coming from with that). I love Luca’s character because he’s the perfect balance of shameless flirt and deadly warrior. He knows how to fight (and kill) when he has to, yet still manages to look at life with a boyish charm that goes straight to this girl’s heart. Let’s throw in his loyalty and respect for Marcello, his leader. Then you have his willingness to give his own life for Marcello or Gabi’s safety. Toss in his respect for Gabi (and women as a whole), treating her as something special. And then, I’ve always had a weakness for blond guys- after all, I married one. :D All in all, I’d say Luca isn’t hurting at all in the swoon department.

This doesn’t mean that Luca wins because he got that extra head, people! (I'm pretty sure it does, actually. - Joy) It just means that in terms of total package, the swooning definitely goes to Luca. (See? Told ya so. -Joy) But Marcello was who Gabi (and me!) fell in love with. So there you go. He does have the whole (and I quote Gabi here) "serious hottie" and "Italian hotness" going for him but that’s not even most of his swoon score (which for girl as hung up as I am on all things Ancient Roman/Modern Italianis saying something.) What makes Marcello orange is he says, does, believes, and respects everything that made knights revered throughout the land and then history. So if you still haven’t made it to the orange-head-hero saturated pages of the River of Time series yet, get thee to book buying now and see what knight ends up with YOUR heart.

Lisa Tawn Bergren is the best-selling, award-winning author of over 40 books, with more than 2.5 million copies sold. Her most recent works includes a YA series called River of Time (Waterfall, Cascade, Torrent, Bourne & Tributary), God Gave Us Easter, a devotional called Upside-Down Prayers for Parents and the Grand Tour Series (Glamorous Illusions, Grave Consequences, and Glittering Promises). She’s currently at work on a new YA series called Remnants, coming out in 2014.
Lisa’s time is split between managing home base, writing, and working on ducks with her husband, Tim (RMrustic.com). Tim’s a worship leader, graphic designer and duck-sculptor. They have three kids-Olivia (18), Emma (15) and Jack (10).
The Bergrens make their home in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

All Three Books for One Low Price

Author Exclusive:

Lisa T. Bergren Interviews Gabi and Lia on Valentine’s Day

LTB: So, girls, what has you so down, this Valentine’s Day? You’re with the loves of your lives, right? In ITALY, no less. Why so mopey?

Gabi: (takes a deep sigh) Right. You’re so right. (Looks at Lia.) What is wrong with us?

Lia: Chalk it up to time warp lameness. We have 21st century expectations for our 14th century guys. They do a Saint Valentinus celebration later in the Spring, but there is a serious disconnect…

Gabi: What she’s trying to say is that there is a serious lack of chocolate in this equation. Or cards. Or flowers. Or romantic dinners for two.

Lia: But mostly it’s about the chocolate. I’d kill for a Hershey’s bar.

Gabi: Ooo, remember Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory?

Lia: (holds head) Or chocolate ice cream? Chocolate custard, from Culver’s?

Gabi: (moans) Or what about smores?

LTB: Gotcha. Living without chocolate is seriously sad. So…are you going to introduce any modern day traditions to your medieval men? Try and import some Swiss chocolate?

Lia: Nah. Mom and Dad have nixed that idea. Worried we’ll change history and all that.

LTB: Got it. It’s a real concern, right?

Gabi: Kinda. But a lack of chocolate is a real concern too, right?  Any woman would agree.

LTB: (smiles) So…what romantic thing have your guys done for you this week?

Lia: (glances at Gabi, then blushes a little) Well, Luca did bring me new paper and pens last week, from Siena. He says he wants me to sketch him a field of sunflowers, so we can dream of sunflowers together.

LTB: I love sunflowers.

Lia: Me too. And he knows that. (smiles and gazes out the window)

Gabi: And Marcello…sometimes it’s not just what he does for me, but what he does for the people I love, you know? He’s so thoughtful.  Yesterday, he ran through the gates, he was so excited to get to my folks and take them to see a new Etruscan ruin. Just because he knew how excited they’d be. He’s always so aware of me and everyone I love.

Lia: He’s aware of everyone, period. I don’t think he misses much. Because he cares.

Gabi: And Luca…he always has you smiling.

Lia: Always. (nods)

LTB: Sounds like a special guy. They both do.

Gabi: (smiles at Lia, then me) Yeah…

Lia: Yeah… (nodding)

LTB: So….would you trade them in for a lifetime supply of chocolate?

Gabi: Ooo, tempting. But no. No way.

Lia: (sighs) Me neither.

LTB: Happy Valentine’s Day.

Gabi: And to you too. Eat some chocolate for us, would you?

LTB: Of course!

Those of you who have been with us a while know the drill. We are giving away one copy of Waterfall, Ebook or paperback, (winners choice) to a random commenter. Make sure you tell us you want entered in the book drawing, and leave your email address in a spam fighting format like: gottaloveLuca (at) forellisforever (dot) com ... Or:  musthaveMarcello (at) time travel me (dot) com ... Or: 2muchItalianhotness (at) RiverofTime (dot) com ... Got it? Good. 
IF you have already savored the delights of the River of Time series, we have a $10 Amazon or B&N gift card for one lucky commenter. Here's how to enter: Simply tell us if you are Team Luca or Team Marcello, and why. (And for die-hard Tribers, I haven't forgotten Lord Greco, but he isn't in Waterfall, so if you claim his team, you won't be entered.) 

And for the sake of fun- let's just say you were sucked through time to medieval Italy. On a scale of the Queen of England to Xena: Warrior Princess, how well would you cope with the change? 
It's easy peasy rice and cheesy- on your mark, get set.... GO! 

February 1, 2014

Ambrose Young

"Ambrose Young was beautiful. He was tall and muscular, with hair that touched his shoulders and eyes that burned right through you. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She'd been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have...until he wasn't beautiful anymore. Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl's love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior's love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast, where we discover that there is a little beauty and a little beast in all of us." - Making Faces by Amy Harmon

Amazon     Barnes & Noble

Nancy here hero girls, and I really need to talk to you about Ambrose Young. He is a hero that scored off the chart in every single category, and is now very much ingrained in my soul, as is his novel. This book is one of the best I've ever read in my life, and I read a lot of books. That said, the novel contains some four letter words, which left me with a dilemma that only resolved itself a few hours before the writing of this post.

Most of you know that for me as a reader, language is automatic disqualification for the blog. So is explicitness, as the only shades of anything we want here at FHF is shades of orange. Part of the reason I read Christian fiction (also known as CBA) is I trust the publisher to safeguard me from language and explicitness. With an Indie author however (one that self-publishes), I must rely on the blurb, cover, and reviews to give me a hint of what to expect. Amy Harmon is the favorite author of a Christian fiction colleague of mine, and when I read Amy's book A Different Blue, I finished that book blown away by the writing and strongly suspecting the author was a Christian. So when I read Making Faces, Ambrose's story, (in one sitting) and halfway through, I was certain Amy Harmon is a Christian.There is so much God and exemplifications of biblical truths in this novel, it is one I would give an Olympic Gold Medal for as cross-over fiction. (Honestly, there's more "God" in Making Faces than many of the CBA novels I've read the past year.) This is part of why the story impacted me so deeply and I'm championing it to anyone who will listen. Because while this book was gritty and raw and honest in a way I don't usually find in Christian fiction, it was also completely redemptive, showing that bad choices bring consequences, and the life-changing power of friendship, unconditional love, and sacrifice.

Then there's Ambrose himself.

Ambrose Young is one of the most orange-head heroes I've ever head the privilege/torture to read. Privelage because he's an incredible character whose Gallantry, Woundedness, Softie Side (the cookies, ladies, oh the cookies!!!), Stupid Strikes (and yes, Ambrose would have been a full five there too) and Swoon Score were just seriously off the chart. But I also know the trust that you place in our recommendations, which is why I chose to ultimately share Ambrose with you without featuring him in the usual way. Because I very much value that trust, I'm very clear about the fact that because of the language, some readers will find this novel objectionable. I completely respect that. (If you're wondering about the "heat", I can tell you I had no objections there and found the level of sensuality was in keeping with traditional CBA standards while still being extremely emotional for me as a reader.)

That said, I'm going to finish with something that has the potential to come off really obnoxious.

This is my blog.

I share it with Joy (God bless her, who had no idea I was going to write this post at all), and all of you as followers, and together you are very much what makes this blog so rewarding. But at the end of the day, it's still my blog, Ambrose deserves recognition, as does his novel, for all the reasons I've shared. If I had a daughter, Ambrose is the kind of man I would pray for her to marry. He is a fiction hero that made my heart sing, pound, melt, and at times, bleed, and for all that, I had to share him with you. So I'm giving away three copies of the e-book to the first three blog followers whose comment below includes "I WANT THIS BOOK" in all caps, and be sure to leave your email address. For everyone else and my non e-reader gals, of whom there are still many, we'll randomly draw for another giveaway copy (paperback or ebook) on Valentine's day if your comment includes "throw my name in the hat" along with your email address.

And if you find Ambrose's novel isn't for you, I respect that and hope to see you back Feb. 15th where we return to the land of CBA and bring you a feature that Joy and I are really, really excited about. =)

Much love,