November 15, 2012

Jesse Mason

What a hero! Jesse made me laugh, cry, laugh some more, want to kiss him, be proud, laugh some more, be sad, mourn, admire and respect him, and then laugh some more. Now please don't do this until you're re-reading the novel, but every chapter opens with a short prayer from Jesse. If you read them in order he'll tell you his entire story in about three-hundred words. Some of them are heartfelt, most are hilariously HIM, and others will twist your gut. That feature turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the story.

I thought long and hard about including this because I'll be treading on some very hallowed hero ground when I do, but Jesse Mason reminded me a lot of Michael Hosea. I've never mentioned another hero in the same breath with Michael Hosea before, so that should tell you something. Jesse is all the things we love about Michael, only funnier, with a slightly less, and I do mean slightly less, willful and frustrating wife.

About Jesse Mason's novel Spring for Susannah (released June 14, 2011):

Hundreds of miles from home, Susannah faces an uncertain future as a mail-order bride on the untamed Dakota prairie.

When her parents die suddenly, and no suitors call, Susannah resigns herself to the only option available: becoming a mail-order bride. Agreeing to marry her pastor's brother, Jesse, Susannah leaves the only home she's ever known for the untamed frontier of the Dakota Territory.

Her new husband is more loving and patient with her than she believes she deserves. Still, there is also a wildness to him that mirrors the wilderness surrounding them. And Susannah finds herself constantly on edge. But Jesse's confidence in her—and his faith in God's perfect plan—slowly begin to chip away at the wall she hides behind.

From Spring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond:

     His silhouette blocked the starlight. She turned her head and a sticky kiss landed below her ear. She tried to relax, but her arms wouldn't move from their defensive position on his shirtfront. His next kiss grazed her cheek.
     "You remembered my name."
     "This is not--"
     "I know." He whispered, "It's your time of the month."
     Was nothing private? Susannah twisted away, grateful the darkness hid her blush. "Men aren't supposed to know..."
     "Didn't Matt tell you we have four sisters?" The canteen gurgled. "Anyway, you need more courting time."
     She gulped in a breath. "Thank you."
     "You get a better view lying down." He rolled onto his back, pulled her beside him, and settled her head on his shoulder.
     "I've been thinking--" His voice came out muffled. "About marching through the woods in Virginia, near the Shenandoah. Rumor said Jeb Stuart hid there, that behind every rock itched a Reb wanting to take us out. Turns my guts to ice thinking of it. We'd try to be quiet, but someone'd swat a fly, step on a twig, cough. Those Rebs watched us sneak through their woods. I'd have given a month's rations to know where they were." His words came clearer. He must have turned toward her. "I know what it's like to be afraid, Susannah. We're on the same side, you and me."
     She tried to respond, but the words wouldn't come.
     "If someone hurt you, if you tell me, then I won't do the wrong thing, and we'll be easier with each other."
     "I'm fine."
     "I thought it might not be so difficult to talk out here in the dark." He paused for three long breaths. "Guess not."
     Susannah had been shy her whole life. Perhaps she wasn't cut out to be a wife. She had often thought she would have been better off alone. By herself, perhaps, she could open her Pandora's box of thoughts, sort through them, make peace with them. In front of this stranger who pried at her with a crowbar? Impossible.

Excerpt used with permission. All rights reserved.

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Gallant Score: Having read Karl Bacon's An Eye for Glory as well as having taken a full college course on the U.S. Civil War, I have a fuller appreciation of what Jesse and his historical counterparts endured during the war. But you should know that Jesse only earned two orange heads for his duty to his nation as a soldier. He earns one on their wagon ride to his home I won't spoil for you, and the other two for not storming the castle for his marital privileges.

Wounded Score: Cathy is going to tell you more about this in the FHF exclusive, but Jesse has scars from the war. Only they're in his head and that made them more tragic. The problems they cause between him and Susannah are one of the most touching and yet, sad, parts of the story for me. Sad because other than Susannah being compassionate and staying out of striking distance, there wasn't anything either of them could do to help him through those times.

Softie Score: He didn't earn all these with Susannah, though his gentle and tender way with her certainly start the orange heads stacking. There is a little girl and a few other neighbors that showcase Jesse's teddy-bear inside.

Stupid Strikes: None. I'm pretty sure this is what made me think of Michael Hosea, the fiction hero by which I judge all other heroes. Because in spite of Susannah's... challenges to his hopes and dreams, he only loses it with her one time. And I don't count the smacking the table and snapping when he's finally lost his cool for a second because any other man would have completely blown his stack long before then. Even so, I never found Jesse too good to be true or unbelievable. He's just, Jesse--calm, patient, loving, and funny. Really, really funny.

Swoon Score: Any woman would be thanking God everyday if she were Jesse's wife. If she could stop laughing and, um, keep out of the hay long enough, hehe. He is honorable, loves God, is seriously flirty and romantic (as romantic as you can be in the middle of nowhere, a.k.a. Dakota territory), has a continent-sized sense of humor, and a laundry list of things to love about him. So why the missing orange head? Two reasons. I never got past Jesse's self-described "mule face" even though I don't think it was as bad as he made it out to be. Susannah certainly came to appreciate his appearance after a while. The second reason is quite honestly petty, but Jesse has hair in places I prefer a man to be smooth. But before you argue my shallowness or staunchly defend Jesse's appearance, neither of which I'm disputing, kindly remember this is my system and I do the scoring so yes, what I like and don't like does matter. I know some hero-girls are into hair, and prefer that complete brawny-look to the brawny package, so Jesse is a five for you all. =)

About Jesse Mason's author, Catherine Richmond:
Cathy was busy raising a family, working as an occupational therapist, and trying to remember where she hid the chocolate, when a song sparked a story within her. She was born in Washington, DC, grew up in northern Virgina, attended Western Michigan University, and moved around a lot for her husband's aviation career. These days you can find her at

The FHF exclusive directly from the author:
Jesse Mason received the Medal of Honor for the Battle of Gettysburg. Under heavy fire, he rallied the troops, reformed the line, and repulsed the charge of Little Round Top. He doesn't remember anything of this battle, except his brother dying, so he never told his family or friends about the medal. If he were around today, Jesse would be in a counseling program at the VA for PTSD.

The giveaways:
Faithful followers, you know the drill. Let me know you'd like to be entered in the drawing for a copy of Spring for Susannah. Those of you who already own and know this novel and would like to be entered in the drawing for the $10 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card, just give me the name of a character that isn't Jesse or Susannah. Yes, any of the animal's names count! Both drawings will close at midnight central time on November 29th. As always, if you're not a follower through blogger with your e-mail address in your profile, please be sure to leave me your e-mail address in a spamfighting format like guitarplayer (at) dakotasoddy dot com.

What do we think, hero-girls? Would you have ever considered becoming a mail-order bride like Susannah?

November 1, 2012

Brett Stanton

This hero doesn't need my help at all to go straight to your heart before you even crack open his story. Brett Stanton was an early Christmas gift to me from God and ended a five novel deep drought of searching for an FHF-worthy hero. Very appropriate since this contemporary romance from one of my favorite authors is set during the holidays. But to fully appreciate Brett, I'm going to go a little out of order with his feature because it's warranted and I'm trying something, so please don't get all worked up. Except about Brett. You will definitely want to get worked up over Brett Stanton.

In lieu of the FHF exclusive is the following letter from author Ruth Logan Herne:

First, let me be plain:

I love this hero. I love him because he is good but flawed. I love him because he's given so much of himself to God and country and still feels like it's not enough. I love him because he wants so badly to fix things, but is thwarted by others' choices. His goodness is part of what makes him question himself, and his selflessness makes him blind to his stellar qualities. He does what he does because that's how it should be. It's that simple.

In 2010 I went down to our little village for our annual Memorial Day parade. It was a beautiful day. Warm. Breezy. Sweet. Our town is small, but the heart of the town? Big. Huge.

I stood there with my coffee from the new little cafe tucked in the corner of the pharmacy across the road. I watched as children waved flags. Screeched greetings. Played hide and seek behind strollers and wagons, waiting for the parade to begin.

And then I noticed him, standing to my right, a few yards east of me.  A man. A soldier. Tall. Broad-shouldered. Upright. He stood there, dressed casually in comfortable colors, with nothing imposing in his bearing. Nothing to draw attention to who he was, and why he was there, except...

He wore a US Air Force baseball cap, a little faded. Well-worn. Behind his left ear were two tiny yellow ribbons, miniature salutes to someone. Somewhere.

But his face. His face is what drew my attention. Square-jawed and silent, chin firm. Unsmiling, unseeking, he stood there in solemn respect as the local soldiers marched by, followed by the men and women of law and order. A mounted patrol. The scouts, the local baseball teams, the high school band.

Through it all he stood, quiet. Alert. Focused. But in his gaze, his eyes, I sensed something deeper in his heart, his soul. Something to do with those two, tiny yellow ribbons, silent testimony to others in harm's way.

I don't know this man. I don't know who he was, but watching him, I felt Brett Stanton come alive in my head. A man who'd given so much, only to have more taken from him. And in his head, that loss fell on his shoulders because he'd led the charge.

The others merely followed.

And so began the story of Colonel Brett Stanton, a strong, focused unsung hero and the lives that changed because he answered duty's call.

About His Mistletoe Family (releasing November 13th, 2012):
When two orphaned boys and their aunt arrive for Thanksgiving supper at church, retired army colonel Brett Stanton feels his heart tugged. Despite having her hands full, young businesswoman Haley Jennings handles her nephews with a smile. Still, Brett can't get too close to the needy trio. He lost his son and brother to the uniform, and isn't about to set himself up for loss again. Soon sweet Haley and the boys remind him of old dreams--and teach him that new dreams provide the greatest hope for a perfect family Christmas.

From His Mistletoe Family by Ruth Logan Herne:

     "Thank you, Brett." She contemplated him, then took a half-step forward. "I want you to know I appreciate everything you do."
     Her words sounded stiff. He looked instantly uncomfortable, so she closed the rest of the distance between them, determined to have her say. "What I meant to say is that I'm grateful. Trust has never come easy for me. I pull back and that makes things difficult."
     "Relationships you mean."
     He mulled her admission, then said, "They don't have to be, Haley."
     She paused, then admitted, "I tend to make them that way."
     "So stop."
     His straightforward gaze said it should be that easy.

Excerpt used with permission. All rights reserved.

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Gallant Score: Brett doesn't earn five orange heads just for being a serviceman. Yes, he's a hero and a patriot, but the heart of this man not just for his country, his community, his mother, Haley and her nephews, and deep in the novel, when he pays a visit to the mother of his son, I had to debate if I needed to make a graphic with six orange heads. The world needs more men like Brett Stanton. More importantly, we need to do a better job of honoring those we have. (Bravo, Ruthy.)

Wounded Score: Brett's known some deep loss, and for reasons made clear in the novel, blames himself. However what I enjoyed about this facet of Brett's character is that while the wounds made him cautious and careful, he's not wrecked by them. He carries them like a true soldier, and it endeared him to me even more.

Softie Score: It takes about zero point four seconds for five-year old Todd and three-year old Tyler to own Brett. He has a deep well of paternal goodness that pours like rain in the desert over these little guys and is beautiful and heartwarming to follow.

Stupid Strikes: Please give me a chance to explain before throwing me in front of a firing squad. Better yet, I'll just let Brett explain.

     He was a jerk.
     Brett realized that when he woke up around three hours later. Haley had come over. She'd tried to make amends. And he'd rebuffed her because he was tired and ornery and had just found out that both accident victims died overnight. Despite their best efforts and quick response, both drivers lost their lives.
     He shouldn't have talked to her. He should have ducked back into the store when he saw her knocking, but he'd ignored the internal warning so he could see her.
     And he'd blown it, big time.

Excerpt used with permission. All rights reserved.

Swoon Score: I know it looks like I've gotten pretty free with the full five swoon score lately, but Brett just does it for me. I'm into everything about this hero, including, maybe especially, he and Haley's whole May/December romance. It hearkened back to Colonel Brandon and Marianne from Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. Colonel Brandon has nothing on Col Brett Stanton (RET).

About Brett Stanton's author:

Ruthy has a professional bio but she considers it somewhat stifling. She loves God and her husband, considers chocolate and coffee to be health food, and is gratified when science agrees with her layman’s opinion on such matters. 

She lives like a hermit in a small cave three trees down from the tumbling creek and is usually groveling for coffee in Seekerville first thing in the morning and late-day. Ruthy sightings are rare and should be graphed and charted by the observer. Imposters have been known to imitate her for no known reason she can understand, so she generally shakes their hand and feeds them. 

Current searches for Ruthy find her at an amazing inclusive blog for writers and readers, or her blog: and her website (where she pretends to be normal because editors read it) You can also find her returning to her waitressing roots at where she and a great group of gals share recipes and small talk on food, fun, men, kids and travel.

Now for the giveaways:
We're featuring Brett in advance of his release date (11/13/12), so instead of the giftcard, I'm kicking that back and giving away THREE copies of Brett's novel to my awesome hero-girls and blog followers in a drawing that ends at Midnight on the release date, Nov. 13th. Just leave me a comment with your thoughts on Brett and mention you'd like in the drawing. Please remember if I can't navigate to your e-mail addy through blogger, leave it in your comment in a spam-fighting format like (at) sledridesthatmeltyourheart (dot ) com

FHF maintenance:
Did you like having the back cover copy come before the excerpt? While we're on the topic of excerpts, do you like having those or shy away from them afraid they'll warp your reader experience? Is there something else you would like to see or not see in the features? And please, for the love of this blog, get cracking reading and help me find some FHF-worthy heroes and come back and nominate them. ;-)

Now, let's play!
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