January 1, 2013

Samuel "Shade" Blackledge

If you'll permit me, I'm reasonably confident that if Shade had been around in AD 30, he could have been the 13th disciple. Jesus has an amazing way of drawing to Himself the things the world has corrupted and/or thrown away to turn them around and change the world and accomplish His purpose. To that end, Shade has a permanent home in my heart and Unlikely Praise, a fitting title, on my keeper shelf. He is a quintessential redeemed hero and a wonderful way to kick off 2013.
As I write this feature, I'm picturing Shade in this moment as described by the heroine, Candi, on page 147... He wore his usual white tee and holey jeans, but today's look was topped off with a classic charcoal gray Fedora and contrasting black band. She had to admit it was a pretty sharp look for him even if it defied all proper use of a Fedora. When he touched the brim and greeted her with a charming, but mysterious smile, her stomach took an unexpected dip.

Mine still does! I'm pretty sure that by the time this feature posts, I'm going to own a grey Fedora with a black hat band that has "I (heart) Shade" embroidered on it in white thread. Pretty sure.

About Shade Blackledge's novel Unlikely Praise (released March 2, 2012):

A tattooed rocker and an uptight music teacher-who says God doesn't have a sense of humor? Candi Canaberry has been the worship leader at Cornerstone Fellowship since the doors opened. Candi has dedicated her life to praise and worship, so when Cornerstone explodes into mega-church territory, Candi is sure she'll be the one to take her team to the next level-isn't she the obvious choice?
Apparently not. Church leadership has other ideas. She's given a partner to share her duties.

But a one time rocker with zero praise and worship experience? Recently saved Samuel "Shade" Blackledge is new to Cornerstone Fellowship. He's convinced a strong church family is what will help keep his head above water as he turns from things of the past and builds a new life. The Ex-Dead-Lizard rock guitarist is shocked when the pastor suggests he might be just what the worship team needs. But could God really want a tattooed veteran of the club scene? And what about his less-than-Godly lifestyle to this point-not the least of which is a baby girl he's never seen?

Worship practice has never been this interesting as Candi and Shade work their way toward each other-and Unlikely Praise.

From Unlikely Praise by Carla Rossi:

     He looked around as if to somehow make sense of why she was sitting in the near-empty lot. "What are you doing here?"
     The leather squeaked again. "I came here to pick up some music and I saw your truck. I went looking for you."
     "Oh," he replied. That made sense. Then it hit him. "Ohhhhh."
     So much for the progress they'd made. He'd already sensed she had issues with his appearance. Finding him at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting had probably finished her off.
     She looked up at him. Scattered beams of light illuminated her perfect skin and sea-green eyes. She pushed a lock of chestnut hair away from her face and secured it behind her ear. Another came loose and fell across her forehead. She brushed it away. "Can you get in a minute?"
     "Uh...sure." He slid in and closed the door. "Nice car."
     "Thanks." She twisted to face him and tugged the sleeves of her hoodie down to trap them in her hands.
     He fumbled with the controls on the side of the seat until he found the one that moved it backward. "You could have come in, you know."
     "Come in where?"
     "To the meeting."
     "Oh, no, I couldn't." She flinched when she said it.
     He couldn't stop his expression of disappointment.
     "No, it's not like that," she rushed to add. "I'm just sorry I invaded your privacy. First I thought you were cheating on me with Brett, then I thought you might be working, so I was going to find you and say hello but--"
     "What?" His voice squeaked like an adolescent boy. He tried again. "What?" He set his coffee in the cup holder. "You're not making any sense."
     "I am so making sense."
     "On this planet?"
     Anger flashed in her eyes, but what did she have to be mad about? He wondered if he should push it. She glared at him. Oh, yeah, he was gonna push it.
     "C'mon, Candi, you caught me at an A.A. meeting and went ballistic. But rather than just deal with it, you sit in your car like a control-freak-stalker and think of ways to make me squirm. You can't even form a whole coherent sentence." He picked up his cup. "If you want to talk, I'm an open book. Otherwise, I need to see about possibly pushing my truck home. I don't have time for games." He shoved open the door and got out. "And who is Brett?" He slammed it before she could answer.
     He headed for his truck. What had he been thinking? He liked Candi more every day. Especially the Candi from the pond. But though it was clear she could handle worms, catfish, and tadpoles, it was painfully obvious she couldn't handle tattoos, ponytails, and A.A. meetings.
     A door slammed behind him. "C'mon, Shade, get back in the car and we'll talk."
     He spun around. "Why can't we talk out here?" He waved his arms toward the dark and cloudy sky. "Are you afraid someone will hear us and it will embarrass you?"
     "Of course not," she said. "Get in the car."
     He caught her looking over her shoulder and toward the entrance of the building. "That's it, isn't it?" he shouted back across the lot. "You don't want anyone to know we're fighting."
     "I don't even know why we're fighting," she shouted back.
     "I don't either," he said and scuffed the ground with his boot. "But maybe it's because I'm an alcoholic, or have long hair. Or maybe," he said and tossed his cup in to the bed of his truck, "it's because I'm covered with demonic tattoos." He paused when her shoulders sagged and her mouth fell open. "Yeah, that's right; I know what you said about me."
     He punched the left front fender of his truck.
     Bad idea.
     It hurt like crazy and wasn't the wisest thing to do with his already nerve-damaged right hand. The woman just made him nuts. And it wasn't over yet. He caught a glimpse of a pink and denim streak as she raced toward him.

Excerpt used with permission. All rights reserved.

Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Christianbook.com

Gallant Score:
The way Shade navigates the situation with his daughter, and his former lifestyle of sin are really something to be proud of. But Shade isn't proud. Quite the opposite. What really impressed me about this man was how he remains steadfast in his new faith in Christ, even when people can't see past what he was instead of who he is.
Wounded Score:
It's more than just the nerve-damaged right hand. Shade has known some pain. Physical & Emotional. But rather than define him, it transformed him and gave him a transparency in his walk with God and his relationship with others beautiful in its depth of honesty. The tattoos on his arms, well, they're something to behold alright, but it's the secret one over his heart and why he got it that is part of why this hero-girl can't help but love him, tattoos and all.

Softie Score:
Truthfully, I'm having a hard time defining these orange heads without giving you spoilers for some beautiful moments with his daughter. One in particular that involved a styrofoam cup that melted my heart. Some of this orange is also Shade just being Shade--kind, thoughtful of others, and being completely humble in spite of plenty of reasons not to be. Don't get me wrong. Shade is no cream-puff, and his softer side rounds out a very nice pure male persona. Example, one of my favorite lines of his from the whole book is "you had me at bottomless taco bar."

Stupid Strikes:
That jab to the truck isn't stupid-strike worthy. Not considering what Candi had already put him through with more to come. Not that Candi's mean or hateful, even with her "big fat daddy-issues" as Shade would say (and well, did say, but I can't give him one for that either), she has an understandable uphill battle to overcome that God's plan for Shade, and for her, are going to force her to put control back where it belongs, in God's hands instead of her own.

Swoon Score:
It's not just the fedora--though that's an orange head by itself. When Shade woke up, figuratively and literally, he had a choice to make. He chose Christ and works hard to stay the course, in spite of prejudices and his old life beckoning when things get bad again, and I love him for that. Of course in addition to that, he can rock a t-shirt and fedora as easily as a starched white oxford and leather blazer with equal awesomeness.

About Shade Blackledge's author Carla Rossi:
Carla Rossi has written everything from Christmas Pageants and school newsletters, to poetry, stage plays, and Christian music. After another thousand pages of humorous essays about friends and family, she completed a novel. In 2004, she joined RWA and her local chapter, and set about the business of learning to write romance. When she's not squirreled away in her office with her writing partner - a Maine Coon cat - she's teaching Bible study or adding piano, bass and vocals to a worship band. Carla has three grown children, one grandson, and lives north of Houston with her husband and the muse cat. You can visit Carla at her website www.carlarossi.com.

The FHF exclusive directly from the author:
Throughout Unlikely Praise, it is clear Shade is a gifted musician and talented lead guitarist. Many assume Shade's background in music theory is not as extensive as our heroine, Candi's. That's not exactly true... While Shade may not have studied or majored in music in college, he did spend several years in private music lessons (at his mother's insistence) and even played the trumpet for a while in the school band. He obviously does not broadcast this information since rock star and band nerd are usually not synonymous. At present, Shade teaches beginning guitar to aspiring young rockers. His class is the most popular at the local YMCA - and has the longest waiting list.

The giveaways:

Great news! I have successfully learned to gift ebooks now, so the copy of the novel can be in the format of the winner's choice (nook, kindle, or print). Just tell me in your comment you'd like to be in the book drawing.

Gift Card
For Unlikely Praise readers new to the blog, this part is easy. Just name a character from the novel not used in the excerpt. Once that character has been used in the comments, you need to use a different one. Whoever gives the name of the truck gets a double entry. =) The prize is a $10 Amazon or Barnes & Noble giftcard, winner's choice.

That awesome Fedora
Yes, you read that right. We're giving away Shade's signature grey fedora with black band. To enter this drawing I want you to tell me why you're Shade's biggest fan and deserve the fedora. And it needs to be good because I really, really want to keep it. =)

Now let's play!


  1. Veronica SternbergJanuary 1, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    I'd love to be in the book drawing! I love the focus on music and redemption. shopgirl152nykiki(at)yahoo(dot)com

    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 1, 2013 at 8:48 PM

      Veronica, I did too! You are in the book drawing. =)

  2. Abbi HartJanuary 1, 2013 at 6:09 PM

    This looks really interesting! I love to be in the drawing!

    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 1, 2013 at 8:49 PM

      Abbi, this was such a great read. You are in the book drawing. =)

  3. ErynnJanuary 1, 2013 at 7:08 PM

    Me Me Meeee! Can't WAIT to read this one! I love a rockstar. And he definitely sounds swoonworthy. I'd love to have a print version. Eeep. I hope I win. ENewman(at)outlook(dot)com

    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 1, 2013 at 8:50 PM

      Oh Erynn... then be prepared. Shane bleeds rockstar and was swoon AND FHF worthy for a lot of reasons. You are in the book drawing my friend!

  4. WhitneyJanuary 1, 2013 at 7:33 PM

    This book is totally outside my usual preferred realm of historical fiction, but I've heard such high praise of it that I might have to give it a try. ;)

    Oh, by the way, I totally want to see a pic of you wearing that Fedora. lol.


    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 1, 2013 at 8:50 PM

      I know that about you, Whit (great to see you here.) You are in the book drawing and we'll see what we can do, hehe. ;-)

  5. AnonymousJanuary 2, 2013 at 8:30 AM

    This book sounds SUPER fun! Please enter me! And thanks for the giveaway!

    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 2, 2013 at 4:57 PM

      Emily, it is fun. I laughed out loud almost every other page which surprised me because this book is also pretty deep with Shane's past and Candi's prejudices. You are in the book drawing. =)

  6. PattyJanuary 2, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    I'm usually a historical fiction fan too, but this certainly sounds like a good read! Would love a copy for my Kindle.


    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 2, 2013 at 4:58 PM

      That's the spirit, Patty. Sometimes an epic hero is worth genre-crossing. You are in the book drawing.

  7. Ganise G. ClermontJanuary 2, 2013 at 10:04 AM

    Sounds really interesting, Nancy! Please enter me! (I prefer the print format)


    PS: I really like your sense of humor. ;-)

    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 2, 2013 at 4:59 PM

      Ganise! You're in the book drawing and thank you for that!

  8. 5020genesisJanuary 2, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    As a worship leader and a music teacher this book is a must read for me!



    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 2, 2013 at 5:00 PM

      Melissa, yes, yes you need to read this. If you don't win the book drawing, buy a copy. You could totally related on a different level, though I did learn a lot about the inner workings of leading worship and have a new appreciation for those roles.

  9. April GardnerJanuary 2, 2013 at 12:13 PM

    Fedora-wearing hero? Count me in!!
    Why don't men wear classy hats more? Baseball caps are good an all but c'mon, guys, bring back the fedora!

    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 2, 2013 at 5:03 PM

      You got it, April. And I have no idea. I agree and would like to see them make a comeback too, and even better, the gentleman beneath them. Just saying. =)

  10. AnonymousJanuary 2, 2013 at 1:34 PM

    I would love to be in the book drawing. Thanks for having the giveaway.


    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 2, 2013 at 5:03 PM

      Rose, you look like a new name to me. Welcome and you are in the book drawing.

  11. JanJanuary 2, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    As the wife of an ex Harley gang member who was saved over 25 years ago.(before he was mine) this sounds like a really interesting book. It is so amazing how God can change even the tough guys. I married mine in
    1990 after I was an Air Force widow two years before. The only signs of the old man are the tattoos that remain.

    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 2, 2013 at 8:57 PM

      Jan, welcome back and it's a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing about your husband. I love getting to know the FHF followers better! You are in the book drawing.

  12. Mary MannersJanuary 2, 2013 at 6:43 PM

    I LOVED this book. It's one of my all-time favorites. Congratulations, Carla! Keep them coming!!!

    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 2, 2013 at 8:57 PM

      I did too! Thank you for taking the time to drop by Mary.

  13. KayMJanuary 2, 2013 at 8:57 PM

    I would really like to read Unlikely Praise. You make it sound like such a good book! Please enter me in the drawing.

    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 2, 2013 at 8:59 PM

      I would like you to read it too. Shade is a great hero and his story is very good! You are in the drawing for the novel, Kay and good to see you back. =)

  14. Library LadyJanuary 3, 2013 at 4:32 PM

    I am not familiar with Shade or the book, "Unlikely Praise".
    My daughter and son-in-law are in the worship & praise team at their church.
    I would love to win the fedora and a print copy of the book.
    Thanks for entering me in the giveaway.
    Janet E.

    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 4, 2013 at 6:11 PM

      Hi Janet! I see you appreciate the fedora also! We'll get you in the drawing for the book and the hat. Welcome to FHF. =)

  15. StaceyJanuary 4, 2013 at 10:50 PM

    Hi Nancy, I am swooning! Oh my goodness... I need to read this book. It sounds like a great love story. I haven't been reading much with trying to finish my WIP, but I think I might have to make time for this one. WOW! Great review!

    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 5, 2013 at 8:28 AM

      Good! You should be, haha. And yes, yes you do. I can relate. I got a request for a full AFTER I decided to make a fairly sweeping change but yes, you'll want to make time for this one. Carla has written not only an FHF worthy hero, but her book intrigued me because it was written with plain, simple prose in a fairly well-used plot (good girl - bad boy (though reformed)) and yet I literally could NOT put it down. I flew through the novel and was sad when it was over. Great to see you here. =)

  16. Cathy RichmondJanuary 6, 2013 at 7:48 PM

    Oooh, you know I love a guy with a guitar! Sounds fascinating!

    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 7, 2013 at 11:10 AM

      Haha, Cathy I DO know that about you. I'll get you in the drawing for the novel and great to see you.

  17. AnonymousJanuary 10, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    This looks like a great book. Thanks for the chance to win. I love how God uses music for his glory and purpose. I like the print format.
    marypopmom (at) yahoo (dot) com

    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 10, 2013 at 9:18 PM

      Mary you're in the book drawing! Welcome to FHF.

  18. AnonymousJanuary 11, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    This is a terrific read! I've read it and Shade is, without doubt, a swoon-worthy hero. I don't need to be entered as I own the ebook, but wanted to add my two cents! Great review!

    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 13, 2013 at 9:22 PM

      Agreed and Carla, Shade and I all appreciate the support, Kim!

  19. Tiffany IbarraJanuary 11, 2013 at 3:24 PM

    What a man! And what a review! I just love how Carla made Shade even stronger by showing his weaknesses. Thanks for sharing this hero and story with us.

    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 13, 2013 at 9:23 PM

      Agreed and thank you, Tiffany. There were so many layers to Shade and he worked on my heart on all of them. We appreciate you stopping by and throwing your support behind our favorite Ex-Dead Lizard!!!

  20. happygretJanuary 12, 2013 at 5:02 PM

    This story had everything against it as far as what I love in a hero.
    My prototype hero is a raised-in-church professional with short hair, no body art, drives a German import and still feels guilty about the ONE time he drank three beers at a party--in college.
    So a long-haired musician with tattoos, a truly wild past, and a rather unreliable truck is not my kind of hero. However, Shade's wounded past grabbed hold of me and wouldn't let go. He had me at Del Rio Destroyer and all it represented.

    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 13, 2013 at 9:24 PM

      Haha, I knew that, Gretchen but THANK YOU for giving him a chance. You totally are the only person in the giftcard drawing right now with double entries no less. Glad you loved him as much as me and you crack me up. I sort of want a ratty old truck with a cool name and mysterious background too.

  21. Sherida StewartJanuary 12, 2013 at 7:23 PM

    Shade does sound interesting! I'd like to be in the drawing for the Kindle version. Thanks!

    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 13, 2013 at 9:25 PM

      Sherida, if you do wounded hero AT ALL, you'll love this book. We've got you in the book drawing (happening tomorrow!) You look like a new name/face to me so welcome to FHF!

  22. Carla RossiJanuary 14, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    Yikes! I can't believe Shade's time here at FHF is almost over. Jumping in to say thanks to everyone for their comments and support, and thanks to Nancy for this awesome showcase of heroes. It has been a pleasure to share Shade with you all and, if you haven't read Unlikely Praise, I hope you'll give it a chance and let us know what you think.
    Thanks again!

    1. Nancy KimballJanuary 15, 2013 at 12:21 AM

      Thank you, Carla! It's been a pleasure for sure. I am SO LATE but once I go load all the names into the randomizer, I'll be announcing winners!

  23. Nancy KimballJanuary 15, 2013 at 12:31 AM


    Courtesy of random.org, a copy of Unlikely Praise goes to April Gardner. Congrats!

    Courtesy of being the only follower in the gift card drawing is happygret. But thank you, THANK YOU for naming the truck. I still smile when I see/hear Del Rio Destroyer. Congrats!

    Courtesy of being the only one gutsy enough to ask for my Fedora, though being a new reader to Unlikely Praise, is Library Lady Janet E.

    Congrats everyone and thank you Carla for sharing Shade with us. =)