February 15, 2013

Landon Grainger

Before we even get started, you have to go look at him. And then if you manage to make it back here, then we'll talk about how Landon Grainger filled the big shoes of following the 2012 FHF Hero of the Year, Cole McKenna. http://www.danipettrey.com/fun/

Oh yay! Some of you made it back. Author Dani Pettrey set a pretty high bar with Cole and let's face it, becoming an FHF hero is already an oxygen required, nose-bleed high kind of bar to reach. Please keep that in mind when I tell you I spent the first two-thirds of Shattered getting my stomach in a knot because Landon was a really good hero in a really good story but he wasn't quite an FHF hero.

Then I hit Chapter 36.

I actually wanted that to be the excerpt but after deliberating it at length decided that scene was too deep into the novel and would give too much of the story away. Anyway, once Landon spring jumped straight into FHF, the rest of his novel was a crazy thrill ride adventure where I had no idea what was happening. Every time I thought I'd figured out who the killer was I was wrong and so many times I just wanted to bite through my lip because I was feeling everything Landon was feeling. Then the unthinkable kept happening and Landon kept my heart swinging from tender moments to panic moments almost to the very end. After brooding in angst and frustration for two hundred pages, when he finally threw the switch, man did he throw the switch. Loved it. Loved him. Let's take a closer look at Yancey, Alaska's Deputy Landon Grainger.

About Landon Grainger's novel Shattered by Dani Pettrey (released Feb. 1, 2013):

When her prodigal brother's return to Yancey, Alaska, is shattered by his arrest for murder, Piper McKenna is determined to protect him.

Deputy Landon Grainger loves the McKennas like family, but he's also sworn to find the truth. And he knows those closest to you have the power to deceive you the most. With his sheriff pushing for a quick conviction, some unexpected leads complicate the investigation, and pursuing the truth puts Landon's career in jeopardy.

When Piper launches her own investigation, Landon realizes he must protect her from herself--and from whatever complications await as the two follow clues deep into Canada's rugged backcountry. Not only does their long friendship seem to be turning into something more, but this dangerous case is becoming deadlier with each step.

From Shattered by Dani Pettrey:

          Piper never listened. Never learned. First poking her nose into his investigation and ticking off the eyewitness, and now this—out in the middle of nowhere with Denny, again.
          He cut through the forest, headed for the clearing they’d all used back in high school as a summer make-out spot. Knowing Denny, that’s where they’d be. Visiting it in winter didn’t make Denny any less predictable. Seriously, what did Piper see in the guy? Sure, he had good looks and money, but she was more than that.
          Laughter reached his ears—Piper’s. She was probably touching Denny’s arm the way she did when she said something she found amusing. Just as she had the night of Cole and Bailey’s engagement party.
          It had nearly brought him to his knees. He couldn’t shake the image from his mind, couldn’t breathe, so he’d ended up at Hawkings trying unsuccessfully to drown the memories from his mind.
          It’d been wrong. He never should have let it get to him. Never should have turned to alcohol to numb the pain. He knew better. Seeking solace in a bottle never brought anyone any good.
          Stepping clear of the forest, he found them. Piper’s hand was resting on Denny’s arm, just as he’d imagined, and the two of them were huddled beneath a blanket with a picnic of sorts spread out before them. How cheesy could Denny be?
          The urge to hurl gnawed at his gut.
          “But what if you’re wrong?” Denny said, stroking her chin with his gloved thumb.
          “But Landon’s—”
          “Ready to throttle you?” he said, stepping forward.
          Piper sprang to her feet. The blanket that had been covering her pooled at her feet. “What are you—?”
          “Doing here?” His jaw tightened, his heart whirring in his ears. “I could ask you the same. Surely, you’re not out in the middle of nowhere with a man again.”
          Denny scrambled to his feet. “We were just having a picnic. And I don’t see how it’s any of your business.”
          “Not my business? Well, it seems Piper and I are both lacking in the ability to determine what is and isn’t our business.”
          Her brows pinched together. “What are you talking about?”
          “Not here.” He grasped her by the arm. “We’ll talk in the truck.”
          “Truck?” She tugged against his hold. “I can’t leave.”
          “Wrong.” He pulled her with him.
          Denny hurried after them. “You can’t just haul her away.”
          Landon tightened his grip. “Watch me.” When Denny continued his pursuit, Landon turned and growled, “Denny, stay out of this.”
          Piper trudged alongside him, tugging against his hold. “Landon, you’re being rude… and ridiculous.”
          “I’m being ridiculous? You’re the one who acts without thinking. First with Ashley, now with Denny in the middle of nowhere?”
          “And you are the one who acts without feeling.”
          “What the blazes is that supposed to mean?” That he didn’t care, didn’t feel? She couldn’t be further from the truth. He’d been drowning in his feelings for her.
          “Why can’t it ever be the other way around? Why can’t you express what you are feeling? Or is it simply that you don’t feel?”
          Don’t feel? He wanted nothing more than to press her up against his truck and show her exactly how he felt about her—kissing her until she was weak in the knees. But the last time he’d followed his heart, it got shattered. This time, it looked like it was going to get shattered no matter what he chose to do, and there wasn’t a thing he could do to stop it. As long as he had breath in his lungs, his heart belonged to her.
          He opened the passenger side door of his truck and hefted Piper in. “Trust me, I feel plenty.”
          Her eyes widened, and he knew he’d said too much. He slammed the door and stomped around to the driver’s side.
          Climbing in his truck, he started the engine. “Feelings,” he said, shifting the gear into drive, “put you in the middle of nowhere with a man, and that’s dangerous.”
          She linked her arms across her chest as he sped down the road. “I’m in the middle of nowhere with you.”
          “That’s different.” And she knew it.
          “How exactly? You are a man, aren’t you?” She cocked her chin up a defiant notch. “Or is it just that you’re not dangerous?”
          “More dangerous than you know.”

Copyright 2013 by Dani Pettrey. Excerpt used with permission. All rights reserved. 

 Gallant Score:
For being so angsty Landon has a gallant streak a Texas mile-wide. He earns some serious orange for the things he doesn't do, as much as those he does. You're going to see this more toward the middle and the end.

 Softie Score:
I suspect it's there, Landon's soft side, he just doesn't have much of a chance to show it because he's busy protecting Piper and trying to solve a murder. But the place in particular it shines through in the novel, (and in a very special exclusive toward the bottom) you get the FHF-hero heart squeeze for sure.

Stupid Strike:
This is not because Landon has a hard time expressing himself to Piper and pretty much everyone when it comes to what's going on with him inside. Landon earned this bit of orange in a bar with some whiskey and one Becky Malone. That's all I'm going to say. But it's actually nice to put some orange here for a change because it reminds me (and you guys hopefully) that great heroes will sometimes do stupid things. And if we're being honest, unless we're the ones hurt by it, we usually love them a little more for it. Because they're more like us.

 Wounded Score:
I have to say for as bad as Landon has it for Piper and as wrecked as he is about it, he actually does a really, really great job of well, doing his job. I can't say I can't imagine what it's like to have to ask questions and consider the possibility that people you care about deeply are going to be hurt because of you and your conviction to do the right thing. I can't say that because I lived it with Landon in this novel. Landon has scars on his heart from Piper, scars on his heart from his father, and scars on his heart from some bad decisions in his past. But in spite of all that, he's so strong in so, so many ways. And one of the things I truly love about this man is how he gives God the credit, and isn't afraid to pray for help sincerely and often.

Swoon Score:
Only one of these is because of his picture, I promise. I'd painted a pretty good one in my head already of the outside but I gotta tell you hero-girls, if you'll get a few chapters in and let the intrigue and suspense of the novel and getting to revisit the McKenna clan carry you into the story where Landon begins to change and grow, you're going to be so, so glad you did. Shattered is a good book anyway apart from Landon. He's not what carries the story because Piper is such a strong heroine (I so wanted to be her by the end!) but he has so may moments that will make you feel. Frustrated, angry, scared, hurt, courageous, that by the time you reach the end worn out and head still spinning because the novel twisted and turned on you (in a good way), you're going to love Landon as much as Piper. And me.

About Deputy Landon Grainger's author Dani Pettrey: 

Dani Pettrey is a wife, home-schooling mom, and the acclaimed author of the romantic suspense series Alaskan Courage, which includes her bestselling debut novel Submerged and latest release Shattered. She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves--the thrill of adventure, nail biting suspense, the deepening of her characters' faith, and plenty of romance. She and her husband reside in Maryland with their two teenage daughters. Visit her website at www.danipettrey.com

The FHF exclusive directly from the author:

(Instead of a vignette of backstory or off-page insight into our hero, Dani actually wrote us a scene from their early beginnings. Can't tell you guys how excited I am to be able to share this with you! It's REALLY GOOD. =)

            She came bounding across the beach, sand kicking up behind her bare feet. Her big brown eyes wider than her smile—she’d discovered something. Cole’s kid sister was always discovering something. A born explorer, that one. Landon grinned.
            “Cole!” Piper squealed. The freckles spattering her sweet face were in full swing from the summer sun.
            “What’s up, Piper?” Cole bear-cradled his ten-year-old sister up in his arm.
            “Look what I found.” She uncurled her hands.
            Landon leaned over her slender shoulder, taking in the wadded up piece of paper.
            Trash? The kid was excited about someone’s toss away?
            “It’s wet.” She grinned, blinking her big eyes at Landon. “Maybe it washed up on the sand. It looks old.”
            The paper was weathered. He’d give her that much. He gently took it from her hand, carefully unfolding it and smoothing it out on a rock.
            She wriggled free of Cole’s football-maneuver hold and bent in the sand beside Landon, her eyes alight with anticipation.
            At the Point 10 p.m. Saturday
            “What’s happening at the Point?” she asked so innocently, Landon didn’t have the heart to tell her teens his age used the Point as a make-out spot. She was pure and he longed for her to always stay protected—had ever since she’d first wrapped her tiny fist around his finger as a toddler.
            “Tomorrow’s Saturday.” She looked back at Cole. “Can we go?”
            “I’m afraid 10 is past your bedtime, kiddo,” he said. “Maybe when you’re older.” He smiled and headed back to his new friend Bailey wading along the shoreline.
            Piper crossed her arms with a huff.
            “I’ll tell you what,” Landon said, standing. “I’ll check into it. See if anything suspicious is going on and report back to you.”
            She eyed him sideways. “You will?”
            He smiled. “Anything for you, Pipsqueak.” He tugged her braid.
            A soft smile curled on her lips. “Thanks, but I thought we’d agreed you’d stop calling me that.”
            “Just like I agreed never to toss you in the sea.” He grinned, moving towards her.  
            She held up a delicate finger, stepping back. “Don’t you dare.”
            She was so adorable; thinking a simple shake of her finger was enough to stop him.
            “Landon!” A peal of laughter burst from her lips as he flipped her over her his shoulder and headed for the surf.

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Christianbook.com

The giveaways:

One copy of Shattered (winner's choice of format, print or ebook)

For existing readers, $10 Amazon or Barnes & Noble giftcard.

Please include if you would like to be entered for the book or for the gift card and if your profile won't let me look up your e-mail, please include your address in a spam fighting format like callmeAlaska at treehouseoflove dot com.

IMPORTANT: For the giftcard drawing, as always we need the name of a character not used in the excerpt or the feature and once that character has been used, please choose another.

Winners will be announced on Feb. 28th, 2013

One more thing. I want to know who among the hero girls has ever been snow skiing, rock climbing, scuba diving, or tangled with organized crime. Or if you want to and haven't, why not?

February 1, 2013

Silas Ballantyne

This historical hero is a lesson in what makes simple men great. Silas is an incredibly strong man spiritually, emotionally and physically and yet has a humbleness that almost doesn't seem to fit. He has a quiet wisdom and generous spirit that frankly I'm still surprised survived through what he endured before his novel begins. Of our heroes to date, Silas is probably the strongest mix of wounded and gallant we've ever had. On the surface he is a Scotsman indentured servant, blacksmith, musician but there are so many more layers to his character. His author Laura Frantz placed him in a story so well woven the reader fully appreciates every part of him through an incredible story. I wasn't very deep into the novel when it turned from a book into that incredible reader experience we all crave where you forget it's a book because you're a part of the story of two people that you care for, fear for, cry for, rejoice with, while praying their love and destiny triumphs in the end.

About Silas Ballantyne's novel Love's Reckoning by Laura Frantz (released Sept. 1, 2012):

On a bitter December day in 1784, Silas Ballantyne arrives at the door of blacksmith Liege Lee in York County, Pennsylvania. Silas is determined to finish his apprenticeship quickly and move west. But because he is a fast worker and a superb craftsman, Liege endeavors to keep him in York by appealing to an old tradition: the apprentice shall marry one of his master's beautiful daughters.

Eden is as gentle and fresh as Elspeth is high-spirited and cunning. But are they truly who they appear to be? In a house laced with secrets, each sister seeks to secure her future. Which one will claim Silas' heart--and will he agree to Liege's arrangement?

In this sweeping family saga, one man's choices in love and work, in friends and enemies, set the stage for generations to come. This is the Ballantyne Legacy.

From Love's Reckoning by Laura Frantz:

      She brightened, reminding him of a child eager to please. "I could knit you a hat, some stockings. Our winters are very cold--"
      "Nae." As soon as he said it, he felt a tug of regret. Her lovely face grew pinched. Gentling his tone, he added, "You can ill afford more work."
      Her chin lifted. "'Tis my way to do such things. If it's not your shirt I'll be sewing or your stockings I'll be knitting, 'twill be someone else's."
      The softly spoken words put him in his place. "I'm in your debt." He shifted in the doorway, suddenly at sea. "D'ye have need of anything? I could make you a ladle, some tongs for the kitchen. A cowbell or two."
      "Might you have another book?"
      "How goes the Thomson?" he asked, remembering the poems he'd lent her.
      She smiled, the dimple in her cheek deepening. "Fareweek, ye bughts, an' all your ewes, An' fields whare bloomin' heather grows"
      Her Scots was so charmingly mangled he couldn't check a grin. "Here's another you might like." He stepped back into his room and produced a worn copy of brown leather. "I've but three more, other than the Buik."
      "The Buik?" she echoed, taking the offering.
      "The Bible."
      Something so poignant passed over her face at his answer, he found himself nearly holdings his breath. She asked quietly, "Might I have that instead?"
      He hesitated. "You have no family Bible?"
      The answer was in her eyes before it reached her lips. "Nay, no Bible... no Buik."
      He'd suspected the Lees had no Holy Writ, just as they said no prayers. And he sensed he'd erred in his asking, as she was turning the color of her red cape. "Mine is in Erse--Gaelic--or I'd give it to you straightaway."
      Her eyes filled with tears. His gut twisted. That she was thirsty for heavenly things, there could be no doubt. He'd oft felt the same so understood her need. Yet he had needs of his own. And he needed to distance himself, starting now...
      "Might you... read it to me?" she queried.
      Heat climbed up his neck. "'Tis a big book."
      She looked away and he saw her disappointment.
      "Aye, I will," he said. "But when--where?"
      When she glanced up at him again, her face held a rare resolve. "Here in the stairwell. I don't know when. Soon. For now I must see to noonday dinner."
      With that, she started down the steps. He watched her go, wanting to change his mind, call her back. The weight of what he'd just committed to, simple as it seemed, nearly made him groan. 'Twould be easier to simply attend kirk, he reasoned, thinking of the stone church atop the hill. He could see it now in the distance, had watched a few faithful congregants emerge despite the sullen weather a half hour before.
      He wanted no complications, no romantic entanglements. If Elspeth had asked him, he would have questioned her motives. There was a slyness about her, a cunning that was entirely absent in Eden. Aye, Eden was cut of a different cloth. With Eden, her hunger was for the Word, not him. Not time spent with him. And she was willing to risk her father's ire--for ire it would surely be--to get the spiritual sustenance she craved. Who was Silas to deny her?
      A snatch of a Gaelic Psalm wended its way through his tangled thoughts.

      My God with His lovingkindness shall come to meet me at every corner.

      Even in a stairwell.

Copyright 2012 by Laura Frantz. Excerpt used with permission. All rights reserved.

Gallant Score: 
It's too big a spoiler to tell you where a lot of these come from, but you'll see very early on in the story that Silas makes decisions rooted in his faith, his honor as a man, and to protect the people around him.

Wounded Score:

Here's an insider glimpse into the labor of love that is this blog. I spent a good forty minutes typing in a different excerpt that gave you a look into the scars on Silas, his body and his heart, but ultimately decided the one above showcased more layers of Silas and the tone of everyday interaction with Eden. For those of you who have read the novel, that second place excerpt was Silas's dream of his beloved homeland he wakes from in enough pain to pick up his father's violin. One of the many favorite moments I have of him in this novel, because it was such a pure glimpse into the life and heart he kept so hidden from everyone.

Softie Score:
From that dream I mentioned earlier we get a look at how good Silas is with kids, unlike Eden's sister Elspeth. It also got him a gallant orange head but he also writes a note for Eden and hides it in a book for her that will just melt your heart. Later as he helps her to grow in faith through some beautiful tender moments (that involve more writing) you're going to fall more in love with him. Just like Eden.

Stupid Strike:
A wounded hero always has a natural predisposition to react from anger and pain in a way they regret later. While I completely understand the combination of his own past and temper together with Eden's good intentions in a dark part of the novel taking them both in a direction I didn't want for either of them, I understood it. That's why there's no orange. As much as I wanted to rail at Silas to use all that strength to push past his own pain and Eden's and fight for them and their future, I understood what happened and why. It was a thin line for me between respecting her wishes and an inability to accept, confront and make peace with his past and the pain of the present. Back to the things I love about Silas and good Lord, there's just SO many.

Swoon Score:
There. That's better. If it seems I've tread much lighter through this hero feature than normal, I have. Love's Reckoning has such a powerful reader experience ripe with deceit, intrigue, longing, villains disguised as heroes and a hot mess of lies, coverups, and jealousy, that avoiding spoilers tied my fingers. What I can tell you is when Silas's nomination came in and I scoped the blurb on Amazon, nothing about it screamed FHF potential to me. Thankfully someone who shall not remain nameless, Stacey Zink, stayed on me. The ebook went on sale and I eventually reached it in my reading. Thank you Stacey and thank you Laura Frantz for creating such an epic hero in Silas Ballantyne. He was a sleeper of a hero but wow, hero-girls, Silas will get in your soul very quickly and own it until the last page. I wish I could put my hand in his just to know what it is to touch hands that can make such beautiful things, from guns to lanterns to music, that can make a fist and mead out justice, translate God's Word, and dry a tear with the tenderness of new snow.

About Silas Ballantyne's author Laura Frantz:

Award-winning historical novelist, Laura Frantz, was born into a family who followed the legendary frontiersman, Daniel Boone, to Kentucky during the turbulent 18th-century and still resides there today. Passionate about all things historical, she writes her manuscripts in longhand first. Her stories often incorporate Celtic themes. Her family lineage is Scottish, English, and Irish. She is the author of The Frontiersman's Daughter, Courting Morrow Little, The Colonel's Lady, and Love's Reckoning: The Ballantyne Legacy.

Frantz is represented by Janet Kobobel Grant, Literary Agent & Founder, Books & Such Literary Agency of Santa Rosa, California.

Readers can find Laura Frantz at www.laurafrantz.net

The FHF exclusive directly from the author:

Silas has always struggled mightily with his temper, something that landed him in grave trouble early on. When living in the Scottish Highlands on the Duke of Atholl's estate, he threatened to kill the  duke's son. As was common in this time period, Jamie Murray, the duke's heir, had seduced Silas's sister and she later died in childbirth. When Silas turned volatile, his family was evicted from the estate as part of the Highland clearances, even though Silas's father held the coveted position of fiddler and composer to the duke. Silas had to live with the fact that he was responsible for his family's sad fate, something that led to his conversion and his driving ambition to establish the Ballantyne legacy.

Amazon   Barnes & Noble  Christianbook.com

The giveaways:

One copy of Love's Reckoning: The Ballantyne Legacy (winner's choice of format, print of ebook)
For Love's Reckoning existing readers, $10 Amazon or Barnes & Noble giftcard.

Please include if you would like to be entered for the book or for the gift card and if your profile won't let me look up your e-mail, please include your address in a spam fighting format like silasb at musicandmetal dot com. 
IMPORTANT: For the giftcard drawing, as always we need the name of a character not used in the excerpt or the feature and once that character has been used, please choose another.

Winners will be announced February 14th, 2013.

Hero girls chime in please: Is the feature easier to read with the light and dark orange reversed like this? If you can't stand the black background (or anything else) this is the time to say so. Also, I won't be able to comment and interact as much this month but know that I'm watching the comments and will get everyone in their appropriate drawing. Lots going on with my own heroes I hope to be able to share soon.

Now let's play!
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