June 15, 2013

Carl Richards / Gottfried Charles von Reichart III

I dragged my feet on reading this book. As much as the hero girls were clamoring for Carl to make an appearance, I quietly lived in fear that delightful man on the cover wouldn't live up to all the hype. So A Noble Groom kept hovering in the number 2 spot in my to-be-read pile from his nominations. Then his name turned up so many times in the Guess the Hero post last month, I knew I better get his novel read and at least give him a chance before I lost all credibility as a fiction hero expert.

After downloading the book I wanted to get a few chapters read before bed. Ha. What a joke. It's okay to laugh at me. I'm laughing at me right now. My email request to Jody at 3:06 a.m. that same morning began with this line. "Okay now I feel stupid for having waited so long to read this."

Carl lived up to his cover, to all the hype around this novel and then some. He was such a different hero right away, a little arrogant and a lot cerebral. In fairness that's part of the charm. A nobleman physicist inventor with a lab full of every chemical imaginable turned gentleman vagabond fugitive. God knew exactly what He was doing as the difficult task of following Michael Hosea was going to require a special hero indeed. Carl Richards was the right one for sure.

About A Noble Groom (released April 1, 2013):

Recently widowed Annalisa Werner has the feeling her husband was murdered but can't prove it. Alone with her young daughter in 1881 Michigan, she has six months left to finish raising the money needed to pay back the land contract her husband purchased, and the land is difficult to toil by herself. She needs a husband. With unmarried men scarce, her father sends a letter to his brother in the Old Country, asking him to find Annalisa a groom.

For nobleman Carl von Reichart, the blade of the guillotine is his fate. He's been accused and convicted of a serious crime he didn't commit, and his only escape is to flee to a small German community in Michigan where he'll be safe. He secures a job on Annalisa's farm but bumbles through learning about farming and manual labor.

Annalisa senses that Carl is harboring a secret about his past, yet she finds herself drawn to him anyway. He's gentle, kind, and romantic--unlike any of the men she's ever known. He begins to restore her faith in the ability to love--but her true groom is still on his way. And time is running out on them all.

Excerpt from A Noble Groom:

          The flicker from the long match lit the narrow chamber and revealed a torch on the wall. Matthias wasted no time in lighting it and leading the way into a tunnel.
          "Let's pray there are no collapses in the wall or ceiling." Matthias stooped low.
          Carl's back grazed the top of the tunnel, and he had to arch his neck at an awkward angle to see Matthias. "I take it my father hasn't been down here in a while?"
          "There haven't been too many sieges recently."
          The wryness of Matthias's tone brought a sense of renewed calm to Carl's spirit. "True." He inhaled a deep breath of the earthiness of wet soil.
          "So where am I going?"
          Carl stumbled to a halt. "You cannot be serious."
          America was a place for homeless serfs, unhappy peasants, and discontent miners. He'd heard his father tell more than one of his employees who'd come to him with complaints over wages or working conditions, "If you don't like it, go to America."
          That distant country an ocean away was not a place for a nobleman like him.
          "I couldn't possibly go there."
          Matthias stopped, and his eyes censured him. "What? You're too good for America?"
          "There must be a place more suitable to my status."
          "Well, now you're penniless and homeless." Matthias started forward. "So you'll fit right in."
          "What about England?" Maybe he could find another position as a tutor. Or a professor at one of the universities.
          "And if Lord Faust hears of your return?"
          Carl sighed. If his former employer, Lord Faust, discovered he'd stepped foot in England, the man would track him down and put a bullet in his heart. Lord Faust wanted him dead just as much as the duke did.
          "So there's no other place?" He scrambled after Matthias.
          For a moment they trudged in silence, the steady drip of runoff water echoing with their footsteps. The light of the torch illuminated the winding tunnel, aiding their navigation through the roots and stones. The damp chill penetrated Carl's coat, and he tried to shake off the depressing thought of having to leave his homeland.
          He should be grateful. The Lord had graciously answered his prayers and decided to spare his life. He would get to keep his head on his body--if he made it out of the tunnel and the castle without being caught.
          But America? Could he really go there? It was so far away. So foreign. A place for poor dissidents. Besides, where would he live?
          "You'll go live with my brother," Matthias said as if he'd overheard Carl's thoughts.
          "I didn't know you had a brother."
          Matthias snorted.
          And its echo in the tunnel confronted Carl and made him stumble with shame. How much did he know about the personal life of his faithful servant who'd been a part of his father's household for more years than Carl had lived?
          Apparently not much.
          "I received a letter from my brother two days ago. He wants me to send him a groom for one of his widowed daughters."
          "Wait a minute!" Carl straightened and bumped his head against the rocky soil of the ceiling, sending a shower of dirt down upon himself. "If I must go to America, then so be it. But I won't marry a complete stranger as part of the deal."
          Matthias stopped and turned. The torchlight cast long, eerie shadows over the walls and turned his servant's face into that of a ghoul. "Of course you won't marry my niece." His voice was hard, and the glimmer in his eyes pierced Carl with a strange shaft of guilt.
          Certainly Matthias knew he couldn't marry a woman who wasn't of noble birth.
          "I'm sure your niece is a nice enough girl." For a peasant.

Excerpt used with permission. All rights reserved.

Gallant Score

Carl is a good man in every sense of the term. He's authentic and as often as he wants to run from a challenge, his sense of honor and decorum won't allow it. So much of the pleasure of this read is following Carl through his journey from "that guy" above, hehe, to the satisfied sigh of awesome when you reach the end. Therefore I'm going to tread extra light and stay spoiler free. Carl's nobility runs deeper than his blood. In the depths of his spirit, he is all that is noble and good in a hero and the reader is treated to that side of him again and again. It never stops bothering Carl that he's deceiving everyone with his identity, not because he wanted the recognition, but because he knew it was wrong. Then there was that moment in the field when he "fell" and tried to order Annalisa and her daughter to leave him and save themselves. This hero-girl teared up and was so proud of him, even more than when he took on the, we'll say "bad man," knowing with his smaller stature he stood zero chance of coming out on top of that fight.

Wounded Score

Carl has a past and some history, but no emotional baggage or unhealed wounds of the past to overcome. So that I loved him as much as I did as quickly as I did completely surprised me. He's going to get several direct hits to the heart deep in the novel, but how he weathers them is part of why he is here. 

Softie Score

No woman can read this book and not fall in love with Carl. I'm very comfortable making that claim and now understand why the hero-girls clamored long and loud for Carl to be featured. If I'm ever blessed with a daughter of my own, I want her to have her own magic talking horsey to ride on his back, save her puppy, and tell her stories. Every little girl deserves a Carl Richards. This side of him really hit hard for me when he recounted his one battle as a soldier. What he had to do, what he went through because of it, and I'll tell you guys, it made me hate what war does in the hearts and lives of those who wage it all the more.

Stupid Strikes

No. The red-blooded American in me wants to pop him one here for his early views on America, LOL, but I can't. The thought of giving Carl a stupid strike makes me nauseous, he is THAT GREAT a hero.  

Swoon Score

Yep. I've been doing this over a year now and judging by how much the blog has grown in that time, I'm pretty good at it. Now who's arrogant? LOL. Seriously though, I'm only saying that because even so, I know I couldn't fully capture the awesome that is Gottfried Charles von Reichart III, better known as Carl Richards. Or horsey, depending on who is calling him, hehe. I don't need to tell you he's handsome. The cover does that. I've shown you in his scoring there is so much more to him than that and urging you not to make the mistake I made. Read it now. Seriously, don't wait to see if you win it. Borrow it from a friend. Sell some stuff on Craig's list for guilt free book-buying. Carl is SO worth it.

Jody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of the bestselling Unending Devotion and The Preacher's Bride. She holds a bachelor's degree from Taylor University and a master's degree from the University of Wisconsin, both in social work. Jody lives in Michigan with her husband and five busy children. Learn more at JodyHedlund.com.

This is Jody's second hero to appear here at FHF, the first being Dr. Eli Ernest from The Doctor's Lady.

Jody's schedule didn't permit our FHF exclusive, but we thank her first for writing us an orange-head worthy hero and second for sharing him here with us.

Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Christianbooks.com

The giveaways

I'm as serious as a wildfire you should just buy this book now. But because I know I'm not the only one with more books I want than paycheck I'm going to give away a copy too. Be sure you tell me in the comments to enter you in the drawing for the book, print or e-book, winner's choice.

(Note: After I wrote that, I felt compelled to add I don't mean to be insensitive to our friends and family in Colorado. Please continue to pray for them. Wildfire has always been deadly, requiring quick thinking and courage. A Noble Groom readers will see that was as true in 1881 as it is today.)

For existing readers, you all know the drill. Leave me the name of a character not used in the excerpt. Once that character's name has been used, you'll need to choose another. That drawing is for a $10 giftcard to Amazon or Barnes & Noble, winner's choice.

Winners will be randomly drawn at midnight central time on June 29th. Now let's talk. For those who have read this, let's rave on Carl and convince the rest of them he's a must read. =)

June 1, 2013

Michael Hosea

Today marks a very special day here at Fiction Hero Features and in the life of this author. I began Redeeming Love in a tire store waiting area on a Saturday morning in January of 2010. That afternoon, I made a hard phone call to a close friend apologizing I would be missing her mom's bridal shower because of a book. She understood because she's also an avid reader. That evening as I finished it in absolute brokenness fused with hope, I knew I'd been given a true picture of what it means to live out the love of Christ.

Michael Hosea owned this hero girl from that day forward, becoming the greatest, most epic literary hero that all others would be judged by. I insisted my closest friends read it until they did. They all thanked me afterward and one purchased copies as Mother's Day gifts for her family. Another lady in my bible study I shared it with was able to talk about how it blessed her on a mission trip in Nicaragua. Another lady on the mission had also read it and sparked an impromptu book discussion. When that lady returned home, she purchased twenty four copies, one for every member of the mission team. Once you experience this story you can't help but want others to have the opportunity to be changed by it also.

When I first envisioned Fiction Hero Features, in the recesses of my heart lived the hope that maybe, someday, I would be able to feature Michael Hosea. That someday is today and I thank God for giving me the desires of my heart in His time, not mine. Thank you to Francine Rivers for continuing to be such an inspiration, and for saying yes. Thank you to Beverly and Margaret at WaterBrook Multnomah, Katie at Tyndale, and Alicia at RandomHouse who helped make this possible. A special thank you to two of my crit partners and loyal blog followers, Joannie and GKE, for their help and encouragement with this one. I'm blessed to have a Miriam in you both.

About Redeeming Love:

California’s gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep.

Angel expects nothing from men but betrayal. Sold into prostitution as a child, she survives by keeping her hatred alive. And what she hates most are the men who use her, leaving her empty and dead inside.

Then she meets Michael Hosea, a man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything. Michael obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation, until despite her resistance, her frozen heart begins to thaw.

But with her unexpected softening comes overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. And so Angel runs. Back to the darkness, away from her husband’s pursuing love, terrified of the truth she no longer can deny: Her final healing must come from the One who loves her even more than Michael does…the One who will never let her go.

A powerful retelling of the story of Gomer and Hosea, Redeeming Love is a life-changing story of God’s unconditional, redemptive, all-consuming love.

From REDEEMING LOVE by Francine Rivers, copyright (c) 1997, 2007 by Francine Rivers. Used with permission of WaterBrook Multnomah, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. Any third party use of this material, outside of this publication, is prohibited. Interested parties must apply directly to Random House, Inc. for permission.
For online information about other Random House, Inc. books and authors, see the Internet Web Site at http://www.randomhouse.com.


     All the way back, she had imagined him gloating and taunting, rubbing her face in her own broken pride. Instead, he knelt before her and washed her dirty, blistered feet. Throat burning, she looked down at his dark head and struggled with the feelings rising in her. She waited for them to die away, but they wouldn’t. They stayed and grew and made her hurt even more.
    His hands were so gentle. He took such care. When her feet were clean, he kneaded her aching calves. He cast the dirty water outside and poured more, setting the pan in her lap. He took her hands and washed them as well. He kissed her stained, scratched palms and worked salve in. Then he wrapped them with warm bandages.
    And I hit him. I drew his blood…
    Angel shrank back ashamed. When he raised his head, she looked into his eyes. They were blue, like a clear spring sky. She had never really noticed before. “Why do you do this for me?” she asked thickly. “Why?”
    “Because for some of us, one mile can be farther to walk than thirty.” He brushed the dust and tangles from her hair, undressed her, and put her to bed. Undressing, he lay down beside her. He said nothing and asked nothing.
    She wanted to explain. She wanted to say she was sorry. The words just would not come. They stuck like hot rocks in her chest, weighing her down deeper and deeper.
    I don’t want to feel this. I can’t let myself feel this way. I can’t survive it.
    Michael turned on his side and propped his head up on his hand. He stroked the hair back from her temples. She was back in his tiny cabin and looked more lost than ever. Her body was like ice. He pulled her close to share his warmth.
    Angel didn’t move when he kissed her. If he wanted sex, he could have it. All he wanted. Anything. For tonight, anyway.
    “Try to sleep,” he said. “You’re home and safe.”
    Home. She took a long, shuddering breath and closed her eyes. She had no home. Her head rested on his chest, and the steady beat of his heart soothed her. She remained like that for a long time, but for all her exhaustion, sleep would not come. She drew away and lay on her back staring up at the ceiling.
    “Will you talk about it?” Michael said.
    “About what?”
    “Why you left?”
    “I don’t know.”
    Michael traced the side of her face. “Yes, you do.”
    She swallowed heavily, fighting emotions she couldn’t even identify. “I can’t put it into words.”
    He curled a strand of her pale hair around his finger and tugged gently. “When I made you say my name, you couldn’t pretend nothing was happening between us, could you? Was that it? I wanted to get inside you, inside your heart,” he said huskily. “Did I?”
    “A little.”
    “Good.” He traced her face with one finger again. “A woman is either a wall or a door, beloved.”
    She gave a bleak laugh and looked at him. “Then I guess I’m a door a thousand men have walked through.”
    “No. You are a wall, a stone wall, four feet thick and a hundred feet high. I can’t get over you all by myself, but I keep trying.” He kissed her. “I need help, Tirzah.” Her lips softened and she touched his hair. Aroused, he drew back. He knew how exhausted she was.
    “Roll over,” he said softly, and she did. He tucked her body into his own and put his arm around her. He brushed his lips against her hair. “Go to sleep.” She sighed in relief. It only took a few moments for the weariness to catch up with her.
    She lay in the safety of Michael’s arms and dreamed of a high, thick wall. He was there, below her, planting vines. As soon as they touched the soil, they grew, spreading the green life up the sides and working their strong tendrils between the stones. The mortar was crumbling.
    Michael lay in the darkness, wide awake. He would have to give up hoping he could break through her barriers. But how do I reach her, Lord? Tell me how!
    He closed his eyes and slept peacefully, forgetting the enemy who was loose in the world. The battle was not yet won.

Gallant Score:

Michael's chivalry is a natural product of his virtue resulting in a life completely devoted to serving Christ. That's not to say Michael is perfect. He would be the first one to say so, which only adds to his depth of character. In thought, word, and deed, Michael strives from his core to live out his faith and love like Christ--sacrificially, completely, unconditionally, and steadfast. Moments that stand out are his visits to the Palace. I'd bet the farm he was the only man in the place keeping his pants on and his hands to himself. Then not hitting Angel back the first time she leaves. Setting Paul straight when he very freely gives his opinion of Michael's new wife. Stopping to help the Altmans when they were stranded and then taking them in for the winter. I could go on and on for paragraphs but will skip to the most powerful moment of Michael's gallantry for me as a reader.

Angel decides to confess the worst of her past, determined to shatter forever the bond forged between them by Michael's love for her. Instead of casting her out, giving up on her once and for all as she knew he would, Michael again goes to the Lord to draw strength. He then overwhelms Angel with acceptance, love, and compassion. This is my all-time favorite line from the novel.

She destroyed his dreams, and he made her wind chimes.   

Wounded Score:

Angel breaks Michael's heart, deeply and often. Most of the time intentionally drive him away because of her own wounds, and through that we witness the toll giving unconditional love requires. A touch of this orange predates Angel and the beginning of the novel. Michael did not come west alone and lost someone very dear to him on the journey. One of the things that never, ever fails to touch my heart no matter how many times I read this book is that the deeper the pain, the closer Michael draws to God.That is a huge chunk of what makes Michael the hero he is.

Softie Score:

Michael's tender and often humorous side is so endearing as he loves Angel to wholeness through Christ. Both the reader, and Angel, spend so much time seeing this side of him it is easy to forget he has fists and knows how to use them. When this is finally made into a movie, that will be one of the toughest scenes for me to watch. Michael charging up the stairs at Murphy's, kicking in the door, taking back his wife, and fighting their way out. Even in those moments when there is nothing soft about him, you understand and love him as much as when he's melting your heart with his compassion and gentleness.

Stupid Strikes:

Not in a million years. He's Michael Hosea.

Orange Heads to the Nth Power - But They Wouldn't All Fit

Swoon Score:

Michael is love. Not the tingly feeling, not the Valentine's Day, greeting card, riot-inciting man-gorgeous our culture has come to equate with swoon-worthy. Okay, yes, Michael actually does elicit that from most readers, particularly me, but way beyond that Michael is the personification of God's love. Journeying with him as he lives that out over and over and over again, not only in Angel's life but all around him, is what leaves readers indelibly changed by Redeeming Love. Before I read this novel, it was my heart's cry to truly know the love of man so powerful he would be willing to sacrifice everything for me. To die for me. I'm a girl who grew up in church and in the Bible, yet it took Michael Hosea to remind me I'd already been given that love at the cross of Calvary. I have that love. It was mine already to discover, to come home to, and more importantly, to give to others. It is why I believe so strongly in this book and this hero--because Michael Hosea leads straight back to my truest hero, Jesus Christ.

New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers began her literary career at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in English and journalism. From 1976 to 1985, she had a successful writing career in the general market, and her books were highly acclaimed by readers and reviewers. Although raised in a religious home, Francine did not truly encounter Christ until later in life, when she was already a wife, a mother of three, and an established romance novelist.

Shortly after becoming a born-again Christian in 1986, Francine wrote Redeeming Love as her statement of faith. First published by Bantam Books and then rereleased by Multnomah Publishers in the mid-1990s, this retelling of the biblical story of Gomer and Hosea, set during the time of the California Gold Rush, is now considered by many to be a classic work of Christian fiction. Redeeming Love continues to be one of the CBA's top-selling titles, and it has held a spot on the Christian bestseller list for nearly a decade.

Since Redeeming Love, Francine has published numerous novels with Christian themes—all bestsellers—and she has continued to win both industry acclaim and reader loyalty around the globe. Her Christian novels have been awarded or nominated for numerous honors, including the RITA Award, the Christy Award, the ECPA Gold Medallion, and the Holt Medallion in Honor of Outstanding Literary Talent. In 1997, after winning her third RITA Award for inspirational fiction, Francine was inducted into the Romance Writers of America's Hall of Fame. Francine's novels have been translated into over 20 different languages, and she enjoys bestseller status in many foreign countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, and South Africa.

Francine and her husband, Rick, live in northern California and enjoy time spent with their three grown children and taking every opportunity to spoil their grandchildren. Francine uses her writing to draw closer to the Lord, and she desires that through her work she might worship and praise Jesus for all He has done and is doing in her life.

The FHF Exclusive:

Francine's schedule didn't permit an exclusive but this is directly from the author.
The story of how Redeeming Love came to be Redeemed.


I'll say it again. I believe so strongly in this book and this hero because Michael leads straight back to Jesus Christ, who loves you more than you can possibly fathom. So I've assembled an AMAZING prize pack.

You have to see this in person and inhale its leather scent to really appreciate it, but leading off is a brand-new in the box NKJV Macarthur Study Bible. I had Michael's name put on it for two reasons. First, Michael's Bible didn't just live on their mantle in the cabin until it was time to sit by the fire and read. The words and truth of them lived in his heart and his life. The Bible is a gift to us from God. Learn it. Know it. Let it change you and deepen your faith so you can live and love like Christ to the world around you as Michael did. Second, how amazing a conversation piece is this? (Selfish truth here but I almost kept it.)

The Amazing Love: The Story of Hosea DVD. I have watched this movie twice and laughed and cried both times. Yes, that is my hand and no I don't have long, pretty polished fingernails. I'm an author. There are some that can do both but I haven't learned their secret yet.

A gorgeous Bob Siemon He Loves Me necklace inscribed with John 15:9 on the back. It is a beautiful verse and even more beautiful truth which says "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. "

And as always here at FHF, the book itself. A brand new, crease-free, copy of the 20th anniversary edition of the trade paperback to experience for yourself. Or maybe replace the one you loaned out that was never returned. Or to give to a friend who needs the truth of this book to point them to the Savior.

Also available at:

Amazon  Barnes & Noble   Christianbook.com

Every person who leaves an answer will be entered in the giveaway drawing that ends at Midnight central time on June 13th. I have to have a way to reach you so if your profile doesn't link to an e-mail address, leave it in a spam-fighter format like whynot (at) itwilldo (dot) com. 
Joy W. Doering gets a second entry for correctly guessing the hero from the last post. Congrats!!!
And because I want so, so much to get this book from "I've heard of it" to "Oh wow," like it happened for me, if you will share this post and tell me in your comment you did, I'll put your name in the drawing twice.  Now then, let's play!

Who would you cast as Michael in the movie? As Angel?
How did Redeeming Love impact you?