Book Review & Giveaway: REBELLIOUS HEART by Jody Hedlund

Author Jody Hedlund

Author Jody Hedlund

When I first encountered Jody Hedlund back in mid-2009, she was a new blogger seeking representation and publication for her writing. She often used examples from PILGRIM’S PROGRESS in her posts, and admitted a passion for John Bunyan. So it was no surprise when her first published novel was a story loosely based on the second marriage of John Bunyan. (THE PREACHER’S BRIDE, Bethany House, 2010)

In that book Jody’s writing transported me right into the story’s mid-1600s setting… something that rarely happens unless an author has done a remarkable amount of research and used the information effectively.

In each of her successive books, Jody’s knowledge of historical times – i.e., 1836 Oregon, 1880s Michigan, and 1763 Massachusetts – evoked the same reaction, and I’ve been drawn into reading a genre that previously had never appealed to me. I eagerly devoured her newest book, REBELLIOUS HEART, when it was released in September by Bethany House.

At the end of this post you can leave a comment and be entered in the draw for a copy of REBELLIOUS HEART. 🙂

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Rebellious-HeartREBELLIOUS HEART takes us into the lives of two people from vastly different backgrounds. Susanna Smith is a bright young woman of good social status who, despite being denied the education she desires, displays her intelligence and asserts her independence as she works for social justice. When she seeks to aid a runaway indentured slave, she is assisted by the son of a farmer, country lawyer Benjamin Ross, who is also involved in the pre-Revolutionary discontent of the time. Their developing friendship places Susanna and her family in great danger.

Inspired by the unique friendship of US president John Adams and his wife Abigail, the story places richly detailed and believable characters into historically correct settings while playing out a fascinating and fast-paced plot.

I asked Jody which scene in the story she found the most challenging to write…

“Which scene in Rebellious Heart was the most challenging to write? I’d have to say the first scene in the courtroom where Ben is defending Hermit Crab Joe. I always want the first chapter to accomplish many goals. But often that’s hard to do without being wordy (and potentially boring the reader!).

“My original version of the scene was MUCH too long. And once I’d written it, I realized right away that I would need to pare it down quite a bit. But at the same time, I was told I needed to add more period detail to the scene so that readers could understand right away that they were in Colonial Times. So essentially I had to cut AND add at the same time!

“Fortunately, I’m not married to my words and I can usually cut and chop without mortally wounding myself. The hard part was trying to figure out exactly what was necessary for the scene and setting and what was overkill.

“Once I had eliminated as much as I possibly could, then I had a Colonial “expert” give me advice on where I could add a little more period detail to make the chapter/book more authentic.”

That authenticity stands out in all Jody’s writing, but especially in REBELLIOUS HEART. If you enjoy good historical fiction, you’ll want to add this book to your list of must-reads!

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If you’d like to have your name included in the draw for a free copy of REBELLIOUS HEART, please leave a comment below and be sure to provide your e-mail addy when prompted. The draw will close at 11:59 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Tuesday, December 24th. I’ll be taking a blogging break during Christmas week, but will post the name of the winner on Friday, December 27th.

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You can find out more about Jody and her books on her website: jodyhedlund.com

She hangs out on Facebook here: Author Jody Hedlund and also loves to chat on Twitter: @JodyHedlund

She is represented by Rachelle Gardener at Books and Such Literary Agency.

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BOOK REVIEW: A NOBLE GROOM by Jody Hedlund

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Jody Hedlund

For someone who never used to read Christian fiction, I keep surprising myself by finding an increasing number of Christian novelists on my list of favourite authors. Jody Hedlund topped the list after the release of her debut novel, THE PREACHER’S BRIDE in 2010. Each year since then I have waited impatiently for, and eagerly consumed, her subsequent releases – THE DOCTOR’S LADY in 2011, UNENDING DEVOTION in 2012 and most recently A NOBLE GROOM, launched just last month.

Jody’s stories are historical romances, and the eras she draws from provide fascinating and authentic backdrops for her characters and their complex stories.  A NOBLE GROOM takes place in 1880, mostly in a rural German farming community surrounding Forestville, Michigan.

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About A NOBLE GROOM, from Jody’s website:

a-noble-groom-193x300“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.”

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MY REVIEW:

Publishers Weekly says, “Hedlund intricately balances romance and drama…” but this is an understatement. More than balancing them, she weaves them together with breath-holding suspense, moments of danger and disaster, and the sweetness of a child’s trust. The sustaining faith of both Annalisa and Carl is evident, but there is no slick dishing out of the Christian message. Instead it plays out subtly in the motives and actions of the characters – a refreshing change from some Christian fiction where the stories are thinly veiled attempts to present salvation as the panacea to every dilemma.

While I found the romantic elements more dominant in A NOBLE GROOM than in Jody’s previous books, it isn’t at the expense of an exciting plot, well-developed characters or a vivid setting. They all entwined to keep me engrossed in the story from beginning to end. I highly recommend it.

The only problem with finishing it so quickly is once again I’m left impatiently waiting for Jody’s next book. REBELLIOUS HEART (where Susanna Smith and Ben Ross are caught up “in a very dangerous fight for justice” in 1763 Massachusetts), isn’t due for release until September. Another four months to wait! 😦

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Jody Hedlund is represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary Agency.

You can find Jody on her blog, along with reams of information for writers, or on Facebook and  Twitter.

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Book Review: AS GRANDMA SAYS by Judith Robl

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Judith Robl’s grandmother obviously made an unforgettable impression with her homespun axioms and adages – ones such as “How do you know you can’t unless you try?” “Don’t burn your bridges before you cross them,” “If your head won’t work, your heels must,” and “You will not make a scene and disgrace the family.” But who would believe such everyday admonitions could have biblical applications?

In AS GRANDMA SAYS: Timeless Words to Live By*, author Judith Robl has paired the everyday sayings with thoughtfully written meditations, well chosen scripture verses and brief prayers, thus creating forty-one devotional readings perfect for quiet moments of reflection.

Each page is illustrated with gorgeous paintings by artist Audrey Jeanne Roberts, turning the book into far more than just a devotional publication. It is a beautiful keepsake well suited for gift-giving and sharing.

It’s a delight to read, and I’m pleased to recommend it to you.

You can find Judith Robl online at http://www.judithrobl.com/. As Grandma Says is available at Amazon and Barns and Noble.

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AS GRANDMA SAYS: TIMELESS WORDS TO LIVE BY
by Judith Robl
Harvest House Publishers (February 2011)
ISBN 978-0-7369-3004-8

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* Disclaimer – This book was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review.