I tore through Jody Hedlund's A NOBLE GROOM in just a couple days. It was the weekend and I had time by the pool! I loved this inspirational romance.
From Jody's web site:
Recently widowed Annalisa Werner has the feeling her husband was murdered but can't prove it.
Alone with her younger 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 toll 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.
Of course I learned writing lessons from this book! Here are my top seven (Warning! Avert your eyes if you haven't read this book yet, and don't want to know any plot points):
- Don't start the story too late: We know we're supposed to start the story as late as possible, to avoid boring the reader with too much up front information. I appreciated that this story started before Annalisa's husband died. It gave me a glimpse into her troubled life with him without the need for a flashback. Plus, it readied me for how his loss would impact Annalisa's life.
- Binding goals: In Plot & Structure, James Scott Bell reminds us to give our main characters goals that bind them together during the story. Hedlund did a great job of this. Annalisa's goal was to pay off her debt and keep her farm out of the greedy hands of big shot, Ward. Carl's goal was to survive a death sentence and hide from his enemies. Their goals bound them together and kept them close.
- Fighting families: Annalisa's family used to serve under Carl's noble father, and felt betrayed by him. But Annalisa didn't know this at first. Conflict simmered because the reader knew how angry and hurt she'd be when she learned Carl's true identity. Family loyalty can create a huge crack between couples in love.
- Sympathetic characters: From the beginning, Annalisa had it bad--dead hubby, looming threat of losing her farm, a two year old child, losing her freedom to the next groom, plus she was pregnant with her dead husband's child. All that made me sympathize with her before Carl even entered the picture.
- Fish out of water: We've heard we should drop our characters into unfamiliar territory and see how they handle it. Hedlund did this well. Carl was a nobleman, and not used to manual labor. One of the worst places to drop him? A farm in Michigan. His bumbling attempts at plowing a field and tending to animals was endearing to the reader and Annalisa.
- Looming clouds: Early on, the reader knew that Carl would only help on the farm temporarily, until Annalisa's real groom arrived. As the story progressed, I remembered that Carl and Annalisa's time together would be short. This gave me the "hurry up and get together" feeling throughout the book.
- Bring them together, then rip them apart: Another great device for a love story is to bring the love birds together, but have something--or someone--rip them apart. Carl's deception came to light, and he was forced to leave the farming community he'd grown to love. Carl and Annalisa were both crushed by the separation.
There you have it--my writing lessons learned from A NOBLE GROOM. Have you read this book yet? Are you a fan of inspirational historical fiction? Can you share a writing lesson you learned from a great book?