Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund

Book summary (taken from Jody Hedlund's website)
2014 Carol Award Winner for Historical Romance
Michigan, 1880
Annalisa Werner’s hope for a fairy tale love is over. Her husband failed her in every way and now his death has left her with few options to save the family farm. She needs a plentiful harvest. That, and a husband to help bring it in. Someone strong, dependable. That’ll be enough. A marriage for love…that’s something she’s given up on.
So her father sends a letter to his brother in the Old Country, asking him to find Annalisa a groom.
Then a man appears: Carl Richards, from their home country of Germany and a former schoolteacher–or so he says. He’s looking for work and will serve on the farm until her husband arrives.
With time running out, she accepts his help, but there’s more to this man than he’s admitting. He’s also gentle, kind, charming–unlike any man she’s ever known. But even as Carl is shining light into the darkness of her heart, she knows her true groom may arrive any day.
My REACTION: Jody Hedlund's historical fiction always seems to have powerful  historical threads behind her stories of romance and hardship in  1800s Michigan, threads often ignored by other writers.  In her story of the logging industry UNENDING DEVOTION,  she showed the life of those women trapped in prostitution  In A NOBLE GROOM, we see that the antagonism between the social classes of Europe did not get left behind when the immigrants came to America looking for a better life.  Carl Richards, the hero of this novel, knows he needs to keep his true identity a secret.  If revealed Annalisa's father would certainly kill him, all because Carl's father was the lord over Annalisa's family in Germany.  But even more historically relevant is the lowly place of daughters and women held in new immigrant families.  Clearly much was sacrificed to bring whole families over, but as Annalisa and her sister show, women needed husbands and the patriarchs of the community held a responsibility to see that suitable marriages were arranged. Whether a man was kind and gentle were not as important as whether he could provide.  Hedlund did a wonderful job of showing that even someone as strong as Annalisa would feel an obligation to obey her father and pastor.  Family duty did not diminish with age.  A few years ago I read an article written for a Wisconsin history magazine written in the 1940s or 50s which recorded the history of the small Scots-Irish church/community where I grew up.  The writer told of the family obligation to care for the matriarch, especially if her husband had died.  In most Scots-Irish families, the writer revealed, one daughter was chosen to remain single and be the caretaker/companion for the mother.  This tidbit jumped out at me because I had a sweet maiden aunt raised in that church who had done just that -- lived with and cared for her mother until she died.  My mother had always told me that my Aunt Beth had wanted to be a teacher, but she had been told by her father that she needed to be home with her mother.  And that became her life.  Family obligation in the early 1900s was still strong.   I see that same dynamic in Hedlund's story of the early German immigrants in Michigan.  
I've read other authors whose historical details add depth and richness to the stories, but Hedlund is one of those authors who can do that while telling a story that just flows so smoothly.  I read this book in just a couple hours, not because it is too simple a story, but because she writes so well.  That is probably why A NOBLE GROOM was a 2014 Carol Award winner.  I got my e-copy of  this title from the Wisconsin Public Library Consortium. 

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