A few years ago, I came across a book called "The Preacher's Bride," by Jody Hedlund, and read it all the way through before I realized it was a biographical novel about John Bunyan and his wife. Jody told the story so well, it kept me engaged, enthralled, and intrigued throughout the whole book. Then I read "The Doctor's Lady" about Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and couldn't wait for Jody's next book. I have Jody's third book, but have had no time to read it yet, although with Jody's quality of writing, I am sure I will be pleased. However, this review is about "A Noble Groom," Jody's fourth book.
Annalisa is married to Hans Werner, a farmer with a gambling problem and an anger management problem--though this terminology wasn't in use at the time. Annalisa and Hans also have a two year old daughter named Gretchen. When Annalisa goes out to work in the field, she finds Hans face down in the field, dead, with a gash in his head. She'd just figured out that he had found her stash of money meant to pay off the loan on their farm so that they could protect it from the man who wants to take it away from them and open a sawmill. The farm next to Annalisa's is that of her parents. After Hans' death, her father wants her married again right away. Annalisa is reluctant to marry because of the match her father made for her sister Idette, a man who uses her and beats her.
When Carl Richards shows up with a letter from Annalisa's uncle in Germany, Annalisa is given time to wait for marriage until her father's cousin can come, but she's also given the services of Carl to work her farm and try to earn enough money to pay off the remaining loan. Carl works his way into Annalisa's and Gretchen's hearts while doing hard labor he is unaccustomed to--he is hiding the fact that he is part of the von Reichart family that caused the death of Annalisa's brother while the family still lived in Germany.
Annalisa has to overcome the lack of money, drought, fire, threats from a greedy land-monger, typhoid, deaths in her family, and the birth of a now-fatherless baby while trying to work to pay off her loan. In the meantime, she is experiencing the true loving care of a man who would cherish her all of her days. Even when the cousin does show up, she still wants to marry Carl.
Jody writes in such a way, it's hard to put her books down. Her characters have a reality to them that you wish you could pick them up off the page and befriend them. I wanted to pick up and hold Gretchen and Sophie, the baby, so badly--to tickle them and love them and just hold them. I wanted to be there to help Annalisa and just give her the love and friendship she needed. I read this book over two evenings and stayed up waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay past my bedtime to do it.
Jody, sweetie, Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and one of Annalisa's famous berry pies.