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Review, Interview + Giveaway with Jody Hedlund & The Doctor’s Lady

>Jody Hedlund is one of the fabulous authors I met on Twitter. I’ve admired her thoughts on writing, the writing life and developing a career as an author. I’ve appreciated the genuine warmth and sincerity that comes across even online.

Leave a comment or question for Jody to enter for one of these prizes:
1) A copy of The Doctor’s Lady
2) 1 of 5 custom handmade bookmarks
Open Internationally

The Doctor’s Lady released early September and I was lucky enough to receive and early copy for review. This is the first novel I’ve read by Jody, but it won’t be the last. Her debut, The Preacher’s Bride, is near the very top of my TBR pile. And I was thrilled to hear recently that we will all be blessed with more of Jody’s talent as she has secured a three book deal with Bethany House. (YAY Jody! Congratulations!)

The Doctor’s Lady

Priscilla White knows she’ll never be a wife or mother and feels God’s call to the mission field in India. Dr. Eli Ernest is back from Oregon Country only long enough to raise awareness of missions to the natives before heading out West once more. But then Priscilla and Eli both receive news from the mission board: No longer will they send unmarried men and women into the field.

Left scrambling for options, the two realize the other might be the answer to their needs. Priscilla and Eli agree to a partnership, a marriage in name only that will allow them to follow God’s leading into the mission field. But as they journey west, this decision will be tested by the hardships of the trip and by the unexpected turnings of their hearts.

This novel was so much more than I expected.  As inspirational romance is not a genre I read often, I suppose my expectations were a bit out of whack. 🙂  Going off the cover, the cover copy, the genre, the publisher I was ready for a light love story and lots of rich historical fact. 

Boy, did I underestimate!  The Doctor’s Lady went above and beyond my every expectation.

While the cover copy explains the external conflict that fuels the hero and heroine’s cross-country journey and hints at a touch of romance, it doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of all the depth beneath the cover.  The Doctor’s Lady is filled with characters so real I often felt as if I could reach out and touch them; their struggles so universal, every human being could relate on some level. Their commitment to fulfill their God-given calling while struggling against broken hearts, dashed dreams and dimmed hopes created strong internal conflicts while the untamed Western lands and the hardships they brought created a very real, very threatening external antagonist. 

Click for larger view

The Doctor’s Lady is filled with sigh-worthy moments–those turning points, sometimes epiphanies, sometimes small flickers of revelation, when the hero or heroine would make a self discovery which would bring them closer to the other–a relationship the reader can see is part of the reason God brought them together on this mission, but one neither character is willing to give in to.

The hero, Eli Earnest, has a wonderful character arc.  His stubbornness and preconceived ideas give way to a new perspective and a fresh respect for not only the heroine, Priscilla, but for women in general, seeing them as strong individuals rather than his previous opinion of them as “liabilities” because of their weaknesses.  The reader also gets to watch him slowly fall in love with Priscilla, all while he ignores the signs.

Priscilla starts out strong, but becomes even stronger as the book moves forward.  One of the things I loved about the heroine was the way she could be so very strong, yet never need to overpower or bully or use harshness to show her strength.  She never lost that feminine softness, no matter how rough the road became, as that made me respect her all the more–woman to woman.  I found it especially enjoyable to watch her grow stronger in one aspect of her personality while softening in another to allow Eli into her heart.  A very complex character growth that Jody portrayed artistically.

Through it all, the external conflict never wained.  At every turn in the road, every fork in the path, new conflict arose, testing the characters will, their determination, their commitment all while showing their internal growth. 

I’m a picky reader.  Someone who has to have something pushing me forward to the next page–personal conflict, character growth, plot twists, action.  I won’t hang out for lingering description, although I value beautiful prose.  I’m not patient enough to wade through paragraphs of historical facts, no matter how fascinating.  I need stuff (a highly technical term) to happen–internally, externally, it doesn’t matter.  But something has to happen to get me to move forward.

I couldn’t stop moving forward with Jody’s book.  There were nights I purposely didn’t pick up the book because I knew I wouldn’t put it down and I had to get sleep for work the next day.

Oh, and don’t let the genre fool you…Jody is absolutely fabulous with sexual tension.  The attraction between these two sparks from the beginning and the heat only grows throughout the story.  But one of the elements that makes that desire so strong between them is the development of their emotional bond along the journey.  Their attraction and love for each other is truly a beautiful thing to watch grow in front of your eyes.

And I’m thrilled with the excerpt she chose to post because it’s one of my favorite moments in the book.  I think it’s the moment my heart completely opened to Eli and I knew Priscilla’s would too.  This excerpt is the perfect example of so many passages in The Doctor’s Lady that gave me “Ahhh” moments.

What’s your favorite thing about the book featured here today?

I had a lot of fun writing the wedding night scene. Because Eli and Priscilla agreed to a marriage in name only, they have no plans to consummate their marriage. However, nobody else knows their secret. And so after the wedding, Priscilla’s mother and sister help her get ready for her first night with her new husband. They turn back the covers on the bed, brush her hair, and give her instructions on what to expect. While they’re doing this, Priscilla gets really nervous. And a little later when Eli finally comes into the room and sees her in her nightgown with her hair down, he gets nervous too.

I enjoyed exploring the growing attraction between them, the awkwardness of being thrust together in the same bedroom (after only knowing each other for about a week), and then watching them figure out how they’re going to handle the physical aspect of their relationship for the duration of their trip West.

What creates the biggest conflict between your hero and heroine?

One of the biggest conflicts is that Eli, the hero, didn’t want to have to take a woman to the West. He thinks it’s too dangerous and would rather go alone. However, in order to start the mission to the Nez Perce (and receive funding for the trip), the Mission Board leaves him with little choice—he either must take a wife or give up his dream of going west.

Priscilla, the heroine, on the other hand, wants to prove that she is strong enough for such a trip and life in the west. She believes she has all of the qualities necessary. However, as the trip progresses, they face one life-threatening danger after another but meanwhile begin to fall in love. Eli’s growing love for Priscilla only makes him all the more determined to keep her safe. He’s even decided to give her an annulment and send her back home if needed. 

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?

If I had to pick one person who has been the most instrumental in shaping my writing career, I’d have to single out my mom. When I was growing up, she facilitated an environment that fostered my love of writing and my creativity. She read a lot to me, allowed time for plenty of free play, believed in me, taught me to work hard, and encouraged me to dream big. Because of that, I grew up knowing I could do anything I set my mind to. Even today, she’s still a huge part of my writing career, cheering me on and encouraging me in countless ways.

What is your writing routine?

Since I have 5 children ranging in ages from 6 to 14, I have often have trouble finding uninterrupted writing time! But usually I try to carve out a couple of hours each afternoon to meet my daily word count goal (or chapters when I’m editing). Whatever I don’t finish during the afternoon, I come back to after my kids are in bed.

I also have a couple of mornings a week where I get a few extra hours of writing time, and I also take the entire day on Saturday to write.

Which do you like more—rainy days or snowy days?

I’m going to have to say rainy days. I love the blowing wind and the way the leaves and raindrops patter against the house. On those dark days, I light scented candles and drink hot tea.

And while I like snowy days too (I am a Mid-Western girl born and bred!), by the end of the winter I get tired of all of the shoveling that we have to do!

Where can readers find you?

I hang out on Facebook here: Author Jody Hedlund
I also love to chat on Twitter: @JodyHedlund
My home base is at my website: jodyhedlund.com

Excerpt from Chapter 5 of The Doctor’s Lady by Jody Hedlund:

(When Eli knows he has to ask Priscilla to marry him in order to fulfill his dream of going west. He sneaks into the classroom where she is teaching and . . .)

A burst of laughter near the back of the narrow schoolroom finally commanded her return to earth and to her classroom.
“Now, children. You are disobeying our rule for silence.” Her gaze lingered on the board for a second longer before she tore herself away and pivoted to face the class.
The younger children perched in their desks near the front of the room, and the older children sat in the back near the entrance—mostly the girls who weren’t privileged enough to attend Female Academy in Troy where she’d done a significant amount of her schooling.
The students’ wide smiles greeted her, and the sunshine pouring in the large windows lit their faces. She had only to follow their glances to the back row to see the source of their laughter.
Her fingers flew to the cameo at her neck.
With his long legs tucked awkwardly under a desk and his hand raised, Dr. Ernest watched her with a solemn expression that didn’t match the merriment in his eyes.
“Miss White.” He lowered his hand. “I have a question.”
She stared at him speechless, a strange mixture of excitement and apprehension stirring in her stomach.
“Some scientists say that Ceres isn’t really a planet.” He hunched his back to fit onto the small bench, and his knees pushed against the flimsy desk top. “After all, it’s located in the asteroid belt.”
What was he doing back in Angelica? And how had he managed to sneak into the school without her hearing him?
His shirt and waistcoat were crisp and clean. Without his hat, the wild, untamable waves of his hair had rebelled against his obvious attempts to smooth them down. He’d shaven the shadowy layer of stubble, but his smooth, tan skin had a scruffiness he couldn’t shed. He was as well groomed as any gentleman she’d ever met. But for all his efforts, there was still something rugged about him—and something dangerously appealing.
Her hand fluttered to the wisps of hair that floated about her face. Surely he wasn’t back to carry out Mother’s marriage charade.
Even from the furthest row of the classroom, his winter blue eyes caught hers with their intensity. For a long moment she couldn’t breathe. Nor could she look away. He was a flame, and she was the little girl who’d been warned not to touch. Only she couldn’t remember why she ought to stay away, especially when every nerve in her body urged her to reach out.
“And Ceres is too small.” A grin teased the corner of his mouth, almost as if he knew he was getting the reaction from her he’d intended.
She forced herself to start breathing again, calmly. If he thought he could steal into her classroom and flirt with her, then just wait until she joined in. She’d had plenty of practice in her younger days, when she’d been much more carefree. He’d be no match for her ability to beguile.
“Why, Dr. Ernest.” She tilted her head. “You said you had a question. And all I’ve heard are statements.
 “Excuse me, Miss White.” His grin widened. “Course, you’re right.”
She lifted her lips into her sweetest, most practiced smile. “Would you like to try rephrasing your statement and show the children how to ask a proper question?”
“Certainly,” he drawled. “For such a pretty lady like you, how could any man say no?”
The older girls tittered. Their flashing smiles and flushed cheeks were evidence they had already fallen prey to his winsome ways.
She braced herself. He wouldn’t so easily sway her. After all, he’d made it quite clear he wasn’t interested in her.
“So . . . ” he started.
If he wasn’t back because of her, why was he sitting in her classroom intent upon engaging her in playful banter?
“So, my question is this.” A shadow filtered through his eyes and snuffed the laughter in them, making them too serious. And when he extricated his legs from the desk, instead of rising to his feet, he lowered himself into the aisle onto one knee.
She stifled a shiver.
“Miss White?” His gaze found her again.
The intensity sent her heart into wild dash. Her fingers went back to her throat, to the delicate cameo, to the pattering of her pulse beneath.
His eyes spoke the words before he could get them out. “Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
©Jody Hedlund, 2011
Leave a comment or question for Jody to enter for one of these prizes:
1) A copy of The Doctor’s Lady
2) 1 of 5 custom handmade bookmarks
Open Internationally
*MUST* Leave a contact email to WIN!
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Jody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of the best-selling book, The Preacher’s Bride. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Michigan with her husband and five busy children. Her second book, The Doctor’s Lady released in September 2011.

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