February 2015 marks the 110th anniversary of the death of author Lew Wallace—a former Army general and territorial governor of New Mexico. In my inspirational novel, AMANDA’S BEAU, the school teacher hero Gil Gladney loans my heroine Wallace’s bestselling novel to read: BEN-HUR, A TALE OF THE CHRIST.
Many of you are probably familiar with the book or perhaps the classic movie starring Charlton Heston as the title character. Interestingly enough, when the novel was first released in 1880, it was considered unusual for its time—too romantic, and historical fiction was not popular with readers. Wallace declared that after researching and writing the novel, he was convicted with an “absolute belief in God and in the divinity of Christ.” The novel was not expected to become a bestseller, but it did.
After reading and enjoying the book, my heroine Amanda returns in to Gil, saying, “It made me want to be a better person, a stronger Christian. Do you know what I mean?”
“Yes, I do,” Gil replies.
When Lew Wallace died at the age of 77 in 1905, his many books had earned him more royalty income than any other American novelist up to that time. Today, a marble statue of Wallace stands in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capital—representing his home state of Indiana. He is the only American novelist honored there.
The year is 1905. It is autumn in the village of Aztec in New Mexico territory. Amanda Dale is burdened with the responsibility of caring for her widowed sister—an invalid—and Ella’s two children—one a premature infant. But Amanda wants a husband and children of her own and despairs that God does not care about her plight. Schoolteacher Gil Gladney is handsome, intelligent, and God-fearing. He is drawn to Amanda, but feels he cannot propose marriage until he is able to purchase the ranch he has been saving for.
When Gil and his pupils discover the relics of an ancient culture among the ruins outside the village, Gil contacts an old college friend. The possibility of an archeological excavation excites the community of cash-strapped farmers, eager to earn extra money working on the site.
Gil is delighted when Nate Phillips comes to Aztec to take up the challenge. When a rabid skunk reels through the excavation site, threatening the lives of Amanda and her nephew Rex, Gil realizes that life is short and the possibility of true happiness can be fleeting. In the end, Amanda learns to trust God to provide the happily-ever-after ending she’s been praying for.
An award-winning children’s book author, Shirley Raye Redmond holds an M.A. in literature from the University of Illinois. She has been married to her husband Bill for forty years, and is active with Community Bible Study. They have two grown children and two adorable grandsons. Lewis & Clark: A Prairie Dog for the President (Random House) was a Children’s Book of the Month Club selection. Patriots in Petticoats: Heroines of the American Revolution, was named one of the best children’s books of 2005 by the Bank Street College of Education. Amanda’s Beau is her first inspirational romance.
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