My Favorite Character in An Unexpected Angel By Janet K. Halling: Guest Post and Giveaway!
Posted by Krystal Larson at 12:34 AM Saturday, December 8, 2012
It’s funny how a character can reach out and grab you. Sometimes the character you end up liking the most isn’t even the main one, not that protagonist into whom you have sunk so much time and effort. You have mapped out their story, their journey, their lessons and then suddenly...a different character pops up and steals your heart.
Don’t get me wrong, I really like Ella. She is like me in a lot of ways and unlike me in a lot of other ways. I admire her determination and her drive, I cry over her heartbreak and her struggles, and I roll my eyes at her stubborn streak that is oh so familiar!
But Matthew is my favorite. And he wasn’t even supposed to be in the book.
Matthew Searle is a U.S. marine, stationed on Guadalcanal in 1942. It had been a year since Pearl Harbor and he joined the marines because he was itching for a fight. The Japanese had scored a big victory with the Pearl Harbor attack, but Matthew and his buddies were going to make sure payback was swift and brutal.
But WWII was supposed to be the Civil War in An Unexpected Angel and I had selected Antietam, a battle fought in September 1862 for the scene. Matthew wasn’t named Matthew then, he was Elias and he was much older and much more grizzled than Matthew.
When it became obvious the scene wasn’t working, I knew I needed to move the battle. A Civil War soldier is very different from a WWII marine, so Elias had to go and Matthew took his place. Right from the start I really liked him, but it wasn’t until I found this picture from the Library of Congress that he really started to take shape. The photo is of a real WWII soldier. He is very young, absolutely filthy, and completely exhausted. More than anything, he wants to go home. But there is an unmistakable look of determination and raw courage in his eyes. I don’t know the real soldier’s name, but to me, he is Matthew.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the battle of Guadalcanal. Marines like Matthew were on the island 70 years ago today and many of them spent Christmas there. Matthew’s scene in An Unexpected Angel is my small way to remember them and say thank you.
Ella Davies, is focused, independent, and driven. Her hard work is finally paying off and she is on the brink of great success. But what no one knows is that her frantic drive is born not from a desire to succeed, but from a need to forget – forget her past, forget her guilt, and mostly, forget the tragedy that changed her life forever.
Ella’s strategy seems to be working but on Christmas Eve she meets Cohen, a strange man with an even stranger purpose. Cohen catapults Ella back through time and forces her to confront not only her own pain, but the pain of those long since passed. In the process, Ella learns about courage and compassion and that in the darkest hour, no one is ever alone.
Reading this little book put me in the mood for Christmas. The story made
me feel like volunteering, helping neighbors, calling old friends, and
hugging my family. I know some people who believe in the premise of this
book’s angels. For them, they are our spirit guides – helpers who deliver
miracles for those who believe.
I’m more of a doubter, like Ella in the story. Would people who have
passed on be interested in helping me? I might believe it if they were my
mother or grandparents, but strangers? Then too, we all have tragedies in
our lives that turn us more and more into unbelievers. Cohen, Ella’s
guardian angel, gives Ella a Dickenesque tour of people facing tragedy in
war, pioneer life, and in a more recent time. Then, she has to face her
own nightmare. The lesson she - and we learn made me cry and made my
heart swell with gratitude that we’re given the opportunity to be
“helpers”, giving aid and comfort, to those in need.
Halling’s story telling will touch your heart; you’ll love the characters:
Ella, her dad, James, Elizabeth, Mary, and others. Read this story to
feel the hope of the season.
*Reviewed by Colleen*
Janet Halling discovered her love of writing at the age of six when her story of a lonely duck won a first grade writing contest. She has a degree in Marketing Communications and lives with her family in northern Utah. She is currently working on her next novel.
An Unexpected Angel – Excerpt (All rights reserved)
Somewhere there was a rhythmic humming—a kind of a swooshing sound that increased and decreased in volume at regular intervals. She couldn’t remember where she was. Her whole body ached, and her head felt as if it would explode.
Ella groaned and opened her eyes. She was still in the gym, lying crumpled against the weight machine. The treadmill had stopped, and the rhythmic sound was coming from the man riding the spinning bike, which sat nearby.
Her fingers trembled as she felt the goose egg on the side of her head. Her face was on fire, probably scraped on the belt, and her knees were bloody, also from the belt.
Suddenly she stiffened. There was a man riding the bike! A man riding the bike. While she had been lying there unconscious. Had he just sauntered in and climbed on without seeing her at all or had he viewed her inert form without concern? That was cold, even for New York City. Gingerly, she turned her head to look at him.
It was the clerk from the deli, and he didn’t stop pedaling as he glanced her way. “Oh good, you’re awake.”
She stared up at him in mute astonishment.
He reached for his water bottle and took a long drink. “I’m glad you woke up on your own,” he said pleasantly. “I was about ready to pour this in your face, so you can thank me for sparing you an unexpected shower.”
Ella grasped the weight machine and pulled herself slowly to a sitting position. Her head was throbbing, and her stomach lurched. “I could sue you for failing to come to the aid of an injured person,” she snapped rather feebly.
The man studied her contemplatively. “Hmmm, yes, you would think of that, wouldn’t you? But I’m not too worried, Ella. You’re not going to sue me and we both know it.”
She opened her mouth to snarl a retort but stopped abruptly. “How do you know my name?” she demanded. “And what are you even doing here? You don’t live in this building.” She hesitated, realizing she wasn’t sure. “Do you?”
He jumped off the bike and held out his hand. “You should get up. Want help?”
She shrank away from him. “Don’t touch me! Who are you, and how do you know my name?”
“Well, it’s simple really. My name is Cohen, and I’m your guardian angel.” He broke into a brief but rapid tap dance routine and finished with flair. And with jazz hands.
Ella stared at him in perplexed silence, unsure if he was a hallucination or just crazy. “Uh-huh. Right,” she finally said, groaning as she pulled herself to her feet. A wave of nausea hit her, and she stopped, doubling over and willing herself not to vomit. She for sure had a concussion.
She tried to think. Should she go to the hospital? Or maybe just go home and try to sleep? She didn’t know. She made a move toward the door, but Cohen tap-danced over to block her path.
“Get out of my way,” she snapped at him with more bravado than she felt.
He grinned. “Can’t do that. You and me, we have business tonight.”
For the first time, she felt a small dart of fear. Cohen wasn’t exactly menacing, but he certainly was strange. If he attacked her, would she have the strength to fight him? If only her head would stop hurting!
“What do you want?” she asked.
“I already told you, I’m your guardian angel. Well, not technically an angel, but that word will serve as well as any other. Anyway, I’m here to help.”
“Sure. Like you helped me when I was unconscious a minute ago? If that’s your kind of help, no thanks.”
“No, not that kind of help, silly.”
“Look, whatever you’re on, whatever you’re offering, I’m not interested. Just leave me alone, please? I’m sore and tired, and my head is killing me. I need to go lie down.”
“Oh, right. That.” He made some sort of vague gesture and instantly her nausea subsided and the pain in her head vanished.
Chills raced up and down her spine, and she stared at him, “Wait . . . what’s . . . what’s going on?”
“Okay, no more joking around.” Cohen looked suddenly serious. “Here’s the deal. You need help and there’s a lot you need to learn. Only you’re far too stubborn to admit it. You might not even know how much help you need. But I know; so here I am.”
The pieces were starting to fall into place. “Wait . . . Christmas Eve . . . guardian angel. This is some kind of a joke, right?” she said before adding sarcastically, “What’s the matter, Jacob Marley was busy? Clarence already got his wings? Or wasn’t he on duty tonight?”
He grinned. “Both good men. But you got stuck with me. Although, all things considered, maybe it’s me who got stuck with you. You can be quite unpleasant, do you know that?”
Ella snorted derisively. “So when does the Ghost of Christmas Past show up? Or is he waiting for me upstairs?”
“Dickens took some liberties. It doesn’t exactly work like that. At least, this time it won’t.”
“You have exactly one second to get out of my way or I’m going to start screaming at the top of my lungs!”
Cohen cocked his head to one side and gave her a brief shrug of resignation. “Okay then, you win. Can’t say I didn’t try.” He stepped smoothly to one side and swept his arm in a wide arc toward the door. “Be my guest.”
Throwing him what she hoped was a withering glare, Ella marched past him, flung open the door—and stepped into a nightmare.
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