Jody Hedlund is the bestselling author of more than thirty historical novels for both adults and teens and is the winner of numerous awards, including the Christy Award, Carol Award, and Christian Book Awards. Jody lives in Michigan with her husband, busy family, and five spoiled cats.

In this interview, Jody talks with us regarding her newest novel, Calling On the Matchmaker.

FF: Your latest novel, Calling on the Matchmaker, is book one in the new series, A Shanahan Match. Can you please tell us a little bit about the series?
This new series is a saga involving the Shanahan family in the frontier city of St. Louis, Missouri, in the late 1840s. The Shanahans are a big and loving family with six children. The oldest are reaching marriageable age, so the local matchmaker is called upon to help form advantageous matches. Even though the Irish matchmaker is wily, he still faces challenges as he seeks to pair each of the Shanahan siblings with their true loves.

FF: Since the series revolves around the Shanahan siblings, can you provide a short introduction to each sibling?
Book one in the series involves Finola Shanahan, who is the oldest Shanahan sibling and the first in line for the matchmaker’s help. The trouble is that she has no intention of getting married and works to foil the matchmaker’s plans.

Book two tells Enya Shanahan’s story. She is a fiery red head with an equally fiery personality and is rebellious against her strict parents. As a result, she gets herself into trouble and ends up needing a marriage of convenience.

Book three finally gives Kiernan Shanahan a chance to find his true love. As the first-born son, he’s driven in life, business, and love. He’s ready for the matchmaker to find him an advantageous match, but his heart may have already found someone else.

FF: What do readers need to know about the Shanahan family, but especially about Finola?
Finola’s parents both immigrated from Ireland as young adults. As a result of their Irish heritage, they have strong ties to the large Irish community in St. Louis and also have a heart for helping the newly arrived Irish immigrants, many of whom are escaping starvation and poverty in Ireland due to the potato famine. Finola, in particular, has become involved with a group of nuns who visit the poor tenements and help the immigrants. She desires to join the convent and spend her life in service to God. But her parents are opposed to her entering the convent and want her to get married.

FF: Some major themes that Calling on the Matchmaker addresses are family relationships, mistakes, and forgiveness. How do we see these play out in the lives of your female protagonists?
Finola is wrestling with a past family tragedy that she hasn’t been able to forget about or forgive herself for. As a result, she feels as though she has to do penance for the mistake. One way she feels she can make up for the tragedy is by becoming a nun and living a life of service to God. She has tried to talk to her parents about her desire to enter the convent, but they haven’t listened to her. As a result, she doesn’t communicate well about what she wants. Throughout the course of the story, she has to learn to gain a voice as well as learn to forgive herself and others for the past.

FF: This novel is arguably a bit different than other books you’ve written recently. Can you share what inspired the idea for this story?
It is a little different. But I hope readers appreciate getting to learn about new areas of the country and new parts of history through my stories. Since I love romance more than anything else, I thought the matchmaker idea would be a fun way to tie a series together. As I began researching matchmaker stories, I realized that there is a long tradition of Irish men being matchmakers. So, the Irish matchmaker takes the stage in all of the books.

FF: Which character in this book was your favorite to write and why? Do you think this will be readers’ favorite as well?
Obviously, I love the hero and heroine! But aside from them, Bellamy McKenna, the matchmaker, is one of my favorite characters in this series. He is in the process of beginning to take over the matchmaker duties from his father and has some different, less conventional ways of bringing about matches. He’s not only intuitive, but he’s also very clever. Readers will hopefully fall in love with Bellamy (and maybe, just maybe, he’ll get his love story eventually too!).

FF: Your previous series, Colorado Cowboys, highlighted cowboys in the American West. What prompted you to head in a different direction for this series?
As much as I loved writing my Colorado Cowboys Series, I didn’t want to pigeon-hole myself as a western or cowboy-romance writer. Since most of my series highlight different places and historical events, I wanted to take readers on a new adventure and introduce them to a new part of history that I haven’t yet explored.

FF: Why set these books in St. Louis? Does it have special meaning to the story?
Knowing I wanted to use the Irish, I researched places that had large Irish populations in the 1800s, and St. Louis was one of them. As the Gateway to the West, St. Louis was full of danger, disease, and disaster—all of the things that make for a great story and the perfect setting for the Shanahan family.

In particular, I chose the year 1849 as the starting point for this series because a number of tragedies occurred in St. Louis at that time, including a deadly cholera epidemic and a tragic fire along the riverfront.

FF: What is one of your favorite things about writing historical fiction?
I love finding and bringing little known eras of history to life for readers. It’s always fun to hear from readers how much they’ve learned from my books and how that aspect of history came to life for them.

FF: What lessons do you hope readers gain by picking up Calling on the Matchmaker?
I hope readers will learn, just like my characters, that sometimes we mistake our own inability to forgive ourselves as God’s inability, but instead God forgives us so deeply, that He puts our mistakes out of His mind as far as the east is from the west. If God forgives us so generously, shouldn’t we also be willing to forgive ourselves the same way?

FF: Can you share which Shanahan sibling the next book in the series is about?
The next book is Enya’s story and involves a marriage of convenience, a steamboat captain, and the Great Fire of 1849.

Calling On the Matchmaker
Shanahan Match Series #1
Jody Hedlund
Bethany House
Genres: Historical Romance
Release Date: December 12, 2023

ISBN-10: ‎0764241966
ISBN-13: ‎978-0764241963

Book Summary:
Haunted by the death of her sister, Finola Shanahan has resolved that she’s not worthy of a family of her own and commits to spending her days caring for immigrants in the slums. When Finola sabotages yet another unwanted relationship her parents arranged for her, her father calls upon the local Irish matchmaker, who pairs her with successful wagonmaker Riley Rafferty. Finola quickly realizes her usual tricks won’t work on him, however, as she cannot outsmart or outwit the dashing, determined, and daring man.

A candidate in the St. Louis mayoral election, Riley is confident a union with the wealthy Shanahan family will help solidify his chances of winning—and even more assured he and Finola can make a difference together. When a cholera outbreak begins to take St. Louis by storm, they must navigate a burgeoning attraction and growing danger testing all they know about love and sacrifice.


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About The Author

Jody Hedlund is the bestselling author of over a dozen novels, including Luther and Katharina, winner of the 2016 Christian Book Award. She received a bachelor’s from Taylor University and a master’s from University of Wisconsin, both in social work. Currently she makes her home in Midland, Michigan, with her husband and five busy children.