Redeeming Love

Soon to be a major motion picture!
A Washington Post, Publisher’s Weekly, CBA, and ECPA bestseller.

The classic love story that has captured the hearts of millions of readers worldwide.

California’s Gold Country in 1850 is a time when men sell their souls for a bag of gold and women sell their bodies for a place to sleep. Angel expects nothing from men but betrayal. Sold into prostitution as a child, she survives by keeping her hatred alive. And what she hates most are the men who use her, leaving her empty and dead inside. Then she meets Michael Hosea. A man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything, Michael Hosea obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation until, despite her resistance her frozen heart begins to thaw. But with her unexpected softening come overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. And so Angel runs. Back to the darkness, away from her husband’s pursuing love, terrified of the truth she can no longer deny: Her final healing must come from the One who loves her even more than Michael Hosea does…the One who will never let her go.

“Writers like Rivers are why people buy Christian Fiction.”
Publishers Weekly

“A splendid piece of work exploring both physical love and a love of God…There is not one false note in this wonderful novel.”
Library Journal

“A masterful, unique writing achievement. This is a thought-provoking novel that you will not easily forget.”
RT Book Reviews

“The truth that ran through that book [Redeeming Love], absolutely brought me to my knees. I was a changed person after reading that book.”
—Amy Grant, Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter

“Simply put, Redeeming Love is the most powerful work of fiction you will ever read.”
—Liz Curtis Higgs, New York Times bestselling author

“My heart and soul were profoundly shaken as I realized anew the lessons portrayed through the stories of Hosea and Gomer, Michael and Angel. This may be the single most moving book you will read this year—or in your lifetime.”
—Angela Hunt, New York Times bestselling author

Redeeming Love is a literary masterpiece, reminding us that God’s love is unconditional. I read it twenty years ago and I knew then this book would be a classic and it is.”
—Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Prologue

The prince of darkness is a gentleman.
SHAKESPEARE

NEW ENGLAND, 1835

Alex Stafford was just like Mama said. He was tall and dark, and Sarah had never seen anyone so beautiful. Even dressed in dusty riding clothes, his hair damp with perspiration, he was like the princes in the stories Mama read. Sarah’s heart beat with wild joy and pride. None of the other fathers she saw at Mass compared to him.

He looked at her with his dark eyes, and her heart sang. She was wearing her best blue frock and white pinafore, and Mama had braided her hair with pink and blue ribbons. Did Papa like the way she looked? Mama said blue was his favorite color, but why didn’t he smile? Was she fidgeting? Mama said to stand straight and still and act like a lady. She said he would like that. But he didn’t look pleased at all.

“Isn’t she beautiful, Alex?” Mama said. Her voice sounded strange…tight, like she was choking. “Isn’t she the most beautiful little girl you’ve ever seen?”

Sarah watched Papa’s dark eyes frown. He didn’t look happy. He looked angry. Like Mama looked sometimes when Sarah talked too much or asked too many questions.

“Just a few minutes,” Mama said quickly. Too quickly. Was she afraid? But why? “That’s all I’m asking, Alex. Please. It would mean so much to her.” Alex Stafford stared down at Sarah. His mouth was pressed tight, and he studied her silently. Sarah stood as still as she could. She’d stared at herself in the mirror so long this morning, she knew what he would see. She had her father’s chin and nose, and her mother’s blonde hair and fair skin. Her eyes were like her mother’s, too, although they were even more blue. Sarah wanted Papa to think she was pretty, and she gazed up at him hopefully. But the look in his eyes was not a nice one.

“Did you pick blue on purpose, Mae?” Papa’s words startled Sarah. They were cold and angry. “Because it brings out the color of her eyes?”

Sarah couldn’t help it, she glanced at her mother—and her heart fell. Mama’s face was filled with hurt.

Alex glanced toward the foyer. “Cleo!”

“She’s not here,” Mama said quietly, keeping her head high. “I gave her the day off.”

Papa’s eyes seemed to get even darker. “Did you? Well, that leaves you in a fix, doesn’t it, darling?”

Mama stiffened, then bit her lip and glanced down at Sarah. What was wrong? Sarah wondered sadly. Wasn’t Papa happy to see her? She had been so excited that she was actually going to be with him at last, even for a little
while.…

“What would you have me do?” Mama’s words were directed at Papa, so Sarah stayed silent, still hoping.

“Send her away. She knows how to find Cleo, I would imagine.”

Pink spots appeared on Mama’s cheeks. “Meaning what, Alex? That I entertain others in your absence?”

Sarah’s smile fell in confusion. They spoke so coldly to one another. Neither looked at her. Had they forgotten she was there? What was wrong? Mama was distraught. Why was Papa so angry about Cleo not being home? Chewing her lip, Sarah looked between them. Stepping closer, she tugged on her father’s coat. “Papa…”

“Don’t call me that.”

She blinked, frightened and confused by his manner. He was her papa. Mama said so. He even brought her presents every time he came. Mama gave them to her. Maybe he was angry that she had never thanked him. “I want to thank you for the presents you—”

“Hush, Sarah,” her mother said quickly. “Not now, darling.”

Papa flashed Mama a thunderous look. “Let her speak. It’s what you wanted, isn’t it? Why are you shushing her now, Mae?”

Mama stepped closer and put her hand on Sarah’s shoulder. Sarah could feel Mama’s fingers trembling, but Papa bent toward her now, smiling. “What presents?” he said.

He was so handsome, just like Mama said. She was proud to have a father like him.

“Tell me, little one.”

“I always like the candies you bring me,” Sarah said, feeling warm and proud beneath his attention. “They are very nice. But best of everything, I love the crystal swan.”

She smiled again, glowing with joy that Papa listened to her so carefully. He even smiled, though Sarah wasn’t sure she liked his smile. It was small and tight.

“Indeed,” he said and straightened. He looked at Mama. “I’m so pleased to know how much my gifts mean.”

Sarah looked up at her father, thrilled at his approval. “I put it on my windowsill. The sun shines through it and makes colors dance on the wall. Would you like to come and see?” She took his hand. When he jerked away, she blinked, hurt, not understanding.

Mama bit her lip and reached out a hand toward Papa, then stopped suddenly. She looked afraid again. Sarah looked from one parent to the other, struggling to understand. What had she done wrong? Wasn’t Papa pleased that she liked his presents?

“So you pass on my gifts to the child,” Papa said. “It’s good to know what they mean to you.”

Sarah bit her lip at the coldness in Papa’s voice, but before she could speak, Mama touched her shoulder gently. “Darling, be a good girl and go outside and play now.”

Sarah looked up, distressed. Had she done something wrong? “Can’t I stay? I’ll be very quiet.” Mama couldn’t seem to say more. Her eyes were moist and she looked at Papa.

Alex bent down to Sarah. “I want you to go outside and play,” he said quietly. “I want to talk to your mother alone.” He smiled and patted her cheek.

Sarah smiled, utterly enchanted. Papa had touched her; he wasn’t angry at all. He loved her! Just as Mama said. “Can I come back when you’re done talking?”

Papa straightened stiffly. “Your mother will come and get you when she’s ready. Now, run along as you’ve been told.”

“Yes, Papa.” Sarah wanted to stay, but she wanted to please her father more. She went out of the parlor, skipping through the kitchen to the back door. She picked a few daisies that grew in the garden patch by the door and then headed for the rose trellis. She plucked the petals. “He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not.…” She hushed as she came around the corner. She didn’t want to disturb Mama and Papa. She just wanted to be close to them.

Sarah dreamed contentedly. Maybe Papa would put her up on his shoulders. She wondered if he would take her for a ride on his big black horse.

She would have to change her dress, of course. He wouldn’t want her to soil it. She wished he had let her sit on his lap while he talked to Mama. She would have liked that very much, and she would have been no bother. The parlor window was open, and she could hear voices. Mama loved the smell of roses to fill the parlor. Sarah wanted to sit and listen to her parents. That way she would know just when Papa wanted her to come back again. If she was very quiet, she wouldn’t disturb them, and all Mama would have to do was lean out and call her name.

“What was I to do, Alex? You’ve never spent so much as a minute with her. What was I to tell her? That her father doesn’t care? That he wishes she had never even been born?”

Sarah’s lips parted. Deny it, Papa! Deny it!

“I brought that swan back from Europe for you, and you throw it away on a child who has no appreciation for its value. Did you give her the pearls as well? What about the music box? I suppose she got that, too!”

The daisies fluttered from Sarah’s hand. She sat down on the ground, careless of her pretty dress. Her heart slowed from its wild, happy beat. Everything inside her seemed to spiral downward with each word.

“Alex, please. I didn’t see any harm in it. It made it easier. She asked me this morning if she was old enough yet to meet you. She asks me every time she knows you’re coming. How could I say no to her again? I didn’t have the
heart. She doesn’t understand your neglect, and neither do I.”

“You know how I feel about her.”

“How can you say how you feel? You don’t even know her. She’s a beautiful child, Alex. She’s quick and charming and she isn’t afraid of anything. She’s like you in so many ways. She’s someone, Alex. You can’t ignore her existence forever. She’s your daughter.…”

“I have enough children by my wife. Legitimate children. I told you I didn’t want another.”

“How can you say that? How can you not love your own flesh and blood?”

“I told you how I felt from the beginning, but you wouldn’t listen. She should never have been born, Mae, but you insisted on having your own way.”

“Do you think I wanted to get pregnant? Do you think I planned to have her?”

“I’ve often wondered. Especially when I arranged a way out of the situation for you and you refused. The doctor I sent you to would have taken care of the whole mess. He would’ve gotten rid—”

“I couldn’t do it. How could you expect me to kill my unborn child? Don’t you understand? It’s a mortal sin.”

“You’ve spent too much time in church,” he said derisively. “Have you ever thought that you wouldn’t have the problems you do now if you had gotten rid of her the way I told you. It would’ve been easy. But you ran out.”

“I wanted her!” Mama said brokenly. “She was part of you, Alex, and part of me. I wanted her even if you didn’t.…”

“Is that the real reason?”

“You’re hurting me, Alex!”

Sarah flinched as something shattered. “Is that the real reason, Mae? Or did you have her because you thought bearing my child would give you a hold over me you otherwise lacked?”

“You can’t believe that!” Mama was crying now. “You do, don’t you? You’re a fool, Alex. Oh, what have I done? I gave up everything for you! My family, my friends, my self-respect, everything I believed in, every hope I ever had.…”

“I bought you this cottage. I give you all the money you could possibly need.”

Mama’s voice rose strangely. “Do you know what it’s like for me to walk down the street in this town? You come and go when and as you please. And they know who you are, and they know what I am. No one looks at me. No one speaks to me. Sarah feels it, too. She asked me about it once, and I told her we were different from other people. I didn’t know what else to say.” Her voice broke. “I’ll probably go to hell for what I’ve become.”

“I’m sick of your guilt and I’m sick of hearing about that child. She’s ruining everything between us. Do you remember how happy we were? We never argued. I couldn’t wait to come to you, to be with you.”

“Don’t—”

“And how much time do I have left with you today? Enough? You’ve used it up on her. I told you what would happen, didn’t I? I wish she had never been born!”

Mama cried out a terrible name. There was a crash. Terrified, Sarah got up and ran. She raced through Mama’s flowers and across the lawn and onto the pathway to the springhouse. She ran until she couldn’t run anymore. Gasping, her sides burning, she dropped into the tall grass, her shoulders heaving with sobs, her face streaked with tears. She heard a horse galloping toward her. Scrambling for a better hiding place in the vines about the creek, she peered out and saw her father ride by on his great black horse. Ducking down, she huddled there, crying, and waited for Mama to come fetch her.

But Mama didn’t come and she didn’t call. After a while, Sarah wandered back to the springhouse and sat by the flowered vines and waited longer. By the time Mama came, Sarah had dried her tears and dusted off her pretty frock. She was still shaking from what she had heard.

Mama was very pale, her eyes dull and red rimmed. There was a blue mark on the side of her face. She had tried to cover it with powder. She smiled, but it wasn’t like her usual smile.

“Where have you been, darling? I’ve been looking and looking for you.” Sarah knew she hadn’t. She had been watching for her. Mama licked her lacy handkerchief and wiped a smudge from Sarah’s cheek. “Your father was called away suddenly on business.”

“Is he coming back?” Sarah was afraid. She never wanted to see him again. He had hurt Mama and made her cry.

“Maybe not for a long time. We’ll have to just wait and see. He’s a very busy and important man.” Sarah said nothing, and her Mama lifted her and hugged her close. “It’s all right, sweetheart. You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to go back to the cottage and change our dresses. Then we’ll pack a picnic and go down to the creek. Would you like that?”

Sarah nodded and put her arms around Mama’s neck. Her mouth trembled, and she tried not to cry. If she cried, Mama might guess she had been eavesdropping and then she would be angry too.

Mama held her tightly, her face buried in Sarah’s hair. “We’ll make it through this. You’ll see, sweetheart. We will. We will.”

Redeeming Love

REJECTED

“He [Jesus] was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we did not care.”

ISAIAH 53:3

DISCUSSION

  1. How was Sarah/Angel rejected and betrayed? What were her earliest experiences with God and/or the church?
  2. What experience did Michael have with rejection or betrayal? Contrast Michael’s and Angel’s examples in coping with life’s circumstances.
  3. Who else in the story suffered from rejection or betrayal, and how did they cope?
  4. Which character do you identify with the most and why?
  5. Describe a time when you were rejected or betrayed. To whom did you turn and why?

DISCOVERIES

“You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God!”

PSALM 139:15-17

  1. Where was God when you were born? How does that make you feel? What else do you learn about God from these verses?
  2. How would you relate these verses to Angel? Relate these same verses to yourself.

DECISIONS

“God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

ROMANS 8:28

  1. When Angel experienced rejection and betrayal, was God calling her? What good was He working in her life?
  2. When you have faced rejection or betrayal, was God calling you? What good has He worked in your life in relation to those circumstances?

RESIGNATION

“Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many counselors bring success.”

PROVERBS 15:22

“People may be pure in their own eyes, but the LORD examines their motives.”

PROVERBS 16:2

Which scene do you feel best shows how Angel was resigned to relying on no one but herself? What events caused her to do so? Why do you think she never cried out to God?

  1. Contrast Michael with Angel in regard to authority.
  2. Describe Miriam’s relationship with God. Why were her attitudes and beliefs so different from Angel’s?
  3. On whom do you rely and why?

DISCOVERIES

“He [God] will rescue the poor when they cry to him; he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them. He feels pity for the weak and the needy, and he will rescue them. He will save them from oppression and from violence, for their lives are precious to him.”

PSALM 72:12–14

  1. What do you learn about God’s character from these verses?
  2. What is our part in experiencing God’s help? What holds you back?
  3. Discuss the characters in light of these verses.

DECISIONS

“God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

ROMANS 8:28

  1. In what ways was God calling Angel while she was relying only on herself? What good was He working?
  2. In what ways has God been calling you, regardless of whom you rely on? How is He working good for you through that process?

RESCUED

“Though I am surrounded by troubles, you will preserve me against the anger of my enemies. You will clench your fist against my angry enemies! Your power will save me. The LORD will work out his plans for my life— for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.”

PSALM 138:7–8

  1. Who helped Michael escape his past? In what ways was he rescued?
  2. Angel repeatedly tried to escape her circumstances. Describe the various plans.
  3. Contrast Hosea, the slave who helped Michael, with the slave dealer Duke.
  4. Discuss Michael’s rescue of Angel from the hand of Magowan.
  5. Why do you think Angel returned to her former ways?
  6. From what or whom are you trying to escape and why?
  7. What causes you to return to old habits?

DISCOVERIES

“For ‘Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?”

ROMANS 10:13–14

  1. How would you apply these verses to Angel? According to these verses, why had she never cried out to God? Who was responsible?
  2. What keeps you from crying out to God? What can you do about it now?

DECISIONS

“God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

ROMANS 8:28

  1. List any ways in which God was calling Angel at this juncture in her life.
  2. Can you see the good He was working around her? List it.
  3. What about your life? How has God rescued you? How has He called you and worked good through that?

REDEEMED

“He [Jesus] gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing what is right.”

TITUS 2:14

DISCUSSION

  1. Angel was bought and sold on numerous occasions. What was different about Michael’s redeeming her? Discuss the role of trust (or lack of trust) in Angel.
  2. When Michael and Angel helped the Altman family, what did Angel learn about Michael? Herself? God?
  3. Describe the changes in actions and thinking that took place after Angel was rescued a second time by Michael. What do you think caused the changes?
  4. What trust issues do you have? Who has God placed in your life as positive examples?

DISCOVERIES

“God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

EPHESIANS 2:8–10

  1. List everything you learn about salvation from these verses.
  2. What is God’s part? What is your part?
  3. Apply this passage to Angel.
  4. How is God creating you anew?

DECISIONS

“God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

ROMANS 8:28

  1. How do you see God’s call in Angel’s life by this point? What specifically does she discover for herself?
  2. List some of the good that is happening in her life.
  3. What specific discoveries have you made for yourself regarding God’s call?
  4. List some of the good that is happening in your life.

RECONCILED

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

ROMANS 12:1–2

DISCUSSION

  1. What caused Angel to leave yet again?
  2. How is this different from before?
  3. Why was it necessary for Paul to be the one to find Angel?
  4. What did he learn about himself? How did this help him?
  5. What did Angel learn through this experience?
  6. What was Michael learning through this difficult time?
  7. Is there someone who needs to be reconciled with you? Or, do you need to be the one who does the reconciling, like Paul did? Explain.

DISCOVERIES

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.

1 PETER 4:8

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in his good time he will honor you. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.

1 PETER 5:6–7

  1. What covers sin? To what extent?
  2. What does God do for those who humble themselves before him? Why?
  3. How would you apply these verses to the characters—which characters, and why?
  4. How does pride hold you back from experiencing peace and forgiveness?

DECISIONS

God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

ROMANS 8:28

  1. How has God’s call affected Angel’s life now?
  2. Describe the good that now flows from her life.
  3. Is God’s calling having its full effect on your life? Why or why not?
  4. What good are you sharing with others?

RESTORATION

“In his kindness God called you to his eternal glory by means of Jesus Christ. After you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.”

1 PETER 5:10

  1. What steps had Angel taken to restore her spirit?
  2. What were the lasting effects of Angel’s soul search?
  3. What steps did Angel take to restore her marriage? How did Michael respond?
  4. In what ways did God reward Sarah and Michael?
  5. What have you learned about the love of a man for a woman?
  6. What have you learned about the love of God for all mankind–including you?

DISCOVERIES

“And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it…. By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope.”

EPHESIANS 3:17–20

  1. How would you describe God’s love from these verses? What does He offer us?
  2. How did Sarah and Michael discover this to be true for their lives?
  3. What does God want to do for you? What does He want from you?

DECISIONS

God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

ROMANS 8:28

  1. How would you sum up God’s call in the life of Angel/Sarah? Describe the progress made in her life that was good from God’s hand.
  2. Go back and look at your own progress. How would you sum up God’s call in your life?
  3. What progress has been made that you can attribute to God working good in you?

May God continue to work good in your life as you continue to respond to His call.

Amor redentor
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