In the 16th century, nun Katharina von Bora’s fate fell no further than the Abbey. Until she read the writings of Martin Luther.
His sweeping Catholic church reformation—condemning a cloistered life and promoting the goodness of marriage—awakened her desire for everything she’d been forbidden. Including Martin Luther himself.
Despite the fact that the attraction and tension between them is undeniable, Luther holds fast to his convictions and remains isolated, refusing to risk anyone’s life but his own. And Katharina longs for love, but is strong-willed. She clings proudly to her class distinction, pining for nobility over the heart of a reformer. They couldn’t be more different.
But as the world comes tumbling down around them, and with Luther’s threatened life a constant strain, these unlikely allies forge an unexpected bond of understanding, support and love.
Together, they will alter the religious landscape forever.
Read an Excerpt:
Your latest book, Luther and Katharina, details the true romance between Katharina von Bora and Martin Luther. What led you to this remarkable story?
As I homeschooled my children and gave them history lessons, I began learning a lot about some of the great heroes of the faith. I was particularly fascinated by the wives of these great heroes, especially those who were long forgotten by our modern world, women who had stood by their husband’s sides during dangerous times and had helped shape those men into the heroes they became. I wanted to bring these women to life for our modern generation. I wanted to tell their stories.
Katharina von Bora is one of those women who has been largely ignored by today’s culture, but she’s a strong woman whose story deserves to be told every much as her husband’s. I’m excited about sharing her story, about her daring and dangerous escape from a convent, how she met Luther, and how the two of them overcame many obstacles to eventually fall in love and form a strong marriage
It’s obvious that research plays an enormous role in the development of your scenes and the characters that inhabit them. How did you begin the arduous task of researching these two historical figures and the period in which they lived?
One of the first things I do in the early research phase of any of my stories based on real historical figures is I locate as many biographies on the couples and individuals as I can get my hands on. Usually I can get quite a number through my library system. Once I figure out the books that will be the most helpful to me, I usually buy them.
After I have the biographies I spend an enormous amount of time reading through them, taking pages and pages of notes, and trying to gain a realistic grasp of the people and the eve
nts that fall within the time frame that I hope to write about (which usually entails the romance relationship–how the couple met, fell in love, and ended up together).
Once I’ve scoured the biographies, I begin the next phase of my research which is to delve into the details regarding the time period and setting. Usually I try to focus on gaining a “feel” for the era. I try to understand the social and political climate. I familiarize myself with wars or other disruptions happening during the time. And then I round out my research by studying clothes, food, homes, life styles, etc.
The process is intense and takes me weeks before I’m finally ready to begin the actual writing process.
What was the biggest surprise in researching this story?
As I dug into the research, the thing that surprised me most was that Luther and Katharina didn’t experience “love at first sight.” In fact, they had no thought of marrying each other. Katharina was a woman of noble birth and Luther a man of peasant beginnings. They were in two different social classes, which doesn’t sound like a big deal to us today. But at that time, social class was extremely important.
After leaving the convent, Katharina expected to marry a nobleman. And even though Luther preached the goodness of marriage and encouraged other monks and nuns to leave their convents and get married, he had no intention of getting married himself. So, the question begs answering, how did these two opposite people with opposing personalities and aspirations, end up together? You’ll have to read the book to discover the answer!
Katharina von Bora is a name that most people would never connect with Martin Luther. Why do you think it’s important that we uncover and shine a light on some of the forgotten female figures who helped shape the Church?
My goal is to give a voice to the forgotten women of the past. Since most of history has been written by men, unfortunately all too often the accounts neglect to include or minimizes the many women who played critically important roles in the shaping of history.
As a mother of five children and a wife to a husband in Christian ministry, I’ve had a firsthand learning experience of the incredible work load and responsibility that comes with raising a family, being a wife, managing a home, as well as helping do all of the things necessary to provide emotionally, physically, and financially for our family. As I go about this calling God’s given me at this stage in my life, I have a greater appreciation for the women of the past who also struggled through the same issues (but without all of the modern conveniences that I have!).
I believe modern women will benefit from hearing their stories, will be incredibly encouraged to see these women who persevered through discrimination and found the strength to use their God-given abilities to make a difference. Not only did they make a difference in their era, but today (decades and even centuries later) we can see the fruits of their bravery and strength. These women of the past have encouraged me to persevere and to use my skills and talents to make a difference in my time. No matter how big or small that difference might be, I want to be faithful to leave an impact, just as those women did
As you began to read and learn more about Katharina, what particularly captivated you about her?
I was particularly fascinated by the fact that Katharina had once been a nun. And as we know, nuns take a vow of celibacy.
I was curious to know why she’d become a nun in the first place. What led her to that decision? And then what made her later decide to forsake her vows? What was life like for her after escaping her convent knowing that if she was caught and recaptured, she could face persecution and even death for running away? What were her hopes and dreams for her life after she’d denied herself for so long? What was it like for her to interact with men when she’d never before had the opportunity?
All of those questions and more reverberated through my mind. And what I really wanted to know was how she’d ended up with Martin Luther. What brought this couple together? It was a forbidden love during a time of incredible turmoil. It was a love that was never-meant-to-happen. So how did it come about?
Jody, you’ve written almost a dozen historical romance novels. What continues to draw you to this genre?
One main reason I write romances is that I want to be able to present healthy models of love, chivalry, and passion to a hurting and broken culture. No, my characters aren’t perfect and they have real problems. But all of us can benefit from watching imperfect couples work through issues and come out on the other side stronger as a result. Such models give us a picture of what hopeful and healthy relationships look like, the kinds of relationships that we can aspire to.
Another reason I write romances is because I love bringing to life real love stories of the past. My Hearts of Faith series spotlights the romance relationships of three famous couples: John and Elizabeth Bunyan (in The Preacher’s Bride), Marcus and Narcissa Whitman (in The Doctor’s Lady), and John and Abigail Adams (in Rebellious Heart). Even though names are changed in the series, I loved being able to bring these delightful real historical romances to life.