At the time of this writing, I have almost 370 reviews on my book Greater Than Rubies. Over 300 of those reviews are 4 and 5 star. For the rest, there’s this kind of broad spectrum disapproval of the fact that my male protagonist, Tony Viscolli, is a billionaire who lives a luxurious life. It seems, according to a lot of reviewers, that you can’t be a Christ following Christian and still be a billionaire.
Tony was introduced in the first book in the Jewel Series, Sapphire Ice. In that book, Tony, a self-made billionaire who used to be a homeless teenager on the streets of Boston, falls in love with Robin Bartlett, a barmaid who is working 2 jobs to put her 2 younger sisters through college. For most of the book, Robin resents Tony’s wealth. But, what she and the reader both begin to see is that Tony is extremely generous with his money, pouring millions of dollars into his community and church. He is part of countless charities, and funds projects without hesitation. And, it’s made clear, that he knows that his wealth comes from his devotion to and trust in God. One of his witnesses to Robin, who doesn’t know Christ and doesn’t trust God at the beginning of the book, is his generous heart and his assuredness that God has trusted him with his wealth for a purpose.
Greater Than Rubies is the story of the wedding of Robin and Tony. But, it is so much deeper than just the original intention of writing a lavish wedding. In it, we discover just what Tony is willing to give up in order to have Robin by his side. We are also able to see far deeper into his heart and his love of his fellow man in this book.
And yet, the criticisms still come about the lavish lifestyle and wealth that Tony enjoys and encourages his friends to enjoy with him. One reviewer called him a camel who would have a very hard time getting through the “eye of the needle”, which tells me that the reviewer didn’t really read the book.
The title of the book is derived from Proverbs 31:10:
Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies.
Knowing that his business interests are what brought Robin and him together, Tony, when confronted with a fiancee who finds she cannot live in his world, makes plans to sell everything he owns and give all of the money away. He is willing to give it up to be Robin’s husband – because he knows in his heart that Robin is the wife God prepared for him. Relying on this scripture, he knows she is worth more than his fortune.
It’s very popular right now to write billionaires. I enjoyed taking that pop-culture fad and spinning it to a Christian worldview. I LOVED writing Tony’s character, forming his companies and thinking about how someone who truly followed Christ would run such a massive corporation. I think the end result speaks to the stewardship Christ demands from all of us. But I also think that many people who start reading it get a preconceived idea of what a billionaire in a romance novel is — and just go with the assumption that that’s what I wrote. In many reviews, I’ve read that the reader was surprised halfway through the book and that their expectations of Tony shifted dramatically as they read him.
I’ve started writing Christmas stories of the next generation of The Jewel Series. The first one, Christmas Diamond, released Christmas 2013, and the next one will be coming out this November. As I rediscover this world that I built, I’m really enjoying seeing what the next generation is doing with the Viscolli fortune after being raised in a home saturated in the love of God and a true heart of compassion for their fellow man.
What do you think when you see a “billionaire romance”?
One commenter will receive a copy of my entire Jewel Series collection — all four books in the Jewel Series — either in paperback or ebook (your choice) so that you can get to know my billionaire and his world, too. I look forward to your responses.