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.
Deanna S says
I enjoyed getting to know more about you Hallee, I think a billionaire can be a Christian with a giving heart.
A “billionaire romance”? I don’t immediately think of wine-ing, dining & fancy expensive dates. I think of a person with money finding that “one special person” I’d enjoy reading your series, thanks for the giveaway..
I don’t immediately think of it, either — but it was fun to write the expensive dates, nevertheless. LOL
I’ll be honest Hallie, I usually avoid anything in romance involving billionaires because of the ‘hollywood’ image and lavish, immoral, life style that is associated with the term. Not to mention the covers for most of these books are selling sex, not a story. I would be willing to read something that is God-focused and refreshing, shining a new light on the billionaire theme.
I have friends who write those kind of billionaire romances. The are extremely popular in the secular market.
Joelle Hawkins Teague says
Hallie – please don’t enter me in the giveaway, but as a reader of these books I wanted to express another perspective/opinion for any that may not have read them. These books were AWESOME and I have read them probably 3 or 4 different times each. I believe that there are people in the world like Tony, but (like God tells us) they don’t brag about what they are doing because that’s not why they do it. They don’t want the right hand to know what the left is doing and their purpose is just for God’s glorification. As humans, I think it’s easy for everyone to be envious of people with immeasurable resources, but it did my heart good to think that people like Tony actually exist in this world. These stories were well thought out, believable, and expressed hope. They didn’t show perfection, they showed overcomers. I’m very excited to know there are more stories to come about the next generations because I loved Diamond. Thanks for what you do!
Thank you so much, Joelle. Your comment really encouraged me!
Thank you for the giveaway!
Thank you for entering!
Nancy K. says
I own all of your books in this series on my Kindle so I do not want to be entered in the drawing. I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the series. I loved Tony’s and Robin’s love story. I would highly recommend all of the books in this series. It was interesting to me to read how someone with so much money lived such a Godly life. I loved reading how they lead their lives in such a Godly manner. Looking forward to the next Christmas book.
I hadn’t really planned too much to do another Christmas novella, but I was offered the opportunity and immediately thought of Robin and Tony’s daughter. I may or may not continue through all of the 2nd generation. I’m thinking a bunch of Valentine stories would be fun, too.
Jessica Browning says
I’ve never read a “billionaire romance” but the premise of your story sounds really interesting. I know I sometimes get caught up in thinking about what it would be like to be rich and what I would do for myself without thinking about the stewardship that God would require. I thinks it’s great that your character realizes that Robin is more important than all of his wealth.
Nita Yates says
I love the books! Being a Christian, I’m very selective when choosing what I read for pleasure & your books meet the criteria. I look forward to what you share with us in the future. I’m confident I won’t be disappointed!
Kathryn Schultz says
It sounds like you have found a new and refreshing take on what has become an overdone subject. I think your series sounds like one I would be interested in reading. Too many times I find that these series have the exact opposite values to mine, and I was about to give up on finding a Christian author I enjoy reading. Isn’t it interesting that the millionaires now have to be billionaires to catch our interest?
Hi. I love reading billionaire romances. :) congratulations on your series and your new novella.
I’m glad you write these books. I enjoy them. I do wonder about one aspect (as a non-Christian). Billionaire romances are escape reading. It is fun to think about having so much money that you can put aside money worries and be able to buy anything you wanted, take any trips you wanted etc. Even if the billionaire in the book makes Christian choices it is still an escape fantasy about being rich. Are escape fantasies okay as a break from daily life? Are there problems with that, or is it okay? (Maybe the fact that the books also portray real problems, with decisions about those problems being made through a Christian worldview, makes the books valuable to the reader even though combined with a wealth fantasy. Maybe it is useful to stimulate the mind through imagination and a pause in anxiety.)
Robin Kapshandy says
After reading about your billionaire I have got to read this book!!!! I read a book based on the people not on their wealth but I am intrigued about Tony. Usually the men in past books have money but not over the top, it is just kind of there in the background. Excuse me while I go find this book.
Trixi O. says
I have no problem with “billionaire” romances as long as it has a Christian worldview such as what Tony sounds like. He uses his money for good and gives God all the glory in it! It sounds especially interesting because he started out as a a homeless teen on the streets of Boston and became rich. I love that he doesn’t want to take credit for himself, but wants to use it to better other people. What a testimony of his faith :-) I have not read any of these, but from what you say about them here, I would love to. I like to see how God turns a life around and that person gives all the glory to Him (rich or poor)!
Thanks for talking about your books and for the chance to win a great series :-) And congrats on your upcoming one in November! I love continuing series stories!
Mallory Reynolds says
I don’t think billionaire and Christianity don’t go together, after all some of the greatest heroes in the old testament were rich (Abraham, David, Solomon). I don’t think God cares how much money you have as long as you love Him more than it. And lets face it, if your characters have the money to do anything and go anywhere it makes for a more exciting adventure! Reading about characters who are willing to give their wealth up for something more valuable (God, others, love) is very refreshing. Thanks for the chance to win!
“And lets face it, if your characters have the money to do anything and go anywhere it makes for a more exciting adventure!”
Good point, Mallory.