Thomas Michelson, 2nd year seminarian, from Southern Ontario. Thomas was raised in a sheltered, suburban family, where mom and dad stayed together. His move to Minnesota for school has been the biggest change he has ever faced in life. Thomas is an evangelical by nature, standing apart from his friends who are more mainline in their Protestantism, and yet he wrestles with his true calling. He begins to date Terri McMurphy who is inspired by Hardy's Tess Derbyfield. As he meets this "Hardy heroine" he must face some of the darkest parts of his nature and decide what kind of man he needs to be.
Terri McMurphy, waitress at The Hatch, a restaurant near the seminary, where the "Hardy Boys" meet on Monday nights. She becomes romantically involved with Thomas. Terri's past, and the unique circumstances of her family, both intrigue and challenge Thomas' assumptions of the kind of relationship he is looking for. Terri seems fated to live out some of the most tragic elements of the life of Tess Derbyfield, in Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles.
Freya Søderstrom, 2nd year seminarian, exchange student from Norway. Freya's exploration of America includes serial relationships with male students at the school. Child-like, rebellious, and afraid to be alone, Freya becomes entangled with both Paul Pecker and Thomas Michelson. Her return to Norway at the end of the year allows her to keep her distance, and at the same time, maintain more than one suitor, forcing a confrontation between her love interests. She is inspired by Elfride Swancourt from Thomas Hardy's A Pair of Blue Eyes.
Elizabeth (Beth) Everhart, owner of Everhart Downs, Madison County, Iowa. After the death of her husband, she inherits land owned by her husband's family that will one day pass to her two children. Enterprising, intelligent, strong and decisive, she endeavors to develop the land as a hobby farm. Mike Shepherd, one of Thomas' seminary friends falls in love with her. She approximates the character of Bathsheba Everdene from Hardy's, Far From the Madding Crowd in her need to decide between the faithful "shepherd" and the overbearing character of Steven, a banker and farm appraiser.
Anne Garlund, high school sweetheart of Andrew, who visits Minneapolis and recaptures the heart of Andrew, the band leader. Andrew and Anne's public engagement at a CD release party precipitates the major events in all four relationships between the "Hardy Boys" and the "Hardy Girls". Her character is patterned after Ann Garland, from Hardy's, The Trumpet-Major, where a woman with many suitors finally makes her choice of a military band director.
Andrew, 2nd year seminary student, alternative country band leader.
Andrew is the social leader of the group of four "Hardy Boys". His intellect and social intelligence keeps him out of most of the drama, allowing him to focus on his music. He falls for Anne Garlund, his high school sweetheart. Andrew's singlemindedness gives him a perspective that none of the other "boys" in the story have.
Mike Shepherd, 2nd year seminary student, loyal, hardworking, serious. Mike falls for Beth, an old family friend, after he hears about the death of her husband through his parents. Mike's loyalty endears him to Beth, although she is also pursued by a banker and farm assessor. Mike persistent faithfulness and spiritual wisdom guard his path and determine his surprising destiny.
Paul Pecker, 2nd year seminarian, physically strong, self-defined "sinner". Paul dates Freya on-an-off, and pushes the boundaries of appropriate behavior with her and with others. Paul is not ashamed of his tendencies and he encourages others, especially Thomas, to live in freedom and self-gratification.