It has been a number of years since I picked up a romance featuring the Amish life and I was particularly attracted to this one because it was actually two stories in one. This one was set in modern times, but through the device of a diary, there is also a story tucked in about what it was like during WWII as well. I’m not an expert, but I felt completely immersed in the gentle, appealing story that was parts romance and parts character development set against the backdrop of a Central Pennsylvania Amish community.
This is the first of a trio of books about three cousins with three very different circumstances who are sorting through their grandmother’s things and each comes away with something from the past that helps them get a handle on the present. First to get her story is still grieving widow, Rebecca Fisher. Rebecca’s husband died of cancer just on the cusp of fulfilling his dreams to run a bed & breakfast style affair with their farm during the summer months and the begin raising farm draft horses. Paul is gone over a year and now Rebecca must figure out how to pay the mortgage on all the things he set in motion. One welcome and yet not so welcome source of income is allowing Matt Byler to rent the never used stables that Paul built for his horse breeding dream as a woodworking shop. Another source is to put aside her fears and doubts and continue opening the farm to guests. Each change is rough because it is a step toward something new and away from her past with Paul. Rebecca must figure out if she has what it takes to go on without him since she was utterly dependent on him while he was alive and whether she can embrace whatever this is with Matt who thinks he is not a safe bet. With all that she faces, the diary of a woman from her family’s past living through the tough times of WWII give her insight into her own life in modern times.
Matt Byler kicked up his heels as a teen leaving his Amish faith to live out in the world only to find trouble and misery because he was not one that was meant to leave. Coming back is rough because he still struggles with the anger and temper that led him astray in the first place. But his cousin left his family behind like he was following in Matt’s shoes leaving Matt’s uncle, aunt and girl cousin in a bind. Matt figures he can help his uncle with the work load and support the family as just one step toward redemption. He feels the suspicion his return as engendered, but oddly, Rebecca Fisher looks on him with admiration for what he is doing. He doesn’t feel comfortable with her praise so he slowly shares examples from his past of how unworthy he is. Meanwhile, he has to do something about his attraction to a woman who is clearly still not ready to move on from her husband.
The plot of this one gently meanders through as it tells the story of two people struggling and coming into their own. There is a nice bit of plot and character development which kept me really vested in Rebecca and Matt’s story particularly Rebecca’s. Rebecca moving on from her sorrow and discovering through several challenges the woman she is meant to be was probably my favorite part of the story along with the sessions with her wise grandmother. She connects with the other story heroine, Ana, from the past. Matt had inner struggles to contain his temper and his fears that he didn’t belong in the only world he wanted to be in as well as learning that he is worthy of forgiveness. All of them were so personable and I enjoyed their individual stories as well as their connection with each other.
Several themes made this a strong story that not only affected my emotions, but my thoughts too. Ana’s story gives the fascinating and tragic details of what it was like for conscientious objectors and even the fear of anything different that added hardship to the people of the past that I hadn’t really thought about. I also thought it was interesting that though I don’t embrace the Amish faith that it was interesting that some things are just the same no matter who you are or what you believe like family being there for each other, prodigals that break a family’s heart, grief, and cherishing and preserving the family heritage. There was a mild inspirational message about forgiveness and accepting the bad with the good, but it was organic to the story and worked well.
The romance is understated and very sweet. I liked the two of them for each other and as the reader I was allowed to see it develop long before the two actually involved did. This worked because both had a lot of personal stuff to work through before they were ready for a relationship. I am a sucker for a guy courting a family (even if he doesn’t realize that is what he is doing) so I found the scenes involving Matt with Rebecca and the two children just adorable.
The only tiny disappointment was that I felt the ending came fast. I wanted to know what the deal was with Isaiah, did Simon throw over the odious Mary Ann, and I wanted maybe a bit more with Rebecca and Matt after their romance resolved. Maybe these will be picked up in book two which goes on with Judith’s story. I will definitely be continuing on.
To wrap it up, this was a fortuitous pick to reunite with the Amish Romance niche. I thoroughly enjoyed this author’s writing, the captivating characters, the authentic backdrop, plotting and feel that managed both a lighter, upbeat tone while telling the story of two moderately damaged people becoming whole. Lovers of Amish Romance, Inspiration Romance and even Sweet Contemporary/Historical Romances should probably give this one a peek.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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