This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Amish Romance
Published by Berkley
Released on April 5, 2016
The trilogy has been building to this final book. Of the three Amish Lapp cousins, Barbie was always going to be the one to anchor it with her story, but the surprise was who her historical counterpart would be.
I have enjoyed the way the author wove two Amish stories together in each book- one from the past and one from the present- tied together by an old heirloom that Grossmammi Lapp gives each of her granddaughters and the story that goes with it. Each woman, past or present, faces difficult times or a difficult decision.
These heartwarming tales are hopeful and endearing while seeming to capture the Amish world and their people. I will miss the people introduced in the story, the sense of family and community, seeing them overcome their difficulties, and of course, find abiding love.
This is the third story and it is most certainly tied to the two that came before it, but I think in a pinch an astute reader can get away with reading it out of order. However, they’re lovely stories and build on each other so I would recommend starting from the beginning.
The story opens with Barbie Lapp sneaking out to be with her Englischer coworker and friend to a bar. Barbie knows she’s too old to be experimenting like this, but she is still so very lost and unsure about whether living Amish is something she can do. Her oldest brother left never to return or contact them. What if she is like James?
In the process of finding out, Barbie gets a younger girl, Mary Kauffman, out of bad trouble and has to be the one to take Mary home to the austere and disapproving, Ben Kauffman, older brother and the youngest minister.
Ben doesn’t approve of the flighty Barbie and knows she’s trouble, but now his sister is in hero worship and his father wants Barbie to be Mary’s mentor. With the loss of his mother and then his wife, their family has struggled to get back on keel. He has no idea what to do about the sullen and rebellious Mary or his two young children who need a mother’s care. As a minister to the people, he feels he is a failure because he can’t even figure out his own household or the situation with Barbie Lapp. His father and children are taken with the lively woman, but she is not who he needs as a minster’s wife. Not hardly. Especially if she is living on the edge, lying to her family, and irresponsible. He needs to get her out of his mind, but instead he runs into her everywhere now and he’s seeing another side of her.
Barbie’s grandmother, Elizabeth Lapp, finally chooses the heirloom treasure she is giving to Barbie. Barbie is dismayed to discover that it is Grossmammi’s wedding chest. Barbie isn’t even sure she can be Amish let alone get married and start a family. But Elizabeth insists and also insists that Barbie will help her take each item out of the trunk so she can learn the story behind it. In the process, will this time help Barbie find the peace and answers she needs?
The items are memorabilia from the life of a young married woman from 1960’s Lancaster county. The Amish of Lancaster County are being forced to look for farms further away as farm land is scarce and being sold off to create strip malls, super highways, and tracts of homes in the name of progress. Families have adult sons who are stuck either moving away or taking the few remaining jobs that are available in the Englisch world. Will fear keep this young woman from moving forward or will she hold too hard to the past and cause her marriage and happiness to wither?
It just got better and better. I was so pleased to have the build up of anticipation not fizzle on me. Oh, this is no fast paced thriller, but I mean how the series arc built as Barbie’s story actually began in the first book and there was some foreshadowing to what the reader could expect when it was finally her turn to take center stage. Hers is an opposites attract and I confess amusing choice for romance partner in pairing the bubbly ‘spirit of the law’ Barbie to the dutiful ‘letter of the law’ Ben. They don’t even like each other at first, but I loved each of their encounters where they learn more and more that people can surprise you and be more than what is on the surface. The story from the past is about an established married pair, but they have their difficulties too between personal trials and an opposite opinion on a major decision.
Barbie’s personal crisis is a heartbreaking one. As an outsider to the Amish faith, I can only relate so far, of course, but I certainly felt her angst in not knowing what choice she should make- embrace the Amish faith completely or leave. She is pulled in two directions or so she thinks until a crisis has her acting on instinct and realizing what her instinctive response tells her about what she really wants. Through the story, she knows she is walking on a knife’s edge the way she is experimenting and hiding things from her family and her Amish community knowing that at any time it will all blow up in her face. And it does. I found Barbie a delight and was cheering her all the way. I wanted to smack Ben in the back of the head once or twice for being over-critical, but he, too, was a good guy and he really needed Barbie.
As to the second story, that one too, was touching and I liked both of the characters, Reuben and Elizabeth. Elizabeth had my hand twitchy to bop her much like Ben because she had her sights set on her own needs and refused to see the larger picture and refused to consider to take into account what was really going on in her decision making. Poor Reuben knew the right choice, but for his love of Elizabeth, he was willing to sacrifice what was best and his own dreams for hers. Now grant you, she has just lost a baby after trying so hard to get pregnant so she is somewhat distracted and on the raw. Like for Barbie, there was a big decision for Elizabeth and I was really cheering her on to do the right thing.
So in the end, this was a series that was full of heart, family, community, faith, and love. I can easily recommend it to those who enjoy mildly Inspirational or Sweet Romance with an Amish setting.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #132 CR