Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: Gabriel's Bride by Amy Lillard

Amy Lillard is one of my favorite authors of the Amish genre.  She uses humor in her books, which I appreciate, as well as just the right amount of romantic tension to keep me turning the pages.  The entire series of Clover Ridge books are a worthwhile addition to your library.


Readers who enjoy Amish fiction will not be able to put Gabriel’s Bride by Amy Lillard (B&H Publishing Group) down once they start reading.  This Amish romance is the continuation of The Clover Ridge series and follows the eldest son, widowed, taciturn Gabriel Fisher and his family in Clover Ridge, Oklahoma.  Readers need not read the previous two novels in the series, but will want to as the first two novels, Saving Gideon and Katie’s Choice, are just as exceptional as Gabriel’s Bride.

The book begins with Gabriel’s oldest child, Mary Elizabeth, leaving home unexpectedly to further her schooling in the English world.  Gabriel, who desperately misses his wife who died during childbirth six years ago, has no one to help with the cooking and housekeeping for him and his five sons.  He needs the help especially with his youngest son, sweet and delightful six year old Samuel with Down’s syndrome.

Soon Gabriel meets a 26 year old Amish woman, Rachel, who is in need of a job and place to live since her only close relative has passed away.  If Rachel doesn’t take the housekeeper job for the stern and unfriendly Gabriel, she will need to move to Ohio to live with a distant cousin with eleven children and give up her organic goat cheese business.

With some misgivings, Rachel begins the housekeeping job at Gabriel’s home but she’s not much of an Amish housekeeper.  She burns most of the food she cooks, her goats eat Gabriel’s prized experimental crop of red and gold wheat, and she has trouble keeping up with cleaning and sewing.  However Rachel and little Samuel develop a bond even if the older brothers have little use for her.

Only two weeks into this rocky start, the bishop and ministers pay a visit to Gabriel and Rachel to tell them their living arrangement is inappropriate since they are not married but living under the same roof.  Impulsively and although they barely get along, Gabriel asks Rachel to marry him, in name only, so they can continue the work arrangement and still satisfy the demands of the Amish ministers.

Slowly the barriers between Gabriel and Rachel begin to crumble and break down; love starts to grow secretly in each of their hearts.  The author skillfully brings the couple closer to a real marriage until little Samuel gets bitten by a rattlesnake.  Rachel blames herself for the boy’s injury.  She feel unworthy to raise Gabriel’s children and decides to run away from Clover Ridge to live with her distant Ohio relatives.  Delightful surprises await readers in the captivating ending to this most readable novel.

Amy Lillard writes beautiful romantic Amish novels.  She is talented in maintaining the romantic tension as well as interjecting humor between the characters in her books.  Readers of the Amish genre will savor every page of Gabriel’s Bride which was available February 1, 2014.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Schoolhouse in Adams County, Ohio

For your Sunday viewing pleasure, here is a typical Amish one room schoolhouse in rural Adams County, Ohio.  It sets my mind wandering on what it would be like to attend a school in a one room schoolhouse.  Another Amish blog, has an Amish school teacher blog on Fridays.  I heartily recommend you check out his blog and read Teacher Mahlon every Friday.  Here is a link to his last column:

Remember, come back on Monday when I will post my full review of Amy Lillard's Gabriel's Bride.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Amy Lillard's Clover Ridge Series

Yesterday I gave you a list of some of my favorite Amish genre authors.  In the coming days I will highlight some of my favorite books and series.  Today, I’m going to start with Amy Lillard’s series, Clover Ridge.  These novels are so strong and well written, I would read them more than once.

The first book in the series was Saving Gideon, published in October, 2012.  Next out was Katie’s Choice in May, 2013.   Gabriel’s Bride was published February, 2014.  Each book stands on its own but it is more fun to read them in order and follow the characters as they grow.  I will publish a full review of Gabriel’s Bride on Monday.

I was enthused about the Clover Ridge series right away.  Clover Ridge is a fictional Amish settlement in Oklahoma.  Saving Gideon has a powerfully interesting storyline mixing a wealthy Englischer woman, Ann, and a grieving Amish man, Gideon.  Opposites do attract in this story but can they work out their differences so that their future is secure? 

In Katie’s Choice, our protagonist loses her Amish boyfriend, Samuel to the Englisch world.  Katie is devastated and pours herself into her school teaching job.  Along comes Zane, an Englischer newspaper reporter on a three month assignment to write about the Amish.  Katie and Zane hit it off but then Sam comes back.  Katie has a choice to make.  To make things more interesting, we check in on Gideon and Ann as well.

As I said, I will have a full review of Gabriel’s Bride on Monday, so come back on Monday for that.  Gabriel’s Bride also gives us updates on Gideon, Ann, Katie, and Zane so we can get caught up with their wonderful family.

Ms. Lillard’s newest novel, Caroline’s Secret will debut August, 2014.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Favorite Authors

Who are your favorite Amish genre authors?  Do you have a favorite book?  Since I began reading Amish novels a couple of years ago, I have had several favorite authors.  I began by reading Wanda Brunstetter and her many series of books along with Beverly Lewis, the matriarch of Amish genre authors.

After Wanda Brunstetter and Beverly Lewis, I branched off to Cindy Woodsmall, Shelley Shepard Gray, and Suzanne Woods Fisher.  I would eagerly begin a series and read straight through, book after book.  I was just beginning my journey of appreciating Christian fiction.  I was experiencing the joy of just reading for pleasure yet finding appropriate messages of hope, love, acceptance, and forgiveness.

Since I was new to Amish fiction, I would do Google searches to discover additional authors.  There are so many out there and to date, I have read over 40 different Amish genre authors.  Besides the ladies named above, here are some of my current favorites:

Jennifer Beckstrand
Barbara Cameron
Vannetta Chapman
Amy Clipston
Mary Ellis
Tricia Goyer
Kelly Irvin
Amy Lillard
Kelly Long
Emma Miller
Olivia Newport
Beth Wiseman

I highly recommend that you Google these excellent authors and try out some of their novels.  I will write about some of my other favorite Amish fiction authors at another time.

There was another author I came across in my search for Amish fiction, Hillary Manton Lodge.  She wrote Simply Jayne and Simply Sara.  I loved both books and eagerly awaited her next book.  But her next book was A Table by the Window – not in the Amish genre.  I have already read the book and it is simply delicious.  I’ve done a review for Family Fiction magazine so I will wait until that is published before I place it on this blog. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

New Review of A Road Unknown by Barbara Cameron

If you are looking for something a little different in the Amish genre, please consider reading A Road Unknown by Barbara Cameron.  The female protagonist is not your typical Amish girl which gives this book a fresh look at our Amish friends.  And as an added bonus, Barbara Cameron puts recipes in this book!


Barbara Cameron has delivered a superb new Amish novel, A Road Unknown (Abingdon Press).  The story begins in Goshen, Indiana as the main character, 20 year old Elizabeth, is leaving home and going to Paradise, Pennsylvania.  Elizabeth is in her rumschpringe years and feels an overwhelming need to get away from her family and her responsibilities in Goshen.  Barbara Cameron offers a refreshingly new Amish character in Elizabeth, a young Amish girl who isn’t all about babies and pleasing others.  Elizabeth has had her fill of soothing crying babies and amusing fussy toddlers while handling household chores, she wants some time for herself, away from the chaos of her large family.

Elizabeth makes her way to Paradise, Pennsylvania to stay with an Englischer friend Paula, all the while being torn between feelings of delight in all her new experiences of freedom versus worrying over her selfishness in putting her wants before that of her family back in Goshen.  Elizabeth has never had a room of her own or time for a bubble bath or the attention of a young man.  Before long, innocent and naive Elizabeth finds an Englischer boyfriend and at the same time, her Amish craft store employer, Saul, begins a friendship with her.  Will the charming Englischer boyfriend lose his luster if he tries moving too fast for Elizabeth?  She may be on her rumschpringe but she isn’t running wild.

The friendship between Elizabeth and Saul deepens and grows oh so slowly.  He is a soft spoken, gentle soul quite smitten with Elizabeth.  Saul is genuinely devoted to his mother and father.  Elizabeth fears that Saul won’t think much of her when he finds out she left her home in Goshen because she was tired of helping her family.   She has much to decide, stay in Paradise and continue with this new life and a potential new love or return to the family she misses and her old responsibilities in Goshen.  The bishop in Paradise pays Elizabeth a call to pressure her to return to her family in Goshen.  Saul fears he will lose Elizabeth if she returns to Goshen.  Amid all the competing voices, Elizabeth learns she must listen to God first as she makes key life choices.  Elizabeth eventually realizes she must take care of some unfinished business back in Goshen in order to move forward as an adult.

A Road Unknown presents authentic Amish and Englischer characters, and gives readers an encouraging message of trust in God’s plan.  Readers will find the fresh take Barbara Cameron gives its female Amish protagonist Elizabeth to be engaging and appealing.  This uplifting novel stands alone flawlessly, but does provide glimpses into some of the characters previously introduced in the Stitches in Time and Quilts of Lancaster County series.  Several delicious Amish meals and pies are described in appetizing detail in the pages of this book and Barbara Cameron treats her readers to the recipes in the back of the book.  A Road Unknown was published on February 4, 2014. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Amish Family Life

When I read about Amish family life, normally it is represented by three generations living together in harmony, such an idyllic life.  Grandma and Grandpa are ensconced in the dawdi house, connected to the main house where Daad is the leader of the family and Mamm is his helpmate, running the kitchen and raising their large family of children.

Divorce is not an option for the Amish, if you make a bad match, you figure a way to live with it.  Their culture absolutely means it when they say, “Till death do you part”.  I see this as both a positive and negative.  If you go into your marriage with the idea this is truly forever, there is no way out, you may be quicker to find a way to compromise and make the marriage work.  However on the other hand, I don’t think anyone should be forced to stay in an abusive situation.  Accordingly, the Amish clergy will get involved with couples having marital problems, therefore giving some protection to abused spouses.

Do you wonder how well three generations living together could get along?  The delicate relationship between wife and mother-in-law can be tricky.  Patience, respect, privacy, and holding one’s tongue are all necessary to make the relationship work.  Yet, on the other hand, how rich is the experience of children growing up in close proximity to their grandparents!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What Do You Get Out of Reading Amish Novels?

When I first started reading Amish novels, it was out of a sense of curiosity.  I'm curious about many things, for example, I use to watch boxing wondering would I stand in a boxing ring and let someone punch me as hard as they could in exchange for a million dollars?  When it comes to the Amish, I wonder could I live like they do without electricity?

Once I began reading about the Amish, I began to see beyond our differences in lifestyle.  How could I learn from the Amish to be a better person and have a happier life?  Their self sufficiency through farming, canning, sewing, and frugal behaviors is remarkable and something I could aim for.  I will never be as self sufficient as they are but I can move towards that goal.  In addition, their strong faith is something any one of us could strive for.  Forgiveness and strong family ties are two other areas that inspire me.  If God can forgive me of my sins who am I not to forgive others?

I plan on writing about the strength of Amish family ties and what we can learn from that next time. Meanwhile, tell me what do you get out of reading Amish novels?

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Beginning of Amish Reader and Review of The Calling by Suzanne Woods Fisher

I have been wanting to start a blog for some time now where I can review and discuss Amish genre books.  The whole Amish genre has exploded in numbers of books written as well as the number of authors who are now writing Amish books.  Over the past couple of years I have read over 200 Amish novels and in the last six months I have begun reviewing them.  I'd love to have all of you come along with me as we read and discuss these lovely books.

Please let me know if you have any favorite authors or books that you want included in this blog.  Now let's get started:


The Calling by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Revell) is a multi-dimensional novel that really delivers an impact.  The Good Lord’s message and wondrous works are interspersed liberally throughout the book in such a way that readers can’t help but feel the joy of knowing this loving God.  The Calling is the second book in The Inn at Eagle Hill series.  Although The Calling could stand alone as an individual book, readers will have an easier time understanding all the characters and situations if the first book, The Letters, is read beforehand.

The story begins with Bethany Schrock cleaning for five elderly Amish sisters.  The elderly sisters own a home that is stuffed and cluttered with all sorts of junk; Bethany is trying to clean up and organize the home but the sisters don’t make it easy.  Later we discover why the elderly sisters’ home is so cluttered and a beautiful lesson in not judging others is learned.  The elderly sisters hide their charitable side from Bethany.  When the full extent of their charitable work is uncovered, readers may find it sweetly emotional.

Jimmy Fisher, is a 23 year old Amish man, who loves Bethany’s spunky, spirited ways but isn’t used to having a girl spurn his attention.  Jimmy has to work hard to get Bethany to appreciate him.  He is willing to put the time and effort in to get Bethany’s attention, but she has other concerns to figure out before she can get serious about courting Jimmy.

Geena, a recently out of work youth pastor, takes time to regroup at The Inn at Eagle Hill.  She befriends Bethany and gives Bethany a new way to view her world.  Geena’s kindness and willingness to engage sullen teenage girls at a Group Home gives Bethany a new perspective.  Geena explains to Bethany that the rough teenage girls just “want to feel understood, accepted, and heard . . . that is what everybody wants and what everybody finds so hard to do.”

Suzanne Woods Fisher has written a fresh, appealing, and very readable Amish novel.  It contains multiple thought provoking storylines with some romance, humor, and a sprinkling of mystery that all tie together effectively.  In addition, the topic of mental illness is dealt with in a sympathetic and honest way.  Both main and secondary characters grow within the pages and chapters and turn into real, engaging friends that readers will care about. 

The novel serves up a comforting message of wait and listen for the voice of God and His inner prompting when in doubt and praying for direction.  Bethany goes through many difficult situations but ends up learning and growing throughout the book.  Additionally, Bethany discovers helping others when she is troubled can help to put her own problems in perspective.  The Calling is a must read for new and old fans of Suzanne Woods Fisher and will leave the reader counting the days until The Revealing, the next book in The Inn at Eagle Hill series is released.  The Calling was published January 14, 2014.