Monday, September 29, 2014


Sarah Price keeps producing outstanding Amish romance fiction and her latest, An Amish Buggy Ride (Amazon Publishing) is no exception.  Sarah captures her readers with excellent character development and interesting storylines.  The story begins in December, with the protagonist, Kate Zook, age 20, petite and brunette, waiting for her brother David, age 17, to pick her up from a gathering of the youth group.  When David finally arrives, Kate realizes he has been drinking, and she refuses to get into the buggy with him. 

Kate starts walking home in the snowy weather.  She is almost home when she comes across a wrecked buggy and realizes it is her brother David with his girlfriend, Ruth.  David begs Kate to get some help as Ruth is not moving.

The story moves ahead to almost springtime, Ruth died in the buggy accident and David is confined to a wheelchair with a spinal cord injury.  David is bitter and hateful towards everyone but especially Kate.  He blames Kate for allowing him to drive the buggy that night when she knew he was drunk. The whole family feels like they are living under a black cloud, however Kate bears the brunt of his nasty comments and takes them to heart.  She feels guilty and responsible for the terrible accident and has isolated herself from her friends.

Everything has changed in the Zook household.  Kate’s father doesn’t sleep any more, even the children at home could hear him cry at night.  Day after day goes by but there is never any joy or sparkle in his eyes.  Kate’s mother is no better, both parents have psychologically withdrawn.  There are never any laughs, fun or games in the Zook household, just work all day and try to get some sleep at night.

While Kate was walking home from watching her Aunt’s new baby, Samuel Esh pulls his buggy up next to Kate to ask her if he could give her a ride home.  Although Kate is shy by nature, she accepts the ride so as to avoid having to walk past the wreckage and remains of David’s buggy accident.  Kate is happy that Samuel’s offer of a ride will save her the pain of seeing that ugly sight once again.

Samuel Esh begins to pursue Kate but she doesn’t feel worthy of having a special friend.  Kate doesn’t feel ready to socialize with her youth group.  Can Samuel find a way to help Kate come out of her shell?  Will Kate finally be able to shed the guilt and responsibility she feels for the buggy accident?  Can the Zook family walk out from beneath the cloud of depression they have been living under?

Sarah Price delves into the heartache and misery of having a child with a devastating injury and how it impacts the entire family.  Soothing bible verses telling of God’s forgiveness and love for His people and the help of the entire community lead to a stunning conclusion.  This is not a book to be missed, its powerful ending is unforgettable.  An Amish Buggy Ride will be published on November 4, 2014.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Laura V. Hilton has penned a page turning, delightful romance, A White Christmas in Webster County (Whitaker House) set during the Christmas season.  This tale is filled with compelling characters within situations that readers will be cheering for throughout the book.  Also notable, Laura uses multiple Amish words in the text, but always within an easily understood context, so readers will feel like they are learning Pennsylvania Dutch just by reading the book.

This is the story of Mercy Lapp and Abner Hilty both from Shipshewana, Indiana but they grew up in different districts and were only vaguely acquainted with each other.  They are both now are in Webster County, Missouri.   Mercy, after losing her fiancé to a fishing accident, answered an ad and is helping out as a mother’s helper while Abner is visiting his newly married twin brother.

Both Mercy and Abner happened to be in the variety store at the same time, when Abner starts flirting with Mercy.  Before she knows what is going on, Abner invites Mercy on a date to McDonald’s for an eggnog milk shake.  Next Abner follows Mercy to the grocery store and continues his talking and flirting, but he goes too far and scares Mercy by his being way too forward for an Amish boy.  Abner has fallen hard for Mercy, but she has vowed not to ever fall in love again.  But there is something about Abner that is captivating to Mercy.  She is tired of being sad all the time and Abner is so full of life and love for God.

Mercy and Abner have a timing issue as he plans on going to Montana in January and she will need to go back home to Indiana after her mother’s helper job is over.  Laura V. Hilton has given Mercy and Abner several exciting adventures as well as serious struggles during their time together in Webster County.  Mercy needs to decide if it is more important to obey her parents in all things or to have a chance at marital happiness for the rest of her life.  Choices like that are difficult for an obedient Amish girl to decide.  Deeply meaningful biblical verses are quoted frequently throughout, which give strength to Mercy and Abner, as well as readers.

Laura V. Hilton has brought back characters from some of her past Amish novel series, but A White Christmas in Webster County stands on its own, there is no need to read other books first.   Laura also provides a delicious cookie recipe in the back of the book.  A White Christmas in Webster County was published September 1, 2014.  Readers should be aware that Laura’s next book, A Snow Globe begins her next series, The Amish of Jamesport and will be published in early November, 2014.





Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Jennifer Beckstrand, author of The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill, writes the most enjoyable and humorous Amish romance series out there.  Huckleberry Christmas (Zebra Books) is a sweet, tender-hearted, romantic Christmas novel with plenty of laughter sprinkled on the pages.  The only downfall of the book is that readers will not be able to get their own Christmas plans completed as they will find it impossible to put Huckleberry Christmas down once started.
This delightful novel begins with the sweet matchmaking grandparents, Anna and Felty, discussing another match that Anna wants to make, this one between their granddaughter, Beth Hostetler, and Tyler Yoder, a neighbor who recently had his engagement broken.  Tyler is convinced that love is not for him.  Beth has been widowed and is the mother of a 20 month old boy, Toby.  Beth’s deceased husband, Amos, was harsh and very critical of everything Beth did.  After Amos died, Beth spent a year being a slave to her mother-in-law Treva’s every wish, but Treva also criticized everything that Beth did.  Now Beth feels like she never wants to remarry.  But that won’t stop Grandma Anna from using her matchmaking skills to bring Beth and Tyler together. 

Tyler’s first meeting with Beth does not go right at all.  Beth yells at Tyler for something he didn’t do.  Beth is furious with Tyler, yet little Toby loves Tyler and bonds with him immediately.  Beth can’t help but be impressed with Tyler’s good looks, helpful nature, and caring personality.  In order to not fall for Tyler, Beth decides she will find him a good wife.  The matchmaking that Beth does is laughable; each girl Beth matches Tyler with is worse than the last.  Could it be Beth really wants Tyler for herself? 

Meanwhile, Beth’s mother-in-law and brother-in-law are insistent that they want her to come back to them.  The brother-in-law wants to marry Beth and the mother-in-law wants Beth to cook, clean, and take care of all her needs.  Will Tyler be able to save Beth from her in-laws? 

Jennifer Beckstrand has written a thought-provoking and fun filled novel that also includes conflict and family abuse.  Overall the book is light hearted but there is a true depth to the loveable characters in this book as well.  Readers can read this book as a stand-alone, but the entire series is top notch and well worth reading and adding to your permanent library.  Huckleberry Christmas will be published October 7, 2014.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Joyful (HarperCollins Publisher) is the inspired conclusion to the Return to Sugarcreek series by Shelley Shepard Gray.  Reading the books from the Return to Sugarcreek series is like reuniting with old friends, you pick up just where you left off and it is all comfortable and fun.

The orphaned Beiler children have been reader’s favorites, from little Kaylene to oldest brother, Junior.  The three oldest Beiler children have left their home in Sugarcreek, Ohio, gotten married, and now it is 21 year old Randall’s turn to step up and be the responsible man of the house.  Randall desperately wants to be successful in helping his four younger siblings.  Unfortunately he only knows how to cook one meal, overcooked “hockey puck” chicken, baked potatoes, and canned string beans.  The younger children are disgusted with eating the same thing every night.

Clever younger brother Levi, age 16, takes matters into his own hands and begs Randall’s old girlfriend, Elizabeth, to come work for them, to cook, clean, and spend time with little Kaylene.  With some regrets, Elizabeth agrees to the arrangement, mainly because she and her grandmother need the money, plus, deep down in her heart, she is still sweet on Randall.

Once Elizabeth starts to work at the Beiler’s house, she fears she will fall in love with Randall again.  On her first day, Elizabeth cleans the house, does three loads of laundry, bakes cookies, and cooks a lovely dinner, but Randall is still displeased and questions her behavior towards Kaylene.  Elizabeth walks off the job.  The next day Randall is apologizing to Elizabeth and begging her to please come back.  Will Randall and Elizabeth ever get on the same page?

Randall is also secretly sweet on Elizabeth, but he is afraid to fall back in love with Elizabeth.  He feels that he cannot give Elizabeth the time that a relationship needs if he is to do his best job at managing the household; there is just too much work to do to have a girlfriend.  Randall, however, finds himself failing miserably at keeping his family and household running smoothly.  Can Elizabeth bring some much needed normalcy back to the Beiler children’s home?

Joyful also contains side stories on some favorite characters from prior novels in the series.  Shelley Shepard Gray continues the story line on Judith, Ben, and their foster child, Ben.  And Pippa Reyes, owner of the Sugarcreek Inn, gets a new love interest.  Readers who have read the previous books in the Return to Sugarcreek series will enjoy these glimpses into the lives of the characters from Hopeful and Thankful.  Joyful was published on September 2, 2014.



Friday, September 12, 2014


Here is Part Six in the series on Amish Religious Traditions from the informative Amish News based in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Today the post deals with the traditions of the Amish funeral.  Keep in mind as the article says, this is how funeral services are handled in the Lancaster area, different districts will have different traditions.

The Amish, like all religious groups, have particular customs that they observe upon the death of a family member. Funeral practices of the Lancaster Amish settlement differ somewhat from those in other areas.

In Lancaster County for many years now, the body is taken to a local funeral director who is familiar with Amish funeral customs. Family members might wash the body before the undertaker comes for the body. One local funeral home has a large Amish clientele, and still uses the same horse-drawn hearse, said to be the first one in the county. Coffins are stored at the funeral home, basically in three sizes. They are six sided, with two pieces on hinges that fold down to reveal the body from the chest up. The funeral director puts the lining in the coffins as they come from the Amish who make them. Each coffin also has a "rough box," an outer wooden structure into which the coffin is lowered at the grave.

The undertaker embalms the body and normally dresses it in long underwear before placing it in the coffin and returning to the Amish family. The body is usually dressed in white clothing by family members of the same sex. For men, this usually means white pants, vest, and shirt; for women a white dress, cape, and apron. In many cases the white cape and apron is the same one she wore on her wedding day.

In the meantime, word goes out about the death to relatives and those in the church district. An obituary appears in the local newspaper. Prior to the day of the funeral service and burial, usually three days after the death, friends and neighbors come to the home to view the body. This is a somber time, with men and women, dressed in black, quietly sitting in one or two rooms. Visitors greet the family members, and then are asked if they would like to see the body. They are taken to the coffin, and the white sheet or cloth is pulled back to reveal the face of the deceased. The undertaker does not use make-up or cosmetics on the face when he embalms the body.

On the day of the funeral, a church service is held in the home. During the sermons, the minister stands near the coffin to address the congregation. The custom is not to eulogize of speak of the deceased. Rather ministers tend to talk about the creation story, from dust man was created and to dust he returns. Common Scriptural passages are John 5:20-30 and the latter portion of I Corinthians 15, both dealing with the resurrection of the dead.

Since many carriages will be going to the cemetery, a number designating the order is often written in chalk on the side of the buggy. The coffin is placed in the hearse, a box-like enclosed carriage drawn by a horse. The long line of carriages heading to the cemetery is a solemn, impressive sight.

There are about 20 Amish cemeteries in Lancaster County. Gravestones are fairly uniform. No one shows his status or wealth with an extravagant tombstone. The stone states the name, birth date, death date, and age in years, months, and days. Older cemeteries may have stones in German, but nowadays they are in English. Cemeteries usually have an area where the horse and buggies can park.

At the cemetery, the grave has already been dug. There is no singing. Rather, a hymn is read by the minister or bishop until the grave is filled by the pallbearers. The Lord’s Prayer is prayed silently. Following this, people go to their carriages and some return to the home for a simple meal.
Like so many of their religious ceremonies, the Amish are reminded that their focus should not be so much on this world as on the world yet to come.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


There is nothing better than settling down in your favorite chair to read an Amish romance novel by one of the best authors in the Amish genre, Suzanne Woods Fisher.  Her Christmas themed novel, Christmas at Rose Hill Farms (Revell) should top the charts with the enduring romance and rare rose descriptions enclosed within its pages.

Bess Riehl, an Amish girl 20 years of age living in Stoney Ridge, Pennsylvania, is about to get married to Amos Lapp, a sweet, kind, young man who is perfect in every way except he isn’t his cousin Billy.  Bess and Billy grew up together and fell in love despite Billy’s dreadful family life.  Billy’s father liked to pit his sons against each other.  Billy was the youngest of four brothers and it always seemed like the older three ganged up against Billy.  Billy’s Mom died when he was young, and everything went from bad to worse.  Billy found solace by spending more time with Bess and her grandmother, Bertha, at Rose Hill Farm until the day came that Billy couldn’t take his horrible family life anymore and ran away, ending up as a rose rustler at Penn State University.

After Billy ran away, Bess spent years waiting for him to return.  Finally she had to admit he wasn’t coming back and she started a friendship with Amos.  Just before Christmas, they got engaged but with just days to go before her marriage to Amos, Billy showed up at Rose Hill Farm.  All of the repressed romantic feelings Bess had for Billy came rushing back but Billy was cold as ice towards her. 

The wedding day has arrived and the chickens are roasting, carriages filled with family and friends are arriving, and Bess is sick to her stomach wondering if she should go through with the marriage to Amos.  Billy has made it crystal clear that he has no interest in her or staying in town.  Everyone including Billy tells Bess that Amos is as good a man as ever lived.  Can Bess and Amos find happiness?

Suzanne Woods Fisher inserts the prior history of Billy and Bess during their younger years where appropriate so readers can figure out the burdens that Billy carries and fully understand his character.  The background of the story involves finding an extinct rose at Rose Hill Farm that needs to be identified.  Readers will find themselves captivated by the history, beauty, and perfume of the roses talked of within the story.  God’s faithfulness and forgiveness, the necessity of talking to God and accepting God’s help are some of the beautifully written themes throughout the book.   Christmas at Rose Hill Farms will be published September 2, 2014.


Monday, September 8, 2014



Olivia Newport has penned a fabulous historically accurate novel in Wonderful Lonesome (Shiloh Run Press).   This novel is achingly beautiful and rich in the descriptive prose of the Colorado landscape and the Amish farmer’s reality of drought and poverty.

Our main character Abbie, 23 years old, has moved with her family a few years ago, from Ohio to Elbert County, Colorado.  It is now May, 1914 and the small community of twelve Amish families is suffering both spiritually and financially.  There has been almost no rain for two years.  Last year’s crop was destroyed by drought and this year’s crop isn’t looking any better.  Spiritually, the community is also facing a drought.  They have not had Sunday services in months.  They do not have a Bishop or ministers and none of the nearby Amish Bishops will visit and conduct services.

Abbie strongly believed that if only the twelve families in their small Amish community could find a minister to preach and conduct services, it would bring the community closer, more united, and they could attract more Amish families from back East to join them.  But no one steps up and despair grows within their hearts.  The Amish families are barely scraping by; day after day of scorching sun is ruining their crops.  Illness, poverty, and depression are taking a toll on the families.

Even in the midst of all this misery, Abbie continues her courtship with Willem, a single Amish man who also uprooted himself from back East and bought significant acreage in Colorado.  He is determined to succeed.  Willem and Abbie have been courting for a couple of years while Willem tippy toes around the marriage question.  Abbie keeps waiting for his proposal.  Another single Amish neighbor, Rudy, has his eyes on Abby as well.

Olivia Newport has beautifully written a heartbreaking, yet uplifting novel of Amish life in 1914 Colorado.  She delves into the question, is it really an Amish community if the community never has church services and has no minister?  Abby and Willem are of one mind on many subjects, but what happens when spiritual matters leave them divided?  How many disasters and disappointments does one endure?  At what point does one give up and return back East?  Wonderful Lonesome is an extremely thought-provoking and readable book.  This appealing, page-turning book was published September 1, 2014.

Friday, September 5, 2014


Here is Part Five in the series on Amish Religious Traditions from the informative Amish News based in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Today the post deals with the traditions of the selection of Amish ministers.


As is the Amish custom, religious services are held in the home, not in a church building. The geographic area where the Amish live is divided into church districts for this purpose. Each district usually has two or three ministers, one deacon, and one bishop, who is usually shared between two districts. Since church is held every other Sunday, the bishop alternates between the districts.

The Amish do not believe in going to a college or seminary to become a minister in the church. No one is "brought in" or feels he has been "called" to serve as a preacher. Rather, ministers are chosen by lot from the men in the church district congregation.

Becoming a minister is not viewed as an honor, but rather as a serious and heavy responsibility. They normally serve for life and receive no salary. In most Amish settlements, a young man cannot be baptized into the faith unless he is willing to become a minister, should the lot fall on him some day.
The idea of choosing a minister by lot comes from Acts 1:23-26, in which lots were cast to decide who would replace Judas as one of the twelve of Christ’s apostles.

New ministers are needed when one dies, or when a district becomes too large and must divide. An announcement that a new minister will be chosen is usually made at least two weeks prior to the communion service, so everyone has time to pray and meditate. (Deacons are chosen by lot, as well, and bishops from among the ministers.) It is normally taken for granted that the candidate will be a married man.

There are not to be discussions among the people as to who they plan to "nominate," not even between man and wife. Nor does anyone indicate his desire to become a minister.
After the long communion service, the selection takes place. Chapter 3 of I Timothy is read to those gathered. This chapter in the New Testament describes in detail the qualifications and character a man should have to hold this position.

Then the bishop and other ordained men go to a private room in the house. Each member, beginning with the men and baptized boys, then women and girls, goes to the door of the room and whispers the name of the man in their congregation who they feel best suited to be the new minister.

When voting is completed, the ministers return and announce each man’s name who was selected to be in the lot. The men who have received three or more votes become the candidates, of whom there may be around six to eight.

As each man’s name is called, he rises and goes to sit at a table on which an equal number of hymnbooks have been placed. Each hymnal has a rubberband around it, and hidden inside one book is a slip of paper. In the Lancaster settlement, the piece of paper has the following words in German, "The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposal thereof is of the Lord" (Proverbs 16:33). This is to remind everyone that the final choice of minister is made by God.

Each man then selects a book. Usually the oldest man chooses first, followed by the other men down through the youngest. There is usually great tension and suspense as the books are opened to see who has been "chosen." Because of the solemn procedure and great responsibility involved, when the chosen man’s name is announced, he and many others in the congregation burst into tears. Everyone is encouraged to pray for him, for he has been selected from among them.

The Amish feel that the hand of God is involved in the selection process. Indeed, there are even some stories of men who tried to pick up a particular book, but felt they were being "held back." The event is one of the most emotional and important to be experienced in the Amish church.

Monday, September 1, 2014


The Pebble Creek Amish series authored by Vannetta Chapman continues with A Wedding for Julia (Harvest House Publishers).  Readers who are admirers of sweet romances will swoon over the courtship of Caleb and Julia.  The excellent writing style of Vannetta Chapman will captivate and mesmerize booklovers of all ages.

Julia is 37 years old and has stayed at home in Pebble Creek, Wisconsin to take care of her widowed mother Ada, missing out on any chance to marry and have a family.  She is stunned to find out that prior to her father’s death, her parents had modified their will to force Julia to move many states away to live with relatives unless she has married by the time of her mother’s death.  Julia is sick with hurt feelings and dread as she wants to make her own way in Pebble Creek; she wants to open a café where she can cook and earn enough to make a living.  No amount of pleading to her mother or Bishop Atlee will change their minds or the terms of the will.

Caleb, 40 years old, has only lived in Pebble Creek for a year; he is a hard worker, delivering groceries to the area’s Amish families.  One day while Caleb is delivering groceries to Julia, she confides in Caleb about her family situation and to her great surprise, he proposes a solution to her problem.  Will these two strangers be able to forge a happy life together? 

Meanwhile, 17 year old Sharon, from Monroe, Indiana and cousin to Caleb, has gotten into trouble once again with her parents.  She has been sneaking out of the house to see her good for nothing boyfriend.  Sharon’s parents have had enough and decide to send her to Pebble Creek to live with Cousin Caleb.  Will Sharon be able to put her rebellious nature behind her?  Will she be able to forget the disastrous last night with her boyfriend?

Sharon, Ada, Julia, and Caleb end up living together and working together at the café that they open in the first floor of their home and the story unfolds from there.  This is one of the most beautifully written novels in the Amish genre.  Vannetta Chapman has a true instinct and aptitude for writing romance in her novels and nowhere is that more true than in A Wedding for Julia.  The Pebble Creek Amish series concluded with this third novel, A Wedding for Julia which was published July 1, 2013.