Christmas, Cookies, and Memories

Christmas and cookies just seem to go together.  Kids of all ages love cookies.  Don’t you?  From the simple chocolate chip and peanut butter to fancier bonbons and cookie press spritz, a tray of cookies is always a welcomed delight at any home.

I remember making Christmas candy with both of my grandmothers but not cookies.  My mother and I made those along with treasured memories.  Mother is a wonderful cook and baker.  She is also a true Proverbs 31 woman even to this day.  I am blessed to have a Christian mother to teach me many things, especially about Jesus.

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One of our family’s favorite cookies is Spritz or Cookie Press Butter Cookies.  A hint of almond mixed with pure buttery goodness in small shapes of wreaths, Christmas trees, stars, and hearts give the kitchen a heavenly aroma when baking.  These are scrumptious any time of the year.  The best thing about them is the fun I have when making them with a loved one.

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Christmas memories don’t need to be about a gift you received.  Make sweet memories this year by making cookies for family and friends with your mother, daughter, sister, or friend.  Actually, that will be a gift in itself.  I still smile when I travel back in time to a little red brick house and am making cookies with my mother and little sister.   The smiles on faces of friends and family when we gave them a tin of homemade cookies warmed our souls.  Yes, the gift we gave became a gift returned to us.

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Need a cookbook for some great recipes?  Amish author Wanda Brunstetter has a Christmas cookbook that even has a recipe for these cookies:

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I love the Amish cookbooks.  If you are not familiar with Amish, they love to cook, bake, and eat!  Now that is a recipe for a great cookbook.  Get it at Amazon or wherever you normally buy books.

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The Brides of the Big Valley Book Review

The Brides of The Big Valley is a compilation of three Christian contemporary Amish romance stories penned by the three Brunstetter ladies.   Matriarch Wanda is joined by daughter-in-law Jean and granddaughter Richelle to produce a delightful fiction book that is unique and engaging.  I have never read any Amish stories such as these.

The Amish lifestyle fascinates me and by reading these three books I was able to learn even more about it.  Opening this paperback is an Introduction section that describes The Big Valley and Amish there.  The three different buggy colors intrigued me.  Their language and cooking do, too.   The Brunstetter ladies have done their research well and really know the Amish culture.  It is evidenced in their well written books.

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Each story has believable characters that are true to life.  They struggle with life issues such as strife, forgiveness, coveting, and not wanting to accept help from others.  Through their tale solutions are given on how to deal with these unfortunate and stressful topics.  God is frontmost in each of the three books.

All three novellas are set in an area in Pennsylvania known as Big Valley.  There are many Amish here but they aren’t all alike in their beliefs and rules.  The three separate districts here range from Conservative to Liberal.  Each one has their own color of buggy to distinguish themselves.

Wanda has written the first book, Deanna’s Determination.  In this story Deanna is a widow with a young son who has Down’s Syndrome.  It is a heart wrenching story that has stayed with me long after I finished reading it.  I was a bit bothered by switching between Dad and Daed throughout the book, but it could be a Big Valley practice.  I loved the little boy,  Abner.  There are so many life lessons to be learned in this poignant tale.

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Jean took on Book Two, Rose Mary’s Resolve.  The common thread between these two books is Elmer.  He works for her father.  In this tale, Mary Rose is deliberating on her faith and finding a man to help her in her walk.  She has been considering jumping the fence over into the Englischer World.  It is a wonderful story and filled with faith, decisions, consequences, and inspiration.  Jean has a very nice style of writing and knows her Amish, also.

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Richelle wraps up the book with Leila’s Longing.  Leila has been helping her mother and has done so without complaining.  Secretly she yearns for a house and family of her own.  Her friends are all married or getting married.  She is goes to a singing where young people gather and mingle.  Her dilemma is can a strict yellow topper be interested in beginning a relationship and family with someone from a different group?

I would highly recommend this to anyone.  If you aren’t certain if you like Amish books, this is a sampling from three excellent authors.  Each of the stories is equally entertaining and inspiring. After the novella each author has included a recipe from her story.  There are no Discussion Questions at the end, but these would be great book club choices for many reasons.  There is heartache, disabilities, and making choices involved in these captivating tales.

After reading these three novella, I am ready for a real trip to Amish Country.  This gave me a taste for the real thing!  I gladly rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.  Each individual story would get a 5, also.  A copy was provided by the publisher but these were my own, honest thoughts.

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About the Book:

In an area of Pennsylvania called The Big Valley, a uniquely blended Amish community thrives in which three distinct groups of Amish identify themselves by the colors of their buggy’s top—white, black, or yellow. Join New York Times Bestselling Author Wanda E. Brunstetter, her daughter-in-law, and granddaughter in experiencing the stories of three young women who search for faith and love within this special place. Deanna is a widow who sees her second chance of love slipping away. Rose Mary is at a point in life where she must choose the path of her faith and the right man to walk with her on it. Leila is burdened with family responsibilities and wonders when she will ever start a family of her own.

About the Authors:

Wanda Brunstetter

New York Times bestselling and award-winning author, Wanda E. Brunstetter is one of the founders of the Amish fiction genre. She has written close to 90 books translated in four languages. With over 10 million copies sold, Wanda’s stories consistently earn spots on the nations most prestigious bestseller lists and have received numerous awards.

Wanda’s ancestors were part of the Anabaptist faith, and her novels are based on personal research intended to accurately portray the Amish way of life. Her books are well-read and trusted by many Amish, who credit her for giving readers a deeper understanding of the people and their customs.

When Wanda visits her Amish friends, she finds herself drawn to their peaceful lifestyle, sincerity, and close family ties. Wanda enjoys photography, ventriloquism, gardening, bird-watching, beachcombing, and spending time with her family. She and her husband, Richard, have been blessed with two grown children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Jean Brunstetter

Jean Brunstetter became fascinated with the Amish when she first went to Pennsylvania to visit her father-in-law’s family. Since that time, Jean has become friends with several Amish families and enjoys writing about their way of life. She also likes to put some of the simple practices followed by the Amish into her daily routine. Jean lives in Washington State with her husband, Richard Jr. and their three children, but takes every opportunity to visit Amish communities in several states. In addition to writing, Jean enjoys boating, gardening, and spending time on the beach.

Richelle Brunstetter

Richelle Brunstetter lives in the Pacific Northwest and developed a desire to write when she took creative writing in high school. After enrolling in college classes, her overall experience enticed her to become a writer, and she wants to implement what she’s learned into her stories. Just starting her writing career, her first published story appears in The Beloved Christmas Quilt beside her grandmother, Wanda E. Brunstetter, and her mother, Jean. Richelle enjoys traveling to different places, her favorite being Kauai, Hawaii.

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The Forgiving Jar by Wanda Brunstetter

Amish fiction is one of my favorite genres.  The Amish seem to live their lives for God and family.  Doesn’t that sound perfect?  A simple, idealistic life, but it is no different than ours.  Their lives have troubles and conflicts, too, I’m sure.

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Author Wanda Brunstetter has penned a multitude of books, the majority of them being Amish.  She knows what she’s doing and does it exemplary.  “The Forgiving Jar” is Book Two in her The Prayer Jars Series.  It could be read as a stand alone but I highly encourage you to read book one first.  It is fantastic.

Brunstetter has come up with an amazing story with this series.  She is so gifted!  I was captivated quickly in Book One.  The characters have been well thought and described.  It was easy to visualize each one and befriend them.   Becoming invested in their lives happened in Book One and continued with this one.

Some of the things I enjoy about the author’s writing are the cooking and kitchen scenes.  It is a family tale and families gather in the kitchen cooking and eating.  She also has a strong Christian message along with scripture.  There is no doubt that Mrs. Brunstetter is a Christian writer.  This book has plenty of all of the above.

Forgiveness is the major topic of the book.  This is something we all deal with, and  Amish seem to do a very good job forgiving.  Other issues such as jealousy, acceptance, lying, and acceptance are broached.  Deepening our walk with God and trusting Him are also in the book.

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At the end of the book were two recipes.  I am getting spoiled and was hoping for more.  There is also a section with discussion questions.  Yes!  Questions for deeper study are so important and make it nice for a reader’s group.  This is an encouraging novel.

I enjoyed this book and found I did not want to put it down.  There are a few cliff hangers such as unknown identities that hopefully will be revealed.  This book did have a twist or two making it fun.

Everyone will enjoy this delightful book.  Whether you related to Grandma, Grandpa, Sara, Michelle, or someone else, you will find a friend in this book.  Readers that like Christian, contemporary, Amish, encouraging books will devour it like this reader did.  It is highly recommended along with book one.  I give it a five out of five stars!

About the Book

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Sara Murray had never met her mother’s parents and was surprised to learn after her death that they were Amish living in Pennsylvania. When she is finally able to make the trip to meet them, she is shocked to learn someone else has been living with them and pretending to be Sara. Sara can’t understand how quickly her grandparents are willing to forgive the imposter.

Secrets and deceit seem to follow Sara, and she is so tired of it. Though soon she meets Brad Fuller who is visiting her grandparents for during Christmas. She likes him a lot, but even he seems to pull away from her, not being totally honest.

Struggling, Sara finds an old canning jar hidden in the barn that is full of encouraging prayers. Can Sara find a way to forgive the past and move on to building new relationships?

This is Book 2 in the brand-new series, The Prayer Jars, from New York Times bestselling author Wanda E. Brunstetter.
Book 1 — The Hope Jar (August 2018)
Book 3 — The Healing Jar (August 2019)

About the Author

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Woman of Courage and Woman of Hope by Wanda Brunstetter

I love historical fiction.  A good historical fiction takes me on an adventure to a time and place that I have never been.  It also teaches me something about them.

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In her historical Christian fiction, Woman of Courage, author Wanda E. Brunstetter takes me on a journey from New York to the Oregon Territory.  It is the story of Amanda Pearson as she joins a Quaker mission to spread the word of God to the Indians out West.

The author has given us delightful, strong characters.  It is easy to become invested in their lives and this story.  Amanda’s journey has so many trials but she preserves.  This shows a strong faith and trust in God.

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In the second story, Little Fawn is a very likable character.  She has developed a strong faith and wants to share it with other Indians.  Her story is intriguing and captivated me quickly.

Conversation is easy and plentiful in this book.  I felt like I was right there listening.  Descriptions were spot on and my imagination painted a vivid picture of Amanda and her friend a Yellow Bird as well as the scenery.  The same with the second story. Emotions were transferred from the characters to me.  I felt their sadness, fear, and joy.

The author has written well researched stories.  There is a plethora of information on the various Indian tribes and beliefs.  Material was well organized, planned, and written.  Author Brunstetter is a gifted wordsmith whether she is writing historical or Amish novels.  Readers will always find Christian encouragement and inspiration woven throughout her stories.

I definitely recommend this book.  Fans of historical fiction and Wanda’s Amish fans will love it.  If you are interested in learning about Indians, you will also enjoy this book.  This would be a great reading club book and Christmas gift.  I rated it a 5 out of 5 stars.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher but was not required to write a review. All opinions are my own, honest ones.

About:  A Woman of Courage Makes an Epic Journey

Take a three-thousand mile journey with Amanda Pearson as she leaves the disgrace of a broken engagement and joins the work at a Quaker mission in the western wilds. The trip is fraught with danger, and Amanda is near death before reaching her destination. Among those she meets are an Indian woman who becomes her first convert and a half-Indian trapper who seems to be her biggest critic. But love follows her into the wilderness and will determine the course of her future. You are sure to enjoy this historical romance adventure from New York Timesbestselling author Wanda E. Brunstetter.

Woman of Hope, with Little Fawn’s story:

Raised as an orphan by a loving white couple, Little Fawn always felt something was missing from her life. She longs to take the news of Jesus to the Nez Perce Indians, but despite being a missionary herself, Little Fawn’s mother forbids it. Will White Wolf, her intended, support Little Fawn’s decision when she abruptly follows the tribe’s migration onto the Plains?

About the author:

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New York Times bestselling and award-winning author, Wanda E. Brunstetter is one of the founders of the Amish fiction genre. She has written close to 90 books translated in four languages. With over 10 million copies sold, Wanda’s stories consistently earn spots on the nations most prestigious bestseller lists and have received numerous awards.

Wanda’s ancestors were part of the Anabaptist faith, and her novels are based on personal research intended to accurately portray the Amish way of life. Her books are well-read and trusted by many Amish, who credit her for giving readers a deeper understanding of the people and their customs.

When Wanda visits her Amish friends, she finds herself drawn to their peaceful lifestyle, sincerity, and close family ties. Wanda enjoys photography, ventriloquism, gardening, bird-watching, beachcombing, and spending time with her family. She and her husband, Richard, have been blessed with two grown children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

 

The Christmas Prayer, CelebrateLit Tour

“The Christmas Prayer” by New York Times best-selling and award-winning author Wanda Brunstetter is not her usual Amish offering, but a historical Novella.  Set in the West, this 176 page paperback is the tale of a small group of travelers leaving Independence, Missouri, in April 1850 journeying to California. Their goal is to join a wagon train which left earlier.
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Cynthia Cooper and her mother Mabel are two of the characters we meet.  They are going with Cynthia’s fiancé, Walter Prentice, to California.  Arriving in Independence, late they are disappointed to learn the wagon train has already departed. They discover two other families in the same shape and begin their long journey to catch the train.  The other parties are Cole Edwards and his sister, Virginia as well as Jack Simpson, a widower traveling with his two young children, Alan and Amelia.
The characters are extremely well rounded defined.  Some were delightful and others detestable.  Conversations flowed easily and smoothly.  True to life, troubles and trials happen along the way to delay their journey. The group finds themselves at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains when winter hits.  Snow falls and halts travel. The author has done a wonderful job describing the time, place, and emotions in her delightful story.
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The Christmas Prayer is a well-written novel with a nice message, great writing, and smooth transitions between characters’ viewpoints.   At times it was easy to guess what would happen next.  The Christian message was sprinkled lighter than normal, but it was still present.  Pray and trust God.
I would highly recommend this to anyone that enjoys historical romance, Christmas books, or for Wanda fans.  It is a lovely afternoon or evening read.  I will be buying a few for stocking stuffers this year.  I gave it 5 out of 5 star rating.  A free copy of the book was provided by the author and CelebrateLit, but all opinions are my own, honest ones.

About the Book:

Genre: Historical Christmas Romance
Release date: September, 2018

 

Beloved, bestselling author of Amish fiction, Wanda E. Brunstetter takes readers on a journey in 1850 along the California Trail.
Only the brave—or foolhardy—would attempt a cross-country journey late in the season. Three wagons meet up in Independence, Missouri, in April 1850, and their owners decide to keep forging ahead despite many setbacks and delays. December finds them in the Sierra Nevada Mountains when a sudden snowstorm traps them, obscuring the trail.
Cynthia Cooper is traveling with her mother and the man she has promised to marry. But as Christmas is upon them and they are hunkered down in a small cabin, she is forced to reevaluate her reasons for planning to marry fellow-traveler Walter Prentice. When a widowed father heading to a California ranch and a gold prospector both show an interest in Cynthia, she weighs her dreams for marriage alongside her responsibility to care for her mother. Can love win over her timid heart?
Click here to purchase your copy!
 

About the Author

New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Wanda E.
Brunstetter is one of the founders of the Amish fiction genre. She has written close to 90 books translated in four languages. With over 10 million copies sold, Wanda’s stories consistently earn spots on the nations most prestigious bestseller lists and have received numerous awards.
Wanda’s ancestors were part of the Anabaptist faith, and her novels are based on personal research intended to accurately portray the Amish way of life. Her books are well-read and trusted by many Amish, who credit her for giving readers a deeper understanding of the people and their customs.
When Wanda visits her Amish friends, she finds herself drawn to their peaceful lifestyle, sincerity, and close family ties. Wanda enjoys photography, ventriloquism, gardening, bird-watching, beachcombing, and spending time with her family. She and her husband, Richard, have been blessed with two grown children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
To learn more about Wanda, visit her website at www.wandabrunstetter.com.

Guest Post from Wanda

A cross-country journey in 1850 leads to high mountain danger—and romance.
Only the brave—or foolhardy—would attempt a cross-country journey late in the season. Three wagons meet up in Independence, Missouri, in April 1850, and their owners decide to keep forging ahead despite many setbacks and delays. December finds them in the Sierra Nevada Mountains when a sudden snowstorm traps them, obscuring the trail.
Cynthia Cooper is traveling with her mother and the man she has promised to marry. But as Christmas is upon them and they are hunkered down in a small cabin, she is forced to reevaluate her reasons for planning to marry fellow-traveler Walter Prentice. When a widowed father heading to a California ranch and a gold prospector both show an interest in Cynthia, she weighs her dreams for marriage alongside her responsibility to care for her mother. Can love win over her timid heart?
Find out in The Christmas Prayer from NY Times bestselling author Wanda E. Brunstetter.
Try this Exclusive Bonus Recipe Found Inside the Book!
Cynthia’s Fried Apples
Without peeling, quarter as many tart apples as you would like. Lay apples close together, skin side down, in frying pan with salt pork fat or butter. Cover until well steamed then uncover and brown both sides, turning and watching closely to prevent burning.
To celebrate her tour, Wanda is giving away a grand prize of a $25 Amazon Gift Card and a free copy of The Christmas Prayer with an autographed bookplate inside.  Be sure to comment on the blog stops (schedule below) for 9 extra entries into the giveaway.  Click here to enter.

Blog Stops

Among the Reads, September 18
The Avid Reader, September 18
The Power of Words, September 18
Lighthouse Academy, September 18
Just Commonly, September 19
Carpe Diem, September 19
Britt Reads Fiction, September 20
Luv’N Lambert Life, September 21
D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, September 22
Lis Loves Reading, September 22
Babs Book Bistro, September 23
Jeanette’s Thoughts, September 23
Janices book reviews, September 23
Mary Hake, September 24
Inklings and notions, September 25
Ashley’s Bookshelf, September 25
Book by Book, September 26
Splashes of Joy, September 27
The Morning Chapter, September 27
The Mimosa Blossom, September 28
Pause for Tales, September 28
Have A Wonderful Day, September 28
Cafinated Reads, September 29
Bibliophile Reviews, September 29
Quiet Quilter, September 30
Bigreadersite, October 1
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Read a Book Monday: The Hope Jar, a 5 Star Read

Do you read to feed your mind just as you eat to feed your body?  Most people read but like we often eat we don’t consider the “nutritional contents” in reading.  Today I have a book that will nourish your mind.  No junk food in it at all.  It is a clean Christian Amish novel that is engaging, thought provoking, provides information, inspiration, and even recipes.  Are you interested?  Great, I will tell you more.

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New York Times Best Selling author Wanda Brunstetter has penned a new series entitles The Prayer Jars.  Book One, The Hope Jar, is a delightful 311 pages that will transport readers between the modern Englisch world and modern Amish world.  The book is much different than any other I have read by author Brunstetter.  Her writing style hasn’t changed but the story and information given has.  This book was extremely well thought, planned, and organized as well as well written.

The book centers around an elderly Amish couple, two twenty something young women, and two young men.  Many tough topics are tackled in this fiction work.  Things in which we can all relate are presented in these pages such as family issues, parental rules, teenage and young adult disobedience, death, deceit, lies, abuse, dishonesty, betrayal, and someone struggling with faith.  It would be an injustice to divulge much about the plot.  Reading it and discovering this delightful story on one’s own is much better.

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The characters are lovely and some despicable.  The author does a great job defining them and rounding them so that we come to love or really dislike them.  I became invested in their lives and emotions.  Certain situations were relatable either first hand or through a friend.  Dialog flows smoothly and some Amish words are slipped in with definition.  Readers will learn a few Amish or Pennsylvania Deutsch words by the end of this book.  Much information on the Amish is provided.  It would be the perfect book for someone wanting to know the what’s and why’s of Amish life.

After the story, readers will be delighted to find recipes that were mentioned in the story.  As a bonus there are discussion questions for book clubs or if you want to dig a bit deeper yourself.  Author information, a listing of all of the author’s works and a sneak peak at the cover of Book Two, The Forgiving Jar close out this book.

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Definitely I recommend for a variety of reasons.  It provides information some readers may not currently know about Amish, farm life, and scripture. Topics broached are tough, real life issues, and someone might need help with their situation.  Recipes used or discussed in a book and then given are a favorite thing of mine, and this book follows through with that.   Don’t tease me.  If you are going to tempt me with making a delicious dish, then please share the recipe.  The life lessons and inspirational lessons are phenomenal.  Rating this book a 5 out of 5 star is warranted.  This reader is eagerly awaiting Book Two.  A few of author Brunstetter’s works have been turned into plays.  I for one am hoping for a movie next.

A copy of The Hope Jar was provided by Barbour Publishing for my honest opinion.  I can and will give no other.

Read a Book Monday: The Hawaiian Discovery by Wanda & Jean Brunstetter

     If you like tropical locations, Hawaii, and Amish then I have a fabulous novel for you.  Tropical Amish sounds like I misspoke, but no, this is accurate.  The Hawaiian Discovery is the second in author Wanda and Jean Brunstetter’s Hawaiian quilt series.  Even though it is Book Two, you could read it as a stand alone book.  However, I would encourage you to read book one because of the back story and just how great it was!
     This is the tale of best friends Mandy and Ellen.  It is set a few years after Book One, Amish Quilt.  97BD31E8-CD38-41F1-BEC9-3B8E00A801FAWe find Mandy and hubby running a Bed and Breakfast in Indiana.  Her best friend, Ellen works there along side her.  One day Mandy and her family receive word of a family emergency which causes them to need to quickly pick up and relocate to Hawaii.  Ellen jumps in requesting permission to go and help, too, when another crisis hits.  She receives permission and flies, on a plane, to Hawaii.  Oh the places you’ll go, Ellen!  Who could imagine Hawaiian Amish?  Wanda and Jean, of course!
     The girls and Ken, Mandy’s husband, all work on his family’s chicken farm.  There they meet Rob. Immediately sparks start to fly between Amish Ellen and Englischer Rob.  Rob carries a secret he does not want to share.  However, Mandy warns Ellen about Rob’s background.
     The authors do a lovely job with their descriptions.  The soft sounds and sights of Hawaii drew me in and I was ready to pack my bags right now.  Noises and unpleasant smells from the chicken farm descriptions were on point.  Yuck!  That would not be the job for this city girl.  My point is these authors know how to grab readers and transport them into a story.  I felt like I was there.  The characters were very authentic, well redescribed with flaws and all.  The storyline was well planned and flowed.  A few parts were predictable and some had twists and turns.  I was not disappointed.
     This book gave me a page or two to gently ease into to it and then, bam!  I could not put it down.  Yep, it is a definite page turner where you want to hurry and see what happens, but don’t want the book to end.  Oh, the problems we readers have with a good book.
     Many lessons can be gleaned from this sweet romance and the Amish.  It teaches readers to cast our cares on God, 4ED194A7-3C82-4201-AAFB-CFCD9494603Cto trust Him, and have faith.  Friendship is shown throughout this book.  Giving readers pause to reflect upon what kind of friend they are?  What would they do for a friend?  Do we pray with our friends?  Also, family and religious dynamics are explored.  What happens when you are away from the guidance of family?  How does it effect the family if you marry outside your (their) cultural beliefs?
     I enjoyed this book overall, but liked the Indiana more traditional Amish part of it better.  It is not your typical Amish novel which is reason enough to give it a try.  Just remember to go into it with an open mind.  Don’t expect the old Amish things in everything.  Expect some surprises.  See things through Ellen’s eyes and you will love it.  I rated this 5 out of 5 stars.  Certainly I would highly recommend it.  Anyone who loves Christian fiction, romance, or Hawaii will enjoy this book.  I. received a complimentary copy of it from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.