A Christmas Haven (2019) + A Giveaway

PhotoCollage_20190922_115835655.jpg

About the Book

81Iqf7gszpL.jpgBookA Christmas Haven

Series: An Amish Christmas Romance #2

Author: Cindy Woodsmall & Erin Woodsmall

Publisher: WaterBrook Press

Genre: Contemporary Christian Romance

Old Order Amish Ivy Zook is wrestling with her need to shed her community’s ways so she can grow the business of her dreams: planning parties. As long as she’s stuck living without modernization, she can barely get her business on its feet. But if she leaves too soon, she’d cause trouble for her sister, Holly, who is planning her wedding to Joshua Smucker. All of their plans become twice as complicated when an old car crashes into the storefront of Greene’s Pharmacy, carrying a Swartzentruber (ultra-conservative sect) Amish man, Arlan, and his very ill sister.

The Zooks take in Arlan and Madga, tending to the woman’s illness and Arlan begins helping around the family farm. Ivy and Arlan are on different tracks, one wanting to leave her community and the other to return to his. But both young people are trying to discover what God has in store for their futures and what miracles might lie around the corner this Christmas season.

Click HERE to purchase your copy!

My Thoughts

I believe wholeheartedly that God puts us exactly where He wants us to be, and God NEVER makes mistakes. So, if God puts us where we are supposed to be and He never makes mistakes, why do those places sometimes feel like a prison? In A Christmas Haven by Cindy Woodsmall and Erin Woodsmall, Ivy Zook and Arlen Keim deal with this notion of being trapped in the wrong place. In Ivy’s case, she feels trapped by her stifling Amish community. She has a plan and believes God made her to fulfill this plan, but she cannot see how her God-ordained future can be fulfilled in a community with so many rules. Arlen comes from a very, very strict order of Amish called the Swartzentrubers. When he meets Ivy under very scary circumstances, Arlen is immediately disturbed by how free and worldly Ivy and her Old Order Amish community is. He knows God put him in this community for a time in order to help his sister, but Arlen can’t help but feel stuck in the wrong place.

Both Ivy and Arlen believe God is in charge of their steps but they really struggle with where God’s physically planted them. Over time, though, both Ivy and Arlen come to realize that following God’s purpose for their lives means letting God lead. God is the master planter for a reason. We need to be patient and we need to listen. God will always eventually show us why He’s planted us where we are at — even in those places that leave us feeling a bit trapped for a time. This was definitely a message I needed to hear again. I’ve felt a little stuck for a while now, but I know God’s got me where I’m at for a purpose. My job right now in the stuck time is to simply listen. God will explain things to me in His time just as He did for Ivy and Arlen.

A Christmas Haven is a thoroughly enjoyable Christmas novella. The characters are sweet, endearing, and very relatable. The plot is highly engaging. And the themes and issues that Ivy and Arlen wrestle with are things I felt I needed to tackle too. I really love this story and find I cannot recommend it enough. I hope you will purchase a copy today. You will not be disappointed you did!

I received a copy of this novella in paperback form from the publisher, Waterbrook Multnomah, in order to review. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.


GIVEAWAY

PhotoCollage_20190922_115343353.jpg

I am giving away ONE (1) paperback copy of A Christmas Haven by Cindy Woodsmall and Erin Woodsmall. The giveaway begins today, 9-24-19 at 5:00 am (PST) and ends on Friday, 9-27-19 at 12:00 pm (PST). To enter, click on the Rafflecopter link below. Good luck!

Congrats to Kay G.!

You have won this giveaway. Thank you for participating. I appreciate your support!

***Please Note: Open to Continental U.S. mailing addresses only.*** One winner will be notified via email at the end of the giveaway and will be announced here on this page. For full giveaway disclosures and policies, click HERE.

The Christmas Remedy (2018)

38390754The Christmas Remedy (2018) by Cindy Woodsmall and Erin Woodsmall is a sweet, standalone Amish Christmas Romance. This book comes in all forms including eBook, and is 208 pages in length. With a full-time job and a busy six-year old at home, this book took me two days to read. I received a copy of this novel in paperback form from the publisher, WaterBrook, to read and review. In no way has this influenced my opinion of the story. All opinions expressed in this review are my own. I give The Christmas Remedy STARS.

About the Book

When an Old Order Amish woman takes a job at a small-town pharmacy struggling to survive in a world of “big box” stores, her motive is to help her Plain community. But the advent of the holiday season brings an unusual mystery to the surface–and possibly love.

Twenty-four-year-old Holly Zook lives a unique life for a young Amish woman. Years ago, her bishop allowed her to continue her education and become the lead technician for Greene’s Pharmacy, an old-timey drugstore that looks out for the Amish community–a group largely without secure healthcare plans. She knows she can’t marry and hold onto her professional job. She’s Amish, and she can only have one or the other, so she spurns love and works toward addressing treatable diseases–like the one that claimed her father’s life.

As long as Holly continues to avoid Joshua Smucker, the one man who draws her like a warm hearth in winter, she should be fine. When something unexpected threatens Greene’s Pharmacy, Holly and Joshua must work together to unravel what’s happened and find the “missing” patient before the Board of Pharmacy shuts them down. As the snows of December arrive, with Christmas in the air, will Holly succumb to the generous spirit of the season?

Amazon  ♥  CBD  ♥  Goodreads

My Thoughts

I adore everything Cindy Woodsmall writes. She has an amazing way with writing stories that grab the reader from page one. Independently Cindy’s works are fabulous, but I really love all she has produced with her daughter-in-law, Erin. I have read and greatly enjoyed everything they have collaborated on, and this novel is no different. Together, Cindy and Erin make a superb writing team. If you are in the mood for a well-written, fast-paced, sweet romance, then The Christmas Remedy is the book for you!

The heroine of The Christmas Remedy, Holly Noelle, works as a pharmacy tech in a quaint, old-school pharmacy owned and run by a sweet man named Lyle. Lyle is not only a mentor to Holly, but over the years he’s grown to be a father figure as well. At the start of this story Lyle gets sick and it rocks Holly’s world, but because Holly isn’t actually family she can’t legally help him through his illness. Enter Lyle’s estranged son, Brandon. I struggled with Brandon’s character at first. He appears to be the quintessential Millennial so caught up in his own life that his dad’s illness is nothing more than a bother and burden keeping him from the life he thinks he should be living. But slowly over time Brandon’s perspective shifts, and he sees how lucky he is to have a second chance with his dad. Life is so tenuous. We truly have no idea how much time we or our loved ones have on this earth. It is imperative that we make each day count. This means that every day we need to make sure our loved ones know they matter. I speak from personal experience — in the blink of an eye, our loved ones can be taken from us. Do your loved ones know you truly love them? If your mom, dad, son, daughter, or friend died today, would you be confident they died knowing you loved them? This is something worth pondering.

While I very much enjoyed my time with this novel, there is one thing Holly says that bothered me. Holly is very dedicated to making sure that her Amish community has access to and understanding of basic medicine and health practices. Her father died when Holly was young from something that could have easily been treated and fixed with the right medical attention. Naturally, her father’s death has left a lasting impression. In a moment where she is passionately defending her near-obsession with her community getting proper medical care, Holly explains that “life is serious…people who take it lightly are more likely to die before their time” (81). I take issue with this notion that people die “before their time.” People die young, and that seems wrong to us. People die viciously, and that seems wrong to us. BUT no one dies before their time. In Psalm 139:16 (ESV), David writes, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” Before we were ever conceived in the womb, we each were seen by God. He wrote our entire story in His book. Every single day we have here on earth has been penned by God. My problem with saying someone has died “before their time” is that it implies that God is not in control. God is 100% in control, and Psalm 139:16 proves this. My issue isn’t really that Holly says this. She is 20 years old. To a 20 year old, any young person dying feels like that person has gone too early. My problem is that this line of thinking never gets corrected. I kept waiting for a wise man or woman to correct Holly’s theology in this case, but it never happens, and to me this is a little disappointing.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time with The Christmas Remedy. I very much loved the unique and endearing characters, and the story line is quite engaging and fast-paced. And, I enjoyed the sweet romance weaved through the story line. I very much recommend this enjoyable novel.

The Solace of Water (2018) — A TLC Book Tour

CollageMaker_20180724_171615957.jpg

This review is posted as part of TLC‘s Book Tour for The Solace of Water.

About the Book

5168UTx2zL._SX327_BO1204203200_

“Younts has set herself apart with this exquisite story of friendship and redemption . . . I’ll be talking about this book for years to come.” —Rachel Hauck, New York Times bestselling author of The Wedding Dress

In a time of grief and heartache, an unlikely friendship provides strength and solace.

After leaving her son’s grave behind in Montgomery, Alabama, Delilah Evans has little faith that moving to her husband’s hometown in Pennsylvania will bring a fresh start. Enveloped by grief and doubt, the last thing Delilah imagines is becoming friends with her reclusive Amish neighbor, Emma Mullet—yet the secrets that keep Emma isolated from her own community bond her to Delilah in delicate and unexpected ways.

Delilah’s eldest daughter, Sparrow, bears the brunt of her mother’s pain, never allowed for a moment to forget she is responsible for her brother’s death. When tensions at home become unbearable for her, she seeks peace at Emma’s house and becomes the daughter Emma has always wanted. Sparrow, however, is hiding secrets of her own—secrets that could devastate them all.

With the white, black, and Amish communities of Sinking Creek at their most divided, there seems to be little hope for reconciliation. But long-buried hurts have their way of surfacing, and Delilah and Emma find themselves facing their own self-deceptions. Together they must learn how to face the future through the healing power of forgiveness.

Eminently relevant to the beauty and struggle in America today, The Solace of Water offers a glimpse into the turbulent 1950s and reminds us that friendship rises above religion, race, and custom—and has the power to transform a broken heart.

Genre:  Christian Historical Fiction
Release date:  June 5, 2018
Pages:  359
Publisher:  
Thomas Nelson

Add to Goodreads badge

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

About the Author

A1l2rg5yzOL._UX250_-199x300Elizabeth Byler Younts gained a worldwide audience through her first book Seasons: A Real Story of an Amish Girl and is a RITA nominated writer. She is also the author of The Promise of Sunrise series. She has consulted on Amish lifestyle and the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect two award-winning television shows. Elizabeth lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband, two daughters, and a cockapoo named Fable.

Connect with Elizabeth

My Thoughts

I’m not sure there are words adequate enough to describe just how amazing The Solace of Water is. This story is an intense experience. I feel like my heart has been ripped out of my chest and stomped on. As someone currently experiencing deep grief, I have to say that Ms. Younts does a phenomenal job of capturing what it feels like to be in grief’s ugly grip. By reading this wonderful novel I was able to cry tears I haven’t yet allowed myself to purge. The Solace of Water has been a real blessing for me in that sense.

CollageMaker_20180724_112507244.jpgThe Solace of Water deals with pain. BIG pain. The pain of losing someone dear. Someone whose death leaves a crater-sized hole in the middle of your chest. At the start of The Solace of Water it’s 1956 in Pennsylvania. Even though it’s the North, whites and African Americans stick to their own kind. But pain…pain doesn’t understand color divides. Pain just hurts hard. Out of pain comes a deep friendship between Emma, an Amish woman, and Delilah, an African American mother and pastor’s wife. I love the relationship that fosters between the two women. It’s not really a relationship they want or seek, but it’s one that happens because God puts them in each other’s paths time and time again. At one point, Emma realizes that pain, no matter how it happens, speaks the same language. Pain bonds people. I can attest to what Emma means.

The last 17 months have been excruciating to say the least. I have helped (in my small way) my best friend as she struggles through and fights a very rare form of cancer. Last March, my family was evicted from our rental so the landlord could sell his house. I’ve gone through the stress — and joy — of finding and buying my first house. My dear brother, Tim, died in a freak accident. And, since May, I have been battling a very awful lady who has brought nothing but struggle and turmoil to my family. I’m short tempered, exhausted, and overwhelmed. I just want the bad to take a pause so I can catch my breath and get my brain straight. Every time I turn around, the pain seems to get bigger and bigger. I get what Emma means when she implies that pain bonds people. Through this rough stuff, my husband and my best friend, Lara, have had my back. Their shared pain as we deal with cancer treatments, funerals, and frustrations over other peoples’ meanness has allowed us to bond and help one another get through it all. It’s very odd to say, but our pain has created a sense of community. I am not alone as I deal with all these issues, and neither are my husband and Lara. This is actually quite a comforting realization.

The Solace of Water is a stunning novel. The characters are phenomenally written. Their behaviors and reactions to the pain they each feel is so lifelike. The plot of this story is highly engaging and fast paced. I truly could not put this book down, and when I had to I did whatever I needed to do quickly so I could pick this book back up. The issues within this story are varied and complex. Ms. Younts tackles a lot in this novel, it’s almost overwhelming. But she does so with such grace and aplomb. I don’t feel like any one topic is dealt with hastily or stereotypically. This is a novel that gets readers thinking — about life and death, about God and His ways, about the past and our current experiences, about trauma, grief, and PTSD, about addictions, and about the lies we tell ourselves. The Solace of Water is a novel that will stick with me for forever. I highly recommend this poignant story. Be warned though, grab LOTS of tissue before beginning this book. You are going to need it.

I received a review copy of this novel in eBook form from the author via NetGalley through TLC Book Tours. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.


Elizabeth Byler Younts’ TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, July 9th: @hollyslittlebookreviews

Tuesday, July 10th: What is That Book About – author Q&A

Wednesday, July 11th: Write Read Life

Thursday, July 12th: @jennblogsbooks

Friday, July 13th: Books & Spoons

Monday, July 16th: @createexploreread

Tuesday, July 17th: The Book Diva’s Reads – author guest post

Wednesday, July 18th: Cheryl’s Book Nook

Thursday, July 19th: All of a Kind Mom

Monday, July 23rd: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, July 24th: Bookchickdi

Wednesday, July 25th: Splashes of Joy

Thursday, July 26th: The Christian Fiction Girl 

Friday, July 27th: Time 2 Read

Saturday, July 28th: Fiction Aficionado – author Q&A

Monday, July 30th: Broken Teepee

Tuesday, July 31st: @girlandherbooks

Tuesday, July 31st: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

Wednesday, August 1st: Girl Who Reads

Thursday, August 2nd: @novelmombooks

Monday, August 6th: Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Thursday, August 9th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Friday, August 10th: Openly Bookish

 

 

Gathering the Threads (2017)

33127703Gathering the Threads (2017) by Cindy Woodsmall is the final novel in The Amish of Summer Grove series. This novel comes in all forms including eBook, and is 352 pages in length. With a full-time job and a five-year old at home, this novel took me three days to read. I received a copy of the novel from WaterBrook Press; all opinions expressed in this review are my own. I give this novel 5 STARS. This novel is a Contemporary Amish novel.

Here is the Goodreads blurb:

After three months ofdraus in da Welt, Ariana has returned to Summer Grove, the Old Order Amish community where she was raised for twenty years, and life with her Brenneman family. Skylar Nash, the Englisch-raised young woman is working in Ariana’s cafe while getting to know her birth family and their Plain way of life. Skylar’s time in Summer Grove has changed her outlook, just as Ariana has grown to see her personal faith in God in a different light than the manner she was taught while growing up. Both women will have to make decisions about their paths and Ariana must decide what role her childhood friend, ex-Amish Quill Schlabach, will play in her life.

What a fantastic way to end a series! As with book 2, the action in this story is fast-paced; I had a rather difficult time putting this book down! In fact, I’m not sure if my family ate dinner last night or not. Oops! This story allowed me to engage with it in a highly emotional manner. A couple of times I cried, and a few times I wanted to throw the book across the room to get away from the religious legalism and the small-mindedness of certain men and women that is illustrated in the book. Woodsmall is an excellent writer, not just because her characters and plots are so well written, but because she gets the reader to wrestle with real life issues. I love a book that makes you question your beliefs, ethics, relationship with God and with other people. I love when a book holds up a mirror and makes you realize things about yourself you thought were hidden or not there at all. This novel really did this for me in spades!

I struggled with the Amish theology A LOT throughout the reading of these three books, and found myself very frustrated by the Amish men and women who blindly followed what the bishop said to follow. I don’t know a lot about the Amish culture other than what I’ve learned through main-stream media, Wikipedia, an episode of X-Files (LOL!), and some basic teaching by the nuns at my very Catholic elementary school when I was a little girl, but I do know that submission is a big deal. Even as a little kid, I have always balked at the notion of submission as it is presented by worldly standards. There’s a good kind of submission, and then there is a bad kind of submission. Ariana has just received permission to come back to the home she knows, and she is doing it 9 months earlier than expected. At first, this feels like a big win to Ariana, but almost within minutes of returning home her Amish father, Isaac, starts in on her. His goal is to break her new will (which, by the way, is just her questioning things) and get her back to that rigid, submissive dogmatist she was before she met her biological mother and father. Oh my goodness, there were moments I disliked Isaac intensely. And the bishop was just straight up mean! Godly submission does NOT mean someone blindly following some man’s dictates because the community thinks God put him in charge. If God wanted that, He wouldn’t have given us brains that could think, and He wouldn’t have told us, “Test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). But, God, in His infinite wisdom, gave us all brains so we all can read our Bibles and test His words and choose for ourselves. Then we know how to fully submit to God with a loving heart. The Bible is not a weapon. Having certain Bible verses bashed over our heads in an attempt to gain worldly submission, according to 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 is actually evil. Ok, I will step off my soap box now! Hehehe!

Ariana does realize that her community, especially the women in her community, have been subjugated by the current bishop. Ariana learns that at all times, even if it goes against her Amish parents, her Englisch parents, her church community, and her boyfriend, she has to follow God’s path for her. And, Ariana fights from page 1 till the end to do just that. I found Ariana to be an amazingly genuine and brave character. Ariana evolves from a rigid girl in book 1 into the type of God-fearing woman we all should strive to be. And, it was a joy to watch her grow in her walk with Christ. She is such a beautifully written character!

This book does tie everything together nicely. And, justice is served by the end of the novel. Skylar does grow up, overcome her real problems with the help of her new community, and becomes a really amazing adult. Abram and Cilla have a happy ending, but even they realize that for them to be the couple God wants them to be, they will have to do things a little differently than the Amish church typically allows. In the end, no matter who you are, following God’s plans will lead to the happily ever after He wants for you.

I love this book and highly recommend it. Be prepared for an emotional roller-coaster ride! If you are interested in this book, and would like the opportunity to read it for free, click here!

Fraying at the Edge (2016)

28502816Fraying at the Edge (2016) by Cindy Woodsmall is the second novel in The Amish of Summer Grove series. This novel comes in all forms including eBook, and is 352 pages in length. With a full-time job and a five-year old at home, this novel took me four days to read. I received a copy of the novel from WaterBrook Press; all opinions expressed in this review are my own. I give this novel 5 STARS. This novel is a Contemporary Amish novel.

Here is the GoodReads blurb:

The Old Order Amish life Ariana Brenneman loved vanished virtually overnight with the discovery that she was switched at birth twenty years ago. Now she’s immersed in the Englischer world, getting to know her mother, and under the authority of her biological father, an atheist intellectual with resolute plans to expand Ariana’s worldview. Only Quill Schlabach, a childhood friend living Englisch, can help steady Ariana’s tilting ground between the two worlds, but can she trust him after so many betrayals?

At the same time, Skylar Nash is forced to choose rehab or spend several months with her true relatives, the large Brenneman family and their seemingly backward life–no electricity, no technology, no fun. What the young woman can’t leave behind is her addiction to illegal prescription drugs and a deep emptiness from the belief that she doesn’t belong in either family. New ties are binding Ariana and Skylar to the lives they were meant to have. Can they pray for the wisdom and strength they’ll need to follow God’s threads into unexpected futures?

I very much enjoyed this novel. The action is fast-paced, the conflicts are exceptionally well written, and the characters are genuine!

The main characters in this novel are Ariana, Skylar, and Quill, and the narration switches between the three of them. Of the three characters, I feel the most for Ariana. Ariana has been raised Amish for the past 20 years. Now, her biological father, Nicholas, is forcing her out of what she knows in an attempt to de-Amish her. Nicholas uses every secular thing he can to persuade Ariana to rethink God, the Bible, and her strict Amish order. I felt horrified for Ariana as she was being forced to do things she didn’t feel comfortable with. Nicholas gives Ariana a bucket list of things to do before he will let her back to her Amish family. One of the mandates is for her to go to a bar. She isn’t even 21! And, she has no life skills to protect her from bar patrons. Thank goodness for Quill who does save the day, but this really made it hard for me to respect Nicholas. He is so adamant to prove that his atheistic beliefs are the only beliefs that he forgets to see Ariana as his child and puts her into some seriously scary situations. Over the course of the novel, Ariana does reassess herself as a woman and as a daughter of God, BUT she holds fast to her relationship with God, which helps her overcome her earthly father’s seemingly harsh dictates. I really, truly loved this the most about Ariana.

One minor character I loved in this book is Cameron. Cameron is Skylar’s stepsister, now Ariana’s. Cameron is smart and witty and sarcastic. At first, this rubs Ariana the wrong way because Cameron is sort of making fun of Ariana’s “backward” ways. Ariana stands up to Cameron, and they eventually become really close. I hope this relationship continues in the final book because I really found Cameron to be a sweetheart! She becomes a helper to Ariana, which makes navigating in this scary modern world a little less intense for Ariana.

There is so much to talk about with this book! I stopped my husband in his tracks a few times to discuss many of the various topics this book brings up. One issue I really appreciated about this book is the need for strong faith and learning how to suss out fact from fiction. When you have a true faith in God, you can truly overcome anything because you are able to lean into God in all times. Ariana overcomes her conflicts with her earthly father because she truly loves God and knows that He is there to comfort her. Once she realizes this she is able to stand up for herself and decide what is true, what thinking needs to be changed, and what beliefs she absolutely must hold fast to no matter what anyone says. I genuinely appreciate Ariana’s journey throughout this novel. It reminds me a lot of my own walk with God, and the things I have had to overcome to get to the point where I am today.

This novel is beautifully written. The characters are excellent, and what they all go through definitely pulls at the heartstrings. I highly recommend this novel, and look forward to book three in the series. If you are interested in this novel, and would like the opportunity to read this book for free, click here!

Ties That Bind (2015)

24605366Ties That Bind (2015) by Cindy Woodsmall is the first book in The Amish of Summer Grove series. This novel comes in all forms including eBook, and is 339 pages in length. With a full-time job and a precocious five-year old at home, this book took me three days to read. I received a copy of the novel from WaterBrook Press; all opinions expressed in this review are my own. I give this novel 3.5 STARS. This novel is a Contemporary Amish novel.

Here is the GoodReads blurb:

Ariana’s comfortable Old Order Amish world is about to unravel. Will holding tightly to the cords of family keep them together—or simply tear them apart?

Twenty-year-old Ariana Brenneman loves her family and the Old Ways. She has two aspirations: open a cafe in historic Summer Grove to help support her family’s ever-expanding brood and to keep any other Amish from being lured into the Englisch life by Quill Schlabach.

Five years ago Quill, along with her dear friend Frieda, ran off together, and Ariana still carries the wounds of that betrayal. When she unexpectedly encounters him, she soon realizes he has plans to help someone else she loves leave the Amish.

Despite how things look, Quill’s goal has always been to protect Ariana from anything that may hurt her, including the reasons he left. After returning to Summer Grove on another matter, he unearths secrets about Ariana and her family that she is unaware of. His love and loyalty to her beckons him to try to win her trust and help her find a way to buy the cafe—because when she learns the truth that connects her and a stranger named Skylar Nash, Quill knows it may upend her life forever.

This novel gets rave reviews on GoodReads, Amazon, and Christianbook.com. Many, many people via Facebook and other social medias laud this series as “excellent.” And, a good deal of people in one of the reading groups that I participate in update daily with how amazing these novels are, that the pages are flying for them. So, I began this novel with great expectations. I actually couldn’t wait to read this first book in the series. I thought that if everyone loves it so much, this must be a fantastic story.

I feel like I am missing something that other readers are seeing, but I found myself bored with this novel. Many times, I could put the book down. The entire time I was reading the book I thought to myself, “There has to be more to this, where is the action?” I am kind of at a loss for what to review because I feel like if I say anything, including anything from the exposition, it will inadvertently be a spoiler. I had this novel figured out by chapter one, which made continuing reading really hard. For me, there were no surprises. In fact, I felt most of this novel was a cliche. The Amish girl is a good girl who wants to better her family’s existence. She loves God. She loves her family. And, she has a crush on a boy that could be serious. The Englisch girl is bad. She comes from a divorced home. She does drugs. She is selfish. This seemingly stereotypical portrayal of the non-Amish girl really frustrated me, and is part of why I could put the book down. I come from a divorced home, but I love God. I adore my family and work really hard to make their lives a little better. I never took drugs. I never went crazy. I went to college and studied hard and got multiple degrees so I could work for a living. I take great offense at this cliched caricature. And, it made me unable to relate to Ariana or Skylar because, to me, they don’t feel realistically written.

Another issue I have with this novel is the conflict between Quill and Ariana. When Ariana was 15, Quill and Freida (Ariana’s best friend), escape the Amish community in the middle of the night. Ariana was shocked and deeply hurt as any person would be in this situation, Amish or not. She had grown to love Quill, and believed one day they would marry. Of course, Ariana assumes quite a lot about what happened between her best friend and the boy she loved. When Quill comes back into Ariana’s life five years later, Ariana is sure that he is up to no good and doesn’t give him the benefit of the doubt. The set up for this conflict is very well done. I kept waiting for a big reveal. I kept waiting for the truth to set Ariana and Quill free. This never happens. And, when you finally (near the very end of the book) get a small explanation as to why Freida had to leave, which was super obvious to this reader very early on, it was a “reveal moment” letdown.

On a positive note, I do love Lovina’s character. Lovina is Ariana’s mother, and she is the one who goes through a truly wretched experience. It’s the kind of experience that mother’s should never go through. Her character is exceptionally realistic and very well written. There are moments in the novel, especially towards the end, where I cried for Lovina and wanted desperately to give her a huge hug. My heart broke for her quite a bit. I will continue to read the series because my mommy’s heart needs to see that Lovina has a satisfying conclusion. If I had to rate the novel just on her character and experiences, I would give this book a 5 STAR rating. Lovina is fantastic!

I think my real issue with this novel is that the entire book is exposition to set up book 2 and book 3. The unresolved ending forces the reader to buy book 2 and book 3 to see how Ariana and Skylar’s stories end. This is fine, but in order for me to want to keep reading a series I have to get something out of book 1: a big, surprising reveal, an answer to a question, a sense that the characters will reconcile, a love interest of some kind, etc. But, I didn’t get that in this book. Hopefully, book 2 and 3 will have what I am looking for in a book. Regardless, I have to read them to see how things turn out for Lovina.

If you are interested in reading this novel, and you need a FREE copy, click here!