Not So Sweet on “Amish Sweethearts”

Amish Sweethearts

Does it look like the forest is on fire to anyone else or is that just me?

Okay, it kills me that I don’t have a glowing review for Leslie Gould’s new book, Amish Sweethearts. I always look forward to being transported back to an idyllic setting where the modern world fades away as faith, farms, and friendships take the forefront. However, with this book, I was rather looking forward to the last page. It isn’t that I hated it–I just didn’t love it. I’m sure my Kobo Glo taking over a minute to flip a page did not help, but I truly am not holding that against the ebook itself. I’ll share one positive and one negative aspect of the story and then let you decide for yourself what you think of it!

I’ll start with the negative. For this being a love story, it drove me crazy that the two main characters spent over half of the book not saying a word to each other. To provide a little background, the two main characters (Zane, an Englisher, and Lila, an Amish girl) grew up next to each other and were best friends as kids. When Zane graduated from high school, they did not admit their secret feelings for each other. Instead, Lila started dating a nice Amish young man her father chose, and Zane, with a broken heart, joined the army so that he would have a purpose in life. Zane went off to war, which the peace-loving Amish people do not support. As the story progressed over the next several years, the pair would go out of their way to avoid each other, even though they were often within walking distance of one another. I just personally find it hard to believe that love could still burn so strong and could get stronger over time when you go out of your way to avoid the other person’s presence.

With the negative part of my review over, I’ll tell you what I thought Leslie Gould did exceptionally well and that is transporting readers to a little written about setting–that of the mountainous region of Afghanistan. As an American, I have limited exposure to the people and customs of Afghanistan. I’m afraid I only hear about the country in terms of the war in Afghanistan, which I’m rather ashamed to admit. However, through Zane’s time stationed in Afghanistan during the war, Gould really made me have a greater appreciation for the Afghani people and what their lives are like. I feel like I know more about Afghanistan from reading Amish Sweethearts than I have learned about the country in my entire life. She made the people seem real to me. I am more interested in what is happening in that country since I have a greater idea what daily life is like for its residents.

It’s not often that I don’t write a glowing review. However, I promised to write an honest review in exchange for receiving the free ebook. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel!

Finding the Christmas Spirit in a Darkening World

Union Square Christmas Market

Overlooking the Union Square Christmas Market from Burlington Coat Factory on a drizzly evening.

There’s is just something about this time of year that fills your soul with warmth even when the days are gray and chilly. A few days ago, as I was passing by bare-branched trees, I remarked to myself that it somehow just feels like Christmas is almost here. It truly is in the air! Last week, I was really excited to visit the Union Square Christmas market for the first time. I felt like a little kid going from twinkling stall to twinkling stall as the normally fetid NYC air smelled sweet with the scent of hot chocolate and baked goods. Unfortunately, the drizzle and Ferguson protests put a slight damper on the evening. I believe there is a time and a place to protest, but I don’t think a Christmas holiday market where families and friends are celebrating the season is the appropriate time or place.

Anyways, I digress since this post isn’t about the protests. It is about love, magic, warmth: Christmas.

One of the first things I love to do around Christmas is find good Christmas books that help remind me of what the season is truly about–love, family, and Christ. Unfortunately, this time of year is also about staying healthy when everyone else gets sick–something I failed to do this year. After picking up a couple of prescriptions yesterday after my doctor’s visit, I went to my local library and stocked up on some good Christmas stories as a way to celebrate the season from the comfort of my couch. Yesterday, I hunkered down under a blanket and thoroughly enjoyed a new November release from Harlequin Love Inspired entitled An Amish Christmas Journey by Patricia Davids. Little did I know that it was related to some other books I’ve read, so it was a sweet surprise to recognize some old friends as I made some new ones in this Christmas novel.

An Amish Christmas JourneyAn Amish Christmas Journey is a touching story about a young man and woman who meet after tragedy has befallen their families. Toby Yoder is caring for his little sister who is healing from a fire– a fire that took the lives of both of their parents. Greta Barkman is the lucky sister chosen to retrieve her abusive, dying uncle from the hospital–the same uncle that she and her sisters just fled from when they went to live with their estranged grandfather. Through a twist of fate, Toby and Greta share the same car driving service to take them and their family members from the hospital back to their respective Amish communities for Christmas. Along the way, the band of travelers discover a special stray cat named Christmas that has the unique ability to bring smiles to Toby’s little sister and can somehow predict when Greta’s Uncle Morris is about to have a heart attack. When a car accident leaves this band of travelers stranded together at Greta’s home, the magic of Christmas truly begins as old hurts are forgiven and hearts begin to fall in love in the midst of Christmas preparations.

One of the reasons why I love Amish stories is because the characters’ lives seem so much simpler, even though they have their own troubled times and their faith often gets tested. This particular Amish book discusses the darker topic of abuse, which Greta and her sisters suffered from while growing up with their uncle. The readers see the struggle that Greta has with forgiving her uncle, which is what the Amish are raised to do. As the story progresses, we realize that the uncle was abused as a child so he did not know how to show his love in a healthy way–not that being abused is a free card to abuse others. Although abuse is a dark topic frequently overlooked in the Amish communities, it is nice that this book addresses it in a way that does not put a damper on the Christmas cheer. In fact, this book inspired me to toss off my blanket, hang up my Christmas wreath, and light my favorite Yankee Candle scent, Sparkling Snow. Maybe one day I will feel well enough to put up my Christmas tree–before Christmas arrives. 🙂

Until then, I will continue reading my stack of Christmas stories–and doing my best to keep the books germ-free!

What activities or books are you enjoying to celebrate the Christmas season? Share below!