A Place at Our Table (An Amish Homestead Novel) by Amy Clipston

My Review

Amy Clipston’s novel, A Place at Our Table, deals with heartbreaking family situations. Throughout the book, however, the characters seem real and relatable. I could see myself reacting in much the same way under similar circumstances.

Kayla Dienner is working hard to overcome grief from the loss of her oldest brother, who was a volunteer firefighter and died while fighting a fire. In addition, her boyfriend, for no apparent reason, broke off their relationship.

Jamie Riehl is a volunteer firefighter and workaholic. He feels responsibility for his family, and even though he has a brother and father, he takes on more and more of the farm work-leaving him exhausted because he only gets a scant few hours’ sleep a night. When tragedy strikes his family too, he takes on more of the burden of farm work and bears guilt for his part in the tragedy.

A Place at Our Table is an interesting book. Amy Clipston shows us a different side of Amish life by giving Jamie a firefighter role. However, some aspects of Kayla’s personality and character are frustrating for me. I want to see her as a sympathetic protagonist, but she comes across as overly clingy and needy. I needed to remind myself that she lost her brother to a fire and inexplicably lost her boyfriend’s love. She is reeling in pain. Then, while fighting the attraction, she finds herself falling in love with Jamie, a firefighter. He embodies both losses. It’s no wonder she petulant at times.

I’m looking forward to reading more of the Amish Homestead series. I’m excited to see who is featured and to learn more about Jamie and Kayla.

I received this book from Fiction Guild. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.

Publisher’s Summary

Kayla Dienner has suffered her fair share of heartache, which is why she vows to protect her heart at all costs . . . until she meets Jamie Riehl.

Along with his volunteer work at the local fire department, running his Amish farm keeps Jamie Riehl busy. He barely has time to eat at the family table, never mind find someone to date. But when he meets Kayla Dienner, he is smitten.

Kayla tries hard to deny her attraction to Jamie. After all, she’s spent the last year discouraging her younger brother, Nathan, from becoming a firefighter. The death of their older brother in a fire a year ago is fresh in her mind—she can’t bear the idea of putting her heart on the line every time the sirens blare.

Then tragedy strikes, and Jamie wants to extinguish any flame between him and Kayla. Can Kayla set aside her own fears to save the love she was determined to deny?

The first book in the Amish Homestead series, A Place at Our Table invites us to a quiet community in Lancaster County where love burns brightly no matter the cost.

 

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Runaway Romance by Miralee Ferrell

My Review

Miralee Ferrell’s book, Runaway Romance, is not only an interesting story about actors and actresses, but it’s going to be a movie on UP TV, too!

Ann Stanway thought life couldn’t be any better. She and the love of her life, Scott Adson, starred in the blockbuster reality show, Life with the Adsons. However, things aren’t as rosy as they seem, leaving her reeling. Hurt and confused she takes a trip to get away and ends up in a charming Amish community in Cave City, Kentucky.

The juxtaposition of a Hollywood lifestyle and an Amish way of living is striking. Ann’s turmoil over what was real and what her perception of reality was creates an intriguing dichotomy.  As she tries to navigate her way through a quagmire, some of her own making, she begins to realize her real problem is not being true to her faith.

The characters run the gamut from sweet and endearing to cruel and calculated, making you love some of them and be repulsed by others. The novel is well-written, and the characters well developed. The plot is unique and out of the ordinary, with not just romance, but a small touch of mystery, too.

I received Runaway Romance from the author. However, I was under no obligation to write a review.

Publisher’s Summary

When a reality TV star meets the reality of life, will it be her downfall or her salvation?

Ann Stanway had it all—a starring role in a reality show, an adoring boyfriend, and a sparkling future with limitless possibilities. Until the rules changed and the life she’d thought was real no longer existed. Leaving L.A. seems like her only option, and she lands in Kentucky at a quiet Amish inn—as far removed from her past as possible. Now she knows what was missing in her life–peace, true friendship and, dare she hope, a man who accepts her for who she is–or at least who he thinks she is.

Hunter Lewis is intrigued by the new woman staying at his friend’s Amish inn. Annie appears to be what she claims, but she’s secretive and won’t open up. He’s been burned by a woman before and can’t tolerate deception. But his interest in Annie is growing, and the attraction seems to be mutual—until something happens that makes Hunter question everything he’d thought was real. Dare he risk his heart, when he’s certain Annie is keeping secrets?

Can their new romance withstand the pressure, or will Ann choose to run again?

The Promise of a Letter (An Amish Letters Novel) by Kathleen Fuller

My Review

I think Leanna Chupp is my favorite character. She’s not your typical Amish which made her uniqueness even more pronounced. In fact, she’s not your typical female, especially in an Amish community. Leanna is 24, unmarried and has no plans or desire to marry; she works on machines better than most men do, abhors cooking and housekeeping (and isn’t good at either), lives alone and is six feet tall. The combination can sometimes be intimidating to the men in her community. I, like almost everyone in her community, really liked and cared about her.

As I read, I was heartbroken over the coldness of Daniel and Roman Raber’s parents, but thankful their grossmammi (grandmother) stepped in to fill the role of a loving relative. Nonetheless, neither young man felt genuinely loved, and Roman was continually running away from home, his life and God. Additionally, Barbara and Daniel’s story is so poignant that several times I was brought to tears.

Kathleen Fuller’s novel, The Promise of a Letter is a very different type of Amish fiction from most Amish stories. She deals with many issues people face, not only in the Amish community but also in the lives of non-Amish, too. The story is replete with themes of restoration, forgiveness and God’s grace. Furthermore, several tough issues are addressed- gossip, anger, bitterness and misunderstandings among family members. There are several others, but I don’t want to give any spoilers. Miss Fuller does an excellent job of showing the development and growth of her characters. It’s a pleasure to be taken along for the ride.

The Promise of a Letter is the second book in the An Amish Letters Novel series. However, it works well as a standalone.

I received this book from the Fiction Guild. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.

Publisher’s Summary

A letter brings him back to his Amish family. It will take someone truly extraordinary to make him stay.

Roman is on the verge of leaving the Amish ways. Feeling confined by the strict rules, he longs to do something more with his life. But when things don’t go as planned, Roman’s prospects outside of the community dwindle. Upon learning that his beloved grandmother has died and left a letter urging him to reconcile with his brother in Birch Creek, Roman decides to return home. But he doesn’t plan to stay for long.

Leanna Chupp has always made her own way in her small community of Birch Creek. Though some may call her unconventional—strange, even—Leanna is happy. Her unique outlook on life has meant she’s never had many suitors pursuing courtship, which Leanna doesn’t mind. She is content being single.

But when Roman and Leanna find themselves working together again, everything changes. Though neither fit squarely within the strictures of the Amish faith, their differences could be the very thing to help them form a deeper connection to their community and to each other. The question remains: will this strengthening bond be enough to make Roman stay for good?

An Amish Summer: Four Novellas by Shelley Shepard Gray, Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller and Kelly Irvin

My Review

An Amish Summer is a wonderful collection of novellas by four well-known authors of Amish fiction. Each story focuses on difficulties encountered between prospective young couples.

They each teach a valuable lesson, and the plots vary greatly as does each lesson.

I think my favorite is One Sweet Kiss by Kelly Irvin. There is an interesting mixture of Amish on their rumspringa, Englishers, and devout Amish. The story has a very unusual twist, one you would not expect from a story about Amish. However, it makes the story more interesting and intriguing.

The individual novellas are appealing in different ways. Shelley Shepard Gray’s A Reunion in Pinecraft makes you wonder if the easily understood confusion between sisters Sharon and Sherilyn’s names can ever be straightened out. In Summer Storms, by Amy Clipston, we learn sacrifices are sometimes necessary to obey our parents, even when it seems unfair. Lakeside Love, by Kathleen Fuller, shows how outward appearances aren’t everything, and beauty only lasts for a season. In One Sweet Kiss, by Kelly Irvin, a very unusual plot gives way to a satisfying ending.

I received a copy of An Amish Summer from The Fiction Guild. However, I was under no obligation to provide a review.

Publisher’s Summary

A Reunion in Pinecraft by Shelley Shepard Gray

When sisters Sharon and Sherilyn Kramer attend a wedding in Shipshewana, one of them returns with a new penpal while the other returns to her job at the bakery. After sending weekly letters back and forth, Sherry and Graham Holland arrange a reunion in Pinecraft. Upon Graham’s arrival, however, he realizes he’s been writing to the wrong sister. He decides to use the reunion as a way to get to know both sisters, but can he sort through the confusion in time to turn the worst vacation ever into something truly wonderful?

Summer Storms by Amy Clipston

Ariana is counting down the days until her wedding to Jesse. They have been friends longer than Arianna can remember, and that friendship turned into love over the past couple of years. But when Arianna’s brother Tobias, who happens to be Jesse’s best friend, gets them both into trouble, Arianna’s father puts an end to her engagement to Jesse. Some summer storms pass quickly, but Arianna is afraid the damage from this one may be too much to repair.

Lakeside Love by Kathleen Fuller

Esther has always lived in the shadow of her beautiful younger sister Sarah. Even the boy she has known—and loved—her entire life, Judah, only has eyes for Sarah. But when a handsome young Englischer comes to live with the family for a summer, everything begins to change.

One Sweet Kiss by Kelly Irvin

Everybody in little Bee County, Texas, can see the obvious: Jacob King and Martha Byler are meant to be together. Everyone, that is, but Martha. Ever since her mother died when Martha was a young girl, she has taken over the role of caregiver to her large family. And reckless Jacob, who has had a little too much fun on his rumspringa, only seems to add to the list of people to manage. But one summer changes everything, and these two may just find a way to meet in the middle and share one sweet kiss.

The Blessing (Book 2 of the Amish Cooking Class Series) by Wanda E. Brunstetter

My Review

Heidi and Lyle Troyer, unable to conceive a much-wanted child, are given an opportunity to adopt a baby. Like all things in life, circumstances begin to pile up, and Heidi needs an outlet, so once again she opens her home to six strangers wanting to learn more about Amish food.

Each person in the story is as different from one another as possible. The cooking class consists of three men and three women. The men include a food critic hiding his true identity, an avid hunter and a school janitor. The women include a mother of two small children, a woman wanting ideas for her catering business and a teenager stressed out from having to keep her family together after her mom walks out on them.

I enjoyed finding out about Heidi’s previous students, whom we met in book one, The Seekers (The Amish Cooking Class Series). I felt like I was catching up with old friends.

Wanda Brunstetter’s ability to portray her characters makes you feel as if they are your next-door neighbors. However, one aspect of her writing that is a little off-putting is the way she jumps from one character to another in each chapter. Sometimes focusing on several characters helps show readers how the different individuals interact, but sometimes it is hard to determine which individual the author is referencing.

The Blessing is the second book in the series; however, it works well as a standalone.

There are two bonuses in the back of the novel. First, Miss Brunstetter includes the Amish recipes Heidi taught her students. Second, she lists discussion questions.

I received this book from NetGalley and Barbour Publishing. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.

Publisher’s Summary

Return to the Troyer farm where Heidi welcomes six new cooking class students who experience the healing hand of God.

Despite stressful changes occurring in their lives, Lyle and Heidi once again open their Ohio home up to those seeking to learn about Amish cooking. This time a teenager helping her divorced dad cook for the family, a caterer needing new recipes, a food critic, a hunter looking to impress his buddies, a wife given the class as an unwanted gift, and a mailman lured in by the aroma of good cooking gather around Heidi’s table.

During each class, Heidi teaches culinary skills, but it is her words of wisdom that have a profound effect on her students—though, this time Heidi’s own hurting heart will need some healing nourishment.