Friday, July 25, 2014

Christmas in July -- An Amish Country Christmas

Yes, I know it's July -- but the weather has been  unseasonably cool, and there is nothing wrong with a little Christmas at any time of year!  I found a very nice touch of the holiday this week in An Amish Country Christmas by Charlotte Hubbard and Naomi King.  

This book is an anthology of two stories written by the author's self-described "both of me."  (For anyone who doesn't know, Charlotte Hubbard writes under two different names for separate publishers.)  These stories bring together characters from the Seasons of the Heart series and the Home at Cedar Creek/One Big Happy Family series -- and they fit together quite nicely.

Both stories feature fast-paced romances between some of the livelier supporting characters from Willow Ridge and Cedar Creek -- developing much more quickly than would likely happen in a real setting.  But remember . . . it's Christmas time in a fictional location, and just about anything can happen at this magical time of year.  When you mix the scheming Coblentz twins with the Kanagy brothers and the spunky Hooley aunts with a couple of bishops, you are bound to come up with fun times.  And the extra large collection of recipes for Christmas goodies that Charlotte/Naomi shares at the end of the book is a special bonus.

I recommend An Amish Country Christmas for a good read at any time of the year. 

About the Book

In Willow Ridge, Missouri, the Christmas season is a time when faith brings peace, family brings warmth and new romance brings sparkling joy. . .

 “The Christmas Visitors”

For spirited Martha Coblentz and her twin Mary, the snow has delivered the perfect holiday and birthday present to their door—handsome brothers Nate and Bram Kanagy. But when unforeseen trouble interrupts their season’s good cheer, it will take unexpected intervention—and sudden understanding—to give all four the blessing of a lifetime. . .

“Kissing The Bishop”

As the year’s first snow settles, Nazareth Hooley and her sister are given a heaven-sent chance to help newly widowed Tom Hostetler tend his home. But when her hope that she and Tom can build on the caring between them seems a dream forever out of reach, Nazareth discovers that faith and love can make any miracle possible. . .

About the Author

Drawing upon her experiences in Jamesport, the largest Old Order Amish community west of the Mississippi, longtime Missourian Charlotte Hubbard (a.k.a Naomi King) writes of simpler times and a faith-based lifestyle in her Amishseries. Like her heroine, Miriam Lantz, Charlotte considers it her personal mission to feed people—to share hearth and home. Faith and family, farming and food preservation are hallmarks of her lifestyle, and the foundation of her earlier Angels of Mercy series. She’s a deacon, a dedicated church musician and choir member, and when she’s not writing, she loves to try new recipes, crochet, and sew. Charlotte now lives in Minnesota with her husband and their border collie.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A fun little story -- A Matchmaker in Middlebury

A Matchmaker in Middlebury, by Anita Higman, is a fun little story of matchmaking gone . . . well, not wrong, but different from how it was intended.  You could easily read the entire ebook novelette in an hour or so for an enjoyable break from whatever your day happens to be bringing you.

This story can easily stand on its own, but the characters and events will be much more meaningful if you also read the full-length novel that is the prequel:  A Marriage in Middlebury.  You can check out my review of that book here.

Instead of telling you more about the story myself, I'll just invite you to keep reading and enjoy seeing what Anita has to say for her story and for herself.  And be sure to read all the way to the end of the post to find a chance to win your very own copy of this novelette or its prequel book.

Thanks to Anita for sharing her gift of writing with us readers and for providing a little extra insight into this story.

Q & A for A Matchmaker in Middlebury -- Anita Higman
1. Tell us a bit about your novelette, A Matchmaker in Middlebury.

This novelette can be read as a standalone story, but it is also a sequel to the book, A Marriage in Middlebury. This new mini-tale is mostly comedy and could be considered dessert and coffee rather than a heavy meal. Matchmaker is priced at 99 cents. I hope you find it to be a tasty treat!

Here’s a blurb: 

Meredith Steinberg takes the stage again in A Matchmaker in Middlebury and is given another chance to dance with destiny and meddle in the romantic affairs of two lovelorn singles. But Meredith’s skills as a yenta are stretched to the limit as she discovers that her golden egg-of-a-plan has a perilous crack. In the end, however, heartstrings are indeed knotted together as two singles find tender love—they’re just not the two people Meredith paired for marital bliss…
2. Since A Matchmaker in Middlebury is a romantic comedy, do you consider yourself a funny person?

Sometimes I am. It depends on my mood. I don’t like hearing jokes or telling them, but I do like situation comedy, where people do and say off-beat things. I am a big fan of P.G. Wodehouse, and I’ve listened to hours of his work on CDs. He is an absolutely brilliant storyteller, and he’s hilarious. Anyway, his work sort of jangled my funny bone enough that I wanted to give comedy a try. I usually have some humor in my books, but this was a leap for me. I sincerely hope readers get some chuckles out of the story.

3. The heroine, Meredith, is a real hoot. Was that character inspired from someone you know?

It was a little bit. I have a lovely friend named Martha Marks, who’s done some stand-up comedy, and she inspired me to write this quirky and loveable character. In fact, I dedicated this novelette to her.

4. Do you think laughter is important in today’s culture? 

Very much so. We seem to wake up angry and move way too fast. I think there is plenty of medical evidence now that shows we humans need to laugh more. It’s good for our health. And that’s what I hope to give readers—the gift of laughter. 

5. What new projects do you have on the horizon?

I will have a new novel coming out later in 2014 entitled, A Question of Destiny. Here’s a sneak peek at the blurb for this book. 

Ian Chalmers, a multi-millionaire, is so captivated by Lucy O’Brien when he hears about her heroism that he decides to change Lucy’s life by giving her part of his fortune and by introducing her to his faithful and unmarried assistant, Andrew Whitfield. After Lucy accepts Ian’s ten million dollars, she struggles with the pressures and temptations that arise from living in the city with her newly acquired windfall. She wants to simplify her life by moving to the Texas Hill Country. But Lucy and Andrew have grown to care for each other, and with her move so far away, and his passion for living in the big city, they finds themselves at a crossroads. Through their menagerie of choices and follies, will Lucy and Andrew find their destinies in life and in love? 
6. Where can readers interact with you?

I have a Contact Me button my website at or you can catch up with me on my Facebook Reader Page.  I’d love to hear from you! 

7. Where can we find this novelette, A Matchmaker in Middlebury

Here’s the link!


Here is your chance for multiple entries for the giveaway of Anita's books. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Engaging story -- Undetected

Dee Henderson's Undetected is her latest book, and I found it to be a very enjoyable read.

It was a little bit of a slow start, but soon I was caught up in the story.  There is a lot of technical detail about submarines and scientific topics, but once I got through the first several pages of that, I found it very interesting and an integral part of the story.  The slow, detailed growth in the characters and the romantic elements kept me engaged to the very end.

You won't find the faster-paced suspense here like Dee's O'Malley series and some of her earlier work.  But you will find an intense story with a lot of depth to the plot and the characters.  I highly recommend you give Undetected a try.

Thanks to Bethany House for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book

When asked what he does for a living . . .
Commander Mark Bishop is deliberately low-key: "I'm in the Navy." But commanding the ballistic missile submarine USS Nevada, keeping her crew trained and alert during ninety-day submerged patrols, and being prepared to launch weapons on valid presidential orders, carries a burden of command like few other jobs in the military. Mark Bishop is a man who accepts that responsibility, and handles it well. And at a time when tensions are escalating around the Pacific Rim, the Navy is glad to have him.

Mark wants someone to come home to after sea patrols. The woman he has in mind is young, with a lovely smile, and very smart. She's a civilian, yet she understands the U.S. Navy culture. And he has a strong sense that life with her would never be boring. But she may be too deep in her work to see the potential in a relationship with him.

Gina Gray would love to be married. She has always envisioned her life that way. A breakup she didn't see coming, though, has her focusing all her attention on what she does best--ocean science research. She's on the cusp of a major breakthrough, and she needs Mark Bishop's perspective and help. Because what she told the Navy she's figured out is only the beginning. If she's right, submarine warfare is about to enter a new and dangerous chapter.

About the Author

Dee Henderson is the author of nineteen novels, including Unspoken, the novella Jennifer: An O'Malley Love Story, New York Times bestseller Full Disclosure, the acclaimed O'Malley series, and the Uncommon Heroes series. Her books have won or been nominated for several prestigious industry awards, such as the RITA Award, the Christy Award, and the ECPA Gold Medallion. Dee is a lifelong resident of Illinois. Learn more at

Friday, July 11, 2014

Suspenseful Small-Town Fiction -- Gathering Shadows

I had previously read a series of Mennonite fiction by Nancy Mehl and enjoyed the books, but I think she has outdone herself with this new story.  Gathering Shadows is a great start to her Finding Sanctuary series and left me anxious to read more.

Wynter, Zac, Reuben, Esther (as well as others) are well-developed characters who all make the story come alive.  Although certain elements of  the plot are pretty obvious from the beginning, there is plenty of suspense to keep the pace exciting all the way to the end of the book.  Watching the growth of the characters in their faith and in their relationships adds an enjoyable depth to the story.  The Mennonite influence is definitely a part of this story, but not necessarily the most important part.

An added bonus for me is the setting for the book.  Although Sanctuary is a fictional town, most of the other towns mentioned in the book are real locations less than an hour's drive from the small Missouri town where I live.  Relating to the places mentioned provides even more interest to a story.

If you think you would enjoy a visit to a small town filled with secrets, give Gathering Shadows a try.  A word of warning, though -- you might not want to start this book until you have time to enjoy the whole thing.  You will likely have trouble finding a good place to stop.

Thanks to Nancy and to Bethany House for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book

Wynter Evans is a promising young reporter for a television station in St. Louis, but even a bright future doesn't take away her pain over the disappearance of her brother nine years ago. So when she stumbles across a photograph of a boy with an eerie resemblance to him, she can't pass up the chance to track him down. With research for work as her cover, she sets out with one of the station's photogs for the place where the picture was taken: the town of Sanctuary.

Almost as soon as she arrives, she meets the town's handsome young mayor, Reuben King, and together they begin to uncover long held secrets that could tear the small town apart and change everything Wynter thought she knew about her life. As the truth of her family's past hides in the shadows, it's clear someone will stop at nothing to keep the answers she's searching for hidden forever--even if the cost is Wynter's very life.

About the Author

Nancy Mehl is the author of eighteen books and received the ACFW Mystery Book of the Year Award in 2009. She has a background in social work and is a member of ACFW and RWA. She writes from her home in Missouri where she lives with her husband, Norman, and their Puggle, Watson. Visit her website at

Monday, July 7, 2014

Love does extraordinary things at Eagle Hill -- The Revealing

I always count on a good story from Suzanne Woods Fisher -- and she certainly doesn't disappoint in The Revealing, the conclusion to her Inn at Eagle Hill series.  Reading this book as a stand alone would probably work, but I think you will enjoy it more if you first read The Letters and The Calling.

How much drama can happen in one "plain" Amish community?  Well, at Eagle Hill the answer is:  plenty!  Family member in jail.  Missing trouble maker who has caused the family's legal problems.  Unexpected guest with a special "delivery."  Unidentified newspaper columnist.  All of that and more thrown into a mix with several complicated romances.  Nothing is easy about the "simple life" in Stoney Ridge.

Suzanne has given us a great cast of characters in this series, with particular ones highlighted at various times.  The one who really stands out in this story is Naomi King, a fairly quiet, uncertain, but introspective young lady who seems to know just what is needed in a difficult situation.  She is a woman who believes things like this: 
I don’t believe that all things that happen are good, but I do believe the Lord can make good come from even the worst things.”  But Naomi is not sure that she will ever find the life and love she longs for.  She and several other characters, though, have a surprise or two to be revealed before the story concludes.

And how could you not love a story with this as one of its shining truths:  "Love does extraordinary things to people."

Thanks to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book:

Love does extraordinary things to people . . . 

In a single, impulsive act, Naomi King chooses to follow her heart into unfamiliar territory, jeopardizing all that she holds dear. If anyone finds out what she's up to, she's in for trouble. But when it comes to Tobe Schrock, Naomi believes it's worth it.

But it all comes crashing down when a young woman arrives at the Inn at Eagle Hill with an unexpected delivery for Tobe. Add a guest at the inn with a curious talent and a genealogist who is more interested in modern-day Schrocks than in old family trees, and evidence starts to mount that points to something sinister at work. Or someone.

In this riveting conclusion to The Inn at Eagle Hill series, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher pulls out all the stops with a fast-paced tale of deception, revelation, and romance.

About the Author:

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Letters, The Calling, the Lancaster County Secrets series, and the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. She is also the coauthor of an Amish children's series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp. Suzanne is a Carol Award winner for The Search, a Carol Award finalist for The Choice, and a Christy Award finalist for The Waiting. She is also a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She lives in California. 

Learn more at and connect with Suzanne on Twitter @suzannewfisher.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A trio of great Amish stories -- Abby Finds Her Calling, Rosemary Opens Her Heart, Amanda Weds a Good Man

I have finally gotten around to reading some books by Naomi King . . . and my only regret is that I didn't read them earlier!

Abby Finds Her Calling and Rosemary Opens Her Heart are Books One and Two in the Home at Cedar Creek series, and Amanda Weds a Good Man is Book One of One Big Happy Family, which is really a continuation of the the previous series.  The stories are set in Missouri -- some real places and others fictional, I believe -- based on the author's experiences and research in and around the real town of Jamesport, home of the largest Amish community in the state.

Amish fiction is one of my favorite genres, and I have read a lot of these books by several different authors.  Although I have enjoyed most of the Amish fiction I've read, it is always a special bonus to find a little different voice.  Naomi King has definitely provided such a difference in her stories.

Some of the characters deal with very real experiences that may not fit with stereotypical ideas of the idealistic Amish life -- such as a young girl pregnant outside of marriage who fails to show up for her own wedding, women with strong personalities who spend much of their time working outside the typical Amish domestic role, and a bishop who appears to abuse his position and makes life unnecessarily difficult for members of his church.  The story lines are not all quickly and easily resolved, a fact that makes for a high level of interest and uncertainty as the plots play out.  

But woven throughout the stories are themes of love, forgiveness, and caring for one another as a part of family and community.  And there is plenty of romance, along with several adorable children and fun adults to enjoy along the way.

I think these stories get better and better as the series progress.  They touched my emotions, evoking both laughter and tears.  I'm anxious to see what happens next when Emma Blooms at Last is released in the fall of this year.

Thanks to Naomi King for providing Rosemary Opens Her Heart and Amanda Weds a Good Man in exchange for my honest review.

Abby Finds Her Calling

The first in a warm-hearted new series featuring two Amish families and their community in Cedar Creek, Missouri . . .
The Lambright family’s eldest daughter, Abby, runs her own sewing shop. There, she mends the town’s clothes and their torn relationships. But the town maidel has sworn off any suitors of her own because of her unrequited love for James Graber, who is about to marry her younger sister, Zanna . . .

On the wedding day, Zanna is nowhere to be found, breaking James’ heart. Zanna has brought shame to her family, but there’s more in store for them when they discover how far she has fallen. Long-buried secrets come to light, and they test the bonds of the Cedar Creek community. Abby is at the center of it all, trying to maintain everyone’s happiness. But will she ever find her own?

Rosemary Opens Her Heart 

Another spring reminds the Amish of Cedar Creek, Missouri, that for everything there is a season.

Zanna Lambright is finally marrying Jonny Ropp, and friends and family have come from far and wide to celebrate.  Among them is young widow Rosemary Yutzy, mother of toddler Katie, whose husband was tragically killed last fall.  With a willing heart Rosemary has taken over care of her in-laws' family and continued to run a baked goods business from home, but privately she still mourns her lost Joe . . . and is unprepared for the changes that are coming . . .

Rosemary’s father-in-law wants to merge his lamb-raising business with Matt Lambright’s—a move that will require the Yutzys to relocate from their nearby town to Cedar Creek.  Moreoever, it will bring Rosemary into constant contact with Matt, who is making no secret of his romantic interest in her.  The challenges of contemplating a future unlike any she expected are overwhelming for Rosemary.  And although Matt is strong and kind, his courtship is so persistent, she often wants to run the other way.  As Rosemary struggles to see beyond her immediate joys and sorrows, will she embrace the outpouring of welcome and support from the people of Cedar Creek . . . and accept this new chance to open her heart to a more abundant life?

Amanda Weds a Good Man

The Amish community of Cedar Creek is celebrating a wedding!  When Amanda Lambright, widowed with three daughters, marries Wyman Brubaker, a widower with five children, she envisions joining their two households into one big happy family.  But it isn’t quite that easy . . .

Amanda Lambright loves Wyman Brubaker, and after four years as a single mother, she is grateful for his support and for this new chance at happiness as his wife.  She’s confident that their children will get along just fine.  But once Amanda’s clan moves into Wyman’s home, the tight quarters and Wyman’s reluctance to make changes to accommodate Amanda cause friction.  The older kids are squabbling.  The little ones are frequently in tears.  Tiny Alice Ann isn’t speaking at all.  Amanda and Wyman can’t find any privacy.  And Amanda wonders if she’ll ever have a chance to pursue the pottery making that means so much to her.

Amanda believes that family lies at the center of any well-lived Amish life.  Can she find the wisdom to guide the reluctant members of her new extended family toward the love that will bind them together?

About the Author
Drawing upon her experiences in Jamesport, the largest Old Order Amish community west of the Mississippi, longtime Missourian Naomi King (a.k.a. Charlotte Hubbard) writes of simpler times and a faith-based lifestyle in her new Seasons of the Heart series. Like her heroine, Miriam Lantz, Charlotte considers it her personal mission to feed people—to share hearth and home. Faith and family, farming and food preservation are hallmarks of her lifestyle, and the foundation of her earlier Angels of Mercy series. She’s a deacon, a dedicated church musician and choir member, and when she’s not writing, she loves to try new recipes, crochet, and sew. Charlotte now lives in Minnesota with her husband and their border collie.