In the world of Amish fiction, it is interesting to find the special twists and turns the various authors put into their stories. Jennifer Beckstrand has a delightful approach to her stories -- providing fun and unexpected characters and plots in the Plain setting. She definitely lives up to that model in her new Honeybee Sisters series!
From the first short chapter of Book 1, it was obvious that these books would be just as much fun as Jennifer's Huckleberry Hill series -- some of my favorite stories. The Honeybee Sisters -- Lily, Poppy, and Rose -- are trying their best to grow into good Amish young ladies and -- hopefully -- wives. But with their somewhat unusual occupation of beekeeping and their eccentric, far-from-traditional-Amish Aunt Bitsy -- well, there are some challenges to be faced. The sisters are blooming into lovely young ladies and catching the eyes of the young men in their community. Each book focuses on one of the sisters and deals sweetly with issues such as love, faith, confidence, guilt, and forgiveness.
Some elements of the plot are pretty obvious from the beginning, but it is a joy to go along on the ride to see how they play out. These books really need to be read in order, as the characters and relationships develop throughout the series. And there is an ongoing thread of trouble that plays itself out as the stories progress. As a bonus, there are honey-themed recipes at the back of each book.
If you're looking for entertaining Amish fiction, stories that will make you smile -- and maybe even shed a tear or two -- I highly recommend Jennifer Beckstrand's Honeybee Sisters.
I was provided digital copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.
About the Books:
Sweet as Honey:
Smart, kind, and good-hearted, the three Christner girls are affectionately known as The Honeybee Sisters in the beloved Wisconsin Amish community where, under the care of their aunt, they've grown into skilled beekeepers--and lovely, sought-after young women.
Though she has blossomed into a beauty, Lily Christner doesn't really believe it. Deep down, she still feels like a lonely, gawky teenager. Maybe that's why she's all but promised herself to Paul Glick, the one boy who never teased her in her awkward girlhood-- unlike Dan Kanagy, whose creative name-calling left her in tears many a time. Now he's back in town after two years away-- and being surprisingly sweet, suspiciously attentive-- and making Lily unsettlingly yet deliciously nervous. It seems Dan wants Lily's forgiveness--and her heart. But can he convince her-- not to mention her protective schwesters and aendi-- that despite the past, her future lies with him?
A Bee in Her Bonnet:
Lively, determined, and independent, Poppy Christner isn't about to let some vandal keep making mischief on her family's farm. She' s been outrunning boys and standing up for picked-on children ever since she was a girl-- no matter how much her prideful, arrogant schoolmate Luke Bontrager insulted her. So Poppy certainly doesn't need his interference now, especially since he's made it plain he prefers demure, ladylike companions. In fact, if Luke doesn't stop helping her find the culprit-- and growing humble and remorseful-- she'll be forced to notice how handsome his change-of-heart is making him. And that could mean falling in love-- maybe for a lifetime.
Like a Bee to Honey:
Shy, skittish Rose Christner is more comfortable tending to the beehives on the family farm and keeping her aunt’s unruly cats in line than attending social gatherings with the rest of the die youngie. A childhood trauma and secret shame keep her heart under lock and key, and Rose just can’t accept the sweet attention she’s receiving from a handsome neighbor. But the more she shies away from Josiah Yoder, the more their families sneakily plot to bring them together. And when a vandal who’s been plaguing the Honeybee Farm starts targeting Rose, Josiah’s steadfast protection—and patience—just may lead her into his waiting arms.
Guest Post from Jennifer Beckstrand:
Lily, Poppy, and Rose Christner are known as the Honeybee Sisters in their Wisconsin Amish community because they keep bees and sell the honey they pull from their beehives. The orphaned sisters came to live with their aunt Bitsy when they were very young. Aunt Bitsy was an Englischer for twenty years, but she is trying to raise her nieces to be gute and devout Amish girls.
Still, Aunt Bitsy is a bit eccentric and has brought some of the Englisch ways with her to the Honeybee Farm. She wears her dangly earrings when she’s in a bad mood, sports temporary tattoos just for fun, keeps a shotgun by the front door, and has a cat named Farrah Fawcett. (Bitsy simply adored “Charlie’s Angels.”)
With the honey they pull from their hives, the Honeybee schwesters make all sorts of appeditlich, delicious, things to eat. Their baking and their beauty attract boys to the Honeybee Farm, so Aunt Bitsy has to keep her shotgun handy to ward off the would-be suitors.
Many of the Honeybee Sisters’ recipes are included at the back of the three Honeybee Sister novels. Many more can be found in The Honeybee Sisters Cookbook available on Amazon and other online bookstores.
I hope you’ll fall in love with the Honeybee sisters, Aunt Bitsy, and their incomparable Bienenstich (Bee Sting) Cake—which recipe is included in both the cookbook and Sweet as Honey.
Here is a recipe the Honeybee Sisters would definitely make. My dear friend gave me some of these caramels for Christmas last year, and they are heavenly. The honey is used in place of the more-common corn syrup and gives the caramels a rich, deep flavor. My favorite thing about these caramels is the coarse sea salt that gives the caramels a salty crunch. Yummy!
Honey Vanilla Caramels
1 ½ cup sugar
½ cup honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup salted butter, cut into bits
Coarse sea salt
Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a clay, enamel, glass, plastic, or stainless steel (non-reactive) pot, combine the sugar, honey, and vanilla extract. Mix everything together using a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Cook over medium-low heat until the sugar melts. When the sugar has melted, increase heat to medium and cook until the mixture caramelizes and is a deep amber color. Do not stir the mixture once it starts to boil. Instead, swirl it around occasionally with the pan’s handle. (This will help the caramel cook more evenly.)
While the caramel is cooking, place the heavy cream in a small saucepan on low heat. As soon as it reaches a simmer, remove pan from the heat and set aside.
When the caramel has reached a deep amber color, reduce heat to low and slowly whisk in the bits of butter. Whisk well until the butter is completely melted.
Add the warm cream and whisk until smooth.
Turn the heat back up to medium and cook until the caramel reaches a temperature of 245°. Carefully pour the hot caramel onto the parchment-lined cookie sheet. Let it rest for about 8 minutes, then sprinkle with desired amount of sea salt.
Cool completely (about three hours), before cutting into squares and wrapping with parchment paper.
(Adapted from http://www.unegaminedanslacuisine.com)
About the Author:
Jennifer Beckstrand is the bestselling Amish romance author of The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series for Kensington Books. Huckleberry Summer was nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award and the 2015 RITA® Award, and Huckleberry Hill won the 2014 LIME Award for Inspirational fiction. Both Huckleberry Hill and Huckleberry Christmas appeared in Examiner.com list of top ten inspirational books for 2014.
Jennifer has always been drawn to the strong faith and the enduring family ties of the Plain people and loves writing about the antics of Anna and Felty Helmuth. Jennifer has a degree in mathematics and a background in editing. She and her husband have been married for thirty years, and she has four daughters, two sons, and four adorable grandchildren, whom she spoils rotten.
To celebrate her tour, Jennifer is giving away five copies of The Honeybee Sisters Cookbook! Click here to enter: https://promosimple.com/ps/a20d