Sunday, January 18, 2015

Another fun read and a "visit" with the author -- Huckleberry Spring

If you see a book with Jennifer Beckstrand as the author's name and the word "Huckleberry" in the title . . . well, you can be sure that you are in for a fun read.  

Huckleberry Spring is Jennifer's fourth book in her Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series, and it's my favorite so far.  Anna and Felty Helmuth (some pretty unconventional Amish folks) continue their efforts to find mates for their grandchildren, with some very entertaining events along the way.  Poor Felty has to endure some pretty extreme schemes from his "Banannie" this time as they try to work things out for their grandson Ben and his ex-fiance Emma.  And there are some moments in the story where I even shed some tears of sadness and concern.  I don't want to give any spoilers, so I'll say you will just have to read the book for yourself to see how things turn out.

If you are looking for an entertaining story, you should enjoy Huckleberry Spring -- Amish fiction fan or not.  You can read this book as a stand alone, but I would highly recommend enjoying the first three books before you read this one, just so you can pick up on some of the little inside stories along the way.  I'm really looking forward to my next visit to Huckleberry Hill when Huckleberry Harvest hits the shelves later this year.

Thanks to Jennifer and her publisher for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Be sure and read to the end of this post.  Jennifer was gracious enough to provide some questions and answers for me to share with my readers.  I think you will enjoy the "inside scoop"!

About the Book:

Ever since the Helmuths’ grandson, Ben, abruptly broke his engagement and moved to Florida, Emma Nelson has kept busy tending her vegetable garden and raising award-winning pumpkins. She can put her heartache aside to help Ben’s mammi with her own pumpkin patch. At least until Ben shows up to lend support to his ailing dawdi…

Gardening side by side with pretty, nurturing Emma is a sweet kind of torture for Ben. She could have her pick of suitors who can offer what he can’t, and he cares too much to burden her with his secret. Leaving once more is the only option. Yet Emma’s courage is daring him to accept the grace that flourishes here, and the love that has been calling him back to Huckleberry Hill.

About the Author:
Jennifer Beckstrand is the bestselling author of The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series set in beautiful northern Wisconsin. The first three books in the series are now available in stores and online: Huckleberry Hill, Huckleberry Summer, and Huckleberry Christmas. Huckleberry Spring comes out January 27. 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, the two scheming Amish grandparents who try to help their grandchildren find suitable mates in Huckleberry Hill. Who would ever suspect two elderly Amish folks of mischief? 
Jennifer has a degree in mathematics, which comes in handy when one of her six children needs help with algebra. After twenty-five years of being a chauffeur, cook, maid, and nurse, she embarked on a writing career. Jennifer is a member of Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers and is represented by Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency.

She and her husband have been married for thirty years, and she has four daughters, two sons, and three adorable grandsons, whom she spoils rotten.

Find out more about Jennifer and her books:
Twitter: @JenniferBeckst1

Q&A from Jennifer: 

(Donna Mynatt originally posted the questions in this Q&A on her blog last month.

1)    Fans LOVE the Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill… how did you get the idea for matchmaking grandparents? And did you plan from the beginning to write the series with such wonderful humor (Anna’s cooking, for example)?

I don’t remember exactly how I got the idea for Anna and Felty. (Ideas float in and out of my head regularly.) There’s a little bit of a matchmaker inside of me, and I thought it would be fun to explore how a character could actually be successful at matchmaking. My kids have always resisted any attempts by me to set them up with suitable mates.

I’ve always enjoyed infusing my writing with humor. I love to laugh, and I love writing delightful characters who remind us of happy times and old friends. I won’t read a book or see a movie if I know it’s going to end sadly. I think Jane Austen was my first inspiration for that style of writing. I wanted Huckleberry Hill to be a place that readers would want to return to again and again.

2)    Anna and Felty have 13 children and 64 grandchildren (not to mention the 99 greats and 1 great-great) and that’s just at the end of book #1… how many books do you plan to write in this series? Ms. Braun wrote 30+ “Cat Who” books. Could this be another such series?

There are three more books in the Huckleberry Hill series that come out this year: Huckleberry Spring, Huckleberry Harvest, and Huckleberry Hearts, and holy cow, I am so excited for all of them. Huckleberry Spring comes out January 27. After that, I am planning on leaving Huckleberry Hill but staying near Bonduel, Wisconsin for a series of books about a trio of Amish sisters. I will most likely revisit Huckleberry Hill in the future so my readers can catch up with Anna and Felty.

3)    Do you use an outline for your stories? Do you have a folder or a file where you keep future ideas for stories or do you just come up with ideas after a suggestion from your editor/agent/friends?

The ideas for my stories are all in my head, though I do type out character sketches and other random ideas once I know I’m going to write a specific story. I definitely use an outline so I don’t get lost but mostly so my editor knows what’s going on. An outline helps me and the editor weed out problems and plot holes before I spend all that time writing the book.

4)    We read about writer retreats, conferences and the like. Is this the norm for most authors? Are they necessary for your writing? How often do you travel? Where do you go? Who do you travel with? What is your favorite vacation spot?

This year I didn’t go to any writer’s conferences, but I usually go to one or two a year. They’re a great place to meet fellow authors and make new friends. If you’re an aspiring author, I think writer’s conferences are the best way to meet agents and editors and get your work out there. I always come home from conferences reenergized and ready to write. I also come back with valuable writing tips and techniques.

I don’t enjoy traveling—I am definitely a homebody. I like my own bed and my own bathroom. J My daughter studied in London last year, and my family pried me away from home to visit her there. I had a wonderful time. London is an amazing city. That’s one place I wouldn’t mind going again. I’m more of a “busy” traveler. I get antsy if I’m just sitting on the beach relaxing. A vacation for me needs to be filled with “doing” and “seeing.”

5)    Do you find that writing under a deadline takes the fun out of writing? If so, how do you deal with that? Are there any special snacks you like to have handy, especially during stressful times?

My last book was under a pretty demanding deadline, and I let the stress take some of the fun out of the writing. A deadline always makes writing harder, but my new motto is: If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. Writing is hard work. Sometimes it’s okay to not love it—as long as you plow through and stick with it!

The one thing I eat regularly while at the computer is raw almonds. I love them. If I’m especially stressed, I adore fried Swiss cheese. Frying Swiss cheese makes the whole house stink, but it tastes so good. I eat while I write mostly to stay awake. It’s a busy mother’s burden. If I sit down, I often fall asleep.

6)    What are you working on now? Is there another genre you are interested in writing or are you perfectly content to stick with Amish Fiction?

Here is a sneak peek of what I’m working on now. It’s a series called the Adventures of the Honeybee Sisters and it will be coming out in 2016. 

Lily, Poppy, and Rose Christner, known as the Honeybee Sisters in their Amish community, are smart, inseparable, and all grown up. Orphaned when they were very young, the girls were raised by their eccentric Aunt Bitsy, who doesn’t behave like a proper Amish spinster, probably because she’s not Amish. The Honeybee Sisters have blossomed into rare beauties, and the boys in the community have begun to take notice. But Aunt Bitsy is determined to scare off all comers with her brusque manner and her handy shotgun. None but the most worthy will make it past Bitsy’s defenses. It’s going to be a rowdy and romantic summer—harvesting honey from their many beehives and fighting off the boys right and left. 

In addition to this new series, I have a series of Western historicals that I’m eager to get out there someday. But I have plenty to keep me busy for another year or so.


  1. Pam, thanks for the lovely review. I am so glad you liked the book. Parts of Huckleberry Spring are bittersweet, but I hope readers will also laugh out loud at how Anna pulls Felty into her matchmaking plans. Felty is the very definition of "long suffering." :) And don't worry, the story ends happily ever after. I couldn't bear it any other way.

    1. I don't know how anyone could read about Anna's and Felty's adventures without some laughter! :-) Felty certainly loves his Banannie and suffers graciously through her plans!

  2. I neglected to credit Donna Mynatt for the original questions in this Q&A. They originally appeared on her blog last month. Thanks, Donna!