Review: The Promise of a Letter by Kathleen Fuller

Leanna is one of my favorite protagonists! She doesn’t apologize for being different (and that’s something, when you’re not a naturally domestic kind of gal, but you *are* Amish), and she doesn’t resent being different, either. Leanna uses her talents to work in a mechanical shop, and she loves it! But author Fuller doesn’t stop there; she fleshes out the full character of Leanna – a loving sibling, a fun caregiver, and a fiercely loyal friend. 

And then we meet Roman. He’s Amish too, sort of. And he is also a mechanic, sort of. He’s on a journey of self-discovery, self-acceptance, and reconciliation with his brother. 

Fuller does a great job illustrating modern Amish life, touching on family dynamics, spirituality, unconventional career choices, education, and romance. I appreciate that Fuller wrote a strong, feminine character that performed a “man’s” job,  without making Leanna into a stereotype or a mascot for feminist politics. And I am pleased that there was a happily ever after for more than one couple. 

-calliope 

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Review: Any Dream Will Do by Debbie Macomber 

Sometimes predictable is just the thing you need, especially when it’s painted with the brush of faith and hope. Macomber is an expert in helping her characters gain faith in humanity and hope for themselves – even when it seems impossible. 

Any Dream Will Do is the motto of Shay’s new friend — the one who will help Shay save herself from the pit of despair she needs to step out of. But Shay hasn’t believed in dreams in so long, that’s a tough order to fill. 

I enjoyed this quick read centered around redemption and loving others. I’m not sure the story was quite realistic – there were some hokey parts where I suspended my disbelief – but it certainly was hopeful. And although only a small part of the book focused on romance, Macomber wrote a lovely happily ever after. 

-calliope

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Review: Under a Summer Sky by Melody Carlson

This is a cute summer read set in Savannah, where we find art teacher Nicole house-sitting for a family friend and working at an art gallery. Nicole thought she’d have a quiet summer with plenty of time to paint, but instead finds herself overwhelmed with a difficult co-worker, childhood friends-turned-handsome-men, and a teenager who just needs a little love and direction. 

I loved all the references to art and architecture, the Savannah sunsets, and the diplomatic way Nicole finessed her way through a few unexpected situations. As usual for her novels, Carlson includes a little bit of God to illustrate his presence, but doesn’t use the novel to preach or proselytize. And as usual for my favorite summer reads, this one ends in a happily ever after. 

-Calliope 

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Review: Return to Huckleberry Hill by Jennifer Beckstrand

This installment of The Matchmakers series is just as good as the rest were – and fine to read as a standalone. What sets this one apart is the angst! Most of Beckstrand’s other books are fun and flip, adventuresome and whimsical. In Return to Huckleberry Hill, Reuben deals with the demon of pride, and though I didn’t feel bad for him in the least, I did sympathize with those around him. 

Fern King, too, deals with demons. Oh how I wanted to cry for her — trying to be strong, always showing a cheerful face, never complaining, yet truly dying inside. Fern endures so much, and I really almost couldn’t take it! (I’ll never forgive you, Ms. Beckstrand, if Barbara Schmucker doesn’t get her due.)  But Fern also gets to see Reuben and her brother John in a new environment – and witness their growth (or lack of it). 

Anna and Felty remain the cute elderly couple that gets in everyone’s business trying to make love connections. I haven’t tired of them yet, and I’m almost endeared to Anna’s creative cooking.  

This is a non-traditional Amish novel in that it doesn’t center around faith and obedience as much as some might; yet Beckstrand gives the main characters the gift of self-reflection… something that made me want to be best friends with Fern, and let me forgive Reuben for almost all of his trespasses. 

-Calliope

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Review: The Vicar’s Daughter by Josi S. Kilpack

Oh, my swooning heart! This book was so sweet and romantic. I swear there were butterflies in my belly the entire time. The Vicar’s Daughter had a very “Emma” feel to it, but with a twist.

Cassie hated the rules her parent’s instilled that only one daughter at a time would be put in society. So in order to speed things along she tries to help her very anxious sister in making a match. But as things began to progress, she starts to get feelings for the man she wanted for her sister. She tried to put her them aside but when push comes to shove, her heart can’t take the pain.

Mr. Glenside is new to society so he’s learning the ins and outs and soon finds himself caught up in a situation that had only one outcome. But in order to be true to his heart he must make the unfortunate decision and cause himself lots of trouble and gossip to be flung his way. Not exactly how he wanted to come out in society, but some things can’t be helped.

I loved Cassie. Her heart was in the right place, but her execution was flawed. Royally flawed It’s was very hard to see her suffer. But as a vicar’s daughter there was no escaping it. SHe was well known,therefore people were going to know what happened. She had me in tears towards the end. Gah!! My heart was invested and was wishing for no more suffering.

As I’ve said before, I love this Proper Romance series. This one had more religious tones than the many of them. Since it was about a vicar’s family, I’m not surprised. If you love historical romances with all feels, then I recommend you grab this one.

~Melpomene

Buy The Vicar’s Daughter HERE

Review: The Seekers (Book 1 of The Amish Cooking Class series) by Wanda E. Brunstetter

Amish couple Heidi and Lyle live a simple life on their farm, but with Lyle out most of the day and no children to care for, Heidi finds her days empty. When Heidi advertises a cooking class – that she will teach in her home kitchen – an unexpected variety of participants arrives. They’re nervous to start cooking, but also nervous about being judged by a new group of people. 

The Seekers is very predictable, and an easy, straightforward read. I kind of needed something like that when I read this, so I appreciated the no-effort, feel-good experience! The Seekers wasn’t overly simplistic, though. The author wrote in a few characters that I myself judged … and by the end she had taught me a little lesson about that. *hangs head in shame* 

Once in a while it’s necessary to get back to basics, on an Amish farm, with a cooking class worthy of The Breakfast Club, and a lesson much more important than the pie crust turning out. I found that in The Seekers. 

-calliope

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Review: Christmas Roses by Amanda Cabot

This month I’m making a nice dent in the “Christmas” folder on my kindle… and although I probably bought Christmas Roses years ago, I’ve just gotten to it this week. I’m glad I did! 

This is a Christmas story set in the 1800s. Celia is a young widow, raising her infant alone, and running a boardinghouse out west for a living. Though life isn’t easy for anyone living in the copper mining town, Celia struggles to deal with her baby’s health issues, the stress of staying financially stable, and the affections of too many men who just aren’t right for her. 

Enter Mark, a wandering carpenter looking for a lost relative. 

I loved how Mark’s presence changed everything in subtle ways, and how the Reverend compared Mark’s compassion for people and fear of the unknown to that of Mary’s husband Joseph in the story of the Nativity. 

Though slightly predictable, I also enjoyed the ending that demonstrated the importance of communication, attentiveness, and honesty. This is a quiet, traditional story that highlights the best in people, and the endless possibilities when you reach out in love. 

Celia had a very merry Christmas, as did so many of the characters, which is even better than a regular happily ever after.  

-calliope

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