When a new life beckons, a dutiful Amish woman must decide what she owes her family…and what she owes herself…
Since her mother's death, Naomi Esch has been devoted to caring for her father and siblings, sacrificing any hope of finding love or having a home of her own. Still, working at the local bakery and expanding her beekeeping business gives Naomi a satisfying sense of purpose.
Then, in the weeks before Christmas, her father announces his plans to immediately remarry. He and his new wife need the house for themselves, and suddenly Naomi's life is turned upside down.
But new opportunities soon come her way. A friend provides Naomi with a place to stay, and widower Nathan King offers his sprawling farmland to Naomi to continue her business–on the condition that she helps take care of his children. The setup is so perfect that the community assumes a wedding will inevitably follow.
But Naomi has vowed never to marry without love. And to Nathan she's merely convenient help. Now, for those in Pleasant Valley, uniting these two stubborn souls may take a Christmas miracle.
And here is Rachel's review:
Let me start off by saying I have two tenuous connections to the Amish: 1.) My husband is from Pennsylvania, and 2.) I was once stuck behind a buggy for about an hour while travelling to Gettysburg. Other than that, my exposure to Amish people is pretty much limited to the random TV crime show about a murder/theft/whatever that happens in an Amish community. Also, I have never read Marta Perry and don’t typically read inspirational romances. So, this reading experience was something fairly new for me.
That being said, Perry quickly transported me into the small community politics and relationships of the Amish world. This book is the seventh in the “Pleasant Valley” series, but stands alone well. There are references to happily married and in love couples that I would guess were the stars of previous novels, but reading this novel, I didn't feel like I was missing anything.
The main character, Naomi, is a bastion of the Amish spirit, humble, kind, smart, and meek. While Nathan, the hero, is less patient, he too is good at heart and humble, but is still reeling from the loss of his wife, Ada, Naomi's childhood friend. The love story between these two blossoms amidst family strife for Naomi—she is kicked out of her home by her father when he remarries. Naomi's love is an old flame reignited, while Nathan's love grows from a quiet respect, and then admiration, of her love for his children and how she has brought happiness back to his household, and himself.
I found myself very much liking Naomi. I like that she, while a very prim and proper character, is able to influence the thoughts and feelings of others in a gentle way. She leads, rather than pulls, Nathan and the children into agreeing with her. But when she is met with staunch opposition, such as that of her father, she doesn't capitulate to his demands, but rather defends the decision she feels is best for herself and carries on her way.
There are some interesting subplots that follow the main arc and give a deeper look into the Amish culture. Naomi faces some strife with her community members about her living situation with Nathan and the children, her family struggles with a schism that separates the women of the family from the men, and there is conflict between Naomi and Nathan’s sister-in-law Jessie. These trials help build Naomi as a character because we see her patient and calm manner, while still sticking to her beliefs. Throughout every conflict there are, of course, the themes of trusting in God’s plan, reacting with humility and patience, and protecting the honor of oneself and family.
One of Perry’s strengths is the ability to get the reader right into the moment with the characters. There were a number of times where I found myself crying at the sweetness of reconciliations between characters. There is a moment in the book when Nathan and Naomi have just survived a particularly scary night of sickness with the children. Nathan and Naomi talk once they’re finally asleep. Then they have a moment:
“And then his gaze caught hers. His expression became arrested, as if he saw something he had not seen before. He raised his hand, his fingertips brushing her cheek.
I find myself thinking about this passage periodically and it always makes me smile. It reminds me of those defining moments that happen in every relationship and throws me back nine years to when my husband and I stood on a porch one still summer night, gazing at each other and wondering, Could I really be so lucky?
Perry’s build up of characters and situations strike a chord in the romantic. If you’re looking for a story of a pure, sweet love that builds over time, I’m sure you would love this book.