Thursday, January 9, 2014

A review of Christmas in Apple Ridge...

It's still liturgically Christmas everybody, so tune in for a seasonally appropriate book review. :0 I adore Amish fiction, and one of the reasons is that the books are so, so COZY. You will feel good while you are reading them. Plus, they espouse the values we cherish as Catholics, so the fit is perfect.

Christmas in Apple Ridge by Cindy Woodsmall, is a three story contemporary compilation centering around a small town in Pennsylvania. These are full books compiled here, not novellas, so you get a lot of reading for your money with this volume, it's a good bargain for the $18.99 cover price.

The first installment is The Sound of Sleigh Bells, and although very solidly written it is my least favorite of the three. In this story we meet Beth Hertzler, co-owner of the local dry goods store, and Jonah, a wood carver from Ohio who is suffering the physical effects of a sleighing accident. Beth has been mourning the death of her fiance for what her aunt, Lizzy, believes is an unhealthy amount of time. When Beth meets Jonah during a business trip and is drawn to his talent and soft spoken manner, Lizzie conspires to bring the two very reserved and wounded souls together in friendship via letter writing. The complication is that both Beth and Jonah are under some misunderstanding about who they are actually writing to. Will Lizzy's plan backfire or finally bring love to two people who had given up on marriage? This story dragged a bit in the middle, but the reveal toward the end of Beth's back story was quite unexpected and interesting. It is well worth reading, and these two characters appear again in both of the next two stories in the most charming of ways.

The Christmas Singing grabbed my interest right away because of the setting. Mattie is a cake decorator that owns her own bakery in Ohio. She moved away from her hometown of Apple Ridge after having her heart broken by her childhood beau, Gideon. When an unexpected tragedy forces her to move back home right before Christmas, she has to face Gideon again and try to rebuild her life and dreams without the independence she had cherished in Ohio. In such a small town, Mattie cannot avoid Gideon, and though he still loves her, he is determined to hide some things from her about the cause of their breakup years ago. What is the cause of Gideon's secrecy? And can Mattie forgive him and find happiness again back in Apple Ridge? The author also introduces another couple briefly in this story, Anna and Aden, whose Old Order Mennonite/Old Order Amish romance and cultural crossover receives its own stand alone book in The Scent of Cherry Blossoms. Now I can't wait to read that one! The Christmas Singing also includes a few cake recipes that are mentioned in the story.

The final story is The Dawn of Christmas, and this installment features another strong heroine like the previous two. This story is quite unconventional and I could not have enjoyed it more. Sadie broke up with her fiance when she discovered his untoward actions towards another woman just before their wedding. Since her former fiance was untruthful about what had happened, her Old Order Amish community never totally understood Sadie's reasons for the breakup. Sadie's parents subsequently granted her permission to travel as a missionary to Peru with a Mennonite group so that she could have a fresh start, but after four years, her father now wants her back home. Sadie is reluctant to relinquish her independence and her excitement for life as a missionary. Levi is a local bachelor that has witnessed the devastating effects of a bad marriage and never wants to marry. When Sadie and Levi become friends, they devise a plan to present themselves as courting to their community so that, at least temporarily, they will no longer receive pressure to marry. During this time, Sadie plans to raise money for another mission trip and ultimately both can go their separate ways. Will Sadie and Levi find themselves viewing each other as more than just friends and break through the emotional barriers both have towards marriage?

I enjoyed reading this trilogy. I also loved seeing the characters from the previous stories come back in subsequent books. The writing was strong and the setting beyond lovely. I will definitely be reading other books by this author, and indeed have already placed some on my wish list! If you are thinking about purchasing this book, you can read chapter 1 for free here!

If you enjoyed my review, please do rank it. I so appreciate it!

*I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

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