Book Review: The Last Bride

Last BrideThe Last Bride by Beverly Lewis is the fifth in her Home to Hickory Hollow series but can easily be read as a stand-alone novel. Tessie Ann Miller is the last of five daughters in her family and the only one still unmarried. She loves Marcus King, but her father disapproves of him. He wants to encourage Levi Smucker’s attentions to his daughter. Marcus and Tessie decide their best course of action is to marry secretly, have Tessie remain home with her parents, and then tell them the news when they feel the time is right.

As you can imagine, they set themselves up for a number of problems. I did guess one outcome of their situation, but another totally took me off guard. It happens fairly early in the story, so I can’t say too much about it without spoiling the suspense.

Woven in is a subplot involving Tessie’s sister, who was in a similar situation except that she did end up marrying the man her father preferred. But that situation did not go smoothly either, and she struggles to learn to live with and submit to someone she doesn’t truly love.

There is an undercurrent, if not a theme, on the problems caused by keeping secrets: at least four characters keep secrets from others, for varying lengths of time, but with negative consequences in each case. One of them is Tessie’s own father, who doesn’t reveal the reasons why he wanted his daughters not to marry certain men until the hardships caused by what appears to be his unreasonableness bruise his relationships.

Another undercurrent in the story is the fact that, since many people in the community are related in some degree to each other, there is a plethora of genetic diseases among their children.

One factor common to all the books in this series, besides the fact that they are set in Hickory Hollow, which I believe is the setting for Beverly’s first books, is the presence of Ella May Zook, an older lady whom they call the Wise Woman who gives kind and gentle but helpful advice to the main characters.

I always enjoy Beverly’s books. Hers is pretty much the only “Amish fiction” I read, and I started back before that became a popular genre. I enjoyed following along with what the characters were learning about their walk with God and each other.

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

A few quick book reviews

I finished a few books fairly close together so I thought I’d review them all at once.

Journey Into ChristmasJourney Into Christmas by Bess Streeter Aldrich was recommended on someone’s blog, but I forget whose. The book is a collection of short stories, all, of course, having something to do with Christmas, in different times and settings. Some are sweet, some are poignant, none are frothy. Probably my favorite was an excerpt from her novel A Lantern in Her Hand (which I think I’d like to read some time). In the short story from it, times have been extremely hard for folks on the frontier, with no good crops for several years in a row. Most aren’t in the mood to celebrate Christmas and have little with which to celebrate anyway. Abbie, a young wife and mother, starts out feeling the same way, despairing at first, but then decides to do what she can, even as others scoff. Her husband gets into the Christmas spirit as well, and soon they both have stayed up late or stolen moments to make little gifts for the children, and that Christmas goes down as one that remains most in their memories. Abbie’s efforts remind me of a quote I once saw from a pioneer woman that went something like, “I make my quilts well to keep my family warm; I make them beautiful to keep my heart from breaking.”

I did find, however, that it is hard for me to get into short stories. You’d think they’d be easy to pick up and put down, especially during a busy time like Christmas, but without the momentum of one chapter carrying over to the next, for me it was harder to stay with it. But overall it was a good book.

100-Pound-Loser100 Pound Loser: How I Ate What I Wanted, Had Four Babies, & Still Took Control Of My Weight – And You Can Too! by Jessica Heights of Muthering Heights is an e-book available in a Kindle format or as a PDF file. I don’t remember how I became aware of this, but the title is certainly an attention grabber, especially for anyone who needs to lose weight.

What was there was good and inspirational: I just wish there was more of it. When anyone has successfully lost weight, the first thing everyone wonders is “How did you do it?!?!” The author shares some of the details, but not as much as I would have liked.

Courting-CateI won Courting Cate from its author, Leslie Gould, through a fun Fall Scavenger Hunt involving several Christian fiction authors. I had never read Leslie before, and though I don’t read a great deal of Amish fiction, this title intrigued me because it is based on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. That is one of his plays I have never seen or read, but I knew the basic gist of it. I was glad I didn’t know the plot details, though, because then much of the book was a surprise to me, and afterward it was fun to find out more about Shrew through Wikipedia and SparkNotes and compare.

Cate, in this story, is a sharp-tongued, short-tempered Amish young woman who works in her father’s shop, loves to read, is not handy in the kitchen, and has decided she will never marry. Her sister, Betsy, seems to attract potential suitors like flies, but not Cate: she seems to repel them. When Pete Treger comes to town, she’s strangely attracted to him, but as the sparks fly even with him, she knows they have no future. But then her father makes an edict that Betsy can’t marry until Cate does, and since Betsy wants to marry, she and her cohorts conspire to bring Pete and Cate together.

I was expecting this book to be lighthearted and comedic, and it is in some places, but I was surprised and touched at the poignancy of Cate’s feeling unloved and unlovable and her wrestling with God when she finds herself stuck in very hard circumstances. I ended up loving this book and looking forward to reading more from Leslie.

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)