Thomas Nelson, $15.99, ISBN 978-1-4016-8567-6
Contemporary Romance, 2012
There’s the word Amish in the title and the publisher of this anthology is Thomas Nelson. People, these are two flags that the stories contained here are Christian romances. God is hovering over the marriage bed at all times, so to speak. I’ve always wanted to read an Amish romance, so when I found this anthology in a bookstore one day, I decided to pick it up despite its hefty cover price. Well, now that I’m done with it, in hindsight, perhaps an anthology isn’t the best place to check out whether Amish hunks come in hot packages. The normal flaws of an anthology are here, only amplified because two of the authors fall into the trap of equating faith with infantile behavior.
Kelly Long is the biggest culprit of the three authors here. Her story, A Taste of Faith, has our heroine Fern Zook desperately wishing that hunky farmer Abram Fisher would purchase her honey jar and make her a true wife and bride in the eyes of the almighty. Unfortunately, Abram thinks that his days of kissing women are in the past (remember, anything beyond kissing angers the Big Guy above) and he’d rather sow his crops on his land. He’d seen how his male buddies grow fat or sad after being married, so no wife for him, thanks.
Fern may claim to be 20 years old, but she may as well be born yesterday, given how she runs around the story gulping like a confused goldfish. She has no personality – she only exists to care to and tend the people and animals around her – and somewhere along the line, her brain died on her because she puts on an impressive display of stupidity in this story. It also doesn’t help that the author has Fern eavesdropping on Abram only to assume the worst and start the whole silly miscommunication nonsense for conflict. He’s like a brat, she’s like an infant with mental problems, and the whole story is just a waste of time.
Amy Clipston’s A Spoonful of Love demonstrates how quaintly old school the Amish can be. Spend time with a guy without a chaperone? You’ll get ostracized forever because the caring and merciful people around you decree thus. Still, this story of Hannah King, who runs a B&B, and Stephen Esh, a stranger coming to the neighborhood in search of salvation, is sweet and charming. I like that Hannah does practice what she believes in: she doesn’t judge anyone, she keeps an open mind, and she is also understanding when she should be. In other words, I like her. Stephen is a standard tortured hero, but he’s alright too.
The story drags on for a bit too long for my liking, however, as the author constantly has the characters go out of their way to do and say things in order to convey key messages about faith and god to me, the reader. I’m always confused by this, by the way. I may be the rare exception, but generally, aren’t readers of such stories already Christians? It seems like an act of showboating, then, to hammer principles and messages to readers who should already know and believe in these things. A self-defeating act, too, as the frequent lapses into sermonizing interrupt the flow of the story and kill its momentum.
Beth Wiseman’s A Recipe for Hope has Eve Bender forced to bring her family to stay at her parents’ place while their home is being repaired (a storm blew a tree into her house). The synopsis at the back cover suggests that Eve would come into conflict with her mother over how things should be done, but the real conflict here is how her son wants to sneak off to kiss some girl behind Eve’s back. Oh, don’t worry, it’s only kissing, because these kids are always incapable of doing anything more until they are married. This is a very short story, with all conflicts quickly and easily – too easily, sometimes – resolved, so it doesn’t really do anything for me. It seems to be written solely as an excuse to toss all the couples in this anthology into a happy get together in the end.
I only find one story even close to being satisfying in An Amish Kitchen, and I don’t like that story that much. Clearly it wasn’t God guiding my hand the day I decided to put this book into my shopping bag, sigh.