Overall rating: 9/10 Bonus points for referencing "breakfast casseroles", an idea which my fiancé and his friends are now obsessed with!
Yet again, BarbOverall rating: 9/10 Bonus points for referencing "breakfast casseroles", an idea which my fiancé and his friends are now obsessed with!
Yet again, Barbara Cameron manages to blend modern day war conflicts with the peaceful Amish life in the second book in her Quilts of Lancaster County series. Having encountered Jenny, the heroine of A Time to Love, while recuperating in a veteran's hospital, Christopher heads to Lancaster County in search of the Amish countryside that Jenny described so vividly to him. Unsure of where life will take him next, Christopher is content to rest on Jenny and her husband Matthew's farm, far from the horrors of war and the harsh treatment he received for reporting a fellow soldier for mistreating a civilian. He finds a kindred spirit in Hannah, Matthew's sister, and the two build an unlikely friendship. But when a series of attacks on the farm make Christopher think he's still being punished for turning in his old comrade, he begins to regret bringing his troubles to Lancaster County, particularly when Hannah might get hurt. Will Christopher run from his past, or place his trust in God and believe that he has brought him to Lancaster County for a reason?
Barbara is a refreshing voice in the Amish genre and her second "bonnet" novel is just as strong as her first. Fans of the series will be pleased that Jenny and her new family feature heavily in this novel, and that Hannah gets a story of her own. As with A Time to Love, a wounded soldier falls for an Amish local on a visit to Lancaster County, and, as can be expected, this creates a lot of culture clashes. While I'm not always a fan of the conversion-to-the-Amish storylines, I do find it quite believable that someone who has witnessed the horrors of the war zone first hand would turn to a rural, old-fashioned, pacifist society for solace and fall head over heels in love with it. When Chris arrives on Jenny’s doorstep, desperate to talk to her about his worries, it’s clear that he sees her as a the key to his problems – but instead, he finds freedom in the beauty of God’s nature while working on the farm. Barbara has clearly done her research into military court cases and PTS, making Chris a very realistic character with whom readers will instantly connect and sympathise.
The relationship between Chris and Hannah was fun to read, and it was sweet to witness their friendship slowly developing into something more. Both of them tried to fight any feelings of attraction, and it was particularly amusing to see Jenny and her grandmother, Phoebe, pushing both of them forwards in their relationship. While some Amish novels portray the Plain people as being hostile to outsiders, Barbara’s characters were entirely welcoming to Chris, even entertaining the idea of an outsider developing a relationship with Hannah. Hannah is not your typical “Amish miss”, as Chris remarks on several occasions, but her desire for a husband and family is one that all readers of romantic fiction will be able to understand.
However, I have to admit that something didn’t sit right with Chris’s decision to stay in the Lancaster County. While I felt it was convincing when Jenny made the same decision in A Time to Love, the fact that she had visited her Amish grandmother every summer as a child made her conversion to the faith so much more understandable. I felt that Chris was drawn in by nothing more than the allure of escaping the modern world and, of course, Hannah. While I can’t condemn him for appreciating how freeing the Amish lifestyle appears to outsiders – I’m sure all readers of this genre are equally guilty – I felt that there was no sign of Chris having made a spiritual connection with the Amish way of life. It seemed almost as if Chris was considering converting only so he could be with Hannah, and I find it hard to imagine that he would be making the same decision if a girl wasn’t in the picture. I have a feeling that this is something that more critical readers of Amish fiction might take issue with. If you can suspend disbelief and get wrapped up in the romance of this novel, this issue is very minor, but it is a point that remained in my head days after I’d finished the novel.
If you’re a romance fan who wants a subtle change to your Amish fiction, A Time to Heal is the book for you. Blending modern day issues into the lives of the Amish, Barbara Cameron brings context to her fiction, and a contrast between the Plain folk and the war zones of the Middle East that will make the lives of her Lancaster County residents even more appealing. While I wasn’t entirely convinced by Chris’s final decision, it didn’t spoil my reading experience and I was still thoroughly pleased with the conclusion to Hannah and Chris’s romance.
Review title provided courtesy of Abingdon Press....more
Barbara Cameron twists the typical storyline of an "English" woman falling in love with an Amish man in her first novel in the Quilts of Lancaster serBarbara Cameron twists the typical storyline of an "English" woman falling in love with an Amish man in her first novel in the Quilts of Lancaster series. Jenny has always felt a special connection to her grandmother's Amish community, despite her father leaving the faith as a teenager. When she's injured while reporting from a war-torn country, Jenny decides to recuperate in Lancaster, where she feels at peace. There she reconnects with Matthew, a man she became friends with on her childhood summer visits, whom she discovers she still has a crush on. But Jenny's still hurting, both physically and emotionally, and she's not sure if she's ready for a relationship - let alone one with a widower who has three children and belongs to a completely separate part of society. It's going to take the help of the handsome farmer himself, his adorable children, his meddling sister and Jenny's ever-faithful grandmother to convince Jenny that God has brilliant plans for her future, no matter how bleak the repercussions of her accident may look.
Jenny is the anti-heroine: she's insecure about her looks, worried about her future and cares more about others than herself. She's a woman that we should all be able to relate to. I loved that Barbara Cameron dared to create a character who struggled with her movements and speech; Jenny struggles with things that we take for granted yet she still manages to make new friends and fall in love. Her lifestyle is also unconventional, having spent most of her adult life in war-torn countries reporting on how children are suffering. Cameron really makes us feel the heart that Jenny has for the children she meets, and how she wonders if she's let opportunities disappear from her life because of her career. More and more women in today's society are getting married late and put off having families because they want to focus on their jobs, like Jenny, which is what makes her an appealing and modern character.
Her love interest, Matthew, is also appealing. He's an old-fashioned gentleman, always eager to help Jenny and constantly looking for opportunities to visit her, which is most endearing! Matthew is father to three children, and I have to admit that I like the storyline of a single woman falling in love with a man with a past and a brood of kids. The children added humour and lightness to the story and served to show us what a loving woman Jenny is. Not only does she fall in love with the Amish and Matthew, but Jenny becomes enamoured with his children. Annie in particular was incredibly cute and I'm sure every reader will have a soft spot in their heart for her.
I was incredibly impressed with Barbara Cameron's venture into the genre of Amish fiction and especially pleased with her unique take on the genre. Jenny had previous connections with the Amish community through her grandparents which made her involvement with the People, and her interest in Matthew, all the more believable. I also loved how Jenny wasn't a typical romantic heroine and had the same struggles that we all have - and much more. This is a fantastic novel and I'll definitely be looking out for the second in the series, A Time to Heal, in March 2011. 10/10...more
"A Change of Heart" by Beth Wiseman ~ I enjoyed reading a story about an Amish woman who had artistic talents, but little patience for the typical ski"A Change of Heart" by Beth Wiseman ~ I enjoyed reading a story about an Amish woman who had artistic talents, but little patience for the typical skills expected of an Amish woman. Leah could be a good cook if she applied herself, but her writing came so much more easily to her. She was an incredibly real character. Her family also felt very believable, with all the different dynamics between the sisters. It was interesting to see how her relationship with Aaron unfolded. Each of them entered the courtship with their own agenda--Leah wanted a friend to discuss writing with and needed someone to help her escape her father's strict rules, and Aaron didn't care much for Leah's writing and longer for her to be a conventional wife. They had a lot to sort out before they got to their happy ending, and the interferences from Aaron's eccentric Aunt Ruth were pretty amusing. This was a sweet story about recognising God-given talents and appreciating these in each other. 4.5*
"A Place of His Own" by Kathleen Fuller ~ I actually read this novella in another collection a few years ago, and I remember enjoying it but wishing it were longer. This definitely had the potential to be developed into a full-length novel, but I think I appreciated its nuances more the second time around. Josiah's fear about taking on his father's bad temper was really heart-wrenching, and I was pleased when he was able to overcome this. Amanda seemed a little immature and pushy at times, but ultimately it was for the greater good. Probably my least favourite story in the collection because I felt it could have been longer and not felt so rushed, but still enjoyable. 4*
"When Winter Comes" by Barbara Cameron ~ It's been a while since I read anything by Barbara, and this story reminded me of why I so enjoyed her early novels. This novella dealt with some really tough issues, including the unexpected death of a sibling, its impact on close family and friends, and an Amish woman choosing to seek help from an English therapist. I've only read one other Amish novel (that I can recall) that dealt with the issue of mental health and seeking outside help, and I appreciated the way Barbara dealt with it in this novel. As for the romance, I did get frustrated with the lack of communication and abundance of misunderstandings between Rebecca and Ben. I was happy for them in the end, but they could be rather immature. A sweet story, if a little frustrating at times. 4*
I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Debra Solberg. Weirdly, the first two stories were the wrong way around, but thankfully this wasn't too confusing--although Kathleen's story did reference something that happened in Beth's. It took me a while to get used to this narrator. She wasn't bad, but she could have been better. Instead of putting a lot of emotion into her narration, she focused on annunciating her words exactly, which was a little distracting. Once I got used to it, I hardly noticed it.
As novellas go, this collection was pretty good. It dealt with some tough issues, even if it was predictable at points in the misunderstandings between couples. 4*...more