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Book Series Discussions > Amish series by Shelter Somerset

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message 1: by Octobercountry (last edited Aug 03, 2014 07:58AM) (new)

Octobercountry | 1169 comments Mod
I've just finished the third volume in Shelter Somerset's "Amish" series, a set of books detailing the relationship between a young Illinois Amish man and an "English" originally from Maryland. I've commented on the two earlier books previously, but figured I'd just start a whole new discussion here in the "Book Series" folder and re-post the previous reviews here.

message 2: by Octobercountry (new)

Octobercountry | 1169 comments Mod
Between Two Worlds (Amish #1):

Aiden Cermak and Daniel Schrock are the definition of “worlds apart.” It doesn’t get more different than agnostic and Amish, and no one is more aware of this than Aiden. The young Chicago journalist travels to central Illinois Amish Country to research an article and ends up as a house guest of Daniel and his family after an act of bravery leaves the Schrocks in his debt.

Aiden is drawn to the solemn and mysterious Daniel and decides to hang around Amish Country for a while longer, despite the risk of terrible consequences for Daniel. But Daniel’s suspect sexuality might not be the only secret he’s harboring, and as Aiden becomes more and more enmeshed in the community, he discovers that a hidden past may make it even harder for Daniel to face his emerging feelings. It may be impossible to build a bridge between their worlds—their only hope may be to carve out a world of their own.

I recently finished reading "Between Two Worlds" by Shelter Somerset (hmmm, cool name---but sounds a bit like a nom de plume!):

There are not huge numbers of Amish in my own immediate neighbourhood (for that, one has to travel to areas a short distance away), but still it’s not uncommon to see horses and buggies on the public road that runs at the end of the lane here. And due to a certain penchant for nostalgia, I’ve always been somewhat drawn to the Amish, or the idea of this sect at least. It seems fascinating to me, for a group to exist in the modern world while in many ways still living in the past. Oh, I know I romanticize these people, who surely are not so very different in basic human nature than everyone else. But since I’ve never gotten to know any Amish personally, this fascination remains, despite the fact that I am well aware that I would never fit into such a society. Couldn’t do without my technology now, could I---too attached to my movies and music and messing about on the computer! Oh, and of course there’s the fact that my own religious beliefs are completely incompatible with the Amish---remember, it simply is not possible to be openly, happily gay and a member of the Amish community.

This lengthy introduction is meant to illustrate that I have a predilection for stories about the Amish, though at this point I’ve only read one gay-themed story that would fit the bill. (That being one from Andrew Grey’s “Love Means…” series---and that story wasn’t actually set in an Amish community.) At any rate, "Between Two Worlds" was every bit as satisfactory as I could hope for; I loved this book. It was one of those stories that I simply hated to set aside, I wanted so much to know what would happen next.

The situations, characters---I thought it was all fascinating, all the while wondering if there was any way that Daniel and Aiden could actually end up together in the end. I’m not exactly giving anything away by saying there is a most satisfactory conclusion---but so many questions remain. Remember---from what I understand, once a person is baptized in the church, if he should want to come out as gay, he would be shunned by every member of the church----he would lose his entire family, his community; it would all be gone.

The moment I finished the book I looked up the author and saw---whew!---that there is in fact a follow-up volume titled "Between Two Promises." And I’m going to jump into this one right away; can’t wait! Shelter Somerset also has a few other titles out; I have the feeling that I’m going to enjoy reading all of his work.


The cover, however, is an unfortunate Photoshopped pastiche. Ah well....

message 3: by Octobercountry (last edited Aug 03, 2014 07:03AM) (new)

Octobercountry | 1169 comments Mod
Between Two Promises (Amish #2):

Daniel Schrock and Aiden Cermak have forged a life in the rural Montana foothills, but a shadow still lingers, made stronger when a letter arrives from Daniel's brother Mark inviting him to his Christmas wedding. Daniel fears returning home might force what he wants to avoid: telling his family about Aiden and facing the dreaded Amish shunning....

As I noted in my review of Shelter Somerset’s "Between Two Worlds," once I had finished the first book I couldn't resist immediately reading the sequel, titled "Between Two Promises."

When I reached the end of the previous volume, I couldn't help but think that Daniel and Aiden had a very rough road ahead of them. Important choices would have to be made sooner or later, and they wouldn't be easy---no matter what decisions were reached, there would be pain involved.

And my musings were soon proved to be correct: this story begins about two months after the conclusion of the first book, and while the two men had been letting things slide up to that point, it was apparent that actions would soon have to be taken that would permanently affect their lives, one way or another.

As I was reading I kept wishing that I could take Aiden aside, and tell him that he was pushing for far too much, too soon, too emphatically. But then, I also wanted to tell Daniel that he really did need to be more understanding as well, and try to look at things from Aiden’s point of view on occasion. Well…. That’s what makes for good drama, eh?

We get a glimpse into additional aspects of the world of the Amish this time around, and the picture isn't entirely positive. A lot of people do view the Amish way of life with a sort of romance, through rose-coloured glasses---and I’ll admit I have been guilty of this myself. But in this story we see that the very structure of this constricted, walled-off society does leave itself vulnerable to all sorts of unchecked abuses. This is a real problem, and I've read a few accounts of some of these scandals in the papers from time to time, though often these problems go unreported.

A mystery that was a small part of the plot of the first book plays out in the conclusion of the second. But, I have to say that the solution is extremely unlikely! I mean, almost ridiculously so---I don’t think any reader could guess how things would end up given the clues (or lack thereof) that were present in the text. Then again---I have to admit that I've read many mysteries over the years that were just as preposterous, so I’m not complaining too much.

Actually, the fact that right near the end certain adventure/mystery story elements come to the forefront (with one of the main characters being put in peril) was a surprise to me. Because this really isn't a mystery at all---it’s the study of a developing and evolving relationship between two men from extremely different backgrounds. And so the shift in tone in the last ⅙ or so of the text was unexpected. Still, that’s not really a negative necessarily, just an observation.

I have to say I loved both Aiden and Daniel, and was totally caught up in their story. I wouldn't mind reading even more about them, though I don’t know that the author has any plans to continue their tale. But in the meantime, there are several other books by Mr Somerset that I’ll be putting on my list, and I look forward to reading them.

Cover much better this time around, but I don't know about that typeface....

message 4: by Octobercountry (new)

Octobercountry | 1169 comments Mod
Between Two Loves (Amish #3):

Spring struggles against winter in the mountains of Montana as Aiden Cermak and Daniel Schrock settle into their new life together. Aiden, a journalist from the East Coast, wants to make a rustic home for them and their adopted dog, though he continues his reporter’s quest for the truth. Daniel’s roots are traditional Amish, and though he’s become a successful carpenter with his own shop, the modern world still baffles him.

When Aiden’s former boyfriend, Conrad Barringer, ill and alone, asks Aiden and Daniel for help, they agree and welcome him, but with misgivings that persist and grow. Aiden finds fulfillment in nursing Conrad, yet worries that the closeness he shares with Daniel will be lost, as Daniel isolates more and more. Then Daniel learns of an ugly revelation that could change everything, and he grapples with whether to tell Aiden the truth, or carry it with him to his grave.

We have a much simpler and streamlined story this time around. There are really only two primary plot threads, and two major supporting characters in addition to our leads.

Both of the plots are resolved satisfactorily---there are no cliffhangers, nothing left too unfinished---but the reader may still be wondering a bit how certain issues were resolved. I know I was! Some things are left to the imagination that I would have preferred to see on the page.

I enjoyed the story overall, but did feel the focus was taken away from Aiden and Daniel in this instalment. That said, if the author writes any more about these two I'll happily read it.

message 5: by Keira (new)

Keira Andrews (keiraandrews) | 39 comments Thanks for the reviews, Octobercountry! Very timely for me, as the first book in my gay Amish series is coming out September 3. I haven't read Somerset's series since I didn't want to muddy the waters while working on my own books, but I look forward to reading in the future. :)

(There's more info here on my first Amish book if you're interested:

Remember---from what I understand, once a person is baptized in the church, if he should want to come out as gay, he would be shunned by every member of the church----he would lose his entire family, his community; it would all be gone.

Yep. Although they wouldn't need to be baptized to be shunned for being gay. They wouldn't be excommunicated (since they haven't joined the church), but if an Amish man or woman came out as gay they would be shunned. It may be a defacto shunning rather than officially being added to the Bann, but it would have the same effect. As you said, it's impossible to be out and gay and still live among the Amish.

One of the most interesting things I learned during my research and in speaking to ex-Amish people is how different one Amish settlement can be from another. (I also learned that those Amish "reality" shows on TLC are nonsense, but I'd suspected that was the case!) I'd figured one Amish community was pretty much like another, but there can be so many variations in rules and lifestyle. (Although it's safe to say being gay is not accepted in any Amish community. Not that I've heard, at any rate.)

My characters, Isaac and David, are Swartzentruber Amish, which is a very conservative subgroup of the Old Order (which in turn is more conservative than the New Order). Isaac and David are really between a rock and a hard place, to put it mildly.

It was fascinating learning more about the Amish world. Not that I'm an expert now by any means, but my goal was to make my books as realistic as possible. I did leave some things out, though. For example, many Swartzentruber Amish lose their teeth and get dentures very young due to a lack of dental care. I wanted to be true to life, but when writing a romance novel, dentures just aren't sexy! ;)

message 6: by Octobercountry (new)

Octobercountry | 1169 comments Mod
Thanks for the information---and please do feel free to mention your new book on the "Author-specific Discussions" folder when it's released. I'm interested in reading it, but am afraid I'll forget all about it without a reminder!

When doing your research, were there any reference books about the Amish that you found particularly helpful?

message 7: by Keira (last edited Aug 04, 2014 06:49PM) (new)

Keira Andrews (keiraandrews) | 39 comments Will do! I'll be sure to remind you. :)

One book that stands out is Plain Secrets: An Outsider among the Amish. It was written by an English man who became good friends with a Swartzentruber Amish family nearby. The juxtaposition of their two worlds was very interesting, as were the little tidbits about daily life. It's nicely written, and very balanced. He wasn't out to romanticize or demonize the Amish, but just capture his observations. I really enjoyed it, and it was quite helpful.

Growing Up Amish was also helpful, particularly in regards to just how hard it is to leave the Amish world. It's not as well written as Mackall's book, but it did offer useful insight.

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