Saturday, December 19, 2015

"amish christmas at north star" by woodsmall, clark, flower, and ganshert

Several years ago, I tired of the Amish fiction genre. Now, it takes something big for me to pick up an Amish book—something like one of my favorite authors penning her first Amish story. When I heard that Katie Ganshert had an entry in an Amish anthology, well, I couldn't wait to read it!

One night four lives entered the world by the hands of an Amish midwife, just outside North Star, Pennsylvania. 

Rebekah’s Babies, as they are called, are now grown adults and in four heartwarming novellas each young person experiences a journey of discovery, a possibility of love, and the wonder of Christmas.

Guiding Star by Katie Ganshert
Curiosity gets the best of Englischer Chase Wellington when he investigates the twenty-five-year-old disappearance of an Amish baby. When he finds adventurous Elle McAllister in Iowa will his discoveries upend her world? 

Mourning Star by Amanda Flower
Eden Hochstetler slips from her parents’ fudge shop to investigate the death of her friend Isaac.  Who is guilty? Isaac’s handsome great nephew Jesse, an angry Englischer, or someone else?

In the Stars by Cindy Woodsmall
Heartbroken Kore Detweiler avoids North Star after Savilla Beiler rejects his love.  But when he is unexpectedly called to return home, he and Savilla must join forces to keep a family together.

Star of Grace by Mindy Starns Clark and Emily Clark
Andy Danner left North Star to join a new Amish settlement in Mississippi. His little brother devises a scheme to bring Andy home for Christmas and unwittingly unleashes the power of forgiveness in a reclusive widower’s life.

Since I came for Ganshert (and because her novella is first in the anthology), I'll talk about her entry first: Guiding Star. I've read Ganshert's women's fiction, romance, and dystopian YA, and I wondered how she would do writing an Amish romance. The answer is twofold: 1. She wrote a great love story. 2. She didn't write an Amish romance. That's because her heroine, Elle, was born Amish but raised by an Englisch family. Her interactions with her Amish family are very touching, but Elle and Chase are Englischers through and through. I found that to be refreshing—no one became Amish or left the Amish for love; through Elle, Ganshert gave an outsider's look into an Amish community. I also loved the build in Elle and Chase's relationship. 5 stars.

Mourning Star is a cute novella about two young women, Amish girl Eden and her best friend (and Englischer) Gina, who try to uncover the murderer of Eden's elderly friend Isaac. Along the way, Eden begins to fall for Isaac's nephew. This is a fun novella, though I did feel a little let down by the way the murderer was caught ... and by his motivation. Still, it was an enjoyable read. 4 stars.

In the Stars is the longest of the novellas in the collection, and I wouldn't have minded if it had been longer! Savvy broke Kore's heart when she unexpectedly ended their relationship. Her reasons (which I won't spoil here) are compelling, and I'm sure many women will identify in some way with her story. While I normally would scoff at this type of plot line, the fact that it's an Amish story makes it a bit more understandable. When Kore and Savvy are thrown together to care for some children, it's quickly obvious that they still care for one another, and I enjoyed watching them find their way back together. 4 stars.

Star of Grace turned out to be my favorite in the collection—a case of saving the best for last! This novella contains less romance than the other three, but it's also the most complete and compelling story. All Sam Danner wants for Christmas is for his older brother Andy to come home, so he devises a plan: if he can earn enough money to pay for Andy's train ticket home, surely Andy will come. He begins working for Vincent, a sad and bitter old man ... and as the two work together, both of their lives are changed. I loved watching Vincent's story slowly unfold and seeing how Sam's kindness to him rippled out to affect everyone around. 5 stars.

The prologue and epilogue (written by Ganshert) neatly tie together the various stories, and the epilogue answers several questions unresolved by the end of each novella. Overall, this is a wonderful collection—the perfect Christmas read! 4-1/2 stars.

Read the prologue and first chapter.
Buy the book.
Read my reviews of Ganshert's An October Bride (5 stars), The Perfect Arrangement (5 stars), A Broken Kind of Beautiful (5 stars), and Wildflowers from Winter (5 stars).

CINDY WOODSMALL is a best-selling author of several works of Amish fiction and a non-fiction book. MINDY STARNS CLARK is a bestselling author of both fiction and nonfiction, coauthoring the Christy Award-winning The Amish Midwife. Her daughter EMILY CLARK is an MFA student. AMANDA FLOWER authored the Amish Quilt Shop mysteries as Isabella Alan and received an Agatha Award nomination for Maid of Murder. Christy Award winner KATIE GANSHERT is the author of A Broken Kind of Beautiful, three other novels and two novellas.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links on this page are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase a product, I will receive a commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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