It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Harvest House Publishers; 1st ptg thus edition (September 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Karri James | Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***
Jerry Eicher’s bestselling Amish fiction (more than 210,000 in combined sales) includes The Adams County Trilogy, the Hannah’s Heart books, and the Little Valley Series. After a traditional Amish childhood, Jerry taught for two terms in Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. Since then he’s been involved in church renewal, preaching, and teaching Bible studies. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia.
Visit the author’s website.
Bestselling author Jerry Eicher concludes the Little Valley Series with one more glimpse into young Ella’s Amish world. She loves the widower Ivan Stutzman’s children and enjoys caring for them. Although she is genuinely devoted to Preacher Stutzman and keenly aware of his desire to propose, her feelings for him stop short of romantic love. Yet Ella yearns for marriage and wonders if what she and Ivan have is enough.
When the handsome Englisha stops by and asks about converting to the Amish faith, Ella is intrigued and warily agrees to meet with him. Soon Ella realizes she’s torn between her devotion to Ivan and his children and her growing feelings for the Englisha. With dire consequences at stake, Ella must determine what the truth is, if her feelings are dependable, and how to stay faithful to the will of God.
About This Series: The Little Valley Series follows Ella Yoder, a young independent Amish woman who has suffered the loss of her beloved fiancé. Relying on her faith and the support of her community, she picks up the pieces of her shattered life and learns to live, love, and dream again.
List Price: $11.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; 1st ptg thus edition (September 1, 2011)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
“I have to try!” Ella said, the words echoing in the empty buggy. “I have to make a real home for us. The girls deserve that much.” Her thoughts wandered back to Aden and his untimely death. I have to forget him and our dreams and hopes. I must move on. Ella slapped the lines. And yet I have no feelings for Ivan Stutzman. How can I marry him?
Snowflakes drifted into the open storm front. They perched like white crystal gems on her black shawl—fragile, breakable…breathless beauty sent from heaven. She shook her blanket and sent the snowflakes flying off her lap. The horse jerked his head with the movement on the lines, as if to tell her he was going as fast as he could in this weather. At least the wind was coming from behind. The return journey would be another matter, driving straight into the teeth of what was turning out to be a fierce winter storm.
How like her life. The time since Aden’s death had flown like the wind at her back, pushing her along with its force and fury—and by men who proclaimed their love for her—Wayne Miller, the bishop, and Preacher Stutzman…Ivan.
Now the time had come to leave behind the memories of the past, to turn her heart toward love. And that journey looked to be as fierce as this trip home after supper at Ivan’s house. She could have said no to the invitation…but the girls…It was always about the girls, really. They needed a mother and a home. They needed her, and she could make the decision that would make her their mother. She would surely marry Ivan.
“You can love him, and the feelings will come later,” Ella’s mamm had said, her voice firm. “He’s a gut man of God. He loves you. And Aden’s gone forever. You can make a home for Ivan’s girls. They need that from you, and you do love them.”
From behind her she heard the sound of an Englisha vehicle approaching even though the engine was muffled by the snowdrifts on either side and the heavy cloud cover. The noise was approaching much too swiftly. She tensed. Headlights reflected off the snowbanks. Her horse turned its head sideways and his blinder slipped, leaving him blinded on that side. Ella tightened the reins to keep him away from the ditch.
The vehicle behind her sounded like it was accelerating, the motor much louder now. Ella checked her lights outside the buggy with a quick sideways glance. Were they working? The intensity of the headlights behind her drowned the feeble glow her buggy lights were putting out. Surely the driver could see her. The road behind her was a straight stretch—no curves to hide the buggy’s profile.
Ella pulled right, her horse protesting with an arch of his neck, hesitating to follow her directions. She held him to the side of the road with the sheer force of her hands on the lines.
“Slow boy,” she hollered, hoping he could hear her above the roar of the motor. “It’s safe. Come on over—just a little more, Moonbeam. Give that driver plenty of room.”
Surely it was a man in the Englisha vehicle behind her. There were women who drove as they pleased, even among the Amish. Yet it was hard to imagine that anyone but a man would drive so recklessly on slippery, snow-covered roads.
The headlights wavered and then moved away from the buggy. Ella drew in a deep breath and willed the pounding of her heart to slow down. Surely she had been spotted, and the driver was turning out in time.
She waited for the crunch of tires beside her and the swirl of snow as the vehicle passed her. Instead, it slowed as it drew alongside her, keeping pace with the horse’s slow gait. She glanced out the small buggy window. The pickup truck window was rolled down, but no faces were visible in the darkness inside the cab. Was she about to be waylaid on this lonely stretch of road during this cold winter night? Ivan’s place was still at least a mile ahead, and she would never be able to outrun a truck.
“Are you by yourself ?” the question came.
The voice was female, and Ella opened the buggy door, pushing it aside. Not that it would have done much good, but if it had been a man’s voice, she would have let out on the lines, whipping the horse with her cries and at least made a dash for Ivan’s place.
“I don’t have far to go,” she said, hoping her weak voice carried to the speaker.
“There’s a big storm comin’,” a male voice said from the other side of the truck. “Straight off the lake, the radio said. It’s supposed to dump the worst in a few hours. You’d best get off the road. It’s bound to be dangerous weather…especially for you Amish folks.”
“Ach, thanks,” Ella said. “I’m just goin’ another mile or so.”
“You’re not driving back tonight?” the man asked.
“I had thought I would, but I imagine I can stay over if things look too bad.”
“We’d best be getting inside ourselves,” the woman said. The motor roared again. Quickly the red taillights bounced and faded in the falling snow before disappearing into the blinding whiteness.
So the approaching storm was a bad one. She’d been suspecting as much the last fifteen minutes or so. Her initial hopes had gotten the best of her. She didn’t want to stay with Susanna, Ivan’s sister, but surely she could if she must. Certainly, she couldn’t stay at the main house. Should she turn back now? Yet going back was farther than moving ahead, and Ivan would worry. He would think she had gotten stuck in some ditch and would set out to find her.
She slapped the reins. There was no choice but to go on. Perhaps Moonbeam could increase his pace. He shook his head, but lifted his feet faster, his hoofbeats all but soundless on the snowy road.
In the heavy darkness, Ella stayed in the center of the road. Already the drifts were sending tentative feelers out from the edges of the banks. She kept the lines tight, glad to see a house come up ahead. The soft shine of a gas lantern glowed from the window and across the sparkling snow.
It looked Amish, the familiarity a gut thing. Like the feeling of a warm blanket at night, making the darkness beyond the glow seem less deep, the distance yet to travel closer. Inside the house would be people like her, who saw the world as she did, who experienced life in a way she could understand. Surely the Englisha felt the same about their people.
Ella drove on. No other headlights appeared, the darkness of the woods deepening on either side of her, the snow increasing by the minute. This invitation to supper from Ivan had seemed such a wise idea at the time. If only they had put the occasion off until next week. She opened the buggy door again, glancing out. There was no doubt the Englisha man had been correct—she would not be returning tonight. She would surely be spending the night at Susanna’s place. But perhaps it wouldn’t be too bad. Maybe it was Da Hah’s way to expose her to Ivan’s extended family.
Her mamm often said, “Da Hah makes use of all things for His own good.”
Since Mamm was usually right, she would simply accept tonight’s change of plans. The snowstorm was none of her doing.
Ella peered into the falling snow, recognizing the turn toward Ivan’s farm. She dodged a long stringy snowdrift, pulling sharply left, before turning into Ivan’s lane. Before her rose the familiar outlines of his white, paint-peeling home and the brown barn, both of them standing like ghostly forms in the falling snow. A light was still on in the barn, and Ella drove toward its door, pulling past the hitching post, which sat closer to the house. Moonbeam would need to be taken inside on a night like this, and since Ivan wasn’t likely to notice her arrival, Ella pulled the buggy to a stop and climbed out, preparing to unhitch by herself.
One tug was off, the leather frozen under her gloves, when the barn door swung open. Ivan rushed out, leaving the door swinging in the wind, the warm glow of the barn lantern flooding the yard and reaching the buggy. Ella blinked, her head bent against the sting of the snow.
“Ach, I didn’t hear you drive in,” Ivan said, quickly unhitching the other side of the horse. “I’m sorry about that. I half expected you to turn back.”
“The storm came up faster than I thought it would,” Ella said. “Someone did stop to warn me on the road, but I was closer here than home.”
“I’d hoped to have a better welcome for you,” Ivan said, smiling through the snowflakes that were settling on his eyebrows and beard.
“It is awful tonight,” Ella said, forcing a laugh.
Ivan grabbed the horse’s bridle, and Ella shut the buggy doors against the force and howl of the wind. She paused, opening her mouth on impulse, feeling the cold snowflakes against her tongue. How strange this evening was—so cold and yet joy stirred within from the snow. She felt young again, perhaps even ready to move on with life.
“Makes me feel like a child again,” Ella said into the wind, repeating the gesture, her mouth open longer this time. Ivan would surely think her silly, would he not?
But Ivan laughed easily with her as he led the horse forward, the shafts dropping softly onto the ground. He had paused while watching her. “Da Hah gives pleasure even in snow, doesn’t He? I just don’t look forward to all the shovelin’ tomorrow morning.”
“If it even stops by tomorrow. The Englisha couple said the storm was a bad one.”
“I think they’re right. The barometer is falling fast. I don’t think you’ll be able to get back home tonight, Ella.”
“No, I don’t suppose I can,” she said as they entered the barn. She shut the door behind them. “Can I keep Moonbeam in here for the night? And perhaps Susanna can put me up?”
Ivan turned to look at her over the horse’s mane. “I see my invitation put you in a pickle. I’m sorry about that. Susanna has room for you. I guess we could have called supper off if the storm hadn’t come so suddenly.”
“It’s not a problem,” Ella said with a nervous smile. “I really wanted to come—snowstorm or not. And this will give me more time to spend with the girls…and you. And perhaps get used to the place.”
Thankfully Ivan seemed to understand. He nodded his head. The horse bumped him, reaching its head toward the stall and the wisps of hay hanging in the manger.
Ella waited for Ivan, standing under the lantern as he led the horse forward and into the stall. He came out and shut the latch on the stall before pulling more hay down into the manger with a pitchfork.
“There!” he said. “That should keep him satisfied for the night.”
Ella rubbed her gloved hands together, the little warmth from the gas lantern on the ceiling not reaching her.
Ivan walked toward her, his face fully visible now. The snow melted from his beard, leaving wet spots that glittered in the glare of the lantern light. He seemed burdened, worried, the lines on his face longer than usual.