I loved this story. I am never disappointed with Mary Ellis' stories. This one, however, is especially special since I actually live in Somerset, Kentucky. I often visit the Amish communities, and I assure you that these places exist. Not Charm, of course, but the roads, the businesses, etc. are real. It is no wonder that her characters seem to spring to life from the pages. She has done her research! I know you will have trouble putting this book down, just as I did. Mary Ellis does not disappoint; she is truly a gifted storyteller.
A Little Bit of Charm is the third book in The New Beginnings series. It is not necessary to have read books one and two to understand this novel. It actually has very little to do with those books except a few references to events in the past.
While I found the story charming, it was also a bit slow for me. The conflict was mostly internal, when it occurred. I didn't connect with Jake or Rachel--despite my love for all things horses--which made it hard for me to "get into" their story. Throughout the story, I kept wondering at the believability of the characters' actions and reactions.
All in all I enjoyed the book and look forward to Beth's story, which I assume will be the fourth and final book in this series.
***I received this book from the publisher/author for purposes of review. The above is my honest opinion.***
"A Little Bit of Charm" is the third in a series titled The New Beginnings, which began with a house fire in Lancaster, Pennsylvania that tragically killed the parents of the King sisters. The first book, "Living in Harmony", takes the eldest, Amy and Nora to a stricter Amish community in the fictional town Harmony, Maine. Mary Ellis ably and realistically depicts the family dynamics of her protagonists and their adherence to The Ordnung. These ordinances or series of rules for living an obedient Plain life are determined by each individual Amish Church community throughout the United States and Ontario, Canada and govern all behavior from housekeeping, attire, adoption of some modern conveniences for business purposes to specifics of religious observances. With Amy married and settled and Nora chafing at the unaccustomed conservatism of the tiny Maine community, the second book in the series, "Love Comes to Paradise", introduces the reader to a less rigid Amish community in rural Missouri. Rebellious Nora has followed her heart and moved to be closer to the attractive, Englisch influenced Elam Detweiler, the black sheep brother-in-law of her older sister Amy.
"A Little Bit of Charm" is the third and possibly final book in the New Beginnings series. Author Ellis has prudently left the door open for a future update with the introduction of a fourth, younger sister, the very engaging and outspoken fifteen year-old Beth, who remained behind in Lancaster to be raised by their "Grossmammi" after their parent's sudden death. The mythical Charm, Kentucky is located somewhere south and central of the very real vibrant community of Elizabethtown. With both sisters married and busy establishing their own homes, Rachel King is eager to seek her destiny in a new community. Densely populated Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the traditional Amish heartland offers fewer opportunities for young Amish. Land prices have skyrocketed as more farms have been sold to developers for upscale suburban homes for Englishers.
Rachel King is closer to a modern heroine than Mary's previous Amish girls. She does share the deeply rooted Christian fundamentalist Bible based beliefs of her family but is attracted to more worldly work opportunities that lead her to seek employment outside of her Cousin Sarah's home. Rachel has not taken her final baptismal vows, a lifelong commitment made with the church community and God, typically made between ages 18-22. Because she is still on rumspringe, the traditionally tolerated time during adolescence for exploration that permits life experiences outside the Amish community prior to acceptance of permanent church membership, Rachel is able to take a job at Twelve Oaks Stables. It's a Christian family owned Thoroughbred stable that offers farm tours, horseback riding and equestrienne training for disabled children. Blonde, blue-eyed slender Rachel cuts a dashing figure in her modest jeans and tee-shirts worn for tours and riding although she retains her plain, long dresses for work in the gift shop. It wouldn't be "an Amish romance novel" without the introduction of a young farmer or conflict in the form of the handsome young son and part-owner of the stable, Jake Brady who vie for her attention. Jake may be Englisch but is his life sufficiently God and faith-centered to win Rachel's heart? I'll leave that for the growing fans of Mary Ellis' well researched, sensitively written work to discover. Once again, she has written about the crucial elements of honesty and trust in relationships with likeable, realistically drawn characters who work through doubts and conflicts while seeking a simpler, faith based life.
I am never disappointed at the depth I find in the writing of Mary Ellis. Her ability to clamp hold of the community of the Amish, to understand them and their ways, and to convey that, leaves me not only enjoying a wonderful read but feeling like part of the community.
A Little Bit of Charm is none the less. Ellis draws the reader into the life of Rachel King, a woman searching to regain personal happiness after severe loss. When she steps out in faith to leave Lancaster County for the rolling hills of Kentucky we begin a close knit relationship with Rachel, agonizing with her decisions and cheering with her decisions. Mary Ellis has done it again. - Cindy Sproles, ChristianDevotions.us, Executive Editor
Rachel loves horses and leaves her home in Lancaster County in her desire to work with Thoroughbreds. She finds a job she loves in Charm, Kentucky. Equally enticing is her boss, Jake Brady, and he likes her. She shouldn't encourage him. After all, he's and Englisher and she's happy being Amish. Surely being friends is okay, and maybe a kiss or two. She visits the Baptist church with Jake and is entranced. Baptist, Amish, they're both Christian. Why should it matter which church one attends?
Jake wants nothing more than to have a Kentucky Derby winner, and he risks his family's financial security to train Eager to Please. He doesn't have patience for his dad's faith, but he'll attend church if it means spending time with and impressing Rachel. Time spent in Florida among other racehorse owners shows him he doesn't want to be like them. He's already become greedy and full of himself, and now thoroughly ashamed.
Take-away thought: the Amish lifestyle makes it easier to stay on a righteous path. Those in the modern world find it harder to stay focused on God.