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  1. The Bridesmaid, Home to Hickory Hollow Series #2
    The Bridesmaid, Home to Hickory Hollow Series #2
    Beverly Lewis
    Bethany House / 2012 / Trade Paperback
    $9.99 Retail: $14.99 Save 33% ($5.00)
    4.5 Stars Out Of 5 34 Reviews
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    CBD Stock No: WW209789
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  1. Scotland, UK
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: female
    3 Stars Out Of 5
    Lacks many of the qualities Lewis is loved for
    December 15, 2012
    Rachel Ropper
    Scotland, UK
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: female
    Quality: 3
    Value: 3
    Meets Expectations: 3
    Joanna Kurtz is twenty-four and still unmarried, although many of her Amish school friends have long since started families of her own. But unlike her younger sister, Cora-Jane, she isn't superstitious about standing up as a bridesmaid at yet another friend's wedding. Unbeknownst to her family and friends, she's been communicating with a young man from an Amish community in Shipshewana, Indiana, and secretly hopes that someday soon they will be able to marry. But when Eben Troyer finally visits Hickory Hollow to meet Joanna's family, it's revealed that Eben is unable to leave his father's farm until his brother returns from his adventures in the English world. Joanna starts to consider moving to Indiana to be with Eben, but her plans are complicated when news of her secret fiction-writing reaches the Bishop and damages her standing in the community. Only the gift of an heirloom quilt that once belonged to the woman she was named after is able to help Joanna remain hopeful and strong in this difficult time. Is Joanna fated to be a spinster forever, or will God provide a way for Joanna and Eben to be together, despite the odds?

    Like many fans of Amish fiction, I was introduced to this genre with the works of Beverly Lewis. I've long been a fan of the engaging and complex novels that Beverly consistently produces. I'm not sure whether my reading tastes have changed over the years I've been reading Amish fiction, or if Beverly's standards are slipping, but either way, I'm just not enjoying the Home to Hickory Hollow series as much as I expected. While I liked The Bridesmaid slightly more than its precursor, The Fiddler, it just wasn't as compelling or complex as Beverly's earlier novels. I didn't have to force myself to finish this book, but it never gripped me such that I found it difficult to put down, unlike many of Beverly's earlier works. I was also a little disappointed by how flat and two-dimensional some of the secondary characters seemed, particularly Cora-Jane, who played a major role in some of the plot points in The Bridesmaid. Far from reminding me of any of Beverly's previous books, The Bridesmaid actually made me think of some of Wanda E. Brunstetter's novels. This might not bother some readers, but since I'm not a big fan of Wanda's style of writing, this was a major turn off for me.

    But before I discuss my qualms with this novel in further detail, I must touch on the positive aspects of The Bridesmaid. As I mentioned earlier, The Bridesmaid was definitely an improvement on the first novel in the Home to Hickory Hollow series. This was the first time that I'd read about a romance conducted by letters, at least in the context of the Amish, and I enjoyed the unconventionality of the romance between Joanna and Eben. The fact that Eben's future was dictated by his absent brother's actions also added an interesting aspect to the novel, and it was intriguing to witness Joanna and Eben's indecision over whether they should attempt to take their future into their own hands or wait to see how matters panned out in case it wasn't God's will for them to be together. Their romance was very drawn out, and although I found it frustrating at times and wished that the couple had just sat down and talked out all of their issues, I appreciated that it gave both Joanna and Eben time to grow and mature. I particularly liked the element that the quilt added to the story, and the hope and strength that Joanna was able to gain from its legacy. I honestly think this was the most interesting part of The Bridesmaid, and wished that the quilt had played a larger part in the novel.

    Unfortunately, the negative aspects of the writing often overshadowed those parts of the plot of The Bridesmaid that I genuinely enjoyed. My biggest issue probably has to be with the character of Cora-Jane, Joanna's younger sister. Cora-Jane was overly negative towards Joanna's singledom, and the possibility that she was "jinxing" her chances at marriage by acting as a bridesmaid at several weddings. Yet when Joanna revealed that she had a beau in Indiana that she'd been writing to, Cora-Jane was incredibly disparaging of their relationship. I never quite understood her reaction. In part, it seemed that Cora-Jane was worried about Joanna leaving Hickory Hollow to be with her beau, but on the other hand, it may be that Cora-Jane was jealous as she knew her own relationship wasn't as positive as she let on. I could sort of understand Cora-Jane's motivations for her bitterness regarding Joanna's beau when she reveals her own relationship troubles towards the end of the novel, but her decision to reveal Joanna's novel-writing to the Bishop seemed purely malicious due to the lack of reasonable motivation.

    I was a little disappointed with the way that Joanna's writing was treated, both by the fictional Amish community and as a topic in the novel. As an aspiring writer myself, the idea of an Amish woman secretly writing stories in her spare time intrigued me, and was ultimately the reason why I wanted to read The Bridesmaid despite my disappointment with the first Home to Hickory Hollow novel. I enjoyed reading about Joanna's thought-processes and secret novel-writing habits, and understood her hurt when her writing was revealed to the community and she was forced to abandon her natural-given talents because of the Elders' disapproval. Although I was glad that she was able to find a way to explore her creativity through encouraging poetry, I couldn't help but wonder how someone with such natural talent for fiction writing could give up her God-given talents and agree to live in a community that disapproves of something that comes so naturally to her. There was no scriptural basis for the community's disapproval of fiction writing (or reading), so the outcome of the situation didn't sit well with me. I still feel unresolved about my opinion on this aspect of The Bridesmaid, even weeks after I finished the novel. It almost seems ironic that the author wants readers to enjoy reading a romance novel about an Amish woman who is discouraged by her community from writing romance novels. It feels kind of wrong to enjoy reading such a book when I know that it would be forbidden in certain Amish communities.

    My biggest issue with Joanna's writing is how violently her community reacts to it, particularly her deacon, only to have him to turn around and retract his opinion at a vital part of the plot. By the close of the story, I honestly felt that the deacon's decision was just a plot device to keep Joanna and Eben apart in order for them to grow and mature before they made their decision to marry. While I appreciated the growth they both went through during their time apart, I wish something more physical had been keeping them apart. All it took for Joanna to travel to Indiana to tell Eben how she felt was the deacon retracting his opinion of Joanna and her writing. Sadly, the deacon's behaviour also revealed how much power the Elders in the Amish church have and how they can often make decisions that don't reflect God's will or the community's true opinion. In other novels, I wouldn't have minded such a presentation of the Amish community, but in a series which is meant to be highlighting how wonderful it is to live in Hickory Hollow, this section of the book didn't sit well with me.

    Although I have a lot of complaints about this book, The Bridesmaid was an improvement on The Fiddler, and I'm tempted to read the final book in the Home to Hickory Hollow series to see if Beverly will eventually return to her usual high standard of writing. I enjoyed the unconventional romantic plot and the details about Joanna's quilt, but the characterisation and plot progression of this novel were fairly poor, compared to other books in the genre, and in Beverly's repertoire. While I'm sure that some Amish fans will enjoy The Bridesmaid, I don't think I'm the only reader who will wonder why The Bridesmaid lacks many of the qualities that Beverly Lewis is known and loved for.

    Review title provided by Bethany House.
  2. Canada
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Suspenseful great story
    December 12, 2012
    LinDawn
    Canada
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    The Bridesmaid is a book, 2nd in Home to Hickory Hollow Series. It is suspenseful and you don't want to put it down until you find that it works out to the delight of Johanna and her long distance beau. Her beau can't propose until his brother comes back from the English world to help their father with the farm. It takes a great amount of patience for the intended couple.
  3. Kansas City, KS
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    A Story of Love
    December 3, 2012
    TMWoodsBooks
    Kansas City, KS
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Joanna Kurtz, an Amish twenty-four year old, has been a bridesmaid three times, and is still single herself. Although love didn't find her at a younger age, she does find a dreamy romance with a young Amish man while they were both at Virginia Beach. They seem united from the very beginning but he is from another state. They write letters to each other and both hope for marriage in their future. But his father needs Eban to run the farm when he retires, and Joanna is expected to stay in her community.

    Troubles arise from many different angles. Joanna has a secret passion that her Preacher disagrees with. The relationship between her and her sister has grown apart. The fact that things are looking bleak for her future with Eban causes even more heartache.

    Eban's relationship with his brother has been strained for many years. The uncertainty of his brother taking over the farm changes and it becomes clear that those responsibilities will rest on Eban's shoulders. He wants to give Joanna everything she deserves, but is it in his power?

    I enjoyed reading this book. It didn't take long to go from cover to cover. The romance between Eban and Joanna is so sweet and strong and pure you want to cheer for them and encourage them to persevere and keep hope.

    Beverly Lewis has done another beautiful job of painting the Amish community, from the characters to the scenery and surrounding fields. She draws you in and the characters become friends.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a beautiful story of love between man and woman, between siblings and even son or daughter and parent.

    I received a complimentary sample of this book from Bethany House Publishers, in exchange for an honest review. This has not biased my opinion on the book, nor on the author.
  4. Coffeyville, KS
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Nothing new under the sun, yet a delightful read.
    November 28, 2012
    Coffeyville, KS
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    A young man and a young woman with hope of marriage; conflict between wants, traditions and needs; the quilting bees, the gardening, and the hard and spotless work in the kitchen; the Kapps, aprons and straw hats; the practically idyllic life in Hickory Hollow_ All of it is in this book. And from this point of view, there is nothing new in this new Amish novel by Beverly Lewis. Actually, I would dare say that the situations depicted in the book are highly impossible. Alas! This is a fiction work after all and, despite all the expected features of a Beverly Lewis book, she manages to create a love story through which we see the characters deal with conflict in a beautiful manner (excepting for Cora Jane, the obnoxious brat) that only someone with a strong commitment to biblical principles would make us of. Mrs. Lewis summarizes it as follows: "_we're all here by design_ that none of us is an accident in God's eyes. Our heavenly Father's hand is at work in all of our comings and goings - and in the choice of a life mate (p. 312)." That's the main beauty of this book.

    The story revisits Joanna, the kind young woman who is introduced in "The Fiddler," the first book of this series. She has gone on with her life in Hickory Hollow, and the reader learns that she has been at the altar several times, always as a bridesmaid. Cora Jane reminds her that "three times a bridesmaid, never a bride," and Joanna can't help but think that some people already consider her to be a spinster at her age. However, she meets Eben when the family travels to another Amish community, and her whole outlook on her life shifts. Distance does not aid their relationship, which is also hindered by Joanna's commitment to her church, Eben's duty to his father's farm, and Cora Jane's (Joanna's younger sister) selfishness and inability to cope with change. The largest part of the book describes the hardships Joanna and Eben have to face to nurture their relationship from afar.

    The end is farfetched and a bit too convenient but, despite my chuckles at the unlikeness of the odds, it didn't keep me from savoring the richness of conclusion, wrapped in the details of Amish culture - particularly quilts - that play an important part in the resolution of the story; Aunt Joanna's faith, the woman Joanna is named after, is remarkable and inspiring. Equally inspiring are the sacrifices Joanna and Eben are willing to make for each other, putting the other person before their own wants.

    A part I really enjoyed was the prologue. It describes how Joanna and Eben met. It happens all in the beach, where there are many non-Amish people enjoying the sand, sea and sun. At one point, Joanna starts toying with the idea of letting her hair down, just to enjoy the breeze, but she "didn't want to add to the misconceptions far too many Englischers already had about us [the Amish people], some even from novels they'd read (page 9)." Being the utmost Amish writer, I could picture Mrs. Lewis getting a kick out of this line, as I did. I don't know how many accomplished people would be brave (and goofy) enough to let themselves joke with themselves the way she does, all the way to the end. Joanna likes writing, and I can picture a bit of Mrs. Lewis in her - rereading what she has written, pondering ways of choosing a better wording, having a binder with her drafts, finding inspiration in her friend's lives and even snuggling in bed with a notebook on her lap (p. 130-132, 206, among other references throughout the story). In short, this particular novel offers a deep insight into Beverly Lewis's as a woman and a writer.

    I also enjoyed several references to other characters that live in Hickory Hollow. I won't mention how Mrs. Lewis uses this resource, but I will say that this book sparked my interest in reading some of her previous stories again, which I would gladly do anytime. This particular feature is not absent in "The Bridesmaid;" Mrs. Lewis has a way of writing in which she tells enough of the story to make a book interesting and enjoyable, while leaving enough slightly inconclusive to leave the reader wondering about the "what else," and she certainly delivers with each sequel.

    I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who might be interested in Amish fiction. As any of her previous works, this book has clean vocabulary, good morals and godly principles. Furthermore, as with any couple getting to know each other in the way Joanna and Eden do, there is sexual tension, but it is coupled with respect, modesty and restraint. This can only be treasured in a time where the pace and values of today sadly seem to always tend in the opposite way.

    I received a complimentary sample of this book from Bethany House Publishers, in exchange for an honest review. This has not biased my opinion on the book, nor on the author.
  5. Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    November 28, 2012
    DMBAKER
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Another great book by Beverly Lewis. I could see myself being in the lives of the characters and that is a God given gift she is kind enough to share with the world.
Displaying items 11-15 of 34
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