Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Amish Bride, by Mindy Starns Clark, Leslie Gould

Overview (from NetGalley): Ella Bayer and Ezra Gundy are in love and hope to marry someday, but she is a young Mennonite woman while he is an Amish man. Though both Plain, one of them will have to forsake what they believe to embrace another way of life.
Hoping some distance will cool the relationship, Ezra’s family sends him to work at an Amish dairy farm in Indiana. But Ella disregards what her family wants and follows Ezra. In short order she finds a place to live, a job in a bakery, and an unexpected but budding friendship with a handsome Amish farmhand, Luke. When a family tragedy forces Ella back to Pennsylvania, she must face all she’s been running away from. And once she has made peace with those around her, she has an important decision to make: Whose Amish bride will she become—Ezra’s or Luke’s?

Review:This was a very interesting read. However, although the romance is what first attracted me to this novel, it is not what kept my interest. As the story opens, Ella's grandmother gives her a book, sort of a diary, that Ella's great-grandmother wrote since she was a child, right up until a few days before she died. Some parts of this diary are written in code, and Ella's grandmother is desperate to know what her mother wrote and asks Ella to decipher the code for her, since she has not been able to do so after many years of trying. Now, that got my attention. Not only because of the secrets that were obviously hidden in the diary, but because I wanted to know why Ella's grandmother needed to know what was written there. It is very clear since the beginning that it's not just curiosity: her peace of mind depends on it. I loved that; it intrigued me.

The story is well written; I loved learning more about the differences and similarities between Amish and Mennonites, and how they played out in Ella's and Ezra's romance as well as in the whole family dynamic. But the story is too long. Ella is a nice character but, although she is 17 going on 18 years old, most of the time her voice "sounds" much more older, more mature. What I mean is that it seems as if she was not written with an 18 year old in mind. I've seen this many times but in reverse: an older character that sounds like a teenager. I'm not saying that Ella acted like a mature adult. I'm saying she sounded like one: the choice of words, the phrasing.

I had mixed feelings about the romance (not in a bad way). Sometimes I loved Ezra. Other times, it amazed me how Ella could be in love with him. Luke, on the other hand, was so sweet and quiet that I sometimes wanted to shout "Speak up!" I really wanted Ella to pick one specific boy, but, strangely, I never stopped rooting for the other. Quite interesting. Both love interests were very well written, as well as Ella's mother, grandmother and brother.

It's a sweet story of love, forgiveness, faith and trusting God to lead us to what's best for us. It is the third book of a series, so there are many characters and a long family history behind it. It can stand alone, but read as a series should give the reader a better understanding of the family.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

*I received a copy of this book from Harvest House Publishers through NetGalley in exchange of an honest review.

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