Nora King moves to Paradise, Missouri, with the hope of conquering the heart of the elusive and rebellious Elam Detweiler, whom she previously met and with whom she fell in love while living in Harmony, Maine, a very conservative Amish district. With freedom in her mind and anticipation in her heart, Nora arrives to Paradise to a new home and a new beginning. She makes great friends, finds a good job, but Elam’s heart appears to be out of her reach. But that changes when Lewis Miller arrives. He comes from Harmony hoping to win Nora, offering her his heart. Now Elam is definitely interested, and Nora has a decision to make: will she choose Elam, the bad boy whom she wishes to change? Or will she choose Lewis, the good boy whose love can help her change for the better?
This is a sweet, funny and highly enjoyable book about love, brokenness, and hope. Nora is the kind of female lead anyone can identify with, Amish or not. She is far from perfect, carrying a heavy burden of past mistakes and hurts that still haunt her, just like any one of us. And she is in love with the bad boy, Elam. She has traveled far just to be near him, to be able to conquer his heart. She doesn’t question whether he deserves it or not; she is prompted by what she feels and what she thinks she can accomplish with Elam: to change him, to make him see the error of his bad ways and to convince him of joining the Amish with her. And it is in that last thing that we can start seeing a glimmer of the growth that is coming, a little bit of who Nora will become. In her quest to change Elam, the reader will see that it is Nora who will be transformed.
Author Mary Ellis has done a remarkable job of presenting and developing a character like Nora. Her mistakes are those of any teenager; her hurts are those of any human being; and her unrequited love is just like the one I had before I met my husband. Nora is a nicely written representation of a normal young woman. She has a past, and it spreads like wild fire, and her reputation is marred in her new Amish community of Paradise. Yes, the Amish community is just like our church community; there’s gossip, exaggeration and mean spirited people. But there are also true Christians who help us change, and grow, extending us grace and mercy. Enter Violet, Emily and Lewis.
The secondary characters in 'Love Comes to Paradise' are very well written. Violet is charming and engaging, Emily is funny, as well as her husband, and not afraid to speak her mind, and Lewis is a sweetheart, a mature young man. Solomon, an Amish preacher and Violet’s father, is one of the grouchiest, angriest Amish men I’ve ever read about, and that made the novel even better. Usually, an Amish preacher is written as sweet and wise, or stern and firm, but Solomon is on a whole other level. He interprets a series of strange natural occurrences and disasters as the wrath of God over their Amish community due to their interaction with the Englishers. And Emily, who has not been able to have children, thinks he is right. And that makes for a very entertaining side story. Every secondary character is enjoyable; they each have something to offer and they each contribute to forwarding the plot in nice, interesting ways.
However, as interesting as the secondary characters are, they never take away from Nora. Her love life is front and center, but her friendship with Violet and the close relationship she develops with Emily and Nora’s interactions with them is a nice change from what we usually see in a love story. Although a romantic story through and through, 'Love Comes to Paradise' is mostly the story of Nora and the way God’s love for her saves her, her love for her friends drives her, and the love of the right man frees her.
A different kind of story, full of great characters, interesting side stories and touching romantic moments, this book is a wonderful read. It’s the second book in the series, and I highly recommend reading them in order. There is a lot of back story for Nora, and although it is explained rather well for the new comer (like me), it just piques the reader’s curiosity, and just made me want to go back to get an in depth look into her whole story.
5 out of 5 stars
*I received a copy of this book from Harvest House Publishers through NetGalley in exchange of an honest review.