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Friday, March 30, 2012

The Hearts Frontier...continued

Here's my review:

The Heart's Frontier
by Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith

A very interesting Western with plenty of humor, full of adventures of a cattle drive with rustlers and Amish.

An unusual plot, but the authors make it work.

I would be interested in reading of further adventures with these characters.

I like the cover art. You can tell you are in for quite a story!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Heart's Frontier

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!

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2012) 

***Special thanks to Karri | Marketing Assistant | Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Lori Copeland is the author of more than 90 titles, both historical and contemporary fiction. With more than 3 million copies of her books in print, she has developed a loyal following among her rapidly growing fans in the inspirational market. She has been honored with the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award, The Holt Medallion, and Walden Books' Best Seller award. In 2000, Lori was inducted into the Missouri Writers Hall of Fame. She lives in the beautiful Ozarks with her husband, Lance, and their three children and five grandchildren.

Visit the author's website.

Virginia Smith is the author of more than a dozen inspirational novels and more than fifty articles and short stories. An avid reader with eclectic tastes in fiction, Ginny writes in a variety of styles, from lighthearted relationship stories to breath-snatching suspense.

Visit the author's website.


An exciting new Amish-meets-Wild West adventure from bestselling authors Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith weaves an entertaining and romantic tale for devoted fans and new readers.

Kansas,1881—On a trip to visit relatives, Emma Switzer’s Amish family is robbed of all their possessions, leaving them destitute and stranded on the prairie. Walking into the nearest trading settlement, they pray to the Lord for someone to help. When a man lands in the dust at her feet, Emma looks down at him and thinks, The Lord might have cleaned him up first.

Luke Carson, heading up his first cattle drive, is not planning on being the answer to anyone’s prayers, but it looks as though God has something else in mind for this kind and gentle man. Plain and rugged—do the two mix? And what happens when a dedicated Amish woman and a stubborn trail boss prove to be each other’s match?

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736947523

ISBN-13: 978-0736947527


Apple Grove, Kansas

July 1881

Nearly the entire Amish district of Apple Grove had turned out to help this morning, all twenty families. Or perhaps they were here merely to wish Emma Switzer well as she set off for her new home in Troyer, fifty miles away.

From her vantage point on the porch of the house, Emma’s grandmother kept watch over the loading of the gigantic buffet hutch onto the specially reinforced wagon. Her sharp voice sliced through the peaceful morning air.

“Forty years I’ve had that hutch from my dearly departed husband and not a scratch on it. Jonas, see that you use care!”

If Maummi’s expression weren’t so fierce, Emma would have laughed at the long-suffering look Papa turned toward his mother. But the force with which Maummi’s fingers dug into the flesh on Emma’s arm warned that a chuckle would be most ill-suited at the moment. Besides, the men straining to heft the heavy hutch from the front porch of their home into the wagon didn’t need further distractions. Their faces strained bright red above their beards, and more than one drop of sweat trickled from beneath the broad brim of their identical straw hats.

Emma glanced at the watchers lined up like sparrows on a fence post. She caught sight of her best friend, Katie Beachy, amid the sea of dark dresses and white kapps. Katie smiled and smoothed her skirt with a shy gesture. The black fabric looked a little darker and crisper than that of those standing around her, which meant she’d worn her new dress to bid Emma farewell, an honor usually reserved for singings or services or weddings. The garment looked well on her. Emma had helped sew the seams at their last frolic. Of course, Katie’s early morning appearance in a new dress probably had less to do with honoring Emma than with the presence of Samuel Miller, the handsome son of the district bishop. With a glance toward Samuel, whose arms bulged against the weight of holding up one end of the hutch, she returned Katie’s smile with a conspiratorial wink.

Emma’s gaze slid over other faces in the crowd and snagged on a pair of eyes fixed on her. Amos Beiler didn’t bother to turn away but kept his gaze boldly on her face. Nor did he bother to hide his expression, one of longing and lingering hurt. He held infant Joseph in his arms, and a young daughter clutched each of his trouser-clad legs. A wave of guilt washed through Emma, and she hastily turned back toward the wagon.

From his vantage point up in the wagon bed, Papa held one end of a thick rope looped around the top of the hutch, the other end held by John Yoder. The front edge of the heavy heirloom had been lifted into the wagon with much grunting and groaning, while the rear still rested on the smooth wooden planks of the porch. Two men steadied the oxen heads, and the rest, like Samuel, had gathered around the back end of the hutch. A protective layer of thick quilts lined the wagon bed.

Papa gave the word. “Lift!”

The men moved in silent unity. Bending their knees, their hands grasped for purchase around the bottom edges. As one they drew in a breath, and at Papa’s nod raised in unison. Emma’s own breath caught in her chest, her muscles straining in silent sympathy with the men. The hutch rose until its rear end was level with its front, and the men stepped forward. The thick quilts dangling beneath scooted onto the wagon as planned, a protective barrier from damage caused by wood against wood.

The hutch suddenly dipped and slid swiftly to the front. Emma gasped. Apparently the speed caught Papa and John Yoder by surprise too, for the rope around the top went slack. Papa lunged to reach for the nearest corner, and his foot slipped. The wagon creaked and sank lower on its wheels as the hutch settled into place. At the same moment Papa went down on one knee with a loud, “Ummph.”


Ach! ” Maummi pulled away from Emma and rushed forward. Her heart pounding against her rib cage, Emma followed. Men were already checking on Papa, but Maummi leaped into the wagon bed with a jump that belied her sixty years, the strings of her kapp flying behind her. She applied bony elbows to push her way around the hutch to her son’s side.

She came to a halt above him, hands on her hips, and looked down. “Are you hurt?”

Emma reached the side of the wagon in time to see Papa wince and shake his head. “NoA bruise is all.”

“Good.” She left him lying there and turned worried eyes toward her beloved hutch. With a gentle touch, she ran loving fingers over the smooth surface and knelt to investigate the corners.

A mock-stern voice behind Emma held the hint of a chuckle. “Trappings only, Marta Switzer. Care you more for a scratch on wood than an injury to your son?”

Emma turned to see Bishop Miller approach. He spared a smile for her as he drew near enough to lean his arms across the wooden side of the wagon and watch the activity inside. Samuel helped Papa to his feet and handed him the broad-brimmed hat that had fallen off. Emma breathed a sigh of relief when he took a ginger step to try out his leg and smiled at the absence of pain.

“My son is fine.” Maummi waved a hand in his direction, as though in proof. “And so is my hutch. Though my heart may not say the same, such a fright I’ve had.” She placed the hand lightly on her chest, drew a shuddering breath, and wavered on her feet.

Concern for her grandmother propelled Emma toward the back of the wagon. As she climbed up, she called into the house, “Rebecca, bring a cool cloth for Maummi’s head.”

The men backed away while Katie and several other women converged on the wagon to help Emma lift Maummi down and over to the rocking chair that rested in the shade of the porch, ready to be loaded when the time came. Maummi allowed herself to be lowered onto the chair, and then she wilted against the back, her head lolling sideways and arms dangling. A disapproving buzz rumbled among the watching women, but Emma ignored them. Though she knew full well that most of the weakness was feigned for the sake of the bishop and other onlookers, she also knew Maummi’s heart tended to beat unevenly in her chest whenever she exerted herself. It was yet another reason why she ought to stay behind in Apple Grove, but Maummi insisted her place was with Emma, her oldest granddaughter. What she really meant was that she intended to inspect every eligible young Amish man in Troyer and handpick her future grandson-in-law.

Aunt Gerda had written to say she anticipated that her only daughter would marry soon, and she would appreciate having Emma come to help her around the house. She’d also mentioned the abundance of marriageable young men in Troyer, with a suggestion that twenty-year-old Emma was of an age that the news might be welcome. Rebecca had immediately volunteered to go in Emma’s place. Though Papa appeared to consider the idea, he decided to send Emma because she was the oldest and therefore would be in need of a husband soonest. Maummi insisted on going along in order to “Keep an eye on this hoard of men Gerda will parade before our Emma.”

As far as Emma was concerned, they should just send Maummi on alone and leave her in Apple Grove to wait for her future husband to be delivered to her doorstep.

Rebecca appeared from inside the house with a dripping cloth in hand. A strand of wavy dark hair had escaped its pins and fluttered freely beside the strings of her kapp. At barely thirteen, her rosy cheeks and smooth, high forehead reminded Emma so sharply of their mother that at times her heart ached.

Rebecca looked at Maummi’s dramatic posture and rolled her eyes. She had little patience with Maummi’s feigned heart episodes, and she was young enough that she had yet to learn proper restraint in concealing her emotions. Emma awarded her sister with a stern look and held out a hand for the cloth.

With a contrite bob of her head, Rebecca handed it over and dropped to her knees beside the rocking chair. “Are you all right, Maummi?”

Ach, I’m fine. I don’t think it’s my time. Yet.”

Emma wrung the excess water from the cloth before draping it across the back of Maummi’s neck.

Danki.” The elderly woman realized that the men had stopped working in order to watch her, and she waved her hand in a shooing motion. “Place those quilts over my hutch before you load anything else! Mind, Jonas, no scratches.”

Papa shook his head, though a smile tugged at his lips. “Ja, I remember.”

The gray head turned toward Emma. “Granddaughter, see they take proper care.”

“I will, Maummi.”

Katie joined Emma to oversee the wrapping of the hutch. When Samuel Miller offered a strong arm to help Katie up into the wagon, Emma hid a smile. No doubt she would receive a letter at her new home soon, informing her that a wedding date had been published. Because Samuel was the bishop’s son, there was no fear he would not receive the Zeungis, the letter of good standing. Rebecca would be thrilled at the news of a proper wedding in tiny Apple Grove.

But Emma would be far away in Troyer, and she would miss her friend’s big day.

Why must I live there when everything I love is here?

She draped a thick quilt over her end of the hutch and sidled away while Papa secured a rope around it. The faces of her friends and family looked on. They filled the area between the house and the barn. She loved every one in her own way. Yes, even Amos Beiler. She sought him out among the crowd and smiled at the two little girls who hovered near his side. Poor, lonely Amos. He was a good father to his motherless family. No doubt he’d make a fine husband, and if she married him she wouldn’t have to move to Troyer. The thought tempted her once again, as it often had over the past several weeks since Papa announced his decision that she would live with Aunt Gerda for a while.

But she knew that if she agreed to become Amos’s wife that she would be settling. True, she would gain a prosperous farm and a nice house and a trio of well-behaved children, with the promise of more to come. But the fact remained that though there was much to respect about Amos, she didn’t love him. The thought of seeing that moon-shaped face and slightly cross-eyed stare over the table for breakfast, dinner, and supper sent a shiver rippling across her shoulders. Not to mention sharing a marriage bed with him. It was enough to make her throw her apron over her face and run screaming across Papa’s cornfield.

He deserves a wife who loves him, she told herself for the hundredth time. Her conscience thus soothed, Emma turned away from his mournful stare.

“That trunk goes in the front,” Maummi shouted from her chair on the porch. “Emma, show them where.”

Emma shrank against the gigantic hutch to give the men room to settle the trunk containing all of her belongings. An oiled canvas tarp had been secured over the top to repel any rain they might meet over the next week. Inside, resting on her dresses, aprons, bonnets, and kapps, was a bundle more precious to her than anything else in the wagon: a quilt, expertly and lovingly stitched, nestled within a heavy canvas pouch. Mama had made it with her own hands for Emma’s hope chest. The last stitch was bitten off just hours before she closed her eyes and stepped into the arms of her Lord.

Oh, Mama, if you were here you could convince Papa to let me stay home. I know you could. And now, without you, what will happen to me?

Yet, even in the midst of the dreary thought, a spark of hope flickered in the darkness in Emma’s heart. The future yawned before her like the endless Kansas prairie. Wasn’t there beauty to be found in the tall, blowing grasses of the open plain? Weren’t there cool streams and shady trees to offer respite from the heat of the day? Maybe Troyer would turn out to be an oasis.


Maummi’s sharp tone cut through her musing. She jerked upright. Her grandmother appeared to have recovered from her heart episode. From the vantage point of her chair, she oversaw every movement with a critical eye.

“Yes, ma’am?”

“Mind what I said about that loading, girl. The food carton goes on last. We won’t want to search for provisions when we stop at night on the trail.”

An approving murmur rose from the women at the wisdom of an organized wagon.

“Yes, ma’am.” Emma exchanged a quick grin with Katie and then directed the man carrying a carton of canned goods and trail provisions to set his burden aside for now.

A little while later, after everything had been loaded and secured under an oiled canvas, the men stood around to admire their handiwork. Samuel even crawled beneath the wagon to check the support struts, and he pronounced everything to be “in apple-pie order.”

Emma felt a pluck on her arm. She turned to find Katie at her elbow.

“This is a gift for you.” Her friend pushed a small package into her hands. “It’s only a soft cloth and some fancy-colored threads. I was fixing to stitch you a design, but you’re so much better at fine sewing than I am that I figured you could make something prettier by yourself.” She ducked her head. “Think kindly of me when you do.”

Warmed by her friend’s gesture, Emma pulled her into an embrace. “I will. And I expect a letter from you soon.” She let Katie see her glance slide over to Samuel and back with a grin. “Especially when you have something exciting to report.”

A becoming blush colored the girl’s cheeks. “I will.”

Emma was still going down the line, awarding each woman a farewell hug, when Bishop Miller stepped up to the front of the wagon and motioned for attention.

“It’s time now to bid Jonas Switzer Godspeed and fair weather for his travels.” A kind smile curved his lips when he looked to Maummi and then to Emma. “And our prayers go with our sisters Marta and Emma as they make a new home in Troyer.”

He bowed his head and closed his eyes, a sign for everyone in the Apple Grove district to follow suit. Emma obeyed, fixing her thoughts on the blue skies overhead and the Almighty’s throne beyond. Silence descended, interrupted only by the snorts of oxen and a happy bird in the tall, leafy tree that gave shade to the porch.

What will I find in Troyer? A new home, as the bishop says? A fine Amish husband, as Papa wishes? I pray it be so. And I pray he will be the second son of his father so that he will come home with me to Apple Grove and take over Papa’s farm when the time comes.

A female sniffled behind her. Not Katie, but Rebecca. A twist inside Emma’s rib cage nearly sent tears to her eyes. Oh, how she would miss her sister when Rebecca left Troyer to return home with Papa. She vowed to make the most of their time together on the trail between here and there.

Bishop Miller ended the prayer with a blessing in High German, his hand on the head of the closest oxen. When the last word fell on the quiet crowd, Maummi’s voice sliced through the cool morning air. “Now that we’re seen off proper, someone help me up. We’ll be gone before the sun moves another inch across the sky.”

Though she’d proved earlier that she could make the leap herself at need, Maummi allowed Papa and the bishop to lift her into the wagon. She took her seat in her rocking chair, which was wedged between the covered hutch and one high side of the wagon bed. With a protective pat on the hutch, she settled her sewing basket at her feet and pulled a piece of mending onto her lap. No idle hands for Maummi. By the time they made Troyer, she’d have all the mending done, and the darning too, and a good start on a new quilt.

Emma spared one more embrace for Katie, steadfastly ignored Amos’s mournful stare, and allowed the bishop to help her up onto the bench seat. She scooted over to the far end to make room for Papa, and then Rebecca was lifted up to sit on the other side of him. A snug fit, but they would be okay for the six-day journey to Troyer. Emma settled her black dress and smoothed her apron.

“Now, Jonas, mind you what I said.” Maummi’s voice from behind their heads sounded a bit shrill in the quiet morning. “You cut a wide path around Hays. I’ll not have my granddaughters witness the ufrooish of those wild Englischers.”

On the other side of Papa, Rebecca heaved a loud sigh. Emma hid her grin. No doubt Rebecca would love to witness the rowdy riots of wild cowboy Englischers in the infamous railroad town of Hays.

Papa mumbled something under his breath that sounded like “This will be the longest journey of my life,” but aloud he said, “Ja, Mader.

With a flick of the rope, he urged the oxen forward. The wagon creaked and pitched as it rolled on its gigantic wheels. Emma grabbed the side of the bench with one hand and lifted her other hand in a final farewell as her home fell away behind her.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Promised to Another

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!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Whitaker House (March 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling of Whitaker House for sending me a review copy.***


Laura V. Hilton is a pastor’s wife, homeschooling mother of five, breast cancer survivor, author and book lover. Although her educational background is in business, reading is Laura’s lifelong passion, and writing a gift she’s developed to the delight of her growing fan base. Laura’s reputation for the authenticity of her Amish settings is no accident – it’s in her blood as she learned as a child from her Pennsylvania Amish grandmother. Besides her Amish of Seymour Series for Whitaker House, Laura published two novels for Treble Heart Books, contributed to a Zondervan devotional, and has written hundreds of book reviews for the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Christian Suspense Zone, and a variety of  Internet publications. She also posts reviews on her book review blog: Laura and her family live in Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas.

Visit the author's website.


Annie Beiler is a spunky, spirited schoolteacher, but she's struggled ever since the man she was promised to "jumped the fence" and left the Amish of Seymour. She needs a man who is committed to his Amish beliefs. And now, she's struggling to regain the trust of the school board members and the parents of her pupils for taking her class on an unauthorized field trip to a nearby Civil War battlefield. She's put on probation, and one wrong step could cost her the position permanently.

Joshua Esh of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, moved to Missouri ostensibly as part of the man swap meant to bring new blood into the community. Annie Beiler caught his attention the moment he arrived in Seymour, but he's disheartened to discover that she is promised to another man–Luke, who left the Amish but vowed to return one day and claim "his" Annie. So, Josh fills his social calendar with singings and frolics, taking a different girl home from every event–with the exception of Annie, since she is already committed to someone.

When Luke comes home, Annie pushes him away, and Josh Esh comes to her rescue. But the situation becomes awkward, since Josh is staying with Luke's family. An awareness of each other's attraction to Annie causes the awkwardness to escalate, and Annie's father soon invites Josh to stay with his family. But not all of the Beilers are happy about this new arrangement.

Soon, a buggy accident ends in a shotgun wedding after the bishop witnesses a kiss between Josh and Annie and insists they get married right away. The two protest, but the bishop is adamant. He later tells them why: he'd overheard some talk about a scheme Luke was launching to force Annie to marry him.

Marriage brings some dark secrets to the surface, and Annie and Josh must confront their issues and deal with the past if they plan on a future together.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.99

Paperback: 304 pages

Publisher: Whitaker House (March 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1603742573

ISBN-13: 978-1603742573


   “May I take you home from the singing?”

      Annie Beiler’s breath hitched, and her gaze shot from the dusty toes of her powder-blue tennis shoes to the drop-dead-gorgeous man standing not three feet in front of her. Unfortunately, his tentative smile wasn’t aimed in her direction.

      Nein, Joshua Esh’s hazel eyes were locked on Rachel Lapp. Annie had to admit Rachel was cute, with her strawberry blonde hair and green dress that perfectly matched her eyes.

      Joshua was what her Englisch friends called a “player,” for sure. Everyone talked about how he never took the same girl home from singings twice. And Annie couldn’t help hoping that he would eventually make his way to her.

      Rachel’s face lit up. “Danki, Joshua. I’d love a ride.”

      Annie scowled. If and when he got around to asking her, she’d turn him down. Someone should have the willpower to say nein. Just that evening, Rachel had been talking with Annie and some other girls about Joshua’s flirtatious ways. It appeared that she’d merely been jealous since he hadn’t asked to take her home.

      Okay, to be honest, Annie did feel a bit envious, too. Make that more than a bit. And it wasn’t just because of Joshua, although he had played a big part in it. The truth was, none of the buwe who’d come from Pennsylvania in the man swap had ever offered to give her a ride. Not a single one.

      She didn’t consider herself that unfortunate-looking.

      Annie brushed past Joshua and Rachel and left the barn. Immediately, she regretted having gone outside, because she did need to find a way home—unless she rode along with another couple. But she didn’t think she could stand there alone by the barn doors, hopeful, when all the buwe she noticed didn’t seem to know she was alive.

      Like Joshua Esh.

      Especially Joshua Esh.

      Annie kicked a rock and winced when it didn’t budge.

      “Annie? Is that you?” A familiar male voice sounded from out of the darkness ahead of her.

      She jumped. She hadn’t expected to hear that voice. Not in a month of singings. She frowned. “Luke?”

      “Jah.” He moved into the circle of light from the lanterns hanging around the barn.

      Annie planted her fists on her hips. She wouldn’t make the mistake of falling for Luke Schwartz twice—not that she’d really fallen for him the first time. It was just that he’d asked. And a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, right? Okay, she’d realized he wasn’t what she wanted—he wouldn’t make her top-ten list of the dreamiest Amish men—but he was better than nothing. She pulled in a deep breath, steeling herself. “What are you doing here?”

      “Ach, that’s a wunderbaar way to welkum me. I’ve kum home.”

      She stilled, her hope building, despite her internal warnings. “For how long?” She didn’t want to spend her life alone. Didn’t want to rely on the kindness of other couples for rides. Didn’t want to be the only girl left unattached, unaccepted, unwanted.


      But, then again, she didn’t want to settle for just anyone, either.

      Luke didn’t quite meet her eyes. “You wound me.” 

      Ach. Not for gut, then. The pencil fell from behind her ear, and she stooped to pick it up, careful not to glance at him as she rose.

      “Never without that ever-present pencil, I see.”

      She winced, hating that he mocked her. It wasn’t common to take a pencil to singings, she knew, but what if she wanted to write something down? The name of a book she’d like to read, perhaps, or something she wanted to mention to her students the following week. Maybe even the initials of her number one dream guy, who stood somewhere nearby but didn’t pay any attention to her. Who didn’t know she was alive. “Sarcasm doesn’t suit you.”

      He sighed. “May I give you a ride home? Looks like things are breaking up.” 

      She took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, but I already have a ride. Maybe another time.”

      Luke laughed. “Right. I heard how popular you are. Having to beat the buwe off with a stick, ain’t so?”

      Annie stiffened. “So, you couldn’t pay rent on that run-down trailer and ran home to your parents, jah?”

      Someone moved up beside her, and she turned her head. Whoever it was didn’t register. What she did notice was that others were gathering around her and Luke, watching their exchange.

      She was in enough trouble already, having nearly gotten dismissed from her teaching post. The school board had permitted her to continue teaching, provided she was put on probation. All she needed was for one of these eavesdroppers to go home and tell his or her folks. She’d be out of a job so fast, a racing horse and buggy wouldn’t be able to keep pace. She searched for something to say, something to defuse the situation.

      Luke’s glance slid from her to whoever had stepped up to offer wordless support. He sneered, then backed up a space. “Well, since you have a ride, I’ll just catch you later, then. Gut to see you, Annie.”

      She forced a smile. “Glad you’re back, Luke.” 

      He turned and disappeared into the darkness.


      Joshua stood beside Annie for a moment. Silent. Wishing he could say something to salve the hurt she must feel. He sensed the pain radiating from her as she watched the redheaded man walk away.

      The whole situation confused him. He’d been attracted to Annie the moment he’d met her, but when he’d fished for more information about her, he’d found out she was taken. Off limits. All but engaged to Luke Schwartz, who had vowed to return for her someday. Apparently, that day was now.

      Yet Annie hadn’t been waiting with bated breath.

      Joshua didn’t know exactly what that meant.

      He knew only what he wanted it to mean.

      The crowd around them thinned as the pairs began to make their ways to their buggies. Joshua became conscious of Rachel standing on the other side of him, twisting her apron in her hand while she waited on him to do something. He wasn’t sure what.

      He swallowed the lump in this throat and turned to face the brunette schoolteacher. “Um, Annie. I’m going right past your haus. I can give you a ride, if you’d like.”

      The expression in her dark eyes could have withered a lesser man. “I couldn’t possibly impose on a courting couple.”

      “Ach, you know gut and well Rachel and I aren’t courting.” He couldn’t commit to anyone. Not when his attention had been caught and held by one certain Amish schoolteacher. But he wouldn’t approach her—not until he knew for sure what was happening between her and Luke. Or seeing if he could somehow catch her eye. Choosing a future frau was a serious thing. After all, he’d be spending the rest of his life with her.

      It wasn’t like God would point her out with a bright-neon light, one that he’d be sure to notice in this quiet, rural community. Then again, maybe He had. Joshua had certainly sat up and taken notice of Annie.

      “I’m going right past your haus,” he repeated, tucking his thumbs into his suspenders to keep from reaching out and touching her arm, grasping her hand, or otherwise physically imploring her to just hush up and come along.

      The good Lord certainly hadn’t made Annie Beiler into a submissive maidal. Not like Rachel Lapp, who still stood silently on his other side, waiting for him to finish. She’d probably be a docile, obedient frau. Unfortunately for her, he liked a bit of spunk.

      Spunk was something that Annie Beiler possessed in abundance, if what he’d overheard during the school board meetings was true.

      Ignoring him, Annie turned around and headed for the barn. He watched her go, torn whether to follow or not. Rachel still waited quietly by his side, so he straightened and faced her. “Shall we?”

      She met his gaze, her green eyes wide. “Maybe we should wait to see if Annie needs a ride first. Her sister left with a beau, and her brother isn’t here.” She looked around. “Neither is her best friend.”

      “Jah.” Joshua swallowed, then glanced back at the barn. “I’ll ask again.”

      “Has Luke returned home for gut?” Rachel asked before he’d taken a step.

      Joshua shrugged. “He was at the haus when we came back from church this afternoon, and he said he’d kum home.”

      “His parents must be so happy.”

      Joshua nodded, but the truth was, he didn’t know. The Schwartzes had both seemed rather skeptical when they’d found Luke on the porch after church. Already, the whole community seemed to know about his homecoming. Who needed a phone when the grapevine was so effective? Annie had looked surprised to see him, however, so perhaps the news hadn’t spread as quickly as Joshua thought.

      “I’ll go see if I can find Annie. Be right back.”

      Rachel smiled. “I’ll wait at your buggy.”

      Joshua gave a brief nod, then headed back inside the lantern-lit barn, where he breathed in the scents of animals, dust, and hay. He skirted the table, still laden with sandwiches, vegetables, and cookies left over from the singing, and walked toward a far corner where he thought he saw a brown dress in the shadows. Annie always wore brown, as if she wanted to go unnoticed. Hidden from view. Invisible.

      Of course, given the recent conflicts with the school board, maybe flying low was the best thing for her.

      With a sigh, Joshua paused, backtracked, and grabbed a couple of peanut butter cookies off the table. Taking a bite of one of the crumbly cookies, he retraced his steps toward the corner where he thought Annie was hiding. He swallowed. “Annie?”

      No answer.

      He rounded a pile of hay bales and saw her, crouched low. “Hey. You’ll never find a ride hiding back here.”

      She jumped up and straightened her shoulders. “I wasn’t hiding. I was….” She looked around and picked up a piece of straw, poking it back into the bale. “Cleaning. They missed this corner.”

      Joshua raised his eyebrows and silently watched her pick up more straw for several moments. Fighting a grin, he leaned against another bale of hay.

      Annie balled her fists and planted them on her hips. “Aren’t you going to go? Take Rachel home?”

      “It’s more fun watching you pick up straw. And I’m sure the Stoltzfuses will appreciate that you took so much time cleaning this part of their barn. By hand, no less. I’ll be sure to tell Shanna.”

      “You’re insufferable. Nein wonder your community swapped you out.” 

      Her comment couldn’t have been farther from the truth, but he didn’t mind. That was just what he wanted everyone to believe—for now, at least. But it didn’t matter. The temptation to grin won out. “Jah. I’ll just be the thorn in your side, here. Now, quit being so stubborn and admit you need a ride home.”

      “I’ll admit nein such thing.” 


      She needed a ride, of course, but the thought of imposing on Joshua and Rachel—that wasn’t right. How could she? Besides, she didn’t want a ride as an act of charity. Yet that was the only way she’d get one. She thought about walking, but she refused to give Luke and Joshua the pleasure of seeing her reduced to setting out on foot.

      “I’ll wait until you have a ride, then. Or till you accept one from me.” Judging by the obstinate set of Joshua Esh’s jaw, refusing was no longer an option.

      She pulled in a deep breath and then nodded. “I guess I can let you drive me. Danki.” It hurt to say that. If only he had asked her first, because he wanted to, instead of asking out of a sense of obligation. As if she was a charity case.

      Annie followed him outside and climbed in the backseat of the buggy behind Rachel and Joshua. His was an open buggy, not one for courting, and the two sat with a good foot between them—a respectable distance. Annie reached for the folded quilt on the seat beside her and pulled it close, wanting the comfort. The security.

      Joshua glanced over his shoulder at her. “Cold?”

      “Nein.” It was a bit breezy. The scent of autumn filled the air, though only a few leaves had started to turn. There was no good reason for wanting the quilt, other than her insecurity. She wrapped her arms around it, cuddling it like she would one of Mamm’s quilted throw pillows when company came, and she wanted to hide but had to be physically present. Not that the pillow hid her, but it made her more comfortable. And this quilt certainly wouldn’t hide her either. She glanced down at it. Maple leaf pattern. It was beautiful.

      Joshua turned around once more and studied her, open concern in his hazel eyes. The horse snorted and tossed its head, as if to show its impatience to be off. Annie squirmed, again wishing someone else had asked to take her home. Well, someone had. Luke. She winced, her stomach suddenly churning. An ex-beau or Joshua and his girl of the day: a lose-lose decision.

      “I’ll take Rachel home first, then you,” Joshua said. He clicked his tongue to the horse.

      “Nein, take me home first.” 

      Joshua shook his head. “That doesn’t make any sense. We’ll kum to Rachel’s haus before yours. If I take you home first, I’ll have to backtrack to drop her off and then again on the way to the haus where I’m staying.”

      Annie frowned. “But—”

      “I hate backtracking.” 

      She pulled the quilt closer, crossing her arms over it.

      Joshua glanced at Rachel before looking ahead at the road again. They hadn’t spoken, but Annie was sure they’d communicated nonverbally. Probably a mutual acknowledgment of the unwelcome third party in the buggy. She’d never know.

      “We got a lot done at the Kropfs’ haus last week, ain’t so?” Rachel turned sideways in the seat so that she faced Joshua and could see Annie. “You did a great job painting in the kitchen, Annie. It looks so much brighter with a fresh coat of white paint. Those brown water stains on the wall were nasty.” She glanced at Joshua. “You were working upstairs, ain’t so? Helping the other men put on a new roof?”

      He nodded.

      Annie sank into the back seat, glad that Rachel filled the silence with chatter. But still, she didn’t need any more proof that her presence had put an awkward spin on things. What would she have to say to Joshua after Rachel was gone and they were alone? She supposed she could apologize for ruining their evening. She studied Joshua’s profile when he glanced at Rachel, wishing for the thousandth time that he’d asked to take her home because he wanted to. She hugged the quilt closer.

      Rachel still chattered nonstop. “I heard that the floorboards upstairs were rotted, too.”

      “Jah. We had to be careful where we stepped. Should be as gut as new now.”

      “I think it’s a shame that Amos Kropf let his haus fall into such a bad shape. Don’t you?”

      Joshua voiced appropriate responses to her comments, and, soon, their conversation was a vague drone in Annie’s ears. Yet, all too soon, he pulled the buggy into the drive that led to Rachel’s haus. It was a tidy stone place that looked hardly big enough to house her entire family. It didn’t need to, of course, since all of her siblings but one were grown and married. Her younger brother, Esau, was fourteen, so this was the last year Annie would have him in class. He was one of the big buwe, but he hadn’t caused her any trouble. He was as sweet as his sister. She’d actually miss him, she realized.

      “I’ll be right back.” Joshua glanced at Annie, then vaulted out of the buggy and came around to walk Rachel to the door. They talked too quietly for Annie to make out what they said. All she heard was the muffled sound of voices.

      The horse raised its tail and made a deposit. Annie glanced away, readjusting the quilt on her lap.

      Too soon, Joshua was back. He climbed into the buggy and twisted around to look at her. “Move up here by me. I’m not a chauffer.”

      “Jah, that’s exactly what you are.”

      He hesitated, studying her. “Either that or a taxi service, jah?”

      She smiled, in spite of herself. “Jah.”

      He grinned back. “Get up here.” 

      After a moment, she laid the quilt where she’d found it, smoothing the wrinkles. Then, she climbed over the buggy seat, settling in next to him. Closer to him than Rachel had sat. “Danki for taking me home.”

      His grin liquefied her knees. Good thing she wasn’t standing. Had he smiled at Rachel that way? He reached for the brake, released it, and clicked his tongue. Seconds later, they were back on the road.

      “Did you have fun at the singing?”

      “Jah.” It had been okay, until Luke had showed up.

      “Gut. You haven’t kum to many singings in the past few weeks. Just on occasion.”

      He’d noticed her? Annie fought the urge to smile. “You’re new in town. I go to all the singings. Well, almost all of them.” She had missed a good number after Mamm’s accident.

      “I’m not that new. I’ve been here since the end of June. Four months. And I would have noticed if you were there all the time. Believe me.” 

      He’d noticed her enough to miss her? Then, why hadn’t he asked…?

      “Sorry I tagged along on your ride with Rachel.”

      He glanced at her. “I don’t mind giving you a ride. It’s a pleasure. As for ruining the evening with Rachel, don’t worry. I might decide to visit her later this week.” He shrugged as if it didn’t matter.

      Annie’s heart sank. She leaned back in the seat, shifting away from him as far as she could. Not that she’d been sitting indecently close. She did have a reputation to uphold. Such as it was.

      He glanced at her again. “So, heard that you are meeting with the school board on Monday to discuss some things.”

      Tomorrow. She shut her eyes briefly. “News does get around.”

      “Heard you rented a van to take the students on a field trip to a Civil War battlefield. Without permission.”

      She fought the urge to bow her head in shame. Instead, she held steady, tightening her lips, glad that he didn’t have any kinner in school, and would have no reason to attend.

      But then, he lived at the haus where the meeting would be held. With Luke’s family.

      Jah, he’d be there, to witness her humiliation firsthand.

Now my review:

Promised to Another
by Laura Hilton

I enjoyed reading this book and i wasn't ready for the story to end. The characters were described so well you felt you knew them, and some felt like your friends.

One lesson the book shares is about honesty. By hiding things from others we can hurt those whom we love.

I recommend this book and look forward to reading more from Mrs. Hilton.