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An Amish Family Christmas

An Amish Family Christmas, November 2014
by Marta Perry, Patricia Davids

Harlequin Love Inspired
Featuring: Sally Yoder; Susannah Miller; Toby Unger
224 pages
ISBN: 0373879202
EAN: 9780373879205
Kindle: B00K9ZWK2C
Paperback / e-Book
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"Two novellas show how the Plain folks celebrate Christmas - with much happiness."

Fresh Fiction Review

An Amish Family Christmas
Marta Perry, Patricia Davids

Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted October 18, 2014

Holiday | Romance Contemporary | Amish

AN AMISH FAMILY CHRISTMAS is comprised of two novellas by well-loved authors.

HEART OF CHRISTMAS by Marta Perry touches on a topic dear to everyone's heart. How do we keep Christmas alive without commercialising the feast day? When you are an Amish maiden teaching school, this becomes especially relevant! Susannah's plans for a respectful class celebration are forgotten when Toby Unger darkens the school doorway. Ten years ago he had an understanding with Susannah but jilted her and left the community to marry elsewhere. Now he's come back, a widower with two children needing to be schooled. Susannah is thirty and still unmarried thanks to him, so he needn't expect a warm welcome. The Amish preach forgiveness, but she feels there has to be a limit.

A PLAIN HOLIDAY by Patricia Davids shows us Sally Yoder from a farm in Ohio, off on her rumspringa time in Cincinnati and working as a nanny. She tries to get used to Englisch garb, but the demands for pricey Christmas gifts by her young charges are more discomfiting. Ben Lapp meanwhile works as a groom on a horse farm, but when the owner's grandchildren make a seasonal visit he can't believe his eyes. The stunning young woman with them - in jeans, leather jacket and with fiery red hair down her back - reminds him of someone he knows... someone he didn't think twice before leaving. Maybe he should think again.

I liked reading about the seasonal decorations - no Christmas tree, but plenty of greenery, candles and berries are evident as snow falls in Pennsylvania. Youngsters don't all behave perfectly, and even here, in Marta Perry's tale, some of them are troubled. Also delightful is the ride in a one-horse open sleigh! I really felt that I was seeing the countryside and savouring the scent of cedar wood and baking as I read Patricia Davids' story of snow piling dangerously high. And I definitely want some of the peppermint hot chocolate with marshmallow cream. I don't think you could do better for an inspirational Christmas book this year so I heartily recommend AN AMISH FAMILY CHRISTMAS to romance readers everywhere.

Learn more about An Amish Family Christmas


Amish teacher Susannah Miller suddenly has two new students: the children of her former love. Widowed father Toby Unger broke Susannah's heart ten years ago, but now the handsome Amish man desperately needs help with his troubled little ones. Can the joy of the season reunite two lonely hearts in time for Christmas?

Outspoken nanny Sally Yoder left her Amish community for her rumspringa. Though her heart is back home, the Amish man she loves, Ben Lapp, will never love a bold woman like her. But when a snowstorm strands her, her young charges and Ben on a remote farm at Christmastime, they both might discover that love is the true holiday spirit.


Chapter One

Susannah Miller stood behind the security of her teacher’s desk, watching the departure of school board member James Keim and his wife, and wondering if her annual Christmas program was going to spell the end of her job as teacher at the Pine Creek Amish School. The hollow feeling in her stomach brought on by Keim’s complaints lingered even after the door had closed behind him.

Too worldly? What would make the Keims think there was anything worldly about the Amish school’s Christmas program? The program celebrated typical Amish values and attitudes toward the birth of Christ. It had always been the highlight of the school year for her scholars and their families in this small valley community in central Pennsylvania.

Susannah stiffened her spine. It still would be, if she had anything to say about it. She glanced around the simple, one-room schoolhouse that had become so precious to her over the past twelve years. Everything from the plain green shades on the windows to the sturdy wooden desks to the encouraging sayings posted on the wall declared that this was an Amish school, dedicated to educating kinder for life in an Amish community.

Becky Shuler, Susannah’s best friend since childhood, abandoned the pretense she’d been making of arranging books on the bookshelves. She hurried over to put her arm around Susannah’s waist.

“Ach, Susannah, it wonders me you don’t look more upset. I’d be throwing something, if I had to put up with James Keim’s criticisms. The nerve of the man, coming in here and complaining about your Christmas program before he’s even seen it.”

Susannah shook her head, managing a smile. “I’m not upset.”

Or at least, she had no intention of showing what she was feeling. Becky was her dearest friend in the world, but she knew as well as anyone that Becky couldn’t keep herself from talking, especially when she was indignant on behalf of those she loved.

“Well, you should be.” Becky’s round cheeks were even rosier than usual, and her brown eyes snapped with indignation. “The Keims have only lived here less than two years, and he thinks he should tell everyone else how to live Amish. How he even got on the school board is a mystery to me.”

Shrugging, Susannah closed the grade book she’d been working on when the Keims had appeared at the end of the school day. “Komm, Becky. You know as well as I do that folks don’t exactly line up to volunteer to be on the school board. James Keim had been willing, even eager.”

“That’s certain sure.” Becky’s flashing eyes proclaimed that she was not going to be talked out of her temper so easily. “He was only eager to serve because he wants to make our school into a copy of the one where they lived in Ohio. All I can say is that if he liked Ohio so much, he should have stayed there instead of coming here and bothering us.”

Susannah suspected that was by no means all Becky had to say, and she’d have to do her best to head Becky off before she made a difficult situation worse.

“Becky, you know you shouldn’t talk that way about a brother in the faith. It’s not kind.”

“But it’s true.” Becky was irrepressible. “You of all people know what a thorn in the side he’s been. Ach, you know I wouldn’t say these things to anyone but you.”

“It would be best not to say them at all. James Keim has his own ideas of what an Amish school should be like. He’s entitled to his opinion.”

Based on his disapproving comments, Susannah suspected that Keim’s previous community had been more conservative than Pine Creek, Pennsylvania. Amish churches varied from place to place, according to their membership and their bishops. Pine Creek, being a daughter church to Lancaster County, was probably a bit less stringent than what Keim had been used to.

“You’re too kind, that’s what you are,” Becky declared, planting her fists on the edge of the desk. “You know perfectly well that he’d like to see his daughter Mary taking your place as teacher, so he could boss her around all he wanted.”

Susannah shook her head, but she had to admit there was some truth to what Becky said. As a thirty-year-old maidal who’d been teaching for a dozen years, Susannah wasn’t easily cowed, at least not when it came to her classroom and the young scholars who were like her own children. Young Mary would probably be another story, easily influenced by her father’s powerful personality.

“I don’t think Mary Keim has much interest in teaching from what I’ve seen,” she said, determined to deflect Becky’s ire. Picking up the cardboard box that held Christmas program materials, Susannah set it on the desk. “If we’re going to work on the program this afternoon, we’d better get started.”

Becky shook her head gloomily. “Mary might not want to teach, but she’d never stand up to her daad. You’re not going to let her help with the Christmas program, are you? She’d just be spying on you and reporting to him.”

“I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” she said. “Maybe she won’t offer.” Parents and older siblings often did volunteer to help with the Christmas program, but perhaps Mary wouldn’t. Susannah pulled the tape from the box lid, sure that would divert Becky’s attention.

Becky grabbed the flap and pulled the box open, her smile saying she knew Susannah was trying to distract her. “Just one more thing, and then I’ll stop, I promise. You’re not to pay any heed to Keim’s nasty comment about you not understanding the kinder because you’re unmarried, all right?”

“All right.” That was an easy promise to make. One thing she’d never had cause to question was her feelings for her scholars.

“After all, it’s not as if you couldn’t have married if you’d wanted to.” Becky dived into the box and pulled out a handful of paper stars. “Even after Toby left—“ She stopped abruptly, looking as if she wanted to stuff the stars into her mouth to keep herself still. Her cheeks flamed. “Susannah, I’m sorry, I—“

“Forget it.” Susannah forced her smile to remain, despite the jolt in her stomach at the mention of Toby’s name. “I have.”

That was a lie, of course, and one she should repent of, she supposed. Still, the gut Lord could hardly expect her to go around parading her feelings about the childhood sweetheart who had deserted her a month before their wedding was supposed to take place. “Have you? Really?” Becky clasped her hand, her brown eyes suddenly swimming with tears.

“Of course I have,” she said with all the firmness she could muster. “It was ten years ago. My disappointment has long since been forgiven and forgotten. I wish Toby well.”

Did she? She tried to, of course. Forgiveness was an integral part of being Amish. But saying she forgave hadn’t seemed to mend the tear in her heart.

“Well, I wish Tobias Unger was here right now so I could give him a piece of my mind,” Becky declared. “He left so fast nobody had a change to tell him how ferhoodled he was being. And then his getting married out in Ohio to someone he barely knew…well, like I said, he was just plain foolish.”

News of Toby had filtered back to Pine Creek after he’d left, naturally, since his family still lived here. Everyone knew he’d married someone else within a year of leaving, just as they’d heard about the births of his two children and about his wife’s death last year. His mother had gone out to help with the children for a time, and she’d returned saying that Toby and the kinder really ought to move back home.

But he hadn’t, to Susannah’s relief. She wasn’t sure how she’d cope with seeing him all the time.

“Forget about him,” she said. “Let’s talk about how we’re going to arrange the room for the Christmas program. I have some new ideas.” “You always have ideas,” Becky said, apparently ready to let go of the sensitive subject. “I don’t know how you keep coming up with something new every year for the Christmas program.”

“Ach, there’s always something new to find in Christmas.” Susannah felt a bubble of excitement rising in her at the thought of the much-loved season. “Maybe because we all feel like kinder again, ain’t so?”

“I suppose so.” Becky’s color had returned to normal, and her eyes sparkled. “Thomas and the twins have been whispering together for weeks now. I think they’re planning a Christmas surprise for me.”

“Of course they are. That’s what Christmas is, after all. God’s greatest surprise of all for us.” Susannah swung away from the desk, looking around the room. “What do you think about making the schoolroom itself surprising when folks come in? Maybe instead of having the scholars all presenting in the front, we could turn everything sideways. That would give the kinder more space.”

She walked back through the rows of desks, flinging out her arms to gesture. “You see, if the audience faced this way—“

The door of the one-room school opened suddenly, interrupting her words. Susannah’s heart jolted, and she felt as if she couldn’t breathe.

She must be imagining things. Surely she was dreaming it. The man standing in the schoolhouse doorway wasn’t…couldn’t possibly be…Toby Unger.

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