By Jennifer Beckstrand
The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill, #1
Kensington Books, 2014
With their thirteen children grown, Anna and Felty Helmuth are ready for their next adventure. That means trying their hands at matchmaking--because what could be more fun than igniting love when it's right--and undoing mismatches when they're wrong. Now Huckleberry Hill just might turn out to be the most romantic spot in Wisconsin . . .
Lia Shetler is resigned to being a spinster. She's too tall and sturdy to ever be marriageable--so says her overbearing dat. Instead, she's helping her pretty, spoiled sister Rachel secure the perfect husband--the Helmuths' grandson, Moses Zimmerman. But the more Lia sees of Moses' gently teasing ways and quiet understanding, the more she wishes he could be hers alone . . .
Moses knew his grandparents couldn't resist trying to find him a wife. But he never expected it would be the graceful, sensible Lia--a woman who is tall enough to look him in the eye, and honest enough to make him question a promise holding him to his past. Now both will need the kind of miracles only faith and courage can bring to finally reach for a lifetime of happiness . . .
Blue huckleberry bush
Huckleberry Hill, book #1 in The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series, is a delightful Amish romance about an elderly couple who decide to meddle in their grandchildren's lives in order to help them find suitable mates. Jennifer's voice is different from anything I've read in Amish fiction, and I found it very refreshing. Huckleberry Hill has a beautiful sense of place in the Wisconsin Amish country, endearing lead characters in Moses and Lia, plenty of conflict, sweet romance, humor - and the most adorable, scheming grandparents I've ever seen. This is such an enjoyable read!
There's good character depth here, something I always look for in a book, and character weaknesses are exposed, as well as strengths. It is so much fun to watch the growing attraction between Moses and Lia, but it is the conflict introduced by Lia's sister around which everything revolves. Rachel and her father don't seem to fit our image of believers committed to the Amish faith, yet it is this conflict that drives the story and captured my attention throughout.
Rachel is an extremely irritating character who just grinds on your nerves - blessed with a beauty that failed to pierce the surface. She was pampered, spoiled, lazy, conniving - the complete opposite of Lia. "Rachel wanted for nothing, while Lia's charge was to watch out for her delicate younger sister." There's even an allusion to the story of Rachel and Leah in the Old Testament, as Moses reflects: "It seemed her dat moved his daughters around like pieces on a chessboard. Lia was the expendable one, and Rachel played the queen. Well, Moses refused to be the pawn."
"We can't leave something this important to a man.
What man has ever known his own heart?"
But it is the grandparents, Felty and Anna, who captured my heart and wouldn't let go. They could get away with throwing two young people together to see if sparks might ignite because no one would ever suspect this seemingly guileless couple of such mischief. Anna loves to experiment with new recipes, often with disastrous results - and one of my favorite scenes is her meatball supper. Felty, the perfect husband for Anna, could pop scorching hot meatballs into his mouth because a childhood accident had impaired his sense of taste and smell.
On a spiritual level, we see much personal growth in Moses and Lia, and comforting Scriptures are often quoted in a way that easily flows with the narrative. Felty and Anna are filled with a spiritual wisdom that comes from walking closely with the Lord, and I particularly enjoyed one conversational scene between Felty and Lia. I would have liked to see some indication of transformation or redemption in Rachel's character, but that is left up to the reader's imagination - and that's not a bad thing.
Huckleberry Hill is a story you can relax with and enjoy your time spent in its pages. In fact, it was hard to read without a smile on my face! Readers of Amish fiction will enjoy this story that is different from many others on the market. Book #2, Huckleberry Summer, releases in June 2014.
"I am drawn to the strong faith of the Plain people and admire the importance they put on enduring family ties. I have visited and studied Amish communities in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin where I met with a bishop and a minister as well as several Amish mamms, dats, and children. It has always impressed me at what salt-of-the-earth people they are. My interactions with these kind people have been some of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
"My goal is to write uplifting, inspiring stories with happy endings and hopeful messages. If my books make readers want to give themselves a big hug or jump up and down for joy, I’ve done my job." [Taken from Jennifer's website]
Lia's Huckleberry pie
Meet Jennifer online at www.jenniferbeckstrand.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
Thank you to Jane Nutter and Kensington Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.