Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Review: A Mother's Secret

A Mother's Secret
By Amy Clipston
Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel #2
Zondervan, 2014


Carolyn Lapp dreams of marrying for love. But will the errors of her past destroy this dream forever?

Carolyn Lapp longs to have a traditional Amish family. But she lives on her brother's farm with her parents and her 15-year old son, Benjamin. Carolyn has never revealed the identity of Benjamin's father and lives daily with the guilt and shame of her youthful indiscretion. Her brother simply will not forgive her.

His answer is to arrange a practical marriage for Carolyn to Saul, a widower with a little girl. But Carolyn isn't convinced that Saul really loves her and believes he is simply looking for someone to help raise his daughter.

When Benjamin causes trouble at a local horse auction, horse breeder Joshua Glick decides that he must be taught a lesson. Carolyn and Joshua are unmistakably drawn to each other, but Joshua mistakenly assumes that Benjamin is Carolyn's brother. Carolyn fears that if he discovers the truth, her past will destroy their budding romance.

After years of shame and loneliness, Carolyn suddenly has two men vying for her attention. But which of them will give her the family-and the unconditional love-she's longed for?

My thoughts

A Mother's Secret, book #2 in the Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series, is the first of Amy's books that I've read, and I really enjoyed it. It's a fairly light and quick read, but I don't mean that as a criticism; in fact, that's often what I'm in the mood for. And in contrast to a lot of lighter reads, Amy deals with some difficult social issues. There's also good character depth and spiritual elements that made me stop and reflect.

The stories in this series are connected by heroines who have jobs at the Lancaster Grand Hotel. Reading the first book, A Hopeful Heart, would give a better feel for characterization, yet it was easy for me to pick up on the background. Amy includes a family tree at the front of this book, which was extremely helpful.

The characters and their struggles felt realistic and Amy shows that Amish people have the same struggles and deal with the same mistakes or sins that we do. 31-year-old Carolyn lives with the guilt of past sin - mainly because people won't let her forget - and feels unworthy of a marriage based on love. Her brother, Amos, wants her to marry in order to be "respectable." Benjamin, Carolyn's son, is bullied by his cousins.

It was an unlikely character that I found it so easy to relate to, and that was Barbie, Joshua's mother. Barbie is manipulative, pushy, and controlling, yet I was drawn to her - because, as a mother, I felt she was acting out of fear due to the heartbreaking losses in her life. What must it be like to have a son die so young and unexpectedly, and then to have two grandchildren leave the Amish community? She wanted a daughter-in-law that she could mold into a good, dutiful wife and mother, one who would give her more grandchildren and stay close by. I can't wait to see where Amy takes this character in the next book.

As I said in the beginning, for an "easy" read, this story carries some strong spiritual messages and personal challenges. We see themes of a judgmental spirit vs. a forgiving spirit, legalism vs. unconditional love. We are all eager to receive God's forgiveness, but is it easier to accept God's forgiveness than to grant it to others? And are we ever capable of truly "forgetting"?

I am so glad to discover Amy's writing, as she did a great job at creating families and characters that I care about - and I feel there is much more to tell. Recommended to fans of Amish fiction.

A Dream of Hope, Madeleine and Saul's story, is coming in the fall.

A Mother's Secret can be purchased online at CBD, DeeperShopping, B&N, and Amazon.

Amy Clipston

Amy Clipston holds a degree in communication from Virginia Wesleyan College and works full-time for the City of Charlotte, NC. Amy lives in North Carolina with her husband, and two sons and four spoiled rotten cats.

Meet Amy online at amyclipston.com, Twitter, and Facebook.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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