A Wedding at the Orange Blossom Inn
By Shelley Shepard Gray
Amish Bides of Pinecraft, #3
Avon Inspire, 2015
In the third book of New York Times-bestselling author Shelley Shepard Gray's Amish Brides of Pinecraft series, a wedding brings together two young widowed parents . . . and gives them a second chance at love.
Emma Keim was heartbroken when her husband, Sanford, passed away, leaving her to raise three young daughters alone. Though several years have passed, her relatives have made it no secret that they expect Emma to remain a widow, mourning Sanford indefinitely. But when she meets Jay Hilty---a handsome widower with three young sons of his own---Emma is delighted to have a new friend who understands her struggles. Still, she is dismayed that her family is so opposed to their friendship---and the idea of it ever becoming anything more. She honors her husband's memory every day, but is she destined to be alone forever?
Emma's gentleness with Jay's boys stirs something in his heart that's been quiet for far too long. But when his oldest son becomes engaged to a local woman, suddenly Jay, Emma, and their children are swept up in wedding preparations. Witnessing his son's joy, Jay wonders if it's time for him to move forward, too, and find happiness again.
Once again, love has come to Pinecraft. But can these two parties of four become a happy, healthy family of eight?
Shelley Shepard Gray has a gift for making not only characters, but setting, come alive in this Amish Brides of Pinecraft series. Pinecraft, the small Amish community in the heart of Sarasota, Florida, offers a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere – and worship takes place in an Amish church rather than in their own homes. From ice cream at Olaf’s to pie at Yoder's, Shelley has made this community come alive. It is delightful to see characters from the previous two books pop in occasionally, yet this story can stand alone.
We’re actually treated to three romances, one of which has yet to be resolved – and that’s between Beverly, who runs the Orange Blossom Inn, and Eric, the owner. I have been hooked on their story since the first book and anticipate an enjoyable conclusion in the next book.
The main couple, Jay Hitly and Emma Keim, are among my favorites in the series. Both have three children and have lost their respective spouses, a little reminiscent of The Brady Bunch. Beverly notes that “the Hitlys were a group of four lonely souls adrift without their anchor.” And Emma feels that her needs had been forgotten in everyone’s efforts to preserve her husband’s memory. It was so much fun to see the interaction between their children, and the scenes between Jay and Emma’s youngest daughter were precious. The romance between Emma and Jay was touching and sweet in every way.
I love to see characters reflect life as they grow and mature, both emotionally and spiritually, and that is beautifully reflected in Tricia and Ben, Beverly’s niece and Jay’s oldest son. Those who have read the previous book will remember that Tricia showed up on Beverly’s doorstep unexpectedly. The relationship between Beverly and her brother, Tricia’s father, is also touching.
Shelley has dedicated this story in memory of her beagle, Phoebe. “She loved napping, kids, and pizza. Because of that, we loved her, too.” In doing so, Shelley has created the most memorable, loving and funny character in Emma’s dog, Frankie. I’m a cat person, but couldn’t help the way Frankie captured my heart. The scene of a Sunday afternoon family meal is so very funny!
Interwoven throughout this story is an Amish proverb that Shelley quotes at the beginning – “It takes both sunshine and rain to make a rainbow” – and doesn’t that truly reflect life? The theme of renewal/rebirth is also seen throughout this series, and that’s part of the Christian life that I never want to take for granted.
I thoroughly enjoyed A Wedding at the Orange Blossom Inn and recommend not only this story, but the whole series.
Click on the titles to see my review of the previous book in this series:
The Promise of Palm Grove
The Proposal at Siesta Key
Shelley Shepard Gray is a two-time New York Times bestseller, a two-time USA Today bestseller, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time Holt Medallion winner. She lives in Southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town's bike trail.
Find Shelley online at Facebook and Twitter.
Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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