Christmas at Rose Hill Farm
By Suzanne Woods Fisher
Bess Riehl is preparing Rose Hill Farm for her Christmas wedding, but her groom isn't who she thought it would be. Billy Lapp is far away from his Amish roots working as a rose rustler for Penn State and wants nothing to do with Stoney Ridge, his family, or Bess. And that suits Bess just fine. Why should she think twice about a man who left without a word, without any explanation? It's time she moved on with her life, and that meant saying yes to Amos Lapp, Billy's cousin and best friend. But as Bess and Amos's wedding day draws near, her emotions tangle into a tight knot. She loves Amos. Yet she can't forget Billy.
When a "lost" rose is discovered at Rose Hill Farm, Billy is sent to track down its origins. Get in, identify the rose, and get out. That's his plan. The only catch is that he's having a hard time narrowing down the identity of the lost rose, and he can't get those tropical blue eyes of Bess Riehl out of his mind.
As the history of the lost rose is pieced together, it reminds Bess and Billy---and Amos, too---that Christmas truly is the season of miracles.
It goes without saying that Suzanne Woods Fisher is one of my very favorite Amish fiction writers, but that "favorite" status also holds true in the general fiction area because of her ability to create rich, character-driven stories with multi-layered plots. Christmas at Rose Hill Farm, Suzanne's 25th novel, develops an unfinished love story from one of her previous novels, The Search - and although I've not yet read Suzanne's earlier books, this story easily stands alone. With a family rose farm, familiar characters in Stoney Ridge, a heartrending love triangle, and a mysterious character named George, this story thoroughly entertains and inspires.
The characters are realistic, easy to engage with, and the setting of Rose Hill Farm is so vividly described that I could see and almost smell Bess's roses. Although I've never tried to grow roses, their beauty is unsurpassed and I found this aspect of the story fascinating. Billy, a "rose rustler," hunts for forgotten old roses that have survived for generations and tries to preserve them. And with his arrival at Rose Hill Farm, old feelings and hurts are resurrected. The story is set in 1977 and Suzanne very effectively interweaves their back story from the late 1960s with Bess's feisty and loveable grandmother, Bertha Riehl.
I love how Suzanne has created a sense of community throughout her Stoney Ridge novels, the way characters and settings overlap. Something else that I especially enjoy is her use of descriptive phrases that poignantly convey a character's feelings, such as Bess's thoughts about the way Billy had changed over the years: "He had hardened into manhood. Yet he was stunted somehow . . . like a crop that had suffered an unexpected frost." Amos was conflicted over his best friend Billy's return, trying to smile "though his chest tightened with a sharp sadness that felt like the crisp snap of a twig."
I'm always intrigued by the idea of divine appointments - a seemingly "chance" meeting with someone that was actually orchestrated by God - and that theme was beautifully illustrated when Billy is called to identify the rose Bess discovered in her greenhouse. Another message that I never tire of is the reminder that God is faithful, even when we are not.
Christmas at Rose Hill Farm will fill readers with the spirit of Christmas, but is perfect for any time of the year as well. The back story of this lost rose will be unveiled in Anna's Crossing, a story of the first Amish who crossed the Atlantic in 1737 on the Charming Nancy ship. Due out in March 2015!
Christmas at Rose Hill Farm can be purchased online at CBD, DeeperShopping, B&N, and Amazon.
Suzanne Woods Fisher
Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of the Inn at Eagle Hill series, Lancaster County Secrets series, and the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. She is also the coauthor of a new Amish children's series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist. She is a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She lives in California.
Connect with Suzanne online at suzannewoodsfisher.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can also learn more at the Litfuse blog tour page.
Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.