Friday, September 19, 2014

Review: Joyful

By Shelley Shepard Gray
Return to Sugarcreek, #3
Avon Inspire, 2014


A young Amish couple gets a second chance at love in New York Times bestselling author Shelley Shepard Gray’s final book in her Return to Sugarcreek series.

Randall Beiler is doing his best to put his family and the farm’s needs first, even forsaking love. But though he tries, Randall knows he needs help caring for his younger siblings and keeping the house together.

When his brother offers pretty Elizabeth Nolt a job taking care of the house and cooking for the family, Randall is furious—and guilty about the way he once broke Elizabeth’s heart. But when he learns that Elizabeth and her grandmother are struggling to make ends meet, he knows the offer, no matter how painful, is the right thing for everyone.

Elizabeth wants to refuse—to stay far away from the man who hurt her—but she needs the money. Though she vows to protect her heart, spending time in the Beiler household makes Elizabeth realize that, while she’s older and wiser, her love for Randall still burns strong.

Randal, too, seems to want something more. But does he want Elizabeth because he truly loves her—or because he needs a housekeeper? If Randall sincerely wants something more, he must find a way to show Elizabeth—or risk losing his chance at love forever.

My thoughts

I have enjoyed all three books in the Return to Sugarcreek series and my reviews of the previous books can be seen by clicking on the titles:  Hopeful and Thankful. These aren't complex or dramatic stories, but just plain good reads with a cozy feel. Shelley has an easy style of writing and the ability to make me become invested in the character's lives. I also enjoy how she brings back previous characters and interweaves multiple storylines.

The main story revolves around the sweet romance between Randall and Elizabeth, a couple who had broken up two years earlier. Randall could be frustrating at times, yet I admired his loyalty and sense of responsibility to family. But his downfall was in believing that he bore the family's burdens alone, and while his motives were right, his actions were misguided - and that's something to which I could relate. One of Elizabeth's strengths is also loyalty, for she was willing to sacrifice her own happiness in order to help others - but she let pride interfere when it came to asking for her mamm's financial help. And in all honesty, I must confess to a little envy when it comes to Elizabeth's remarkable housekeeping, cooking, and organizational skills!


"The Lord is certainly in charge . . . He throws things
in our carefully organized lives time and again."
- Elizabeth

The two other storylines involve the returning characters of Pippa, Hispanic owner of the Sugarcreek Inn who is waiting to be embraced by the community, and Judith. In the way they handled an agonizing situation with baby James, Judith and Ben reminded me that we have to be willing to let go of things that are most precious so God can do His work. I love this old saying that Ben shares with Judith:  "Reach up as far as you can. God will reach the rest of the way."

I think one reason I enjoy Amish fiction so much is simply the love and support of "family" - and one moving scene that beautifully exemplifies this is Judith's extended family being present in mass when little James' aunts came to visit. We see spiritual and relational growth throughout the narrative, and, in Shelley's words, all three of these storylines "revolve around the idea of finding joy in unexpected places, as well as the joy that God’s love can bring to a person."

Joyful is a fulfilling conclusion to the series - but, of course, I'd like to return to Sugarcreek and read the stories of other characters. Thank you for a heartwarming and inspirational series, Shelley. Recommended to all fans of Amish fiction.

Joyful can be purchased online at CBD, DeeperShopping, B&N, and Amazon.

Shelley Shepard Gray

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.

Connect with Shelley online at shelleyshepardgray.comFacebookPinterest, and Goodreads.

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

1 comment:

  1. I haven't yet read any of Gray's books, but they look really good! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday! Always a pleasure to have you!