Monday, February 2, 2015

Review - Huckleberry Spring by Jennifer Beckstrand

Nothing gives Anna and Felty Helmuth greater satisfaction than seeing their grandchildren happily married--except for planning their next matchmaking venture. And as springtime comes to Huckleberry Hill, Wisconsin, the air is filled with promise. . .

Ever since the Helmuths' grandson, Ben, abruptly broke his engagement and moved to Florida, Emma Nelson has kept busy tending her vegetable garden and raising award-winning pumpkins. She can put her heartache aside to help Ben's Mammi with her own pumpkin patch. At least until Ben shows up to lend support to his ailing Dawdi. . .

Gardening side by side with pretty, nurturing Emma is a sweet kind of torture for Ben. She could have her pick of suitors who can offer what he can't, and he cares too much to burden her with his secret. Leaving once more is the only option. Yet Emma's courage is daring him to accept the grace that flourishes here, and the love that has been calling him back to Huckleberry Hill. . .

I've been reading a lot of Amish fiction lately. And unfortunately due to an email mishap I was not able to get this review up when I normally would... BUT we're here now. And Huckleberry Spring (book 4 in the Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill) by Jennifer Beckstrand was definitely worth the scramble and stuffing my ears in headphones with movie soundtracks blasting and blocking out any other noise so that I could read straight through until I'd finished it.

Emma Nelson and Ben Helmuth were engaged and in love. The ideal couple. The type that made everyone else wish they could be them. Incredibly in love. And then it was over. Engagement was broken and Ben was gone. To Florida of all places. Leaving Emma in Wisconsin to mourn and try and put on a brave face so no one scolded her for crying or tried to make her feel better either.

Anna Helmuth was not easily dissuaded and was bound and determined to put the two lovebirds back together again. She convinced her husband, Felty, that he needed some fixing. Needed to get Lasik surgery for his eyeballs, his deviated septum repaired, plantar warts removed.... all in the name of love. Because if Felty was laid up recovering then Ben would HAVE to come back to help out with the chores until he was up on his feet again. And, it just so happens that at that same time Anna decided she needed a giant pumpkin and that Emma was the only person in the world that could help her to grow one.

Ben and Emma were thrown together, both wanting to help his grandparents, but neither being able to  handle being around each other. Ben wanted Emma to move on. And Emma thought she'd forced Ben away. That she'd disgusted him so much that he had no choice but to leave. Both of them couldn't have been more wrong. Even if it took them forever to figure it out.

I loved this book. I loved Anna and Felty's relationship. Felty didn't think Anna should meddle in Ben and Emma's lack-of-relationship but loved her enough to do whatever she wanted him to do to keep their grandson in Wisconsin. Even if it meant a root canal and a new false tooth.

Emma is the MOST accident prone person I have ever "met" in my life. And I thought I was clumsy. She seems to attract problems like a super magnet. It kind of made her endearing though. And it only seemed to REALLY embarrass her when it came to what she thought Ben thought of her, and when people made fun of her for it. Which they rarely did on account of how much everyone loved her. She was kind and helpful and never sought out sympathy for all the trouble she found herself in. Even when the man she loved more than anything left and her best friend deserted her. She was so much stronger than she gave herself credit for.

Mahlon was her twin, and a wonderful big brother. Even if he was a little cranky. He was Emma's shoulder when she needed one and was hellbent on defending her even when she didn't want him to. The relationship between the two of them was wonderful and comical. And it made me happy when Emma's friend Lizzy came back and Mahlon started paying her more attention. Even if in the beginning it was mostly teasing.

Oh my gosh this book made my heart ache. Watching Ben and Emma from the outside, knowing the way they felt about each other but Ben being too stubborn it seemed to do anything about it. And Emma thinking it was all her fault that he'd left to begin with. I just wanted to take them both and shake some sense in to them. Make them see how ridiculous the whole thing was. I could completely imagine the pain Emma was feeling every time she thought of Ben. The soul sucking emptiness that she must have felt when he left.

Three quarters of the way through the book I got a kick in the gut though. One I wouldn't have been able to see coming from a mile away. And one that kind of hits a little close to home. Obviously I won't give it away... you'll have to read it to find out what it is.

That being said, this book is definitely highly recommended. The characters are wonderful (although Emma's mother and Adam were not high on my list of likes). I was rooting for Emma the entire time and just when I thought I knew what was going to happen the rug got pulled out from under me. There's enough going on to keep you interested and the plot twist will most certainly surprise you. And I don't do this often with books... I may have teared up a bit toward the end. But in a good way. Do yourself a favor and read Huckleberry Spring!

Author Bio:

I grew up with a steady diet of William Shakespeare and Jane Austen. After all that literary immersion, I naturally decided to get a degree in mathematics, which came in handy when one of my six children needed help with homework. After my fourth daughter was born, I started writing. By juggling diaper changes, soccer games, music lessons, laundry, and two more children, I finished my first manuscript—a Western—in just under fourteen years.

I have always been fascinated by the Amish way of life and now write Inspirational Amish Romance. 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. I have a dear Amish friend with whom I correspond in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She helps me keep my facts straight and gives me inspiration for my stories.

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. I am a member of Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers and am represented by Mary Sue Seymour of The Seymour Agency.

There are three Amish romances in the Forever After in Apple Lake Series (Summerside/Guideposts). Kate’s Song, Rebecca’s Rose, and Miriam’s Quilt are all now available.

I have six Amish Roamish buggymances in the works with Kensington Books. The first and second books, Huckleberry Hill and Huckleberry Summer, are now available in stores and online. The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill is set in northern Wisconsin Amish country.

The series, The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill, is about an elderly Amish couple who try to find suitable mates for their grandchildren. What could be more fun than throwing two young people together to see if sparks ignite? No one would ever suspect two octogenarian Amish folks of mischief.

Romantic Times gave Huckleberry Hill 4 1/2 stars and chose Huckleberry Summer as a TOP PICK.

I have four daughters, two sons, three sons-in-law, and two adorable grandsons. I live in the foothills of the Wasatch Front with my husband and one son still left at home.

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