Enjoy a simple Christmas, sweetened by love, in historical communities of plain faith people. Four romances develop among the Ohio River Valley Quakers of the mid-1800s. Two Mennonite couples face influences from outside their old traditions. Two Amish couples from the early 1900s are affected by world events. And in an Amana community, childhood sweethearts are reunited. Each story also includes a recipe for a sweet traditional treat.
|Publisher:||Barbour Publishing, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.80(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.50(d)|
About the Author
LAURALEE BLISS has always liked to dream big dreams. Part of that dream was writing, and after several years of hard work, her dream of publishing was realized in 1997 with the publication of her first romance novel, Mountaintop, through Barbour Publishing. Since then she’s had twenty books published, both historical and contemporary. Lauralee is also an avid hiker, completing the entire length of the Appalachian Trail both north and south. Lauralee makes her home in Virginia in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her family. Visit her website at www.lauraleebliss.com and find her on Twitter and Facebook Readers of Author Lauralee Bliss.
RAMONA K. CECIL is a wife, mother, grandmother, freelance poet, and award-winning inspirational romance writer. Now empty nesters, she and her husband make their home in Indiana. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers and American Christian Fiction Writers Indiana Chapter, her work has won awards in a number of inspirational writing contests. Over eighty of her inspirational verses have been published on a wide array of items for the Christian gift market. She enjoys a speaking ministry, sharing her journey to publication while encouraging aspiring writers. When not writing, her hobbies include reading, gardening, and visiting places of historical interest.
DIANNE CHRISTNER lives in New River, Arizona, where life sizzles in the summer when temperatures soar above 100 degrees as she writes from her air-conditioned home office. She enjoys the desert life, where her home is nestled in the mountains and she can watch quail and the occasional deer, bobcat, or roadrunner. Dianne was raised Mennonite and works hard to bring authenticity to Mennonite fiction. She now worships at a community church. She’s written over a dozen novels, most of which are historical fiction. She gets caught up in research having to set her alarm to remember to switch the laundry or start dinner. But her husband of forty-plus years is a good sport. They have two married children, Mike and Rachel, and five grandchildren, Makaila, Elijah, Vanson, Ethan, and Chloe. She welcomes you to visit her website at http://www.diannechristner.net
Three-time Carol Award winner and bestselling author of fifteen novels, Melanie Dobson is the former corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family and owner of Dobson Media Group. Because of her husband’s work in the film industry, their family has lived in multiple states as well as Germany, but the Dobson family is settled for now in a small town near Portland, Oregon. Melanie loves connecting with readers via her website at www.melaniedobson.com.
Olivia Newport’s novels twist through time to find where faith and passions meet. Her husband and twentysomething children provide welcome distraction from the people stomping through her head on their way into her books. She chases joy in stunning Colorado at the foot of the Rockies, where daylilies grow as tall as she is.
Since winning a 2007 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis award, Rachael O. Phillips has published seven novels, with contracts for six more, as well as three novellas and 700 articles. Rachael and her husband have three children and six perfect grandchildren. She would love to visit with you at http://rachaelophillips.com.
Anna Schmidt is the author of over twenty works of fiction. Among her many honors, Anna is the recipient of Romantic Times’ Reviewer’s Choice Award and a finalist for the RITA award for romantic fiction. She enjoys gardening and collecting seashells at her winter home in Florida.
Read an Excerpt
A crossroad near Waynesville, Ohio Christ's cross is Christ's way to Christ's crown.
The limp had become too pronounced to ignore any longer. Silas Jones grimaced as he dismounted, patting his mount on the muzzle even though frustration built within him. Examining the hoof, he found strange fluid oozing out, accompanied by the horse's nicker of pain. He grimaced at the ugly conclusion. They could go no farther.
"Sorry, Barzillai," he said softly to the mare. "I shouldn't have kept riding you after you threw the shoe." But he had, thinking the animal was as strong as iron, like the biblical name implied. Now he would pay the price of a lame animal, without the means to continue.
Perhaps it was for the better. Why did he feel the urgency to press this journey? He'd wanted to make it to Independence before the snows became too deep. That would set him up to join a wagon train next spring. But now that plan might be in jeopardy, all because of his hasty heart in desperate need of healing, like Barzillai's hoof. Silas knew the reason for his haste, but the poor animal shouldn't be made to suffer. He must give her time to heal. And hope the delay wouldn't be too long.
Silas looked up then and saw a rider approaching. The man was simply dressed in a plain black frock coat and hat. Silas frowned and shook his head, refusing to compare the image with his past. He was in Ohio after all. That is, until the man spoke.
"Does thee require assistance?"
Silas's hands froze. His heart jumped. "No!" The reply came out so harshly, even Silas was startled by it. He turned away, unwilling to have the man's appearance and holy nature penetrate his soul. He'd left it all behind, all the pain and more, to embrace a new future.
But looking at his wounded horse, Silas realized he did have a need. He must accept the man's help if he was to continue this journey. "Yes, I do need assistance. I'm looking for a place to stay. My horse went lame, and I need to find good care for her."
"Just up the road a bit is the home of the Hall family. They take in weary travelers. And the son there, George, is a wonder with horses. They will care for thy needs, most assuredly."
Silas nodded while avoiding the man's steady gaze. He was thankful the man said nothing further but only offered a handshake farewell before continuing up the road. The methodic clip-clop of hooves faded into the distance.
Think nothing of the encounter, he told himself. The appearance. The manner of speech. It's only a coincidence. But he had to wonder if God had sent the man from Philadelphia, as ludicrous as it sounded. The past had followed him, even if he wished it hundreds of miles away where it belonged.
Silas wrapped his fingers tightly around the horse's reins and led the mare down the dirt road, hoping this place of refuge wasn't too far. His shoes had already worn thin from miles of walking to allow Barzillai needed rest. He should find a town to lay in some supplies, a good blacksmith for Barzillai's needs, and a cobbler to mend his own shoes. But at this moment, just the thought of a comfortable bed, plenty of food, and perhaps a strong drink to deaden the pain of the past sent his hopes soaring and the reminder wrought by the man in black to some distant realm.
Barzillai shook her head and neighed, limping from the wound on her hoof, until Silas arrived at a large manor house made of stone. It looked rather wealthy compared to the log cabins he had passed in his travels, and even those cabins that also welcomed travelers. The house reminded him of Philadelphia. It could have been set on a busy city street there rather than on its own small rise of ground, surrounded by brown grass long since withered from the change of season and a few hearty oak trees sporting their bare limbs. It did prove a pleasing sight to his weary and downtrodden soul, even if it held another reminder of a city he still tried desperately to forget.
A man about his age strode out of the barn and down the small hill. His face turned to a picture of a warm greeting, with a broad smile and large eyes that glinted in the sun's light. "Welcome!"
Silas removed his hat. "Sorry to bother you, but my horse is injured and —"
"I will gladly tend thy horse. I have a way with horses, or so people have told me." He held out his hand. "I'm George Hall. My father owns this place. We have many travelers come and stay, and I hope thee will decide to stay as well."
"I'm Silas Jones. Thank you for the kind offer."
George took the reins from Silas, and Barzillai ambled after the man as if they had known each other a long time. Assured his mount was in good hands, Silas headed for the main house, only to stop short when a young woman walked across the yard, carrying a woven basket of folded clothes. She wore a dark linen dress and a heavy wool cloak about her shoulders to protect her from the biting wind. Her dark bonnet hid most of her face from view until she turned to offer him a curious glance. She did not acknowledge his presence but instead opened the front door to the house and called for her father.
A short man with graying hair, dressed in dark clothes, came to the door. "Welcome to our inn!" he said with enthusiasm, much like the young man named George. "Is thee in need of a place to stay?"
"Yes, thank you. My horse went lame."
"George can help thee with thy horse. Please, come in and be comfortable."
Silas stepped inside the home. The interior held an aura of simplicity but was far richer than the rustic places he'd come to inhabit on his journey. Finely crafted wood chairs with attractive fan backs, a large drop-front desk, and a library of books met his curious gaze. There were no grandiose paintings or other fabrics of decorations but plenty of paned windows, allowing the sunlight to brighten each room. Fires burned cheerily in several fireplaces to warm the cold day. In the dining area, a long wooden table with benches on either side stood ready to receive a multitude of guests.
"There's talk of snow," the man said as Silas surveyed the warmth of the home. "Thee has surely arrived in time. God has guided thy footsteps."
Silas turned. He wondered if the family had anything to do with the Society of Friends, hearing all the thees and thys. Just like the talk he'd heard earlier on the road. Surely he didn't happen upon a village of Quakers. He dismissed it for now and took a seat in one of the fine chairs.
Mr. Hall disappeared into another room but soon returned with a steaming mug in hand. Silas licked his lips in anticipation of the mug's contents. Just what he needed — a nice mulled wine to deaden his senses and liven his situation. He took a large swallow of the contents and nearly choked, both on the hot liquid and on the realization it was apple cider in his mug. "This is not mulled wine," he sputtered. "Have you no brew at your inn? I've had the privilege of indulging many times on my journey so far."
"Brew? I don't understand."
"Liquor. Spirits, my good man."
"I'm sorry, but we don't serve spirits here. A good drink of the earth, like this apple cider, does well for one's soul. It will warm thee better than anything else. I trust thee will enjoy it."
There it was again. Thee. Wording he could not ignore. They must be of the Friends' persuasion. ... Between the Hall family and the man he'd met earlier on the road, he must have inadvertently stumbled upon a Quaker settlement in the middle of Ohio. And just when he was looking to escape it. Was this God's way of forcing redemption when he wanted no part of it?
Silas stood, wishing now he had the means to leave this place. But he couldn't. Snow was coming. Barzillai was lame in the hoof. And his shoes were mere scraps of flapping leather with barely a nail attaching them to the soles. He sat back down with his mug of apple cider, feeling more and more like a small lad with his childhood drink. He wanted to spout his frustrations to Mr. Hall — that this was no inn, that the man had no business taking in travelers if he could not fulfill their requirement for fine spirits to warm a winter's night. And he didn't care to hear pious people uttering thees for the rest of the evening as if they reigned on some mountaintop while he lay snared in the valley's trap.
All of this weighed on Silas until he became distracted by the young woman he'd seen earlier. She now stood in the doorway, staring at him. With her dark bonnet replaced by a cap of thin white, he saw fine brown hair fixed in a bun. The color of the cap matched the creamy paleness of her skin, and her cheeks were tinted a dusty rose from being outdoors in the cold wind. But he saw a look of fire in her blue eyes and lips turned downward in distaste. Then with a rustle of her skirt, she left.
Silas folded his arms in dismay, knowing she must have witnessed the interaction with her father over the matter of spirits. But why should her reaction bother him? He certainly wasn't here to win her heart or any other, especially if this was a family of Quakers. Heaven knew he could not nor would he ever associate with such people again. He gritted his teeth. The Society of Friends in Philadelphia had purposely left the door open to evil. Evil came stalking like a predator and killed like one, too. And that, to him, was a grievous wound that nothing could heal.
Silas shook his head and drank the cider, feeling its soothing effects in his stomach, just as the proprietor had promised. And then something filled him. Not some false peace born out of liquor that fooled with men's minds. Rather, he felt comfort. Refreshment to a weary soul and spirit. A sense of spiritual peace, as strange as it seemed, when he'd experienced no such peace for many weeks.
Another woman walked in then, older, plainly dressed, with a brown kerchief about her shoulders for warmth and the simple white cap on her head. She carried a platter of biscuits. "I'm Mrs. Hall. Thee must be hungry, Mister ..."
"Silas Jones, madam. You may call me Silas, if you wish." He took two flaky biscuits and hungrily consumed them. He hadn't tasted anything that good in a long time.
"My goodness, he is quite a hungry man, my husband," she said with a laugh to Mr. Hall as he entered the room. "I fear he would eat the platter if he could."
The husband told his wife of Silas's circumstances and Barzillai's misfortune.
Silas then lifted his foot to show them his worn shoe. "Is there a cobbler in town?"
"Oh dear. Look at his shoes! Simply dreadful. We can mend them, can't we, Husband? He cannot go like this with the snows coming. Or perhaps our neighbor, Mr. Warren, can help. He makes shoes."
The wife then pointed at her shoe, gesturing for Silas to remove his. When he did, his feet also revealed his wool socks, full of holes. Again Mrs. Hall shook her head and talked of knitting him some new socks as soon as possible. Silas sat in amazement, though he knew the Friends possessed a generosity of spirit. They cared for all people, believing God's Light lay within each. But that simple faith in humanity and a belief in equality among all also brought trouble.
Silas felt his fist clench then at a painful memory and fought to relax it for fear of observing eyes. Like those of the young woman who returned to the doorway with a look that bespoke a thousand questions on her mind. He would refuse any inquisition, even if the young woman was a beauty to behold.
He stood now and inquired about his room.
"Of course. Mary will show thee to thy room," Mrs. Hall acknowledged. "Mary?"
"Follow me, please," Mary said.
So the beauty with eyes like the deep blue skies above had a name, and a nice name, too. The name of the Savior's mother. He took his mug and followed Mary as she swiftly swept up the flight of stairs to a row of rooms on the second floor. "Thee may have the room on the far left," she directed.
"Don't you grow tired of your thees?" Silas suddenly remarked.
She faced him, centering her large blue eyes framed by arched eyebrows on him. "No, I do not."
"Why not, pray tell?"
"One man is not better than another, as scripture says. We are all equal."
"It's all foolishness. It brings you nothing. Nothing at all, you know. It only makes you appear vain and haughty. Or rather it makes thee appear that way." He ended with a scornful chortle.
"I'm sorry thee believes such things. Perhaps the description of vanity is better meant for those who believe they know what's best in life, though their hearts are dark with lies." She wheeled around.
Silas laughed. "Look at you. Haughty in your opinions, wouldn't you say? Maybe thee needs a little more humility and less pride."
"And maybe thee needs to show more respect for the household in which thee has found lodging." She strode down the hall and down the stairs.
So it appeared a black sheep resided in the flock, a sheep with eyes of blue fire and a sharp tongue to match. It left him speechless, he admitted, but also intrigued. No woman from the Society of Friends in Philadelphia held to such brazenness. They were all respectful and dignified. They wore the mark of a Friend as if it were a symbol for all to see and bear witness. A Light in a dark world, or so they believed. But this woman, Mary Hall, met his challenge face-to-face, word for word. No demureness or humility was evident on her part. Only fierce determination, and he feared what such determination could do to someone like him in the days ahead.
Silas rested in his room, thinking about his life and what the future might bring, until he heard the dinner bell. The pit of his stomach churned with thoughts of a hearty meal. He hastened down the stairs to see two other gents had arrived and stood in the hallway, eager to partake of the Hall family's evening meal and lodging. They were boisterous fellows, dressed in dusty travel garments, with conversation flowing readily from their lips. One sported a silver flask of spirits. Silas wondered what the family would think of the flask as the men made introductions.
"I'm Abe," the man with the flask said to Silas. "So how do you feel about our hosts? Strange folk, eh? But friendly." Abe laughed at his own pun, took a swallow out of the flask, and passed it to Silas.
"I had no choice. I was in need of a place to stay because my horse went lame." Silas took the flask and drank. He nearly choked as the potent liquid singed his throat. Then he thought of Mary Hall. She would be glad the liquor scorched him. She would tell him he deserved it and more. "It will never quench thy true thirst in life," he imagined her saying.
Abe grinned and took back his flask. "We know they don't like liquor, but it will make the evening a bit warmer and friendlier, wouldn't you say?"
"Quite," Silas sputtered. "And do you know why they are called Quakers?"
Abe shook his head.
"Because they think they are so close to God that they visibly tremble in His sight." Glancing behind him, Silas saw Mary in the doorway, with her arms folded and her lips pressed tight. He waited for some rebuke from her, how he lacked good manners. He would meet her challenge with one of his own.
Instead, she rang the dinner bell once more and invited them into the dining room. Silas ignored the look on Mary's face and, laughing with the men, sauntered inside. Mrs. Hall had placed an abundance of food on the table. Already seated at the table was the son, George, and Mr. Hall, who greeted each of them. Mary and the mother hastened about, serving them. He caught sight of Mary's wide eyes traveling to the flask Abe had in his possession, its shiny metal reflecting the candlelight. She opened her mouth as if to say something and then looked to her father. Mr. Hall said nothing of the liquor in their presence but only sat at the head of the table and smiled.
Silas was enjoying this all very much. The food was good, but the spirits were even better. It wasn't long before the contents of the flask passed to him under the table had loosened his tongue. "Did I tell you about the Friends I met in Philadelphia?" he said to Abe.
"So thee once dwelt in the City of Brotherly Love?" Mr. Hall inquired.
"Brotherly love, sir? Ha! There is no such love to speak of. The city breathes evil, my good man. And the so-called Friends do nothing but speak their pious babble, which means little and does even less."
Mary gasped. George stared. Mr. Hall's smile never wavered as he lifted the platter to offer them more meat.
When little came of his remark, Silas grew silent. It was as if the wax had been stripped from his candle of discontent. Nothing remained to fuel the flame. Except Mary, who continued to stare at him with her narrow set of blue eyes, her nose slightly lifted in the air, and her arms crossed. He sensed no satisfaction over her reaction, just disappointment. Perhaps rightly so. This family had nothing to do with Philadelphia, except that they were Quakers. He should not brand them with his past.
Excerpted from "A Plain and Sweet Christmas"
Copyright © 2016 Jerry Eicher.
Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
A Crossroad to Love,
A Christmas Prayer,
Treasure of the Heart,
Love is Forever,
Love's Pure Light,
Pirate of My Heart,
Abigail's Christmas Candles,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A Plain and Sweet Christmas focuses on how the Quakers, Mennonites, Amish and those from the Amana Colonies in Iowa either do or do not celebrate Christmas. Of course, there are romantic elements to each story. Surprisingly, some of the stories focus on married couples. However, just because you are married doesn’t mean there is no romance, right? I enjoyed reading about the Amana Colonies. I have family members who lived in Iowa, so I’ve always been fascinated with the Amana Colonies. Unfortunately, I have never been able to visit them. Maybe one day I’ll get the opportunity. Having read these stories will help me to appreciate their history even more. The compilation features authors whose books I’ve read before and some that are new to me. I am always excited to read a set of novellas like this because of the exposure to new authors, and A Plain and Sweet Christmas Romance Collection doesn’t disappoint! Also, there are some great recipes at the end of the stories; I can’t wait to try some of them out. Each narrative is well-written with very different perspectives, some more heart-wrenching than others. Even so, if you are looking for a heartwarming, faith-filled book full of Christmas history, drama, hope and renewal, along with love and romance, then you are sure to enjoy A Plain and Sweet Christmas Romance Collection. I received this book from NetGalley. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.
This novel definitely deserves your attention. It is a heart tugger. In the beginning there was some foretelling what this book was going to be all about - what the book was going to be all about - it set the tone within the first page right away. You feel awful for the bad horse, but as we all know all things happen for a reason. GOD uses every situation for HIS good. There is one thing I was very disappointed in was within the first three pages we have the character wanting to "deaden" the pain of his past, which of course we find out what that is, as a Christian we know that CHRIST never said - "hey guys lets go and get some drinks and deaden the pain of what I know is going to happen tomorrow." The book would have been a hit - it didn't need that there - why would that need to be there - Christians know that inebriation is not Biblical. Other than that the book is amazing. That was just one book - the others are incredible - don't let one novella ruin it for the others - one is better than the others - better on top of better - Go and BUY I received a copy of this book from the Publisher and Netgalley; all the opinions expressed in this review are all my own.
A Plain and Plain and Sweet Christmas Romance Collection by Lauralee Bliss, Ramona K. Cecil, Dianne Christner, Melanie Dobson, Jerry S. Eicher, Olivia Newport, Rachael O. Phillips, Claire Sanders, Anna Schmidt is a wonderful collection of Historical couples from Amish, Mennonite, Quaker and Amana settlements. I found the differences in how the settlements celebrated the season informative and fascinating. Each story is unique to the author’s style and the settlement it represents. I found all of the characters in each story to be very realistically portrayed. Many of the characters face some type of conflict or situation that tests their personal relationship with God. All are handled in different, unique and unexpected ways. I enjoyed this book very much and it would be an excellent gift for the readers on your holiday list. I give it 5 of 5 stars; all of the writers are well-known for their writing and they do not disappoint with this collection. I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy historical fiction and learning more about how others view the Christmas season and why they hold those views. I received an advance copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
This book has something for anyone who likes a good clean Christmas story, with a bit of romance thrown in. You are in for a real treat, only have a little bit of time for reading, there are nine novellas here, and you will be finishing one and ready to start another in no time. These are plain people, Amish, and Mennonite, a few Quakers and then we also have an Amana Colony, made me wish there were more. Be ready for snow, of course Christmas time, and there are some real blizzards our folks have to contend with. Come and enjoy a refreshing adventure. I received this book through Net Galley and the Publisher Barbour and was not required to give a positive review.
This wonderful collection features stories of couples throughout history in Quaker, Amish, Mennonite and Amana settlements. Stories about overcoming the odds through love and faith. One story grabbed a hold of me and wouldn’t let go. Equally Yoked by the talented Claire Sanders takes us on an adventure in the Ohio River valley in 1838. Susanna Griffith has married Nathan, a Quaker, and must decide if she is going to join his faith. Nathan is away helping with the antislavery movement leaving Susanna behind to tend to their home. She misses her husband and doesn’t understand his need to get personally involved with the antislavery movement. When a slave girl shows up needing Susanna’s help will she decide to join the movement, and the Quaker faith? Claire Sanders charms readers with her masterful storytelling and poetic prose. She creates a vivid world through her knowledge of the time and her incredible use of description. If you enjoy of stories of faith, love and triumph, you don’t want miss this collection.
The collections of stories in this book are wonderful. They are either Quaker or Amish or Mennonite or Amana Settlement. There are 9 stories and each have a beautiful story line.. Each story was so beautifully written but there are two that I loved the best. one is Abigail's Christmas Candle and it is a story of love and forgiveness. A schoolteacher who finds love but must forgive herself when a child is lost. The other is Equally Yoked This is a story of Quakers who help the slaves. It is a story of Susanna who is not Quaker who is married to Nathan who is a Quaker. I read this for Ne tGalley for a honest review and I am sure you will all love it as much as I did.