Brightest and Best (Amish Turns of Time Series #3)

Brightest and Best (Amish Turns of Time Series #3)

by Olivia Newport

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The collapse of a schoolhouse puts pressure on Amish families and their long-held educational values. Ella Hilty anticipates marrying Gideon Wittner and becoming a mother to his children. In a whirling clash of values, Ella seeks the solid ground that seems to have slipped away. Margaret Simpson, an English schoolteacher, wonders if she is losing her last chance at love. As the local authorities draw lines in the sand, Margaret puts romance at risk one final time. All eyes turn to Ella to make a sacrifice and accept a challenge that can bring unity to the Amish and understanding to the English.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781634095594
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date: 08/01/2015
Series: Amish Turns of Time Series , #3
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 202,893
File size: 880 KB

About the Author

Olivia Newport’s novels twist through time to find where faith and passions meet. Her husband and two 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.

Read an Excerpt

Brightest and Best

Amish Turns of Time

By Olivia Newport

Barbour Publishing, Inc.

Copyright © 2015 Olivia Newport
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63409-559-4


Geauga County, Ohio, 1918

Don't take another step!"

Ella froze. Her eyes flashed between the red rug on the floor in front of her and Nora Coates at the blackboard.

The schoolteacher's calico skirt swished softly as she came around the desk.

Ella relaxed her muscles but did not move her feet. "What's the matter?"

"You haven't been here in a long time, have you?" Nora stood six feet in front of Ella.

Ella Hilty was twenty-six, at least three years older than Nora. She left school after the eighth grade, half a lifetime ago, and had only occasional reason to be inside the one-room schoolhouse since then.

"The children all know how soft the floor is right there," Nora said. "The red rug reminds them, and they walk around the other way."

"Soft?" Ella echoed.

Nora grimaced. "Rotted is a more precise word."

Ella wasn't sure whether she felt the spongy floor yield beneath her weight or only imagined it.

"Nellie Watson put her foot through it a few months ago," Nora said.

"I never heard such shrieking from a child of school age."

"I will step carefully if you would kindly advise me," Ella said.

"Take a long step to your left and you should be on solid ground again."

Ella turned her gaze to an open space under a window and lifted her skirt just enough to accommodate the movement. Safely out of the danger zone, she squatted and lifted one corner of the red rug. Beneath it, the dank wood floor had caved in, splintered edges ringing the spot where Nellie Watson's foot must have sunk through.

"It's been wet from underneath," Ella said.

Nora nodded. "Three winters ago, during my first year teaching, Mr. King patched it, but it didn't hold."

Ella straightened the rug and stood. She understood now why Nora had asked for representatives of the parents committee to inspect the schoolhouse in the middle of July. There was time for repairs before the children returned to school in September.

"Did you attend school here?" Nora asked.

Ella nodded. She had lived in Geauga County, Ohio, all her life.

"The blackboard was new when I started," Ella said. Twenty years ago the new chalk had flashed white under the teacher's firm, quick strokes against the board. Ella had never seen anything like it. But she was six, had seen little of anything beyond the Amish farms, and only learned to speak English after she started school.

"The blackboard is still serviceable," Nora said, "but I wish one of the men would be sure it is properly secured. Sometimes the children lean on the chalk ledge when I ask them to come to the board to show their work. The creaks I hear are unnerving."

Gertie would do that. Gideon's daughter was newly six and due to begin school in a few weeks.

"I loved school." Ella moved cautiously toward the front of the room. She examined the strained wooden slats of the chalk ledge.

"Did you ever think of staying in school?" Nora's eyes brightened with curiosity.

Ella shook her head. Her parents never kept her from her books. She borrowed whatever she wanted to read from the small library in town. Besides, her eighth-grade year was also the year of her mother's death, and Ella took on housekeeping for her father. The youngest of eight children, she was the only one unmarried and living at home.

That was twelve years ago, and Ella was still the only sibling unmarried and living at home. Now, though, there was Rachel. Jed Hilty had a new wife.

* * *

Gertie Wittmer jumped unassisted out of her father's wagon. Gideon's impulse was to reach out and catch her, but she wouldn't want him to. She never did. Of his three children, the youngest was the most independent. Tobias was obedient, Savilla was sensible, and Gertie was independent. Perhaps this was because Gertie didn't remember what it was like to have a mother and the others did.

Gertie's small form hit the ground in a solid leap, and she grinned at him before running toward the schoolhouse. Perhaps he ought to warn Miss Coates to exercise extra firmness in helping Gertie adjust to the decorum of a classroom.

"Ella's here!" Gertie disappeared into the building.

His daughter's exuberance at the prospect of seeing Ella pleased Gideon. His own exceeded Gertie's, and for a moment he envied her freedom to express herself unconstrained. For obvious reasons, Ella was not part of the parents committee, which consisted of two Amish fathers and two English fathers. Both groups of children shared the schoolhouse, as they had for decades. Gideon had asked Ella to come, believing that a woman might see flaws in the schoolhouse that men would not.

Gideon looped the reins over a low branch of a flowering dogwood tree and followed his daughter into the school.

In the doorway, he held his pose. It was a long time after Betsy's death, when Gertie was a baby, before he saw Ella's loveliness. With an arm around his daughter, Ella raised her dark eyes toward Gideon, testing the softness at his core. Surely it was God's will that they should be together. Why else would a woman like Ella not have married years ago?

"Oh good, you're here," Miss Coates said.

Gideon's head turned toward the rattle of wagons behind him, bringing Aaron King and the two English fathers. They had six weeks to ready the building. Aaron's eyes would see the small flaws that could be remedied easily, but Miss Coates had already impressed on Gideon that the building needed more than fresh paint and polished desks.

The three fathers thumped in, their boots seeming heavy against the floor.

Walter Hicks rapped his knuckles against a vertical beam. "My boy warned me that things might be worse than we thought."

"Theodore is an astute young man," Miss Coates said.

Gertie ran a finger down the chalkboard and studied the resulting smudge.

Gideon glanced around. "Since we're all here, Miss Coates, perhaps you can point out to us particular matters of concern."

The teacher pointed up, above Walter's head. "I keep an extra bucket under my desk because every time it rains, that spot leaks. It got a lot worse in the spring."

"I've got a few spare shingles," Aaron King said.

Gideon watched as Gertie ducked under the teacher's desk and rattled the metal bucket.

"Gertie," he said, and the girl emerged and moved to one of the two-seater desks in ragged rows. She looked small sitting there, and the thought that his youngest child was beginning school knotted him.

Ella pointed at the red rug. "Did you know there's a gaping hole in the floor?"

Gideon was not surprised about the roof, but he had not heard about the floor.

"The windows need sealing," Miss Coates said.

Gideon crossed to a window and ran a finger along its edges. "They need a lot more than sealing." Even his slight touch broke off bits of the crumbling frame. It was likely the other five windows were just as dilapidated.

"When the wind blows in the winter, the entire building creaks," Miss Coates said.

"All buildings settle and creak," Gideon said, glancing at Gertie, who mimicked his movements on another window beside Ella.

"It's not that kind of noise," the teacher retorted. "It's the sort that makes one think the ceiling might come down. The students become quite distracted."

"How did it get to be so bad?" Walter Hicks wanted to know.

Aaron King shrugged. "One day at a time."

Robert Haney, the second English father, spoke for the first time. "We get busy with the summer harvest and then planting and then the fall harvest."

"And then the children are back in school," Miss Coates said. "You're all busy with your farms, but I do feel that for the safety of the children, this is the time for a concerted effort."

Gideon tilted his head back to inspect the ceiling beams. "Perhaps we should ask the school district for funds to build a new structure entirely. If we had the supplies we need, I'm sure the Amish families would be happy to build."

"One of your frolics?" Walter said.

Gideon nodded. With proper planning, the Amish erected barns in only a couple of days. A one-room school should not be difficult to organize.

"I doubt the district would underwrite the construction," Robert said. "I see in the newspaper all the time how the schools lack proper funding. And the process of requesting funds and awaiting a decision would take longer than we have before school begins again."

"Perhaps we just need to impress upon the authorities the extent of the need," Ella said.

"I've been trying and trying," Miss Coates said. "It's as if the superintendent turns and walks the other way when he sees me coming."

"Gertie," Gideon said, "come stand with your daed."

Walter Hicks leaned against a beam, as if to test its strength.

The cracking sound pulled Gideon's heart out of his chest.

* * *

"Watch out!" Gideon's voice boomed.

Ella lurched toward Gertie and snatched her up.

"No!" Gertie writhed in protest.

Ella held tight.

"Gertie!" The edge in Gideon's voice startled his daughter into compliance.

Ella held the girl in a viselike grip and stumbled through a maze of desks toward the back of the schoolhouse. Above her, the ceiling split open.

"I see the sky!" Gertie said.

Ella squeezed tighter, wishing she had a third hand for raising the hem of her skirt so she could see her feet and move faster.

"Ella! Gertie!"

Ella turned toward Gideon's frantic voice, a tone she had never heard from him before. She stumbled where two desks narrowed the aisle and shoved at one of them with her hip.

"I've got her," Ella shouted. "Everybody get out!"

Nora moved quickly. Mr. Hicks and Mr. Haney hesitated but headed for the door. Ella had her eye on the opening. Behind her, the front wall of the classroom groaned. In reflex, Ella turned her head toward the sound. The blackboard snapped off the wall on one end, rent down the center, and dangled.

Ella gave the obstructive furniture one last shove as the structure heaved. A fracture traveled above her head. Half the ceiling crashed down, strewing debris. Ella did not see the origin of the board that smacked the back of her head.


Gideon shouldered past Aaron King and back into the schoolhouse.



Her voice led Gideon to the shelter Ella had found under a desk, her arms still clasping his daughter.

"Has it stopped?" Anxiety threaded Ella's voice.

"For now." Gideon squatted and reached to take Gertie from Ella.

"Come quickly."

With his daughter over his shoulder, Gideon reached for Ella's hand, not caring who might see the affection between them. Only when they were safely out in the sunlight did he realize Gertie was limp against his neck.


The child made no sound. Gideon knelt to lay her on the ground and rubbed a hand over her face. "Gertie!"

"She was fine when I went under the desk." Ella knelt beside Gideon.

Gertie's intake of air came before she opened her eyes. Gideon exhaled his own breath.


"I'm right here."

"I don't want to go to that school."

"Does anything hurt?" Gideon put a thumb under Gertie's chin and looked into her eyes, satisfied that all he saw was shock.

"No. Ella wouldn't let go."

"She wanted to keep you safe." Gideon turned grateful eyes to Ella.

"Thank you. I would never have reached her in time."

"As far as it is within my power, I would never let anything happen to Gertie," Ella said.

Gideon looked carefully at Ella now. She was noticeably more scraped up than Gertie. Bits of wood stuck to her bonnet, and gray dust spattered her blue dress. "What about you? Are you hurt?"

She put a hand to the back of her head. "Something took a whack at me. I may have a bit of a headache tonight."

"Promise me you'll rest."

She nodded, and Gideon allowed himself to meet and hold her gaze.

"I want to go home," Gertie said. "Carry me."

"Of course," Gideon said. "First show me that you can move your arms and legs."

Gertie responded by moving all four limbs at once. "Now can we go home?"

Gideon slid his arms under Gertie's shoulders and knees and unfolded his stocky form as if she weighed nothing more than the wind.

Miss Coates stepped toward them. "I'm sorry. Even I did not realize the true condition of the schoolhouse."

"You're not to blame," Gideon said.

"If I'd had any idea, I would never have suggested that we meet inside."

"This will certainly make our case with the school district. It's time for a new building."

"It's definitely the strongest argument we could hope for," Miss Coates said.

Walter Hicks fell into step beside Gideon. "I will draft a detailed account of today's event and deliver it personally to the school superintendent first thing in the morning."

"Thank you, Walter." Gideon glanced at Ella again, looking for reassurance that she was unscathed.

Gideon carried Gertie to his wagon with everyone else following as if no one wanted to be left behind. "Can you sit up?"

Gertie nodded. "I just want to go home."

Gideon settled her on the bench of the wagon. If she got tired, she could lay her head in his lap as they drove home.

"Shall I take you home?" he said to Ella.

Miss Coates spoke. "I have my cart. I'll take Ella. You just look after Gertie."

"Yes," Ella agreed. "Take her home. Watch her closely."

"You're sure?"

"I'm fine." She brushed debris off her dress and straightened her bonnet.

Gideon noticed Ella moved more slowly than normal.

"Daed," Gertie said, "please, can we go?" "Go," Ella said.

* * *

The other three men left shortly after Gideon, leaving Ella and Nora Coates standing and staring at the building with its roof yawning open to the elements on one side.

"What should we do?" Ella asked. "Is there anything we should take out to keep safe?"

"I feel badly enough that you were all in the building on my account," Nora said. "I can't ask you to go back in."

"You wanted the men to see for themselves."

"I was not expecting the encounter to be quite this dramatic." Nora wrapped her arms around herself.

"I hate to think what would have happened with thirty-five children inside and you responsible for their safety," Ella said.

"That would have been an unreasonable expectation — unfair to ask of you."

"Yes. From that perspective, what happened today is the lesser of two evils."

"There can be no argument now that we need a new school. Surely the superintendent will release the funds under these circumstances — and quickly."

Nora looked away. "I rather suspect he will propose another solution."

"What other solution could there be?" Ella gestured toward the building. "Even if the roof could be repaired, there are so many other things wrong."

"I don't know," Nora murmured. "I can't help but feel that there is a reason he has resisted all my requests for help before this. I wouldn't have turned to the local committee if I thought the superintendent would help."

Ella examined Nora's profile, unable to push away the sense that Nora had something else to say.

"What is it?" Ella stepped into Nora's gaze.

"I wanted to leave the school in good condition."

"Leave the school?"

"I'm not certain of anything," Nora said, "but I may not be returning to teach this fall."

Ella was certain Nora had not mentioned this possibility to the parents committee. Gideon would have told her if he'd known the school would need a new teacher. He would be responsible to help select another young English woman willing to appreciate the Amish ways.

"I haven't yet signed my contract for the new school year," Nora said.

"Don't you intend to?" Conflicting possible answers to the question swirled through Ella's mind.

"I must decide by the end of July," Nora said. "That would still give the committee a few weeks to hire another teacher."

"I didn't realize you were unhappy in your position."

"Oh, I'm not!" Nora was quick to respond. Then she smiled. "I'm rather hoping for a marriage proposal very soon. My beau knows that if I sign a contract we wouldn't be able to marry until next summer."

Ella fumbled for words. "That's ... good news. I hope you'll be very happy." How difficult would it be to find a new teacher in just a few weeks — someone willing to teach in the middle of farmland and accommodate both English and Amish students?


Excerpted from Brightest and Best by Olivia Newport. Copyright © 2015 Olivia Newport. 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.

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Brightest and Best 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
wfnren More than 1 year ago
Two women, different 'worlds', putting their lives on hold for others If you like stories about people putting their lives on hold for the benefit of others you will enjoy this book. Olivia does a great job of writing and keeping you glued to the story she is telling. I have enjoyed the first three books in this series and there are two more waiting for me to read!!!
RHall2015 More than 1 year ago
If it isn't bad enough that the Amish have a one-room schoolhouse in desperate need of repair and the schoolteacher is marrying which means that a new teacher must be secured quickly, the entire roof collapses on the Parent Committee as they examine the school to determine what repairs must be made. I love that the author, Olivia Newport, has researched the struggle the Amish experienced in seeking their religious freedoms in educating their children and used it as a theme for this book in the series. It reminded me a great deal of my own grandmother, who was born in 1901 and was only allowed to attend school through the eighth grade as only rich children could afford to go to one of the regional boarding high schools in Virginia. She wanted to go to school so badly that she was allowed to attend the eighth grade twice so that she would not have to quit that year. Some of the Amish young people in this story have a great desire to learn, even though their parents have plans for them to remain at home after 8th grade to learn the trades of the parents or become homemakers in the case of the young girls. This book truly took me back in time to another period and certainly a trying one for many, Amish and English. I worked as a public schoolteacher for 14 years and wonder if students today truly appreciate the opportunities for learning they have in our public schools. I rate this book 5 stars and highly recommend it to readers of both Amish and historical fiction. I received a copy of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
Becky5 More than 1 year ago
Which Character Would I Be? "What have we done to offend them so?" Lindy shrugged. "Sometimes all it takes is being different." Brightest and Best, by Olivia Newport,transports us to small Seabury, Ohio, back near the end of the Great War. The Amish, whose spokesman is Gideon Wittmer,want nothing more than to be left alone to worship, work, and educate their children within their own society. However,the local school board has other ideas.When the local Amish school building collapses and the teacher leaves to marry, the superintendent decides the Amish children need to consolidate to the Seabury public school...or else. This drama is a political tale, a love story, a tragedy,and a history(with a little author's license thrown in). The reading was slow at first and the multitude of names was discouraging.By the end, I felt the reader might understand the author's need to give identities to so many people. Some characters were truly on my lovable list, some I cheered or cried for, and others I wished for more growth than they were willing to consider. Isn't it that way with real humans?! Olivia Newport's Amish novels are never your peaceful, run-of -the-mill narratives. Rather, Newport wishes to show the difficulties the Amish have endured as they strive to remain a separate people in a world that wants them to conform. This is a book that makes you wonder as you finish, "Which character would I be?Am I sure?" I received this ebook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
debhgrty More than 1 year ago
Deb’s Dozen: Educating the Brightest and Best. A public school education? Or Amish ways? Olivia Newport’s Brightest and Best is a brilliant book with totally believable characters. The story rehearses the conflict enmeshing Amish people as they sought to win the right to educate their children as they saw best. Their opposition? The requirement of the state to force public education on all children through age sixteen. The time is 1918, just as WWI is ending; the setting is Geauga County, Ohio, where the first recorded conflict took place. This conflict continued until a Supreme Court ruling in 1972. As I read the book, I was caught up in the conflict strongly on the side of the Amish. To have the state force parents to educate their children in a manner that would violate their religious beliefs is untenable to me. I’m not in favor of someone using religious beliefs as an “out” but I am in favor of allowing parents to determine what is best for their children. That is, as long as what they do does not harm those children in any way. Today we face the same issues with the conflict between public education and those parents who choose to homeschool their children. And we also see the increasing conflict between the government and those who stand for their religious beliefs. Ella Hilty wants nothing more than to marry Gideon Wittmer and become the mother to his three children—Gertie, Savilla, and Tobias. Before they can marry, the conflict over education erupts when their one-room schoolhouse becomes unsafe for occupancy and their English teacher, Miss Coates, leaves to be married. Margaret Simpson, a public school first grade teacher, is given the assignment to persuade the Amish families to send their children to the consolidated school. Before she makes much headway, the superintendent of schools takes matters into his own hands and involves the sheriff’s office to attempt to force compliance. Margaret chafes at the action, in her heart of heart believing the Amish are right. You’ll meet others in the community: Lindy Lehman, a talented woodworker who chose not to join the Amish church, and is estranged from her sister, Rachel, who is married to Ella’s daed, Jed. David, Rachel’s son, who wants nothing more than to continue his schooling, but has passed eighth grade—the age at which Amish children stop their schooling. If you’re like me, you’ll fume at the treatment the Amish received just because they’re different. And then you’ll blush in chagrin as you realize many people today feel exactly the same way as the English in Geauga County did—only about those of other races—and religions. Brightest and Best (Amish Turns of Time) is as relevant to situations in 2015 as it is in describing the conflict in 1918. Five stars! To quote her bio, Olivia Newport’s novels twist through time to find where faith and passions meet. Her husband and two twenty-something 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.” More information about Olivia can be found on her website, Shiloh Press (an imprint of Barbour Books) gave me a copy of Brightest and Best in exchange for my candid review.
ReadersFavorite More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Tracy A. Fischer for Readers' Favorite Full disclosure, I have been interested and intrigued by the Amish culture and way of life since I was a young girl growing up near both Amish and Mennonite communities. Whenever I get a chance to read something about their culture, whether fiction or non-fiction, I will do it. So I was excited to pick up Brightest and Best, the third book in the Amish Turns of Time series by author Olivia Newport. And I am happy to report that I wasn't disappointed. Taking place in Ohio in the early 1900s, the story follows memorable characters Ella Hilty and Gideon Wittmer as they prepare for their upcoming wedding, and Margaret Simpson, an English schoolteacher, and her love Gray Truesdell. The Amish school has fallen into disrepair, and the community faces pressure from the government in the English world, wanting them to make changes in how their children are educated. Brightest and Best is a wonderful, lovely story. Author Olivia Newport does an amazing job at developing characters that the reader will absolutely love and relate to, even though their cultures might be completely different from one's own. I read this book all in one sitting, and the only advice I have for any potential readers is to have a clear scheduled when you pick up Brightest and Best because you just won't want to put it down! Any reader who likes historical fiction, Amish fiction, fiction with a Christian background, or just a plain good read will love this book. I highly recommend Brightest and Best and am looking forward to reading more from Olivia Newport in the very near future.
LoriP123 More than 1 year ago
I loved this story by Olivia Newport! All Ella wants to do is marry Gideon and raise his three children, have more babies and grow old with him, but everything changes when her quiet community is pulled in to a battle concerning where Amish children will attend school. In 1918 the English government mandates that all children need to attend public school from the ages 6 to 16 in spite of religious beliefs and with history of attending a local one room school house with lesson plans that covered the basics of reading, writing arithmetic and Amish history. Gideon believes that Ella is meant for more than just being his wife and a mother for his children so he supports her in making a decision that God is leading Ella to. A local public school teacher, Margaret gets caught in the middle when she is asked to get the Amish to change their mind about what is best for their children's schooling. Margaret soon realizes that their concerns are valid and they should be able to do what they want concerning their children's education. In making her opinion public she has local people question her loyalty and it drives a wedge between her and the man she thought she could fall in love with. I'm definitely looking forward to reading more books by Olivia in the future. I was giving ARC for an honest review. All conclusions are mine and mine alone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This isn’t just another Amish romance. Yes, there is a little of that since Ella and Gideon are planning their wedding. And, the English teacher, Margaret has a beau. However, there are several threads woven together in this book as the Amish community faces the fact that their schoolhouse is beyond repair, and the school authorities respond that now is the time to enforce the state laws that say all students must attend to age 16. In this case they will bus the few students to the English school. Even though it is set in Ohio in 1918 it could fit into our society today, anywhere in the USA, as the different characters struggled with how to deal with the law and the conflict with their beliefs. The author is able to capture the feelings of parents, students, teachers, and other members of the community as they worked through this situation. Having lived in a similar community with Amish people, I understand the issues and found this book a great read, as it hits it spot on.
LJShuck More than 1 year ago
This is the first of Olivia Newport's I've read and I must say she has been added to my favorite authors list. You know the list, the one that if the author's name is on the book, then you know without a doubt its going to be a great read! How delightful to read such an engaging book with characters that seem "real" and learn a bit of Amish history at the same time! The setting is 1918 in an Ohio Amish community. The mandatory public schooling law has just been enacted; how does the Amish community react and respond when an overzealous school superintendent forcibly insists on the Amish children attending the public school in town? Previously, the children have attended a one room schoolhouse in the country, near their farms; now parents are to send their children in town to a school with teachers who are not sensitive to their ways. Will the Amish parents acquiesce to the new law of the land? Will this Amish community remain intact or become divided?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Olivia Newport’s 3rd installment of the “Amish Turns of Time,” takes the reader back in time to the early 1900s. We have the opportunity to experience a fictional situation that the Amish struggled with at that time: consolidating small rural schools into larger town schools and the Amish’s resistance to this. Different characters are presented in the story: Amish families, staff at Seabury schools and some English. Romance, suspense and drama are intertwined in this book, which could be read as part of the series or a stand alone novel. Excellent insight into the Amish lifestyle during this time period.
DKStevens119 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this story that takes place in 1918 and tells of the conflict that arose between the state of Ohio and the Amish settlement of Geauga County, Ohio regarding the schooling of their children. I found this bit of history very interesting and liked how the author showed how it affected the lives of the Amish children and the feelings it brought up in the parents. They had to take a stand on their religious beliefs and values and were not wanting their children put into the English school system. The insight into the Amish lifestyle and how different the English schools taught compared to the Amish was very interesting. The characters were very realistic and I could certainly feel the emotions and the tension as it built between the Amish and the government. A little romance rounded out this story to one I really liked. I enjoy reading Amish stories and this is one I would highly recommend. I received this book from Barbour Publishing in exchange for my honest opinion.
Janet55 More than 1 year ago
Olivia Newport has written a book that captivates the reader from page one. As the story unfolds the reader is thrust into a world where the Amish find themselves standing their ground for their beliefs to educate their children within the confines of their religion. Through twists and turns a drama unfolds with characters sacrificing their own wants and desires for what is best for their community. Once again, Olivia Newport draws in the readers with characters that become real to them drawing them near to the heart. I highly recommend this book to those who are in the education field.
Virginiaw More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful story that shows how the Amish people worked together to get the right to teach their children in their own one room school houses. It also shows their perseverance to not have their children formally educated past the eighth grade. It has great characters in Ella and Gideonand with Margaret. It showed how some Englishers worked with the Amish to keep their education and religion intact. I received this book from Barbour Publishing for a fair and honest opinion.
pamelacharrison More than 1 year ago
Olivia Newport gained a fan. This is the first novel I’ve read by this author and I loved it. It is not your typical romance but much more. Yes, there is the love between Ella Hilty and Gideon Wittmer who look forward to their Amish wedding and a second romance between Margaret Simpson, a first grade teacher at the English grade school, and her beau Gray Truesdale. But the story is also about sacrifices the Amish families and their supporters make in order to stand up for what is right. The conflicts the characters face could come from today’s headlines, but they revolve around a collection of actual events that began in 1914. In her Author’s Note, Newport explains why she chose Geauga County, Ohio, as the setting for her novel. It was in this area where clashes between state officials and Amish parents occurred concerning where and how long their children would attend school. The author used her extensive research to create a vivid sense of life in an Amish community, so vivid that I felt I was a friend or family member, sharing their joys and struggles. The first sentence pulled me into the novel and the events kept me turning pages to discover how the characters would react to the extreme actions of the government authorities. There is tension on every page, especially when the enforcement of the law causes dire consequences. Would the Amish parents be forced to put aside their religious beliefs and send their children to the English schools? Would the choices of each loving couple lead to a “happily ever after?” When I began reading, I found the large number of characters confusing and appreciated the list of each and their relationships at the beginning of the novel. It wasn’t a problem for long as each character came to life through Newport’s superb writing. My favorite was Margaret Simpson. I loved her spunk and cheered for her as she battled the superintendent of schools and took on the deputy sheriff in support of the Amish families. Margaret also provided a bit of humor in her proper responses to her beau’s courting rituals and her determination to outsmart the authorities. This novel is wonderful on many levels. Newport’s writing is masterful and the plot intriguing. It’s an emotional read that touches the heart. I highly recommend Brightest and Best. (I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.)
sgreene01 More than 1 year ago
Amish Conflict Those two words do not seem to fit together, as we normally think of the Amish as being non-confronting. This historical romance takes place in 1918 and recounts conflict that arose between the state of Ohio and the Amish settlement of Geauga County, Ohio regarding the schooling of the children. I have read the other two books in this series and found them somewhat hard to read, but I could not put this book down. It is definitely a very interesting look at the Amish in a way we do not normally envision them. Conflict between “church and state” brought many unforeseen actions taken against the Amish as they try to make the state understand their faith, beliefs, and love for their children and their children’s education and future pertaining to their lifestyle and faith. I learned many interesting facts about the history of the Amish as the author, Olivia Newport, weaved historical facts of events that happened over decades, and in different areas, into a fictional town. The special people she places within the story lend to very interesting, intriguing, and romantic situations throughout the book. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys reading fictional history, romance and intrigue. I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Thanks to Bourbour Publishing for this opportunity.
Barb00 More than 1 year ago
I believe Brightest and Best is my first book I've read by Author Olivia Newport. I found this book to be very interesting and intriguing. At first, I was unsure if it would hold my attention, but I was wrong. I became absorbed into what was happening and the characters in the book. There are many characters in this book, but the author focuses on a certain number of these characters. I love the main characters and how realistic they were to me. The author writes a fabulous storyline showing religious freedom versus government. I admire and respect the Amish for taking a stand on their religious beliefs and freedoms, values and morals, but trying to settle any differences peacefully. Olivia Newport did a remarkable job in writing this book. Brightest and Best has romance, mystery and a number of surprises. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and definitely recommend it. I will be looking for another book to read by Author Olivia Newport. I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. This review is one hundred percent my opinion.
KMorgan73 More than 1 year ago
I must say after reading the previous book in this series and not really enjoying it I wasn't sure if I would like this book. I tried to keep an open mind as I began reading. I was pleasantly surprised to find I really enjoyed this story. This story takes place in 1918 Ohio. It tells the story of the Amish who fought the authorities to keep their children from going to the consolidated public schools. While not strictly based on the actual events of the real case the author did her research and used facts that make the story genuine and real. Through the author's storytelling, it was easy to understand why the Amish felt the way they did. The author made it easy to feel the emotions of the characters, especially the tension between the two groups. The story had a good flow and it was easy to stay interested in the story. I liked the characters in the book but especially liked Margaret Simpson, the teacher who was given the task of trying to get the Amish to send their children to school. She was easy to like and I think that I liked her more and more through the book as she tried to understand the way the Amish felt. This book would be a good read for anyone who likes Amish fiction and those who like a bit different story. I also think fans of fiction based on historical events would enjoy this book. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinions.
mackenzie_carol More than 1 year ago
Brightest and Best is the third book in Olivia Newport’s Amish Turns of Time series, but it is the first book by her I have ever read. Although this novel started out a little slow for me, it quickly picked up speed, immersing me in the struggle between obeying God and obeying a God-ordained government. I really fell in love with the story, and found myself fighting along with them against the rules that threatened their way of life. I loved the historical aspects of this book and how they really made it what it was, and the characters were all wonderful and easy to relate to. Ella is so selfless and completely and utterly in tune with God’s will, and I really looked up to her and her faith. Margaret, although from a different background so unlike Ella’s, reminded me of her in so many ways. She really did want what was best for the Amish children, and it was obvious with everything that she did. What should you do when you know God is calling you to raise your children one way, and the God-ordained government you live under says something different? How do you know what is right, and how far to push the boundaries? Will God make His will clear, and if so, will He make a way possible so you can follow it? Many Amish parents were faced with these questions throughout the whole of this book, and how they rallied and tried their hardest to do what was right, despite attacks coming from all sides, and the effect was inspiring. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for them, wanting to do what was right but unsure exactly what that was and feeling the pressure put on them by the government and the other families. Olivia really showed us how difficult it was for them, and I applaud her for weaving the story in such a way that it made you feel as if you were a part of the drama. As the story progressed, it really drew me in, and I found myself anxious to find out what would happen. I really did love the ending, although it didn’t turn out exactly the way I thought it would. However, it definitely did end well, and I found myself looking up to Margaret and Ella even more as I finished. They are both so strong and inspiring, and I really was blessed by that. All the characters, really, had at least one relatable thing about them, and I loved all of them for the way that they handled the situations they were presented with. With everything that filled the pages of this novel, it really did end up being one that I loved, and I will present it with four bookshelves out of five, and the only reason I do not give it all five was because of the fact that the beginning was a bit slow for me. All in all, Brightest and Best was a very enjoyable novel, I highly recommend it, and am looking forward to reading more by Olivia in the future. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. (This review is from my blog,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
“The Brightest and the Best” by Olivia Newport takes place in 1918 in Ohio. The Amish community’s one room schoolhouse is in sad disrepair to the point where it is unsafe to use. The county officials, under a new ruling by the state, are determined that the Amish children will be taught in one of the community schools and also that all children will attend school until the age of 16. The Amish send their children to school until the 8th grade. After that time, the Amish children are taught the lessons of life, farming, homemaking, gardening, husbandry and all things that will make them productive members of the Amish community. The school’s teacher is engaged to be married and since at that time no woman could teach while married, they are left without someone to take over the classes. This is a story about the tensions between the county and the Amish. The fathers will not allow their children to go to the public school because they do not feel that the teachings are compliant with their religious beliefs and are too worldly. The county is adamant that these fathers comply. Eventually it comes to the point where the Amish fathers are imprisoned and the children taken into state custody and it is up to the courts to sort out this dilemma. I enjoyed reading this book I did a little research on my own and discovered that there indeed was a case where this very thing happened. People were imprisoned and children were taken from their parents. It fell to the high courts to decide that the laws infringed upon the religious rights of the Amish people. I was recently in an Amish community in northern Indiana and researched that region’s complicity with the laws. Most of the children in that community to go to school until graduating from the 8th grade, but thereafter, are vocationally taught by their families and community. However, it is becoming more prevalent that the children wish to receive a higher education and so there are a few Amish children who are being educated in the public high schools. I find this fascinating that in this modern world, the Amish way of life is still being preserved and is flourishing in some parts of our nation. I was sent a print copy of this book by Barbour Books in return for my honest review. You can find this review on my blog at Other reviews can be found at
jacksonmomLV More than 1 year ago
I love Olivia Newport's fixation with history. In her Valley of Choice series set in Colorado, she interweaves chapters of historical vignettes with the story of Annie and Rufus falling in love and growing in faith. Now in her Amish Turns of Time series, she centers each story itself on a particular moment of significance in American Amish history. She uses her always endearing characters to flesh out pivot points in our country's past to make us realize the depth of sacrifice and heights of character it has always taken to be Amish in America. Right from the start, we know that Ella Hilty is a young woman teetering on the dangerous edge of a decision that could change both her life and that of her community. The book opens with a loud admonition: "Don't take another step!" It doesn't take too many pages before we realized that Nora Coates' words don't just apply to a rotting schoolhouse floor; they also summarize Ella's difficult decisions about how to best find and follow God's will for her life. We see her willingness to do and be whatever God requires when she answers Nora, "I will step carefully if you would kindly advise me." Those words pretty much describe the rest of this story! This book is set in Geauga County, Ohio, back in 1918 when a local school board decided Amish students should be taught at consolidated public schools. Without giving away the twists and turns of this story, Ella and her Amish district face life-changing consequences as they try to obey the Biblical command to "Come out from among them and be ye separate." There are differences of opinion within the church as families try to balance their submission to God and government. Overall, the "English" do not come off very well in this book, but there are a few wonderful exceptions. First grade teacher Margaret Simpson is tenderhearted and compassionate. She sees the prejudice against the Amish and stands up to it, no matter where it rears its ugly head. Lindy Lehman, though raised Amish, never joined the church, and lives simply in the English community. She also puts her life and future on the line to protect the rights of the Amish. Otherwise, the English generally look like the uneducated fools they accuse the Amish of being. There were several points in this story where Newport did NOT take the expected turn; like real life, easy answers aren't the norm, and there are loose ends left hanging. I loved that the main characters all "paid a price" in this book. I admire the courage of those who gave up their comfort, plans, and treasure to make sure the next generation was educated to know and serve God. I feel this book has applications for today as Christians face questions about government interference in matters of conscience. I am sorry to see this trilogy end. Each book in the Amish Turns of Time series had a distinctive "voice" that fit that period of American history. Newport has a real gift for communicating the issues of faith no matter the era. Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, and made it a point not to read other reviews before writing mine. ( I have bought every other book I've read by Olivia Newport, and I consider them a good value.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brightest and Best (Amish Turns of Time) by Olivia Newport The collapse of a schoolhouse puts pressure on Amish families and their long-held educational values. Ella Hilty anticipates marrying Gideon Wittner and becoming a mother to his children. In a whirling clash of values, Ella seeks the solid ground that seems to have slipped away. Margaret Simpson, an English schoolteacher, wonders if she is losing her last chance at love. As the local authorities draw lines in the sand, Margaret puts romance at risk one final time. All eyes turn to Ella to make a sacrifice and accept a challenge that can bring unity to the Amish and understanding to the English. how did Ella Hilty and Gideon Wittner meet ? What sacrifices are Ella willing to make for the sake of their children and their beliefs ? will they rebuild the school house? who is your favorite character in this story? And why? will Margaret Simpson lose her last chance at love? What sacrifices are Gideon, and the rest of the families willing to make for the sake of their children and their beliefs? will Ella and Gideon be more than friends? The Amish only believe in educating their children through what grade? what person is the most educated Amish person in their area? how many books in the (Amish Turns of Time) series? do you like the cover for Brightest and Best (Amish Turns of Time)by Olivia Newport? wonderful well written book. Brightest and Best (Amish Turns of Time)by Olivia Newport is a 5 stars book. I highly recommend reading Brightest and Best by Olivia Newport. I got a free advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review. I am looking forward to reading more books by Olivia Newport. Amish Turns of Time 1. Wonderful Lonesome 2. Meek and Mild 3. Brightest and Best Valley of Choice 1. Accidentally Amish 2. In Plain View 3. Taken for English Hidden Falls 1. Ordinary Secrets 2. Losing Quinn 3. A Town in Trouble 4. Unexpected Hero 5. The Mayor's Quandary 6. No Time for Answers 8. All You Need to Know 9. A Fair Refuge 10. One Familiar Tune 11. When Memory Came 12. The Groundskeeper Remembered 13. Distinguishing Marks Yesterday's Promise
jmcnutt More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this inspiring story. While it takes place in a fictional town, the book brings to light the very real challenges that faced the Amish people, and their religious beliefs about education for their children, against the state laws that conflicted with their beliefs, and the resulting persecutions they endured. The history behind this story is very interesting, and the author has done a beautiful job of bringing this story to life through her characters. The story captured me from the first page until the last, and I had a hard time putting it down. I gained a new understanding of a culture different than mine, and it left a lasting impression. I highly recommend this beautiful story of love, grace and the value of standing on the principles of your faith. I received this book from Barbour Publishing in exchange for my honest opinion.
MaureenST More than 1 year ago
The year is 1918 and WWWI is about to end in Europe, also the deadliest pandemic flu is running rampant. The officials in a small town in Ohio are not focused nationally, but have decided to make it their mission to make all the local Amish students attend the local school, and not allowing them to leave school at 15 as they do in their faith. There is a young couple Giddeon Wittmer, who is a widower and about to be married to Ella Hilty, and their lives are about to be thrown into turmoil over their beliefs. The story is about the strength of wills against the beliefs of religion. This is one story where you really don’t root for the Government and the people behind it using it as a crutch. What they do to these people, will have you shaking your heard. Ms. Newport really drew me into the story, and I held firm on which side I was on. You have to wait until almost the last page of the book to see how things are to turn out. A really great read that makes you think, and want more. I received this book through Net Galley and the Publisher Shiloh Run Press, and was not required to give a positive review.
KrisAnderson_TAR More than 1 year ago
I just finished Brightest and Best by Olivia Newport which is an Amish Turns of Time novel (Book Three). The story takes place in Geauga County, Ohio (Seabury) in 1918. Ella Hilty is twenty-six and still lives at home. Her mother died when she was a tween. Her father has just remarried and Ella is no longer needed at home (what a fine how to you do). Ella, though, has fallen for widower, Gideon Wittmer. Gideon has three children (Tobias, Savilla, and Gertrude or Gertie). Ella loves to read. She goes to the library and checks out an armload of non-fiction books frequently (not supposed to read English fiction novels). Gideon asked Ella to accompany him to visit the local school. The teacher, Nora Coates asked some of the parents to visit to see the condition of the school. Unfortunately, the school starts falling apart while they are inside. While they are waiting to hear about the building of a new school, Nora gets engaged. Now they have no teacher and no school. The local schoolboard superintendent, Mr. Brownley has no intention of building a new school. He wants to incorporate the children into the new progressive consolidated schools in town. The children will be bused in to attend school (and take art, music, and other subjects that the Amish do not approve of). Margaret Simpson is recruited to help convince the Amish that the new schools are in their best interests. Margaret is the teacher of first grade at the consolidated elementary school. Margaret was not acquainted with the Amish ways or customs, which did not help her cause. When Mr. Brownley is not happy with Margaret’s slow progress, he takes matters into his own hands. The Amish are going to have to fight for what is best for their children. Ella gets caught up in the middle since she is the most educated Amish person in their area. If Ella does end up teaching the children, will she be able to get married? What sacrifices are Ella, Gideon, and the rest of the families willing to make for the sake of their children and their beliefs. Brightest and Best brings up an interesting topic—Amish education. The Amish only believe in educating their children through the eighth grade (which is just wrong). I started reading this book and did not want to stop. It is very engrossing. Olivia Newport fictionalized the account of the Amish fight to educate their children the way they wanted. She provides some great information at the end of the book (the actual history). I give Brightest and Best 5 out of 5 stars. This book captures your attention from the very beginning and holds it until the last page. Olivia Newport did a wonderful job writing this book. I think Brightest and Best is her best book yet! I have only given a small summary of what happens in the book. There is also a compelling mystery (which is easy to solve), romance, influenza epidemic, and a female carpenter (unusual for this time period). I received a complimentary copy of Brightest and Best from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The review and opinions expressed are my own.