Emma Blooms At Last

Emma Blooms At Last

by Naomi King

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Romance is in the air during the fall wedding season in the Amish community of Cedar Creek. But while one loving couple prepares to tie the knot, Amanda and Wyman Brubaker’s large family faces a threat from outside their happy circle...and must learn to pull together.

Recently wed Amanda and Wyman Brubaker are thrilled that their children from previous marriages have blended together to form a strong family. But when the construction of Wyman’s new grain elevator is delayed, making the project more expensive than anticipated, Amanda’s determination to rally the kids into taking on work to improve the family’s finances comes into conflict with Wyman’s sense of responsibility as head of the household....

Meanwhile, as James Graber and Abby Lambright prepare for their long-awaited nuptials, folks gather from far and wide. Amanda’s nephew Jerome has long been smitten with James’s sister Emma and wants to seize this chance to woo her. But Emma’s been burned once and is twice shy of trusting the fun-loving, never-serious Jerome. As Emma and Jerome struggle to understand each other, and find the courage to make a leap of faith, the Brubakers face a bigger challenge than they first anticipated and begin to discover just what it means to fight...the Amish way.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101608432
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/04/2014
Series: One Big Happy Family , #2
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 263,983
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

A longtime resident of Jamesport, MO, home of the largest Old Order Amish community west of the Mississippi, Naomi King now lives in Minnesota with her husband and border collie. She is the author of other novels set in the Amish community of Cedar Creek, including Abby Finds Her Calling and Rosemary Opens Her Heart, as well as Book One of the One Big Happy Family series: Amanda Weds a Good Man.

Read an Excerpt




Chapter One

This is what a Monday morning should look like, Amanda mused. Her kitchen was thrumming with activity as her family finished breakfast—and everyone appeared happily intent on getting where they needed to go next. In the six weeks since she’d married Wyman Brubaker they’d known some rough moments, yet it seemed their eight kids and the four adults had finally figured out a morning routine that worked. Today they’d all been dressed and ready to eat on time, without any squabbling or drama. It was a minor miracle.

“What a wonderful-gut meal,” Wyman said as he rose from his place at the head of the table. “The haystack casserole had all my favorite things in it. Lots of sausage and onions and green peppers.”

“And cheese!” five-year-old Simon piped up. “So much cheese. The hash browns were really gooey and really, really gut.”

“What are you three fellows doing this morning?” Wyman asked. He tousled Simon’s dark hair, looking from Eddie to Jerome. “Did I hear you say we might have baby mules by the end of the day?”

“That’s my best guess,” Jerome replied as he, too, stood up. “Eddie and Simon are going with me to get some feed supplement. Let’s hit the road, boys, so we’ll be back in time. We want to help the mares, if they need us, and I want to start our imprint training so those foals will know us and trust us from the moment they’re born.”

“I’m outta here!” Simon sprang from his chair and shot through the kitchen door, letting it slam behind him.

Eddie, his fifteen-year-old brother, headed toward the jackets and hats that hung on wall pegs. “Well, there’s the speed of light and the speed of sound—and the speed of Simon,” he remarked as he grabbed his youngest brother’s coat along with his own. “At this rate, we’ll be to Cedar Creek and back before those mares can turn twice in their stalls.”

“Enthusiasm is a gut thing,” Jerome replied as he came over to hug Amanda. “Anything you need from the mercantile, Aunt? Maybe a big bag of raisins for my favorite kind of pie?”

Amanda laughed as her twenty-four-year-old nephew wagged his eyebrows at her. The money from Jerome’s mule business had seen her through some tight times after her first husband had died, leaving her to raise three young daughters. Now that she’d remarried, Jerome was taking to Wyman’s boys with a sense of fun and responsibility that was another big help to her. “Bring whatever you think will taste gut,” she replied.

“Raisin-filled cookies,” Wyman hinted wistfully. “And with that luscious thought, I’ll head to the barn. Reece Weaver’s supposed to call me with a progress report on my new grain elevator.”

Amanda felt a rush of goose bumps when Wyman smiled at her. With his dark hair and a thick, silky beard framing his face, he was such a handsome man—and a wonderful provider for her and their children. “Jemima and I plan to get some baking done today to stay ahead of you fellows with your bottomless stomachs,” she said. “So it can’t hurt to sweet-talk the cooks.”

“I’m going to kiss this cook instead,” Wyman murmured. He quickly brushed her lips with his, and then waved Eddie and Jerome out the door ahead of him. “You ladies have a gut rest of your morning. Oh—and you, too, Pete!” he teased as he playfully clapped his middle son on the back. “See you and Lizzie after school.”

As the three fellows left the kitchen, Amanda joined Pete and Lizzie at the counter, where they were closing the lids of their coolers. “Denki to you both for packing your lunches,” she said as she slung an arm around each of them. “You’ve really smoothed out my morning, doing that.”

“It’s the easiest way to get exactly what we want to eat,” Lizzie pointed out. She elbowed her new brother. “Pete made three ham sandwiches.”

“I sure didn’t want any of your stinky tuna salad,” Pete insisted. “The barn cats will probably follow us to school yowling for your lunch.” Then he sighed. “Another week. Another five days of Teacher Dorcas.”

Amanda frowned. “You don’t like the teacher here at your new school?”

Pete shrugged. “I don’t think she likes me much. She finds ways to point out that I’m not as far along in math and spelling as the rest of the eighth graders.”

“She’s not really picking on you, Pete,” Lizzie remarked. “She thinks that the boys in general are lagging behind the girls.”

“Give Teacher Dorcas a little more time,” Amanda suggested, squeezing his shoulder. “It’s always an adjustment, getting used to a new teacher after you’ve been in a different school for so long.”

As the two thirteen-year-olds donned their winter coats and hats, Amanda noted that they resembled each other enough to be twins, even though Pete was a Brubaker and her Lizzie was a Lambright. “Make it a gut day,” she said as they started out the door, “and we’ll see you this afternoon.”

“Bye, Mamma,” Lizzie replied, while Pete gave her a wave.

As Amanda turned back toward the long kitchen table, she was pleased to see that Vera, Wyman’s eldest, had been putting away the breakfast leftovers while the four-year-old twins, Cora and Dora, had scraped and stacked everyone’s plates. “Well, now that it’s just us girls, the real work can get done!” Amanda teased as she lifted Alice Ann from the wooden high chair.

“I a helper!” the toddler crowed. “Me—Alice Ann!”

Amanda felt a surge of love as the little blonde hugged her. “Jah, and it’s gut to hear you talking, too, punkin,” she murmured. Wyman’s Alice Ann, three years old, had been traumatized when her mother was killed in a hay-baling accident, and because she’d begun to speak only recently, every word sounded especially sweet.

“We’re going to work on the laundry,” Vera joined in. At seventeen, she was tall and slender—and she’d become well versed in running a household after her mother had died. “Alice Ann’s going to help me sort the clothes by colors, and then hand me the clothespins when we hang everything out to dry.”

“A never-ending job, the laundry,” Amanda remarked as she lowered the toddler to the floor. “And while you start the dough for the bread and piecrusts, Jemima, the twins and I will fetch the morning’s eggs.”

Her mother-in-law from her first marriage nodded as she ran hot dishwater into the sink. “Better you than me. These cold November mornings make my legs ache, so I’m happy to stay inside.”

“Then can we bake cookies, Mamma?” Dora asked eagerly. “Chocolate chip ones?”

“And butterscotch brownies? Please?” Cora chimed in. “We don’t like—”

“Dat’s raisin cookies,” her twin finished the sentence with a grimace.

Amanda laughed, hugging her look-alike daughters. How could she refuse them when they brightened her days—and had already started calling Wyman their dat? They were just at the age to wear their hair twisted into rolls and tucked into buns . . . growing up so fast. “If you think you can do all the measuring—”

“Jah, we can!” they said together.

“We’ll make your goodies after we redd up your room and Simon’s,” Amanda replied. “So let’s get out to the henhouse. The sooner we finish our work, the sooner we can play.”

As her girls scurried ahead of her to the low-slung building that was adjoined to the barn, Amanda felt a deep sense of satisfaction. A few weeks ago, her mornings at the Brubaker place had been chaotic and stressful, but when Wyman had decided they would move to her farm in Bloomingdale, everything had fallen into place as though God had intended for them to be there all along. She marveled at how the first light of this fine autumn morning made everything sparkle. Out in the garden, the last of the pumpkins were ready to be picked and made into the filling for holiday pies. The maple and sweet gum trees glistened with bursts of red, orange, and gold to form a glorious backdrop behind the white gambrel-roofed barn. As the horses and mules in the corral whickered at the twins, Amanda couldn’t help but smile. Her life was so good now . . .

*   *   *

Wyman paused in the unlit barn, watching the wall phone’s red message light blink. Had Reece called while he’d been outside seeing Jerome and the boys off? Or had someone else left a message? What with Jerome running his mule-breeding business here, it might be a good idea to get a new message machine that allowed callers to leave their voice mails for specific businesses and family members.

But then, some districts’ bishops spoke out against such an updated message system, saying it allowed for keeping secrets. In a lot of Amish towns, two or three families had shared a phone shanty alongside the road for generations. You’ve gotten used to the phone being in your elevator office rather than in another fellow’s barn, Wyman realized. This is just one more minor adjustment—like learning a new phone number after having the same one all your life.

Wyman pushed the PLAY button. If the message was for Jerome, he would jot the phone number or the caller’s name on the pad of paper Amanda kept on the wooden bench beneath the phone. “You have one new message,” the voice on the recorder announced.

“Jah, Wyman, this is Reece Weaver, and we’ve gotta talk about some more up-front money,” the contractor said in a voice that rang around the barn’s rafters. “Started digging your foundation, and we’re gonna have to blast through solid bedrock, which jacks the price waaay up from what I quoted you last week. Got some issues with EPA and OSHA regulations that’ll cost a lot more, too, so that seven hundred thousand we figured on won’t nearly cover building your elevator now. Better gimme a call real quick-like.” Click.

Wyman’s heart thudded. He’d left Reece’s written estimate in the house—not that it would answer any of the questions spinning in his mind. Wouldn’t a commercial contractor know about environmental and safety regulations—and the possibility of hitting bedrock—before he’d written up his estimate? And why on earth had Reece gone into detail about money, when anyone in the family might have been listening, instead of waiting for him to call back? As Wyman glanced around the shadowy barn, he was relieved that only the horses and mules had heard the contractor’s message. The seven hundred thousand dollars he’d spoken of—money from the sale of the Brubaker family farm as well as from the Clearwater elevator’s bank account—was all he could spend on a new facility. He’d kept money back to see his family of twelve through the coming year until his Bloomingdale elevator was bringing in some money . . . but Reece’s strident words made it clear that he intended to demand a significant price increase.

Wyman pressed the number pads on the phone, hoping he and Reece could settle this matter immediately rather than playing telephone tag. After assuring Amanda that he could support her, her mother-in-law, Jemima, and their blended family of eight kids, he did not want any more details about money left on the phone, where she might hear them and start to worry. Finally, on the fourth ring, someone picked up.

“Jah, Weaver Construction Company,” a woman answered.

“Wyman Brubaker here, and I need to speak with Reece about—”

“He’s out on a job. I’ll take your message.”

Wyman frowned. More than likely this was Reece’s wife, because the company had been a small family-owned business since Reece’s dat had started it more than thirty years ago. “He just called me not five minutes ago, asking me to call right back,” Wyman replied. “I’d rather not discuss the details of my elevator with—”

“Oh. You’re that Wyman Brubaker,” the woman interrupted. “I’ll page him, and he’ll call you back as soon as he can.” Click.

And what did she mean by snipping and snapping at him that way, as though he were an inconvenience rather than a customer? Wyman’s stomach tightened around his breakfast as he hung up. There was nothing to do but wait for Reece to call back, even as every passing moment allowed him to think of things that didn’t set right about this situation—

The phone rang and he grabbed it. “Jah? This is Wyman.”

“Reece Weaver. So you see where I’m coming from, far as your job costing more?” he demanded. “How about if I stop by, say, around noon? Another hundred thousand should cover the blasting and the—”

“A hundred thousand dollars?” Wyman closed his eyes and curled in around the phone, hoping his voice hadn’t carried outside the barn. It took him a moment to corral his stampeding thoughts. “I don’t understand why you didn’t know—before you started digging—about that bedrock, and why you didn’t call me—before you started digging—about maybe changing the location of the elevator,” he said in a low voice. “That’s a huge difference from the price you quoted in your estimate.”

“Jah, well, the excavation crew I use is only available this week, before they go to jobs with other contractors,” Reece replied hastily. “Can’t get them again until the middle of January, see, so I didn’t think you’d want to wait that long.”

The middle of January? Nobody poured concrete then, so his facility would be delayed by months if he waited that long. Wyman drew in a deep breath, trying to compose himself. “It seems to me that bedrock would be the ideal foundation for an elevator anyway,” he said. “It’s not like I need a basement—or even a crawl space—under the silos or the office building.”

“Yeah, but see, the new EPA regulations are making us do a lotta things different these days,” the contractor replied. “Nothing’s as easy as it was when Pop put up your elevator in Clearwater. That was about twenty years ago, after all.”

Wyman blinked. Norbert Weaver’s friendly, reliable service had been the main reason he and his partner, Ray Fisher, had wanted Weaver Construction to build their new facility, but it seemed that some of the family’s values had died with the company’s founder. Wyman heard the hum of equipment in the background. Could it be that Reece was pushing for more money because he had several big projects going on at once? The founder’s son had acted quite accommodating and professional last week when they’d discussed the plans for this new elevator . . . and Wyman realized that because he, too, was feeling pressured, he wasn’t handling these details well over the phone.

“Tell you what, Reece,” he said, trying to sound reasonable and relaxed. “I need to discuss this situation with my partner before we proceed. How about if I meet you at the elevator site tomorrow morning?”

“I’ll be outta state on another big job. Won’t be back around Bloomingdale until Friday.”

Wyman caught himself scowling yet again. But he would not be pushed into paying out more money until he’d talked with Ray about this new development. “What time on Friday, then?”

“You really want to wait? My excavation crew’ll most likely be gone by then, or they’ll charge me double time for squeezing your job in over the weekend,” the contractor replied. “You know what they say. Time is money.”

No, time is time, and this is my money we’re talking about. Wyman let out the breath he’d been holding. “Three o’clock this afternoon, then. But don’t come to the house,” he insisted. “Meet me at the elevator site so we can talk about our options.”

“See you then. With at least half of that hundred thousand bucks.” Click.

Wyman sank onto the wooden bench near the phone. How had this opportunity for his future changed so radically? Just a few weeks ago the details of his move to Bloomingdale had effortlessly come together because, he believed, God was directing him to start a new life with his new blended family on Amanda’s farm. He’d sold the Brubaker home place to the Fisher family for less than market value because he and Ray had been best friends since childhood, and so that Ray’s son could move there to expand his dairy operation when he got married.

The transaction with the Fisher family had been seamless, on a handshake. Wyman had felt confident that he could afford a new facility—in addition to the elevator he and Ray had run since they’d been young and single—or he wouldn’t have dreamed of stretching his family’s finances so thin. They had agreed that Weaver Construction would do the work, because they wanted to support other Plain businesses in the area.

Had they made a mistake? Maybe they should’ve gotten a bid from another construction company . . . but it was too late for that now. They had already put down more than half the money up front.

Wyman punched in Ray’s phone number, hoping his levelheaded Mennonite partner would offer him some advice. Because Ray had already borrowed a large amount to buy the Brubaker place, Wyman had insisted on financing the new elevator with the money from that sale and the Clearwater business account, without expecting Ray to kick in any more. Out of sheer Amish tradition and principle, Wyman refused to get a loan from an English bank to make this deal work—or to feed his family. Generations of Brubaker men had remained staunchly self-sufficient, supporting one another rather than going to outside sources for funding.

The phone clicked in his ear. “Hullo?”

“Jah, Ray. How was your weekend?” Wyman relaxed, knowing he could trust his partner’s feedback, his sense of perspective. “I suppose you and Sally and the boys are gearing up for Trevor’s wedding . . .”

*   *   *

On the other side of the barn wall, Amanda listened as her husband chatted with his partner. She and the twins had been gathering eggs in the adjoining henhouse, and when she’d heard Wyman holler, “A hundred thousand dollars?” she’d sent the girls outside to scatter feed. It wasn’t Wyman’s way to raise his voice. His calm demeanor and sensible approach to problems were two of the traits that had attracted her when they’d courted.

“Got a call from Reece Weaver this morning, and I don’t know what to make of it,” Wyman was saying into the phone. “He’s telling me he needs another hundred thousand dollars—half of it today—because he ran into bedrock and some other unexpected issues . . . Jah, this is on top of the seven hundred thousand on his bid.”

Amanda sucked in her breath at such a large amount of money. Wyman was a careful planner, a solid businessman, and his rising voice said it all: he was upset about this new development—and very concerned about where so much additional money would come from.

“When we were going over the items on his bid, didn’t you think Reece had covered all the angles?” Wyman asked. “I can’t have him coming by the house or leaving any more phone messages about needing money, so I’m meeting him at the elevator site this afternoon . . .”

Ah. So Wyman was protecting her from this situation, was he? Amanda understood that because, like any Amish husband, he believed it was his responsibility to support their family. But she knew firsthand about making their pennies stretch far enough . . . about the fear that she might not be able to pay the propane bill or buy shoes for her three young daughters. For four years after her first husband had died, she’d been their sole support by making pottery to sell in area gift shops.

Wyman sold his home place, left everything he’d loved all his life, so you could be happy here in Bloomingdale, Amanda reminded herself. You can’t let him face this crisis alone . . . even if he won’t tell you about it. He may be the head of this family, but you are in charge of keeping everyone fed and together, body and soul. Better get back to work at your wheel!

Amanda stepped away from the wall as the twins bustled into the henhouse with the empty feed bucket. In the cold air, the wisps of their breath framed their precious faces. “Let’s take the eggs to the house, girls. Maybe Vera or Mammi will help you bake your cookies,” she said gently as she stroked their pink cheeks. “Your mamma’s going to start making her dishes again.”

Chapter Two

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

It was barely five o’clock in the morning, not nearly daylight yet. As Emma Graber peered at the white-draped tables in the greenhouse, where the wedding feast for her brother James and Abby Lambright would take place later today, the familiar saying made her sigh. This traditional Thursday ceremony in mid-November marked the fourth wedding Cedar Creek had celebrated this fall, and now that her brother was finally marrying her best friend, Emma felt her inner clock ticking.

Life was passing her by. She’d always pictured herself wed to Abby’s nephew, Matt Lambright, but he’d married Rosemary Yutzy in September, leaving Emma to lament all those years she’d spent pining for an unrequited love and caring for her aging parents. Was she now doomed to remain a maidel? She’d been paired with Jerome Lambright as a sidesitter at Amanda and Wyman Brubaker’s wedding, and she’d spent most of that day—and a few occasions since then—avoiding his flirtatious looks and remarks. He’d be around all day today, too, and Emma was feeling edgy about his presence. Jerome seemed awfully flashy, showing off with his mule teams . . . acting way too full of himself. But was she a fool to shy away from his attention?

Emma told herself such concerns had not kept her awake half the night—that she’d been dressed for the wedding at four this morning because the local women had agreed they’d prepare the food early, to discourage Abby from helping at her own wedding. Indeed, the back door of the glass-walled greenhouse swung open, and the bride stepped inside as though she intended to work while no one could catch her at it.

“Gut morning, Abby! All ready for your big day?” Emma called out.

Abby’s startled laughter rang in the large high-ceilinged room. “Jah, and I don’t know what to do with myself, Emma!” she admitted as she strode between the tables. “Mamm and Barbara and the rest of them keep insisting I’m not to cook or cut pies or—”

Emma caught her best friend in a hug, reveling in the way Abby returned her embrace. “See there? It’s not as easy as you think, accepting help from other folks,” she teased. “Consider this whole day—all the food and the work your friends want to do—as their gift to you, Abby. I expect to see you smiling alongside James, enjoying yourself until the last guests go home tonight.”

“I’ve heard that a time or two.” Abby glanced across the road toward the Graber house, which was as lit up as the Lambright place. “And how’re your folks doing this morning, Emma?”

“Dat’s spinning like a top and Mamm’s fussing over every little thing. What with having our two sisters’ families staying over last night, I’ve been reminded how large gatherings are getting harder for Mamm to handle.” She let out a sigh.

“Jah, we’ve got a houseful, too,” Abby murmured. “But I’m so glad both of your folks are alive to celebrate this day with us. Mamm’s not saying as much, but I suspect she’s wishing Dat were here to—”

Hoofbeats and the rumble of wheels made them turn to watch a wagon and two other horse-drawn rigs pull into Lambright Lane. Their lanterns and headlights glowed in the indigo sky as the horses’ breath rose from their nostrils. “This’ll be Beulah Mae bringing the steam tables, no doubt,” Emma said as she rebuttoned her coat. “Makes it mighty handy, having her restaurant and Lois’s bakery in town to do most of the cooking for these big events.”

“Jah, that’s Preacher Abe climbing down from the first wagon,” Abby confirmed. “I’ll get Sam so the menfolk can assemble our serving line.”

Emma went outside with her, waving as the Nissleys, Lois Yutzy’s family, and Amanda Brubaker and her girls emerged from the various vehicles. Even though these ladies had prepared most of the food ahead of time, they still had a lot to do before they’d be ready to serve nearly three hundred people. Guests would start arriving around sunup for the eight o’clock church service that preceded the wedding. As one of Abby’s sidesitters, Emma was hoping to help with some of the work before she spent the entire morning seated beside the bride.

The next couple of hours sped by. The ladies from around the neighborhood had cooked for so many weddings that the flurry was well organized. Lois Yutzy carried in the white tiered wedding cake she’d made in her bakery, where several women had also helped her bake the bread for today’s feast. While Lois arranged the cake on the eck, the raised corner table where the wedding party would sit, Beulah Mae Nissley was supervising her husband, Preacher Abe, and Abby’s brother, Preacher Sam Lambright, as they constructed the metal steam table. Amanda Brubaker’s two older daughters were setting silverware bundles and glasses on the dinner tables, while other women began slicing loaves of fresh bread.

Emma looked up from the silverware she’d been wrapping in paper napkins and hurried over to open the greenhouse door. “That’s quite a load of pies!” she said as Rosemary, her neighbor, pulled her tall-sided cart inside. After marrying Matt Lambright a couple of months ago, Rosemary was already off to a busy start with her home-based baking business.

“Jah, my new oven can handle a dozen pies at a time,” Rosemary replied pertly. She smiled as her toddler, Katie, and her young sister-in-law, Beth Ann, burst in to help set the table. “It seems that no matter how many pies I make for Lois’s shop, they sell out every day. And, of course, Matt, Katie, and Titus work hard at being my taste testers.”

When Rosemary wheeled her cart toward the dessert table, Emma felt a stab of jealousy. After having learned the hard way that Matt didn’t love her, Emma was wishing he hadn’t moved his sheep to the farm next to her house when he’d partnered with Titus Yutzy. All of them seemed so happy—and that rubbed her the wrong way, too.

Get over it, Emma chided herself. It did no good to regret the years of affection she’d wasted on Matt. When she realized it was after seven o’clock, she decided to go home to be sure Mamm and Dat were dressed and almost ready to head over to the Lambrights’. What with her two sisters’ families staying with them, her parents were easily distracted.

When Emma stepped outside, however, she spotted James walking between their parents. He called to her with a knowing grin, “The folks were ready early, so they wanted to come on over—to greet folks as they arrive, you know. Our sisters and their tribes will be along shortly.”

There was no missing the bright excitement on Mamm’s and Dat’s faces. They’d been waiting for years to see their only son married, and they couldn’t be happier that he was so in love with Abby Lambright. “Jah, better claim your seats early,” Emma teased as she met up with them. “It might well be standing room only at Sam’s place today.”

“It’s the wedding everybody hereabouts has been waiting for,” her dat exclaimed as he clapped James on the back. His dark eyes sparkled in his wrinkled face. “And we’ll be planning for your wedding next, Emma. Ain’t so?”

“Just saw the Brubaker fellows coming up the road, matter of fact,” her mother chimed in. “And sure enough, Jerome’s driving a matched pair of Percheron mules. Looks like a successful man come courting, if you ask me.”

Well, I didn’t ask you! Emma almost blurted. It was bad enough that Abby and James had paired her with Jerome Lambright to serve as their sidesitters today—another obvious matchmaking ploy. There was no time to respond to her parents’ remarks, however. She guided them off the lane and onto the frosty grass to make way for some other families’ incoming rigs.

Then two tall black mules trotted up alongside them, and the windows of the large enclosed buggy came down. “Gut morning, you Grabers!” Jerome called out, as Wyman Brubaker and his three sons, seated beside and behind Jerome, joined in with their own greetings. “It’ll be a little chummy, but we’ve got room to take you folks on up to the house if you’d like a ride.”

“Jah, this is the man rig!” five-year-old Simon crowed. “But we’d let you ride, Emma!”

“And you, too, Eunice,” Jerome added quickly. He smiled at Emma’s mother, and then his eyebrows rose playfully as his gaze lingered on Emma.

Could these people be any more blatant about coaxing her into Jerome’s company? For the past month, Jerome had been showing off his mules and making eyes at her, and meanwhile befriending her gullible parents. After all of her refusals of his attention, why didn’t they realize that Jerome just wasn’t her type? Emma kept hold of her mother’s elbow and worded her response as politely as she could. “I’ve got pies to cut,” she insisted.

Her dat let out a laugh. “I’ll ride with you, Jerome. We fellows might as well have our fun today, because you can bet the women will insist on working.”

“I’ll join you, too.” James helped their father step up into the buggy’s open door. “We’ll see Mamm and Emma come time for church to start.”

“This’ll be your final trip up this lane as a single man, James,” Jerome teased. “Last chance to ride off into the sunrise before you’re yoked to Abby forever.”

“Ah, but Abby’s yoke is easy and her burden is light,” James quipped as he climbed in behind Dat.

The smile on her brother’s face touched something deep inside Emma. James was beaming, far more excited and open about his feelings than he’d been when he’d nearly married Abby’s sister last year. And Abby seemed to be floating on clouds these days, too.

So many new couples . . . so much joy in Cedar Creek, Emma mused as she and Mamm walked toward the greenhouse. Will I find my own happy ending soon? Or will I be left out of the storybook altogether?

*   *   *

Jerome unhitched the buggy alongside Sam Lambright’s barn and corralled the mules where all the guests’ horses would spend the day. James and Merle Graber and the Brubakers were chatting with other fellows, but he strode straight toward the greenhouse rather than visit with them. Emma was being her usual skittish self today, but he was a man with a plan. He hoped he’d devised a way to get her out on a date—without it seeming like one. Ever since he’d met this pretty but reclusive brunette last month, and had immediately become lost in her honey brown eyes, he’d sought to spend time alone with her. She was so unlike the other girls he’d been attracted to.

But clearly, Emma wasn’t impressed with him. Why not?

As he entered the greenhouse where Preacher Sam’s mother, Treva Lambright, sold plants, pumpkins, and gift items, the glass-paneled building sparkled in the sunlight and buzzed like a beehive. The contents of the greenhouse had been cleared out and long tables had been set up, covered with white tablecloths, and arranged with glasses and silverware. Several women and girls chatted as they transferred food to rectangular metal pans for the steam table and placed cookies on serving trays. Jerome headed for the table in the back corner. Few men dared to venture into the food-preparation area before a wedding, but the older ladies greeted him with knowing smiles as he stepped up beside Emma.

“Emma, may I ask you a huge favor?” he said in a low voice. “It’s something I don’t want to mention when Abby and James might overhear me.”

Emma looked up from cutting a pumpkin pie. “What kind of favor?” she asked.

Jerome smiled. How perfect was this? Aunt Amanda, his niece Lizzie, and Eunice Graber were working alongside Emma, cutting and placing slices of pie on plates, so he had his own cheering section. Curiosity lit their faces as he continued.

“I need help picking out a wedding gift for Abby and James,” Jerome said earnestly. “I’m a clueless bachelor when it comes to such things, but as the sister of the groom and the bride’s best friend, you surely must have some gut ideas about what to choose. After all the help those two have given my family these past few months, I want to show my appreciation with a really fine gift.”

Emma looked like a startled deer, her hazel eyes widening in a face that was turning pink. It was a pretty face, too, and with her hair tucked neatly into a starched white kapp and a dress of royal blue beneath a filmy white apron, she could well have been the bride. Maybe someday, Jerome mused as he held Emma’s gaze.

“You mean we’d be . . . shopping?” she asked hesitantly.

“Jah. I’m not much gut at crafting something of wood, or choosing household items,” he replied with a shrug. “If we could pick a day sometime soon to drive around to some furniture stores, maybe—”

“Ah, but with James being so busy in his carriage shop,” Emma interrupted, “and since he and Abby will be spending the next several weekends visiting relatives to get their wedding gifts, I’ll need to stay at home with the folks.”

Jerome watched Aunt Amanda’s expression and then Eunice’s, biding his time. The next few moments of silence didn’t bother him at all, because he’d expected Emma’s usual excuse—and, indeed, he respected her for the way she looked after Eunice and Merle. Emma centered a spoked metal cutter over another pie and pushed it down to make eight equal wedges, acting as though she had settled the matter of going shopping with him.

“It just so happens that Jemima and the girls and I are making quilts as our gifts to the newlyweds,” Amanda said with a purposeful glance at Eunice. “We’ll be starting them this Saturday—”

“Oh, I’d love to help with those quilts!” Emma’s mamm blurted.

“So if you’d like to join us, Merle could visit with the men while Jerome and Emma shop.”

Eunice’s eyes lit up behind her pointy-cornered glasses. “Better yet, why not have Jerome drive you girls into Cedar Creek and we’ll have the quilting frolic at our house! He’s got to come into town anyway, ain’t so?”

“That would give us a chance to buy the batting and more thread at the mercantile, too,” Lizzie remarked as she carried away a tray of plated pie.

“I can’t see well enough to thread a needle or to cut straight edges anymore, but I sure do love frolics,” Eunice remarked wistfully. “We’ve got long worktables, and I could get our lunch ready while the rest of you sew. Seems to me this would be a wonderful-gut chance for all of us to work on James and Abby’s gifts while they’re not around to watch us, too.”

“Perfect!” Amanda declared. “And this way Wyman and the boys won’t have to endure an all-day hen party.”

“But—but I’d like to help with the quilting, too.” Emma’s brow puckered. “That’s something I never have the chance to do unless—”

“Unless we have another quilting frolic at my house the following Saturday!” Amanda looked extremely pleased with herself for making this plan dovetail like the patchwork pieces they were discussing. “We can’t possibly finish in one session, after all. So, Emma, if you’ll drive your folks to Bloomingdale on the twenty-eighth, we’ll make a day of it. It’ll be like an extension of Thanksgiving, with all of us together.”

Jerome could practically see the wheels spinning in Emma’s mind as she searched for another way to evade him. Yet—without him saying a single word—his aunt and Emma’s mother had neatly sewn up his plans and stitched her into a corner, for they had given Emma her wish, too. Meanwhile, Amanda and Eunice had provided him a second day to visit with her, even if he wouldn’t be sitting with them while they quilted.

“So Saturday morning, then?” he asked gently. “Day after tomorrow?”

Emma released the breath she’d been holding. She didn’t look overjoyed, but at least she was accepting the situation. “Jah, looks that way.”

“I really appreciate your help, Emma,” Jerome said. Then he winked at her. “And maybe we’ll even have some fun!”

Chapter Three

As Bishop Vernon Gingerich stood up to give the wedding sermon, Emma shifted on the pew. Jerome was looking directly at her, silently seeking her attention. With the wall partitions taken down to expand most of Preacher Sam’s main floor into one huge space for church, nearly three hundred people had crowded onto the pew benches, but the center area, where the preachers stood, was very small. Emma sat with Abby in the front row of the women’s side, just as Jerome flanked James on the men’s side about ten feet across from her. Nothing blocked Jerome’s line of sight.

Emma had nowhere to hide.

“Brothers and sisters,” Vernon began in his resonant voice, “I have had the honor of preaching at hundreds of weddings in my thirty years of ministry, yet still I ask our Lord’s presence and guidance as He brings pertinent words to my tongue. I must say that the man and woman I join in holy matrimony today are an inspiration to us all. They stand before us as examples of the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, and faith.” The bishop’s white-bearded face lit up as he glanced at the bride and then at the groom. “It’s a privilege to behold the love and respect James Graber and Abigail Lambright have for each other, and to lead them in their vows later in the service.”

Abby blushed as red as a rose at the compliment. She grabbed Emma’s hand, and Emma squeezed back. When Emma glanced over at her brother, James looked a little amazed by the bishop’s praise, but his love for Abby radiated from his face. All around the room, friends and family nodded in agreement with Vernon’s sentiments.

Jerome, however, was gazing directly at Emma as though the two of them were alone in the room. Flustered, Emma looked away. Why was he paying such insistent attention to her? Surely he realized she’d agreed to go shopping with him only because she couldn’t get out of it. She was doing it as a favor to Abby and James more than as a way to be with him.

“Love is patient and kind,” Vernon continued in a low, rolling voice. As he extolled these virtues, paraphrasing the beloved passage from First Corinthians, he pointed out that while both James and Abby had shown the Cedar Creek community many examples of those traits as single folks, marriage might expand their understanding of what it meant to accept each other’s little quirks and habits, once the novelty of being newlyweds wore off.

You are patient and kind, Jerome mouthed at Emma. Then he smiled sweetly at her.

Emma’s cheeks prickled with heat as she lowered her gaze. Such a compliment was the last thing she’d expected from Jerome. Or was he just flirting with her?

“I’d like those of us who’ve been married for a while to reflect back on when we were in Abby and James’s place,” Vernon went on. “I guarantee that as the years of joys and heartaches have accumulated, we’ve gained a different perspective on the love Paul the apostle speaks of in the Bible. When we reflect upon how love bears all things, believes all things, hopes and endures all things, we realize how very innocent and inexperienced we were when we took our marriage vows, even though we believed ourselves to be totally, irrevocably in love with our new mate.”

Several of the folks in the room were nodding. Even though Emma knew better, she glanced at Jerome again.

His face brightened as he met her gaze. Love bears all things, believes all things, he mouthed. Hopes all things, endures all things.

Emma’s breath caught. Was Jerome telling her that he understood her trials and tribulations as she cared for her parents, yet he still hoped to spend time with her? Or was she reading too much into his silent messages? He looked especially handsome today in his black vest and trousers with a crisp white shirt.

As the bishop wound down his sermon, Emma’s heart was pounding so loudly, she wondered whether Abby could hear it. Jerome was being discreet enough that most folks wouldn’t notice the attention he was paying her, but she still felt as though he’d been whispering those words about love directly into her ear. No other man had ever acted so . . . enthralled.

But why was she getting caught up in Jerome’s romantic gestures? At twenty-four, he hadn’t yet joined the church, and he’d backed out of two engagements. Falling for him would surely leave her disappointed and heartbroken. And why would she want to get serious about a fellow whose mule-breeding business was in Bloomingdale, an hour’s drive away—too far from Cedar Creek to make dating him a practical idea?

“And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three,” Vernon paraphrased in a rising voice. “But the greatest of these is love. Abby and James, if you will rise and stand before us, we will begin that most sacred and beloved of ceremonies that will bind the two of you into one heart and mind from this day forth.”

Emma sighed. Hearing the wedding vows for the fourth time within the last few weeks only reminded her that she wouldn’t be repeating these words after Vernon any time soon. And while Jerome’s attention was making her all fluttery inside, she didn’t want to encourage further eye contact with him during the ceremony. Why should she let him believe she was interested in him? He assumes I’ll be like dozens of other girls who’ve gone head over heels when he noticed them. After the ceremony, I’ll stay busy helping with the meal instead of sitting beside Jerome at the eck table. It’s for the best. I’ll be seeing him on Saturday, after all.

Emma couldn’t escape the traditional signing of the marriage certificate immediately following the ceremony, however. When the crowd rose to congratulate the newlyweds, she hurried over to the little table, took up the pen, and wrote her name on the witness line as Jerome waited for his turn.

“It’s my job to tell the servers the wedding has ended,” she said breezily. Before he could protest, Emma skirted the crowd and hurried toward the greenhouse, across a lawn strewn with fallen leaves of red and gold. She inhaled the crisp, refreshing air. Sam’s house had gotten stuffy with so many folks crammed together for nearly five hours, and it felt good to get up and move.

“And it’s my job to check the eck before the bride and groom arrive,” Jerome teased as he caught up to her. Rather than opening the door of the greenhouse for her, he stepped in front of her and leaned against it, holding Emma’s gaze yet again with his deep brown eyes. “Why are you running away from me, Emma? I have only the best intentions,” he insisted gently. “Did it bother you when I admired your patience and kindness—the way you bear all things and believe all things?”

How should she respond to that? She didn’t want to fall for his glib compliments and the winsome expression on his face, only inches from hers. “You might be hoping all things,” she murmured, “but you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, Jerome. I take my responsibilities to my parents seriously.”

“Emma,” he entreated her in a lingering whisper, “I respect you immensely for keeping your family fed and cared for. But your folks would be a lot happier if you’d get out and enjoy yourself more. They’ve told me so.”

Emma’s mouth dropped open. Get out and enjoy yourself more? She was inclined not to believe him, yet she could well imagine Dat and Mamm telling him that, because they adored Jerome and enjoyed the time he spent with them. Still, Emma wasn’t falling for it. “We really need to get inside before the crowd arrives,” she told Jerome. “You have your jobs and I have mine.”

Jerome didn’t budge. “I just want to have some fun with you, because I really like you, Emma. Won’t you please give me a chance?” He held her gaze for a few moments more, then cleared his throat. “I’ve heard you were sweet on Matt Lambright all through school, and I’m sorry he didn’t return your affection. That had to be a hard pill to swallow, when he married Rosemary and then moved right next door to you.”

Emma wished she could disappear. While Jerome had probably learned about her feelings for Matt from her parents as well, it still rattled her that he knew so much about her love life—or lack of one. “I don’t need your pity, Jerome,” she snapped.

“Pity?” His eyebrows rose. “On the contrary, I admire your longtime loyalty to Matt. It strikes me as . . . very special. I’d like to make up for the good times I suspect you’ve missed out on—but now I’ve embarrassed you.” He sighed as he opened the door for her. “I’m sorry, Emma. When I really want something to work out, I tend to speak before I think.”

Emma’s pulse was pounding, and as she entered the airy, glass-walled greenhouse, she hoped the ladies who’d been preparing the meal didn’t notice her red face. To settle her nerves, she inhaled the tantalizing aromas of the traditional chicken and stuffing “roast” and the creamed celery. After what Jerome had said about her unrequited affection for Matt, it would be even more difficult to sit beside him for the entire wedding feast, in front of everyone. She really needed to keep herself too busy to—

Why are you so upset? Jerome’s a nice fellow, complimenting you and expressing his concern. You could do worse than spending your time with such a good-looking, successful man.

Emma blinked. That sounded like something her mother would say.

Okay, so Jerome came on a little too strong—but he apologized. Maybe you don’t know how to respond to his attention because you’ve hardly dated anyone, while he’s been engaged twice . . .

Why were her feelings riding such a seesaw? This wasn’t the time or the place to let Jerome’s attention distract her. Emma focused again on the tables that were set for the meal, and on the things she could do to make this day totally wonderful for Abby and James.

“It was a beautiful wedding!” she called out to Beulah Mae, Lois, and the other helpers who’d remained there to oversee the final food preparations. “Folks’ll be coming over any minute now.”

The cooks and servers bustled about, lifting the covers from the metal pans in the steam table and checking the food one last time. The bread and slices of pie were already on the tables, so Emma helped fill the water glasses as the first of the wedding guests stepped through the door. Abby and James entered the greenhouse, and the whole place seemed to light up with the joy that shone on their faces as they gazed at each other.

That’s how love’s supposed to be, Emma mused as she took her place beside Abby on the eck. I want nothing less for myself.

Once the helpers had served the wedding party, the other guests made their way through the buffet line. As Emma began to eat the delicious chicken and stuffing, creamed celery, and other delectable dishes, she realized just how ravenous she’d become during the long morning’s activities. “The ladies outdid themselves on this meal,” she remarked to Abby.

“Jah, they did. And to think they accomplished everything without me!”

Emma laughed with her best friend and squeezed her hand. “I wish you and James all the happiness your hearts can hold.”

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher


“Frustration and sorrow make King’s characters three-dimensional and believable. Readers of Janette Oke and Beverly Lewis will enjoy.”—Library Journal

“The very talented Naomi King instantly pulls you into the lives and loves in this small Amish community…King has an amazing talent for developing realistic characters that have to grapple with life issues and through faith find workable solutions for themselves and others.”—Fresh Fiction

“A superbly written, engaging Amish novel that will tug at your heartstrings…King does a fine job of continuing to create that small town feel.”—Reviews from the Heart

“What distinguishes this from many other Amish romances is how it shows that forbearance and forgiveness take a good deal of work, and the Amish, like everybody else, gossip, bicker, and sometimes have less than ideal family lives….King has created enough open-ended characters to entice the reader back to Cedar Creek for more.”—Publishers Weekly

“King’s lyrical style shines in a tender tale of how love and forgiveness heal broken hearts and restore a family and a community...Readers will look forward to more Cedar Creek stories.”—Marta Perry, author of the Pleasant Valley series

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Emma Blooms At Last: One Big Happy Family, Book Two 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
so special.
MaureenST More than 1 year ago
I loved my visit back in Cedar Creek, and my time spent with old friends. We are up-dated on everyone here, and some of the focus on this book is Emma Graber, as we also prepare for the wedding of her brother James and Abby Lambright. We get to spend time with Amanda and Wyman Brubaker and her nephew Jerome and their blended family. What a sweet time here becoming fully absorbed in the Amish culture, and even take a sleigh ride, such fun. Not everything is rosy, but love how these folks face adversity, and let their faith and prayer lead them in their decisions. Emma does have a rough time during this story, and the Community tries to rally around her, she does seem interested in Jerome, but he has already had two broken engagements. What could be the problem, and does she wants to be number three? We end up snowbound at the Brubaker’s with Emma and her Dad, and then some surprise visitors appear, wonder how they got there? Some excitement is about to happen in Emma’s life, and she appears to have developed some backbone. Don’t miss this sweet read, and if you haven’t read the other books don’t let that keep you from enjoying this one, it can stand alone, but don’t deny yourself the great pleasure of reading the first book in this series, Amanda Weds A Good Man. Enjoy! I received this book through Goddess Fish Promotions, and was not required to give a positive review.
Justpeachy1 More than 1 year ago
Naomi King takes readers back to Cedar Creek in the second book in the One Big Happy Family series, Emma Blooms at Last. Readers who have followed the Cedar Creek and One Big Happy Family series will be thrilled with this latest addition. This book not only does it tell the story of Emma, but it continues Amanda's story from the first book and incorporates other characters from the Cedar Creek series. It's the kind of book that wraps everything up in a neat little package that will leave readers a little sad that it's ending but very satisfied with the outcome. What I liked: Naomi King knows how to write about the Amish people and their faith. Often Amish books are very predictable because they have to follow a certain kind of format due to the faith. There are no steamy scenes or many of the usual problems and conflicts found in regular contemporary fiction. It's a whole different world and King excels at bringing it to life. She takes a story that may be too simple to be much fun reading and gives it a spin that makes it hard to put down. Readers looking for a good clean romance will love her work as well. King proves that the simple life doesn't have to be boring. Emma has always been a bit of a tough character in the series. After reading this book I now understand that most of the awkward air she gave off in the other books was mostly due to shyness. She is painfully shy and that means she is very hard to read by the other people around her. Especially, Jerome. He really likes her but she confuses him a lot of the time. I thought that Emma gained a lot of firmness and strength in this book. She took her desire to help people and did something about it in this book and that was nice to see. I also liked the whole idea that she was "always a bridesmaid, but never a bride." That was a nice touch that added to the enjoyment of her relationship with Jerome. I liked Jerome a lot. He was confident in himself and his faith. Even though he had, had some rough patches, he was happy with the simple Amish life in this book. He was helpful and even romantic. I loved the way he went about making sure he could spend time with Emma and he was never deterred by her standoffish attitude. He was able to see beyond her shyness and understand it. He made a very good hero for this book. Since this was his third try at a good relationship it was a good thing the third time was the charm. One of the things I liked about this book beyond Emma and Jerome's relationship was the fact that King tied up Amanda's story line. I loved the big happy family and how they have started to mesh and get to know each other better. This book basically continues their story and adds so much to the overall arc of the entire book. A blended Amish family wasn't something I was expecting with the first book, but I really enjoyed the concept and was happy to learn more about them in this one. Bottom Line: If you like Amish Fiction you really can't go wrong with a book from Naomi King. She has a knack for writing about the Amish that allows the reader to see beyond the rigors of their faith and the simplicity of their lifestyle, so that they can see them as individuals and families, as just normal people and I liked that very much here. Emma was a good heroine and Jerome held up as the hero. A good heartwarming novel.
MariaD1 More than 1 year ago
Fantastic Addition to Amish Romance Series -  I received a complimentary copy of this book as a part of a book tour for a fair and honest review. I rated this 5 out of 5 Stars and a Recommended Read. A fan of Charlotte Hubbard’s Amish romance novels, I haven’t had a chance to catch up on the books she writes as Naomi King. When I was given a chance to read and review Emma Blooms At Last, the newest installment in Ms. King’s One Big Family Series, I jumped at the chance. While this is the second book in a series, which is also tied to another series, I was able to read and enjoy it on its own. Filled with colorful and well developed characters, good dialogue and plenty of emotional angst, Ms. King reminds us that we all “bloom” at the right time. Thinking she’s always “the bridesmaid and never the bride”, Emma Graber is helping prepare the reception hall and dinner for best friend Abby Lambright, who just happens to be marrying James, Emma’s older brother. A shy and somewhat soft spoken woman, Emma had hoped to marry Matt Lambright, who married someone else. While afraid of becoming a “maidel”, or spinster, she’s sure she doesn’t want to get involved with Jerome Lambright, a man her parents like but who seems to have a problem making up his mind when it comes to marriage. He’s got two broken engagements and she doesn’t want to risk becoming a third. A young man whose mule breeding business is becoming successful, Jerome Lambright is drawn to shy and quiet Emma Graber, even though she doesn’t encourage his attentions. Determined to help to get her “out of her shell”, Jerome will do whatever it takes to get Emma to go out with him on a date – even including her parents and his family in his attempts. A fun loving guy, there is more to Jerome than meets the eye and he’s determined to get Emma to give him a chance. Ms. King does a great job developing both Emma and Jerome’s characters throughout their story. While Emma is quiet and somewhat withdrawn, she’s also prickly like a cactus and a little too worried about what others might think. While Jerome is fun loving, he’s also a bit of a show off and doesn’t realize that his “flashy” type nature is part of what pushes Emma away. When tragedy strikes Emma’s family, right after James and Abby’s wedding, Jerome and his extended family help Emma realize she needs to let others in and become more of a participant in her own life. The romance between Emma and Jerome is sweet, tender and well-paced. I really enjoy how Ms. King’s characters get to know one another before they make any kind of real commitment – they realize love and marriage are forever in their community and they are careful about their choices. The secondary characters, mostly members of the local Amish community, are all well developed and I especially enjoyed getting to know Amanda and Wyman Brubaker, the primary characters from Amanda Weds A Good Man, the previous book in this series. We get to catch up with them as their newly joined family (both were previously widowed) continues to join and face a new problem. It’s also nice to see the family relationships in the community, Amanda is Jerome’s aunt and Abby is now Emma’s best friend and sister-in-law. We also get to see how the community rallies around each other doing what’s best for everyone and helping each other out when someone gets in a bind. Will Emma give Jerome a chance to win her heart? Will Amanda and Wyman be able to solve the new problem trying to damage their family? And will everyone bloom where and when they are supposed to? You’ll have to read Emma Blooms at Last to find out. I loved it and can’t wait to read more about Cedar Creek and its inhabitants.
Janine_S More than 1 year ago
“Emma Bloom at Last” by Naomi King is the last book in her 'Home at Cedar Creek' and 'One Big Happy Family' series (or what I call the 'Need a Flow Chart' series). All the answers have been wrapped up from all the books, in this book and what a truly wonderful book that was so well worth the wait. This book has three different story-lines going on with the wrap up finally of the one story-line that has been there throughout all of the books, and what a wrap up it was, for I didn't feel like I was being cheated out of something for how long I (which was pretty hard for I hate waiting), had to wait for all that happened in this book. Then the story of Amanda and her new family from “Amanda Weds a Good Man” plays a good part of the story highlighting their lives after all that happened in the other book. I was thrilled that Emma finally came out like she did for she is a character that honestly touched my heart throughout each and every book. This book has plenty of joyous moments, heartbreaking moments, and everything in between. I found myself laughing and crying, sighing and rolling my eyes, and putting the book down because I just wanted to smack someone in the book. When a book or a series (yes the whole series was like this) is written to where I feel like I was part of the book, then there is just something really special about the author to where I just can't wait to read more of the author's books in the future. Seeing so many old characters and how their lives are changing and moving forward was as if I came back to visit a place that feels like home. To see that this was good-bye to all of these fictional friends was a bit sad, yet this was a very happy ending to the whole series. I didn't feel as if anything was left hanging to where I need to know what happens to this character or another, which happens so infrequently that this was pretty refreshing, even though it was good-bye to some very beloved characters. Moving forward was the message I took from this book with all that happened, where a person might want to hide away from the world, instead moving forward. I didn't get the feeling that the forward movement was done in a way that pushed any character out of their comfort zone in a way that seemed pushy or overbearing. Though there is some pushing it is done in such a way that it is done out of love and concern, while not being overbearing, which resulted in some positive results, without any frustrations from the one or ones being pushed. I hated seeing the book end for I will miss (at least until I revisit the Lambright, Graber and Brubaker families again) each and every character for with each book, each of the main characters (Abby, James, Emma, James and Emma's parents, Amanda and Wyman) seemed to grow a little deeper with each book. There wasn't a moment when I thought that any of the characters felt flat or as if they were missing anything, but yet with each book, there is something new to learn about this wonderful characters. I will end up rereading this series numerous times in the years ahead I am sure without a doubt. There are not many authors who have been able to hold my attention over the years, desperately waiting for each and every new book to see what happens next, but Ms. King kept me waiting on pins and needles. Every since I first read “Abby Finds Her Calling” I have made sure that three months prior to each new book, my name went on the library waiting list so that I could be one of the first person to get my greedy hands on the book. I will be looking for more books by Ms. King/Hubbard in the future for her writing is so interesting. I hope all who read this series enjoys it as much as I have and with this book finds it hard to say good-bye as well.