The tranquil little town of Willow Ridge is facing a startling challenge. Wealthy Nora Glick Landwehr is determined to make it her home again--and put her past to rest. Cast out by her own family, Nora can't reconcile with Old Amish ways or her strict father. But she'll do anything to help her community embrace the future . . . and make amends to the daughter she had to give up. So, she certainly has no time for her reckless new neighbor Luke Hooley. They disagree about almost everything. And how can she trust him if he always seems to believe the worst about her? Somehow, though, his unexpected support and passionate heart are helping her find her own way in faith. And Nora will discover that even in the face of insidious lies and unyielding judgment, God creates unexpected chances for forgiveness--and love.
About the Author
Drawing upon her experiences in Jamesport, the largest Old Order Amish community west of the Mississippi, longtime Missourian Charlotte Hubbard writes of simpler times and a faith-based lifestyle in her new Seasons of the Heart series. Like her heroine, Miriam Lantz, Charlotte considers it her personal mission to feed people—to share hearth and home. Faith and family, farming and food preservation are hallmarks of her lifestyle, and the foundation of her earlier Angels of Mercy series. She’s a deacon, a dedicated church musician and choir member, and when she’s not writing, she loves to try new recipes, crochet, and sew. Charlotte now lives in Minnesota with her husband and their border collie.
Read an Excerpt
Harvest of Blessings
By Charlotte Hubbard
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Charlotte Hubbard
All rights reserved.
"Welcome back to Willow Ridge, Nora. It's a pleasure doing business with you."
How weird is this? Sixteen years ago, Nora Landwehr had never imagined herself returning, much less accepting the keys to a prime property from the man who'd been the bishop when her father had sent her away. But this little Amish spot in the road had changed a lot. And so had she.
"Thanks, Hiram," Nora murmured. "I hope I've done the right thing."
"At least you've arrived while your parents are still alive—if you can call it that." His gaze followed the road toward where the Glick house stood a ways back from the county blacktop. "Mending fences in your situation will be much like opening Pandora's box. Once you raise the lid, all your secrets will swarm out like hornets, whether you're ready or not."
His choice of words made her wonder if she'd been wise to confide in Hiram Knepp, or even to go through with this transaction. But it was too late for second-guessing. As her gaze swept the panorama of Willow Ridge farmsteads, Nora was amazed at what she could see. From this hilltop perspective, Willow Ridge looked like an idyllic little town where nothing hostile or cruel could ever happen—like Mayberry, or Walton's Mountain. But appearances could be very deceiving. "So, does Tom Hostetler still live there where all those buggies are parked?"
"He does. He's the bishop now."
"This being Thursday, is that a wedding or a funeral?"
Beneath Hiram's short laugh, Nora imagined the bwah-hah-hah-hah of a melodrama villain. "As you probably realize," he replied wryly, "a wedding, in retrospect, might indeed be a funeral of sorts, depending upon how it all works out. Annie Mae's marrying Adam Wagler today. "
Nora thought back, waaay back, to when Adam must've been about school-age and Annie Mae Knepp had been a toddler—
And you're not there to see your daughter marry, Hiram? She bit back her retort. Her Realtor had hinted that Hiram had committed even more heinous sins than she had—and after all, her father hadn't attended her wedding, either. If Hiram had been run out of Willow Ridge, she and this man with the devilish black goatee had a lot in common.
Nora didn't want to go there.
She was looking for a way to move Hiram along, so she could figure out where her major pieces of furniture would fit before the moving van arrived. And yet, if everyone in town was at the wedding, this would be a fine time to look around ...
"I'll have my crew remove the Bishop's Ridge entryway sign tomorrow." Hiram's voice sliced through her thoughts. "That way you won't be living in my shadow."
Nora didn't miss the irony there. Every Amish colony lived in its bishop's shadow—and she sensed the cloud over Willow Ridge, Missouri, had gotten a whole lot darker of late, even if Hiram no longer resided here. "That'll be fine. Thanks again."
"What will you do with that big barn? I miss that more than the house."
Nora smiled. No need to tell this renegade everything, for who knew what he'd do with the information. "I have some ideas," she hedged. "Figured I'd live here a while before I committed to any of them."
Finally, Hiram was headed down the road in his classic, perfectly preserved black Cadillac. Nora closed her eyes as the summer breeze caressed her face. She'd really done it. She'd spent her divorce settlement on this house and acreage with the huge barn, in the town where she'd probably be greeted with hatred and hostility as she stirred up old grudges like muck from the bottom of a farm pond.
But blood is thicker than water. Isn't it?
Once the shock and accusations ran their course, Nora sincerely hoped to reconnect with her family. To ask forgiveness and make her peace while creating a purposeful, productive new life. Was she being even more naive and fanciful than when she'd believed Tanner Landwehr was her ticket to a storybook ending?
Nora glanced at her watch. She still had an hour until the van was to arrive. She slid into her red BMW convertible to cruise town while she could still pass as an English tourist—not that anyone would see her. Everyone from Willow Ridge and the nearby Plain settlements would be at Adam and Annie Mae's wedding.
Once on the county blacktop she turned left, away from town, and drove past a timbered mill with a picturesque waterwheel. With its backdrop of river rocks, wildflowers, and majestic old trees shimmering in the breeze, the Mill at Willow Ridge was a scene straight out of a Thomas Kinkade painting.
Nora turned back toward town. Henry and Lydia Zook's home looked added-on-to yet again, and Zook's Market had expanded, as well. The white wooden structure sported a blue metal roof that glimmered in the afternoon sunlight. A handwritten sign on the door proclaimed the store closed for the wedding.
Purposely not looking at her childhood home yet, Nora focused on the new house built on what had been the northeast corner of her father's farm. Across the road sat the Sweet Seasons Bakery Cafe and a quilt shop—more new additions, although she recalled the blacksmith shop behind them, and the large white home down the lane, which had belonged to Jesse Lantz. From what she could tell on the Internet, Jesse had passed on and Miriam had opened a bustling business. Who could've guessed an Amish woman would have a website with pictures of her meals and bakery specialties?
Down the road stood the Willow Ridge Clinic, with what appeared to be a horse-drawn medical wagon parked beside it—yet another startling change. Nora headed down the gravel road on the left, past the Brenneman Cabinet Shop, which looked the same as always. So did Tom Hostetler's dairy farm, where black-and-white cows grazed in the pasture near a red barn that sat behind the tall white farmhouse. Dozens of buggies were parked along the lane and around the side of the barn, yet the place looked manicured. Not so much as a scrap of paper marred the Plain perfection of this scene.
The sound of a hymn drifting out Tom's windows compelled Nora to stop. She'd all but forgotten the German words, yet the power of hundreds of voices singing in one accord made her swallow hard. The melody seeped into her soul, its slow, steady cadence stilling the beat of her heart.
Nora sighed and drove on. Could she really go back to three-hour church services, hard wooden pew benches, and endless, droning sermons? She couldn't recall the last time she'd attended a worship service. You couldn't consider a quickie ceremony in a Vegas wedding chapel worship, after all.
Maybe you won't have to worry about sitting through church. You haven't been allowed back into the fellowship yet. Haven't been forgiven.
Nora drove past the Kanagy place and then a few homes where the Zeb Schrocks and other Mennonite families lived. She passed the fork that led to her brother Atlee's farm—she wasn't ready to go down that road yet—and followed the curve that meandered in front of the Wagler place and then past her own new residence. Definitely the finest house in town.
But what shall it frrofit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?
Nora let out a humorless laugh. Her father, ever the sanctimonious Preacher Gabe even among his immediate family, had often quoted that verse when she'd wanted new dresses or some doodad she'd seen at Zook's Market. The memory of his harsh discipline tightened her chest even after sixteen years of living in the English world. If that was her gut reaction without even seeing him, how did she think she could face him in person? So much water had gone under that proverbial bridge that Gabriel Glick would never, ever cross it to see his errant, banished daughter.
Nora brought herself back into the present. The moving van hadn't yet arrived, so she pulled back onto the county highway where she'd begun her trip down memory lane. While everyone in town was at the wedding, she had the perfect chance to revisit her childhood home. To prepare herself for the ordeal she would soon face.
She pulled into the lane and parked behind the house, somewhat surprised to see the surrounding pastureland planted in tall corn that shimmered in the breeze. Knowing it wouldn't be locked, Nora slipped into the back door. The kitchen appeared smaller and shabbier than she recalled, as though it hadn't seen fresh paint since she'd left. How odd to stand in this hub of the house and not detect even a whiff of breakfast.
Nora moved on before she lost her nerve. She felt like an intruder—and she wanted to be long gone before anyone came home from the wedding. She peeked into the small downstairs room where she and her mother had sewn the family's clothes on an ancient treadle machine—
Nora gaped. On a twin bed lay a motionless female form, like a corpse laid out in a casket. Was this what Hiram had meant by implying her parents were barely alive? Did she dare approach, or would this woman pop up like a zombie from an old horror movie and leer at her with hollowed eyes? Nora wanted to bolt, yet she felt compelled to look the sick woman—surely her mother—in the face. If Mamma was so ill, why wasn't someone sitting with her? Or was she merely napping, too tired to attend the wedding? The way Nora had it figured, her mother was in her early seventies now—several years younger than her dat. Why did she look so far gone?
Holding her breath, Nora slipped to the bedside. The room felt stuffy in the July heat, yet a faded quilt covered her mother's shriveled form up to her chin. A kapp concealed all but the front of her white hair, so all Nora saw was a pallid face etched with wrinkles. The eyes were closed, and again Nora felt she was observing a stranger in a casket rather than her own mother. Last time she'd been here, Mamma's face had been contorted with indignation as disgust hardened her piercing hazel eyes—
And suddenly those eyes were focused on her.
Nora froze. Not a muscle moved in her mother's face, yet Mamma's gaze didn't waver—until her eyes widened with recognition. Or was it disbelief, or fear?
Nora didn't stick around to figure that out. Hurrying from the airless room and through the kitchen, Nora burst through the back door. She couldn't gulp air fast enough as she climbed into her car and sped down the lane. She felt as though she'd stared Death in the face and Death had stared right back.
Her tires squealed on the hot blacktop as she sped toward her new home. What a relief to see the moving van lumbering across the bridge by the mill. Nora made the turn onto Bishop's Ridge Road too fast and fishtailed in the gravel. She steered up the driveway and then pulled around behind the huge barn—to be out of the movers' way, but also because she felt compelled to conceal her car.
Better get over that. You live here now, whether the neighbors like it or not.
Nora was walking toward the house when a tall, broad-shouldered figure stepped out of the shade behind it. His straw hat, broadfall pants, and suspenders announced him as Plain, and there was no mistaking the fascination on his handsome face. Yet Nora hesitated. Had this stranger been roaming around inside her house? Note to self: call a locksmith.
"Something I can help you with?" she asked breezily. Better to believe in basic Amish honesty than to accuse him of something he might not have done. It wasn't as if he could take anything from her empty house.
"Just coming over to meet my new neighbor," he replied in a resonant voice. "I'm Luke Hooley. That's my gristmill on the river."
"Great place. Really scenic setting," Nora replied. Even though the brim of his hat shaded his features, it was easy to see Luke Hooley was a looker—and that he thought he was, too. "So why aren't you at the wedding?"
"Didn't want to waste a perfectly fine July morning in church."
Now that was different. But when he cocked his hat farther back on his head, the flirtatious glint in his deep green eyes was the same as any player's on the prowl—and that was not what she needed right now. Nora was glad to see the moving van lumbering up the driveway. "Well, there's my furniture. Nice to meet you, Luke."
"I'd be happy to help you unload. That's quite a job for a gal—"
"I've paid these guys big bucks to do the heavy lifting," Nora insisted as she waved to the van driver. "It would become an insurance issue if you got hurt."
"Been hefting furniture all my life. I won't get hurt," Luke replied with a cocksure grin.
Careful there, big boy. You don't know the meaning of hurt until you've tangled with me.
"Sorry," Nora insisted. "That's the moving company's policy, not mine. But thanks for stopping by."
Nora walked around to the other side of the van to greet the driver. Hopefully her neighbor could take a hint and wouldn't make a pest of himself. Luke was a fine-looking fellow, but she'd been married to one of those and she wasn't in the market for another one.
As Luke hiked back toward the mill, he couldn't quit grinning. The fox with the auburn ponytail bouncing behind her sparkly blue ball cap had been well worth a few moments of his time. She was a sizzling English chick—maybe his newest, best reason not to join the Amish church. And the way she'd squealed her tires coming out of the Glick place suggested she was keeping secrets other than her name. Secrets he would so enjoy coaxing her to confess.
Now he was glad he'd opted out of Annie Mae's wedding—not that he'd remained interested in Hiram's daughter after she'd taken in her three little brothers and two sisters. She'd gone from being a wide-eyed adventuress to a mother hen clucking over her brood, and what man needed that? He'd just turned thirty and still felt no need to fill a bunch of bedrooms with kids. He did miss their dates ... those times he and his brother Ira had run the roads with Annie Mae and Millie Glick—
Luke halted in his tracks, thunderstruck. With her catlike hazel eyes—tigress eyes—and that red hair and stunning body, his new English neighbor could pass for Millie Glick's twin.
But Millie was sixteen. This gal was his age.
And she'd come racing out of the Glick place as though she'd done something she didn't want to get caught at.
Very interesting. Very, very interesting.CHAPTER 2
Millie Glick grinned as Ira Hooley winked at her from the pew bench directly across from hers. They were serving as side-sitters for Annie Mae and Adam, so only about twelve feet of hardwood floor separated them—as well as Preacher Ben, Bishop Tom, and her grandfather, who'd been conducting the church service.
As the wedding began, the couple rose to repeat their wedding vows. Millie's heart thumped so hard she barely noticed all the folks crowded into Bishop Tom's home. Nor did she pay any mind when her grandfather scowled at her from the preachers' bench. Of course Preacher Gabe Glick was frowning at her for flirting with Ira—that's all he knew how to do, it seemed. But this wedding was such a welcome morning away from caring for her grandmother, Millie didn't care.
Soon she'd have to return to that stifling house—unless she dared to accept the invitation to adventure that sparkled in Ira's eyes. She'd catch a lecture when she got back, but so what? The monotony of caring for a grandmother who drifted farther away with each passing day made Millie almost welcome her grandfather's tirade. It was a sign he was still breathing.
And isn't that a fine picture of your life at sixteen? Checkin' to see that two really old people are still breathin' as they nap?
"Adam and Annie Mae, as ya repeat your marriage vows," Bishop Tom was saying, "you're not to forget, in the intense love ya share for each other at this moment, that the promises ya make today bind ya together as man and wife forever. Other than the vows ya made when ya joined the church last month, these promises are the most important words you'll say in your entire lives."
Despite the bishop's solemn warning, Annie Mae's face radiated a joy Millie envied. As best friends, they'd shared many exhilarating, life-altering moments, but their relationship wouldn't be the same now that Annie Mae was marrying Adam. Millie sighed. Her circle of girlfriends was shrinking, and living with her grandparents hadn't exactly improved her social life. Rumspringa was feeling like a huge letdown.
Ira blew her a kiss and Millie choked on a laugh. When Preacher Ben and her grandfather glanced her way, she gazed demurely at her lap. Oh, but she was going to catch it after the wedding let out. She forced herself to listen to the same questions and answers Old Order brides and grooms had exchanged for centuries.
Will you ever get the chance to marry? Will Ira keep comin' around, or will he lose interest while ya live under an old preacher's watchful eye? He's twenty-nine. Handsome. Plenty of other gals would jump into his buggy without bein' asked twice.
Millie stole another glance at Ira. His mop of rich brown hair glimmered in the sunlight that poured through the windows, and he looked very much like a groom in his black trousers and white shirt. But would he ever settle down? Ira's aversion to joining the church was no secret, so maybe he and his older brother Luke would remain bachelors together in their apartment above the gristmill. Or maybe they'd jump the fence and live English, despite the way their older brother, Preacher Ben, kept after them to commit to the Plain faith.
Excerpted from Harvest of Blessings by Charlotte Hubbard. Copyright © 2015 Charlotte Hubbard. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Love when I am able to read a book about the Amish! The ways of life for them is so different than the "English" world. Loved how this book captured me right from the start. I had trouble putting this book down. Well written to say the least! I'm also seeing that this is part of a series that I now will have to go back and read the rest! *Received for an honest review*
Harvest of Blessings is Book Five in the Seasons of the Heart series. It's the first book I've read in this series and what a wonderful book! Forgiveness can be hard to give and in some circumstances hard to receive. The author does an outstanding job in bringing her characters, descriptions and details into a fascinating novel concerning forgiveness and love. I highly recommend reading Harvest of Blessings and if you haven't read Books One - Four in this series, you may want to seriously consider reading those first. I'm so looking forward to Charlotte Hubbard's next Seasons of the Heart book. I received a complimentary copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This review is one hundred percent my opinion.
I just finished Harvest of Blessings and I just loved it. You took me through a whole range of emotions with these characters that have become dear from the 4 previous books of this series. I even found myself in tears when Gabe apologizes to Nora. Thank you for this enjoyable book. It is 2:49 in the morning because I could not shut the book until I turned the last page.
Harvest of Blessings is such a sweet story. I love the people of Willow Ridge. I loved seeing Luke again in this book. And I, also, loved Nora and was kept guessing what will happen to her next. A good, clean Amish story 4 stars.
Make the Best of Second Chances Reminding us that “home is where the heart is”, Charlotte Hubbard takes us on a journey back to Willow Ridge in Harvest of Blessings, the fifth installment in her Seasons of the Heart series. Filled with beloved characters, a prodigal daughter returning home after years away, and showcasing God’s command to forgive and love each other, Ms. Hubbard’s story will grab your attention from beginning to end. While this book can stand on its own, I recommend reading the entire series in order; both for reading enjoyment and for getting to know the inhabitants of this little town. After living among the “English” for sixteen years, Nora Glick Landwehr has decided to return to her childhood home in Willow Ridge. Determined to ask for her parent’s forgiveness, connect with the daughter she’s never known, and establish a gift store selling Amish and Mennonite wares, Nora purchases a prime piece of real-estate and moves in. While not looking for a second chance at love, Nora can’t help being attracted to one of her neighbors, Luke Hooley, and has to decide if she’s willing to risk her heart. Ms. Hubbard does a good job developing Nora’s character and I easily connected with her right away. An outwardly beautiful woman, Nora also has a lovely soul and once you get to know her story, why she had to leave her daughter behind, you can’t help rooting for her to reconnect with her family and take a chance on love. A member of the Willow Ridge community for over a year, Luke Hooley still can’t make up his mind about officially joining the church. He also refused to get serious about any of the young women in town and prefers “playing the field”. At least until he meets Nora Landwehr and becomes interested in getting to know her. The more Luke finds out about Nora, the more he’s intrigued. He even finds himself willing to visit a local Mennonite Church that Nora wants to join. Ms. Hubbard also does a good job developing Luke’s character and it was nice getting to know him better. He’s always been an interesting character and I knew there had to be more to him than the “player” he’s let others see. The secondary characters are well developed and Ms. Hubbard did a good job delivering message that love and forgiveness are forever entwined as a part of the “Golden Rule” – after all it’s impossible to truly love someone if you are not willing to forgive them. I especially enjoyed getting to see Mariam and Ben Hooley again, along with Tom and Nazareth Hostetler. And of course it wouldn’t be a book about Willow Ridge without having to deal with Hiriam Knepp, the church’s excommunicated preacher who won’t leave his old community alone. Will Nora and her parents learn to forgive each other and love each other as God expects? Will Nora and her daughter be able to connect and have a relationship? And will Nora and Luke give their budding love a chance to become the love of a lifetime? You’ll have to read Harvest of Blessings to find out. I can’t wait to see who Ms. Hubbard writes about next!
“Harvest of Blessings” by Charlotte Hubbard is her latest book in her 'Seasons of the Heart' series. I have to say that this is a book that I am not entirely sure if I would allow my 13 year old neighbor to read, not because of anything that was outright said or any one scene but because some of the innuendos. I would have to say that the words spoken were not the reason for my uncertainty but it is the other things happening/thought of at the time that makes me weary. The words spoken frankly taken by themselves were nothing to be concerned about. When things might have gotten out of hand, things were cut off quickly and without the actual thought to be finished, but enough was given to give the reader the intent of thought. I do also have to say that frankly I found it offensive that the snakes that live by instinct kept getting insulted in this book. I am referring to fact that the villain of the series was constantly referred to as being a snake in the grass but frankly this character is more like the dried up slim that is left behind a slug that is crawling across a slim pond. This villainous character has upped their game though in a different way, and they sure didn't expect what happened at the end. The villain may not have succeed like they did in the last book, but I fear we might be seeing a set up for something more in the next book, for the villain is up to something, and this is one character I don't take for face value anymore. I usually hope that the villain of any book has a change of heart but I don't think that is going to happen with this character anytime soon or if ever. I have to say that this book really didn't make Amish out to be this group of people who have no faults at all, and that things, both evil and good, happen to them just like in the English world. There is human emotions and desires that can be found in the English world as well in the Amish world, that can be found in this story as well. I do enjoy Amish stories because everything seems to be so idyllic, but this book isn't idyllic. This book balances both that idyllic sense and real world issues, that made this book so enjoyable. Luke is a character that we have seen several times through the last few books in the series. Luke is a man who has always been shown as this bachelor who is in no hurry what so ever to change his status by settling down or give up his footloose and fancy free time with the ladies. Yet at the same time, he is a character I wanted to see finally settle down and was curious as to what type of woman it would take to tame this wild character. Luke is a ladies man who is use to things going his way while sowing his wild oats. Yet watching him through the story it is interesting to see how he changes in little ways and it is apparent with those changes by the end of the book. Nora is a woman who is trying to right wrongs that happened so long ago, and she also goes through some pretty big changes herself. I have to say that Nora is a pretty strong woman who knew exactly what she was risking when she took the leap of faith that she did, with no promises that things would work out. So many things could have blown up in her face, and when they did in one shape or another, she kept taking one step in front of the other. To watch Nora go from what/who she was in the beginning of the story to what/who she is at the end of the story was a wonderful thing to see. There is a couple that most people might find the relationship to be disturbing because of the ages of this couple. I have to say at first I was a little uneasy with it but then when I got to thinking about the relationship it is in a different culture with different ways of thinking sometimes. Also the younger person of the couple has been doing work of someone twice their age for a few years, all without complaint. So there is a physical age difference but the maturity level between the two in the couple actually is not all that far apart. Both of them are hard workers who know their mind. When looking at the relationship from maturity level instead of physical ages, things are not that bad, and what made it even better is at the end when a decision was made without any pressure. I truly enjoyed this book a great deal because it kept me on the edge of my seat. I just wanted to see how Luke was going to change, what exactly was going to happen next with Nora and just have vile the villain was going to get. I hated putting the book down at one point but a nasty headache came on, and only sleep was going to relieve the pain. As soon as I woke up from sleep I picked up the book again and continued reading until I was done.
Harvest of Blessing by Charlotte Hubbard is a wonderful Amish romance. It is the fifth book in the Seasons of the Heart series. Nora Glick Landwehr has returned to Willow Ridge, Missouri after being away for over sixteen years. Her father, Preacher (former) Gabriel Glick sent her away to live with an aunt when Nora found out she was pregnant. Nora refused to name the man who got her pregnant. Nora has now returned to set things right with her family. She wants their forgiveness. Nora has purchased Hiram Knepp’s place (since he has been excommunicated and is starting his new community) and is looking forward to starting a business as well as getting to know her daughter, Millie. Luke Hooley is thirty and has still not committed to the Old Order Amish faith. He is a big flirt but can the right woman help him settle down. Ira Hooley, Luke’s brother, is just like his brother. But he has been dating Millie for a year. Is Ira ready to get serious and settle down? We also get to catch up on the lives of the rest of the residents of Willow Ridge and see what is going on in their lives. There is also a wedding! Annie Mae Knepp is marrying Adam Wagler. Annie Mae deserves happiness after everything that has happened to her because of her father, Hiram. Harvest of Blessings is just a delight to read and is such a sweet story. I give Harvest of Blessings 5 out of 5 stars! I am looking forward to The Christmas Cradle (the next book in the series) when it comes out at the end of September. Harvest of Blessings will be out on February 24, 2015. The other books in the series are available on Kindle Unlimited if you have not read them yet! Happy Reading! I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.