One of the only women in the quilting circle without children, Mariana Miller prayed to be blessed with a little one throughout fifteen years of marriage. But now, newly widowed, Mariana discovers she’s pregnant—with twins! How will she support herself and the babies, not to mention stay healthy when the doctor puts her on bed rest? As neighbors band together to help, Mariana is more grateful than ever for the Amish community. She especially looks forward to visits from Reuben Weisel, her late husband’s business partner and best friend. Reuben’s quiet strength comforts her—until he proposes marriage…
Honorable and loyal, there’s no doubt Reuben sincerely wants to provide for Mariana and the twins. Never married, he can now be a good husband and father. So long as the bishop approves, to wed him is a sensible choice—and an unexpected gift. But when Mariana discovers there is more behind Reuben’s proposal than she thought, their fragile agreement and fledgling love will be put to the test…
Praise for Amy Lillard
“An inspirational story of romance, faith, and trust…will appeal to fans of Wanda Brunstetter and Beverly Lewis.” —Library Journal on Caroline’s Secret
“A beautifully written romance with an adoring character. Lillard writes stories readers can relate to.” --RT Book Reviews on Just Plain Sadie
About the Author
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More than a Promise
By Amy Lillard
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Amy Lillard
All rights reserved.
Finally. The crowd was starting to thin. Mariana had been beginning to believe that they might not ever go home. Between the day she was having and the dull throb starting at the base of her skull, it was past time for a little quiet.
Not that funerals were particularly loud. However, they did have a stress level that couldn't be matched. Even Amish ones.
Mariana shot her bravest smile to her in-laws as they stood by the front door preparing to leave. There were no words left that needed to be said. Leroy was gone. After a long battle with cancer, he was finally gone.
"I'm coming by tomorrow to check on you."
Mariana swung around to find Verna Yutzy standing there. She wanted to tell Verna not to come by. That she would be okay. That she wouldn't need help for a while. But none of that was true, and a person just didn't tell Verna what to do.
"Thank you." Mariana squeezed Verna's hand. "I appreciate that."
The truth was she was going to need more and more help as the months went on. More than she had ever dreamed.
Verna squeezed right back, then released Mariana's hand and moved away.
Only a few more of the funeral-goers milled around the living room. Just a little bit ago the place had been crowded with people all eating cold roast beef, mashed potatoes, rolls, and prunes and discussing what a great man Leroy was and how it was God's will for him to go at such a young age.
He had been a great man. Until the tumor eating at his brain altered him beyond recognition. Oh, his outside had still looked the same, while his insides were all twisted up, his mind not the same as it had been before. There'd been a time, not so long ago, when he still had his wits about him. When he'd still loved her in his own way. And that night when he'd pulled her close —
"Now, don't you go worrying about anything," Eileen said. Of perhaps all the people around, Eileen was Mariana's best friend. But once Leroy had gotten sick, they'd started to drift apart, only seeing each other at the quilting circle meetings every Tuesday afternoon and occasionally at church. "I've already got with the buddy bunch. We're working out a schedule. One of us will stop by each day to make sure you're doing okay."
Mariana nodded even as tears stung at the back of her eyes. Not tears of sadness so much as tears of joy. She didn't know what she would do without these good people of Wells Landing, Oklahoma. She had moved down soon after she and Leroy had gotten married. But that had been almost fifteen years ago. Now she couldn't imagine calling any other place home.
"Eileen," she started in protest, "you've got so much to do yourself right now."
Eileen shook her head. "Not anything as important as making sure you're okay."
Mariana smiled at the sweet words. Eileen had much more important things to do than look after her. She had two little girls now, sweet things with blond hair and angelic brown eyes. But whether or not they would get to stay still remained to be seen. Eileen had agreed to foster the children from the Englisch home in neighboring Pryor with hopes of adopting them herself one day. Making sure two little girls had everything they needed and were adjusting well to the different lifestyle was more important than Mariana's well-being. She had known this day had been coming for almost a year now. And definitely within the last month. She trusted God to get her through it. That was always the best way: trusting God.
"And I'll be fine," she said.
Eileen gave her "that look," then squeezed her hand and moved away.
Mariana straightened her spine and resisted the urge to sigh as she rubbed the pounding at the back of her neck. She just needed a little more time. Not to get used to the reality of Leroy's death. But there were ... other things. She pressed her hands to her stomach and hoped no one noticed. It wouldn't do for her news to get around this soon. Leroy hadn't been buried more than an hour.
She pasted on her bright smile and whirled around to face Reuben Weisel, Leroy's best friend and business partner. "Reuben." Her face relaxed as her smile turned genuine. "I thought you'd gone on home."
He shook his head and jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "I've been out in the barn. Feeding the horses and stuff. I figured you could use a hand with that."
She'd been feeding the horses for a couple of months now, but today she hadn't thought about it. Not even once. How am I going to take care of a baby when I can't even remember to feed the horses?
"Thank you, Reuben. That means a lot to me."
"I thought I might stop by tomorrow." He twirled his hat in his hands. He seemed nervous, though Mariana couldn't figure out why. He had known as long as she had that Leroy's time was growing short. "To check on things, you know? Make sure you're doing okay."
"That's not necessary," Mariana said. She had enough food to last all of this week and half of the next. And Reuben had been coming by steady since Leroy went down. Everything was caught up. Nothing needed to be done.
Well, that wasn't exactly true. She had to figure out what she was going to do with the rest of her life and how she was going to support herself and this baby. After fifteen years of waiting and praying and wishing for a baby and being envious and jealous of all the new mothers in the community, then praying about that as well, she was finally pregnant. Four months, to be exact.
Thank heaven she carried a little bit of extra weight anyway. No one really noticed the belly that had started under her mourning black. She only wished she had realized that she was having Leroy's baby before he died and was able to tell him when he was still coherent enough to understand. She could only hope now that he was up with Jesus, smiling down, knowing that their dreams had come true even if their time together had been cut short.
"I would feel better if I stopped by."
He was a good man, Reuben Weisel, and Mariana couldn't figure out why he had never married. He was caring and kind, hardworking and handsome. Not that she had thought about his looks much over the years, but it was true. Reuben was a fine-looking man. His dark, curly hair only held a touch or two of gray and seemed not to want to lie in the typical Amish "chili bowl" style. His green eyes sparkled as if he had a secret that no one else knew. He hadn't reached his fortieth birthday, at which time unmarried Amish men grew a beard regardless of their lack of a wife. So there were no whiskers to detract from the dimples framing his smiling mouth or the one that bisected his chin.
She pulled herself from her own thoughts and centered her attention back to the man in front of her. "Jah?"
Concern puckered his brow. "Are you sure you're going to be okay? I can get one of the ladies to stay with you. Verna maybe. Or your sister."
Mariana shook her head. "My sister has her own family to take care of. She can't stay with me forever." She had to get used to the fact that Leroy was gone. And that was all there was to it.
"You just seem ... distracted or ..." He stumbled, unable to find the word.
"I'm fine." She shot him her best smile just to prove it. She might not be fine now, but she would be. Leroy was in a better place. He was no longer in pain. He was healed and hopefully with God. She had to be happy for him, even as she was sad for herself.
"If you're sure," he said, though he didn't look convinced.
"Positive." She walked with him to the door, only then realizing that he was the last one to leave. "Good-bye, Reuben."
He donned his hat on the way out the door, then turned to face her as he stood on the porch. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Mariana bit back her protests. He was only being kind. And she had the feeling the more she protested, the more he would dig in his heels over coming to check on her.
In typical Reuben style, he loped down the steps and over to his tractor. He climbed aboard and gave her one last wave before starting it up and heading back down her drive.
It was better to let his concern run its course. She would have plenty of time to be alone now that Leroy was gone. Five more months, to be exact. Then she would have the baby.
She rubbed a hand over her slight pooch as tears filled her eyes. "Oh, little one, what are we going to do?"
* * *
Reuben came by every day for the rest of that week, just as he had promised. Truthfully, she was glad he had. It gave her something else to look forward to each day besides feeding the chickens and trying to figure out how she was going to support herself and the baby.
"Have you given it any thought?" Reuben asked. He took a sip of his coffee and steadily eyed her over the rim of the mug.
She had given it more than "thought." Not much else had been on her mind in the few days since they had buried Leroy. "Some."
"And what do you think you'll do?"
It was a valid question. How was she going to support herself? That was what Reuben wanted to know. What he didn't know was that it was not just her anymore. That she had to have a job so she could support herself and the baby. Honestly, she didn't know how those Englisch women did it. Just the thought of juggling a baby and a job so she could keep her house was almost more than she could comprehend. Maybe she should talk to Caroline Fitch. She had raised Emma for over a year before she ended up married to Andrew. And she had worked at Esther Fitch's bakery. That was back before Esther married Abe Fitch and Caroline had married his nephew.
She swiveled her attention back to Reuben. "Jah?"
"You were off in dreamland."
Hardly. "I'm okay."
A frown puckered Reuben's normally line-free brow. "You've been doing that a lot lately. You sure you're all right?"
She would be. "I'm fine."
"I'm worried about you."
She shook her head. "There's no need to concern yourself. I'll sell baked goods or jelly or —"
She had no idea. Esther had lost her husband and started the bakery, though with the Englisch grocery store selling cookies, cakes, and pies of all sorts, she wasn't sure that Wells Landing was large enough to support another store of that kind. It might be, but she wasn't willing to take that chance. Old Katie Glick took in sewing and had for as long as Mariana could remember. She had been in the same situation when her husband had died and she needed a way to support herself. She did darning and mending for the bachelors, sewing projects that became too much for the parents come Christmas pageant time, and made quilts to sell to Englisch tourists.
Mariana supposed she could sell jelly in a stand at the front of her house like a lot of Amish people did. But she couldn't say that her jelly was any better than anyone else's. Tolerable, she thought her father would've said. It tasted all right, but it wasn't spectacular. She needed spectacular if she was going to be able to support herself and this baby she carried.
She sat back in her seat and crossed her arms protectively over her stomach. "I don't know. I just don't know." She couldn't imagine trying to raise a baby on the amount of money she would make from selling only to whoever happened by her drive.
"Don't worry," Reuben said. "You will find a way. God always provides."
It was the one thing she was certain of. God would provide for her. And He would provide for her baby. But she also knew that she had to be an active participant in her life. She didn't have time to settle in with her grief, get to know it and get comfortable with it. She had to fight back, get on her feet, and make a living. She had no other choice; she would soon have a baby depending on her. Leroy's baby. The last piece of him. And a child that special needed special care.
"I'm here to help, you know." His eyes turned serious, and the corners of his mouth went down.
Suddenly his concern was almost more than she could take. Tears rose into her eyes as emotions burned the back of her throat. She covered her face with her hands as tears shook her.
She barely registered the scrape of his chair before he was next to her, crooning softly. "It's going to be okay, Mariana. Somehow. Some way. No one here is going to let you starve." He patted her on the arm, though the action seemed awkward. She needed to pull herself together. This sort of behavior wasn't helping anyone. She sniffed and sat up in her chair.
Reuben handed her a handkerchief.
She dutifully wiped her eyes as she struggled to get her runaway emotions under control.
He patted her arm once again, then moved to sit in the chair next to her. He had been seated across the table. Now he was close enough so she could see every line of worry, every fleck of gold in his eyes.
"You really are a good man, Reuben Weisel." She sniffed again and handed him back his handkerchief.
He tucked it into his pocket without responding. "Maybe you should go and stay with your sister."
Mariana shook her head. She and Elizabeth had never been close, most likely because of the difference in their ages. By the time Mariana had gotten old enough to remember spending time with her sister, Elizabeth had been preparing to get married and move into her own house.
The truth of the matter was Reuben was more of a friend to her than her own kin had been. She had family scattered all over. It was unusual for an Amish family to be so dispersed, but she had heard whispers about differences in beliefs that had led her mamm and dat to move from Indiana all the way to Oklahoma. They had settled in Clarita, leaving behind everyone they had known to start over in the tiny settlement. So there were no cousins to speak of, no aunts or family to take her in as she faced this time of need. Just her sister.
"She lives all the way over in Clarita," Mariana said. "I don't want to go all the way over there." She wanted to stay here, in her own house, with the neighbors she knew and in the church district she loved.
"I'm worried about you."
Those tears welled again, and Mariana bit her lip to keep them from falling.
The concern so clearly written on Reuben's face increased. "You can't stay here like this." His lips pressed together and his chin took on a stubborn slant. "You need to be around people."
She shook her head. He didn't understand.
"I'm not talking about months or even weeks. Just give yourself a few days to come to terms with this, then you can come back."
"Mariana, you can't go around sobbing like this whenever someone mentions Leroy's name."
"I'm not crying because of Leroy. I'm crying because I'm pregnant."
"You're what?" he whispered.
But Mariana had said it once. She wasn't about to repeat it. Men and women didn't talk about such things. But Reuben wasn't just any man. He was her husband's business partner and best friend. A wonderful friend to them both.
"A baby?" His gaze flickered from her face to her thickening waistline.
"Leroy's baby." He seemed to be having as much trouble as she had understanding the situation.
"This is ..." He stopped, and for a moment she wasn't sure what he was going to say. "Wonderful! This is wonderful!" A smile brighter than the sun spread across his face.
"You think so?" she asked. She was still a bit numb from discovering she was pregnant and burying her husband so soon after the news.
"I know so." He scooted his chair a bit closer, his gaze flickering from her face to her belly, then back again. "Did Leroy know?"
She shook her head and her eyes filled with tears.
"He would have been so proud."
She smiled through her tears. "Pride is a sin."
Reuben grinned in return. "Any man who isn't proud of his children is a fool."
"Then he would be proud," Mariana returned. If there was one thing Leroy Miller wasn't, it was a fool. His wife, on the other hand ... well, she wasn't so sure. How was she going to support herself and this baby? She had to figure out something, and quick.
"A baby," Reuben murmured. "Now, this changes everything."
Excerpted from More than a Promise by Amy Lillard. Copyright © 2016 Amy Lillard. 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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Sweet short love story
MORE THAN A PROMISE Amy Lillard never fails to give you a book you won't want to put down. An easy read with wonderful characters you will love and the wonderful feeling of a loving community. Marianne Miller was recently widowed when she found out she was pregnant with twins. She was put on bedrest and started worrying what she will do about her future. How will she support herself and her 2 little ones. Being on bedrest is making it tough. Her husband’s business partner, Reuben Weisel, stops in to see her every day, and tries to make sure she has everything she needs. She is thankful he is there, but worries about all the attention. He tells her he wants to take care of her, but she doesn’t want him to lose being able to find himself and wife and have a family. Things are going smoothly, Reuben is winning her over, she wants him to take care of her as he wants to. Then she discovers something that tears them apart. Trusting God to lead her, she prays for an answer for her and Reuben.
I am always amazed when a novella can impact me as much as a full-length novel. That was definitely the case in More Than a Promise. As I read this story, I connected with these two main characters, especially Mariana, whose point of view the story was told from. This was such a sweet novella. I enjoyed every bit of it, with my favorite scenes being the ones between Reuben and Mariana. It was comforting to see them connecting as friends and growing into a relationship that was more than simple friendship or duty, following an especially trying time. This story was uplifting and I look forward to more in the series.
More Than a Promise by Amy Lillard is a short novella that is a part of The Quilting Circle series (also ties in with the Wells Landing Romance series). We return to Wells Landing, Oklahoma and the Amish community that resides there. Marianne Miller has just lost her husband, Leroy. They had been married for fifteen years. Actually, Marianne lost Leroy months ago when his nature changed from the man she married and loved. Leroy had a brain tumor that caused vicissitudes to his personality. Marianne is worried how she is going to support herself especially since she has discovered she is pregnant. Rueben Weisel was Leroy’s best friend and business partner. He has been there for Marianne during this difficult time. When Marianne’s doctor orders bed rest, Rueben stops by every day to visit her. Marianne dislikes being stuck in bed and appreciates his company. She also begins to care for him as more than a friend. Then Rueben proposes to Marianne. She accepts and knows that people in the community will not approve because she is still in her mourning period. But then Marianne finds a letter to Rueben from Leroy asking him to take care of Marianne. Now Marianne does not know if Rueben is marrying her out of love or obligation? More Than a Promise is a quick and easy novella to read. It is well-written and has a good pace. It is nice to revisit Wells Landing and the quilting circle ladies. I give More Than a Promise 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it). More Than a Promise has an unsurprising ending, but it was romantic and sweet (it will make you smile). I found More Than a Promise a heartwarming and wholesome book (no sex, bad language, drugs, or violence). More Than a Promise can be read alone, but I do recommend that you read More Than Friendship (and the novels in the Wells Landing Romance series). There is a preview of Titus Returns at the end of the book (which comes out at the end of December).
We are back in Wells Landing, Oklahoma and our Amish community, and this is Marina Miller story, a woman who has just buried her husband. Now facing the loneliness of widowhood, she is trying to plan how she will go about to support herself, and she is expecting a new little one. Marina and her husband had been married for fifteen years and they never had a child, and now he is gone and not able to be with her and their little one. How heartbreaking, and yes you will need tissues as we watch what happens in her life, and yes there are some blessings. Some come in the form of her deceased husband’s business partner Ruben, and you won’t believe how he comes to the rescue, I loved the things he does! This is a very fast read; I read it in one evening, and not only is it fast is a read I found that I didn’t want it to end. I received this book through Net Galley and the Publisher Kensington, and was not required to give a positive review.