When Jessica Beachy temporarily moves into the home of her late great-uncle, Sam Beachy, she merely plans to remodel, sell, and head back to the city. She’s used to busy St. Louis and can’t imagine how she’ll spend her time in the quiet Amish countryside. But the carpenter she hires, Eli Miller, doesn’t think selling Sam’s home is a good idea. And while he’s steadfast in his Amish faith, he’s instantly drawn to Jessica’s vivacity and unexpected caring—especially as peaceful country ways make her question the dream she thought she wanted . . .
But a lucrative offer to turn the house into a vacation retreat confronts Jessica with a heartbreaking choice. It will take trust, perseverance—and discovering a hope chest thought forever lost—for Jessica and Eli to boldly face obstacles and embark on a joyous future together . . .
“The heart of this romance goes far beyond stereotypes . . . providing an unusual and welcome level of insight into the characters’ inner lives.”
—Publishers Weekly on Rebecca’s Bouquet, STARRED REVIEW
“A sweet tale. . . . Forgiveness is a key theme, as is the concept that life is a combination of good and bad situations that make us who we are.”
—RT Book Reviews on Annie’s Recipe
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What was she doing here? Warm sunlight turned to shade as Jessica neared the front door. She gently let go of her heavy roller bag and two smaller suitcases. Glancing from side to side, she paused to stretch her fingers and proceeded to dig in her handbag's side compartment for the key to Sam Beachy's home.
Smiling in satisfaction, she found the key and lifted her chin with newfound confidence. A breeze moved some loose hairs off of her shoulders, and she sighed in relief. It was a hot June afternoon, and she looked forward to turning on the air the moment she stepped inside.
She bent to unlock her great-uncle's house. When the lock clicked, she slowly opened the door and paused a moment to swallow with sudden unexpected emotion.
As an uncertain knot stuck in her throat, she coached herself to stay calm; yet her heart pumped to a beat that was a combination of excitement and nervousness. Excitement because she had been told the house and the acres that surrounded it would bring a good price after some remodeling. Nervousness because it was necessary to stay here and get it prepared for sale until it was ready to list. Hopefully, that would only take four weeks.
Inside, intense heat made her hair stick to her neck, and she shoved back the thick mass. As she stared at the simple, tidy dwelling, she bit her lip and considered what had transpired over the past several days. So many things contributed to her being here. She was the sole heir to her great-uncle Sam Beachy's estate, way out in the middle of nowhere. That's what it seemed like, anyway. The actual address was Rural Route, Arthur, Illinois. She frowned, continuing to long for a breeze. But there was only a woodsy scent floating through the place.
Remembering her luggage, she pivoted, brought it in, and set her black designer bag in the narrow entrance on a small navy rug. She closed the door and locked it.
To her surprise, there was no dead bolt; Sandy, her real estate agent, had filled her in on this secluded area and insisted it was safe and quiet. Still, Jessica felt more at ease with the door double-locked. In St. Louis, no one was to be trusted. And since childhood, she had constantly watched her back. She'd had good reason to, but quickly forced the bad memories from her mind.
Finally, the disappointing reality set in. Of course, there's no air. My uncle was Amish.
She proceeded to the light blue kitchen curtains, pulled them open, and fastened the corners to hooks. She continued to the living room to do the same. Even with sunlight coming in, she figured that the house couldn't get much hotter.
But light made her feel secure. It always had. She brushed away a bead of sweat before it slid down her cheek, then stepped to the side window, where she saw the shiny black buggy parked next to the house. An orange yield sign decorated the back.
Bemused, she stared at the buggy for several long moments before heading outside to get a closer look at what must have been her uncle's only mode of transportation.
She slid open the door of the buggy, stepped up, and took a seat. With great care, she sat on the front deep-blue, velvety-looking bench and glimpsed the small windows. Folded neatly beside her was a homemade knit blanket that resembled the covering on the sofa.
She took in the path that extended from the side door of Sam's house to the back. A different, wider path extended all the way to the barn. She viewed pastures on both sides and could barely glimpse a man standing on a narrow, wheeled platform, being pulled by four horses. She observed the team with interest, realizing that since the Amish didn't drive vehicles, they most likely didn't use tractors, either.
As the sun disappeared behind large, fluffy clouds, the light wind made the buggy creak. Her curious mind traveled at lightning speed as she imagined going places by horse and buggy instead of sitting behind the wheel of her new white Chevy Cruz.
The sun reappeared, and a tree branch moved gently against the buggy. She straightened, turned, and faced the modest-looking home, tapped the toe of her high-heeled pump against the floor, and scrutinized the dwelling.
Grateful that she didn't have to hitch a horse to get around, she closed her eyes and pressed her lips together. I am here. There's nothing to worry about, really. It's just different than what I'm used to.
When she opened her lids, she realized that she could charge her cell phone in her car. She could brew tea on the propane stove, but she preferred sun tea. She thought of Sam Beachy and wondered about all the daily tasks he performed without electricity.
Jessica knew she was too curious about other's lives. She tried not to appear nosy, but interesting people intrigued her. She figured that Sam deserved her full attention. What did I do to deserve such generosity? Uncle Sam, what were you like?
* * *
A couple of hours later, Jessica answered the knock on the door.
A fit-looking man of taller than medium height extended his hand, and she shook it.
A rough callus caressed her palm. Of course, his hands wouldn't be smooth, working on houses all day. She also noted his suspenders, crisp shirt, and rolled up sleeves, revealing a set of strong forearms.
A boy who looked to be about sixteen years of age, stepped forward to join them. Eli turned and motioned. "This is my brother, Wayne."
Jessica shook hands again.
"Wie bist du heit."
Jessica assumed he was saying Nice to meet you. His grip wasn't quite as firm or confident. But the smile that met hers was every bit as friendly as his older sibling's. Of course, his fingers were rough, too.
"Thanks for making it here on such short notice. You come highly recommended."
With an inviting wave, she motioned them in and shut the door. As they followed her into the kitchen, she grabbed a pad of paper from the tiled countertop and looked at it a few moments before meeting their curious gazes.
"I haven't been here long, but I've managed to jot down some things that need doing to the kitchen." She looked at the wooden floors that stretched to two open rooms. "Of course, you're the professionals, so I'm eager to get your input."
Eli took the paper from her and regarded it as Wayne made his way outside. His gaze drifted to her new book of crossword puzzles on the table.
She smiled a little. "They're my sport."
As he nodded and regarded her list, she took advantage of the opportunity to study him more carefully. He was ruggedly handsome. She noted a light scar on his neck, dark hazel eyes, tanned face, and his taller-than-average build.
Looking back at her, he returned the smile and said, "By the way, welcome to Arthur."
She tried not to grin in amusement. She'd not been here long, but she already knew that the town was much too small for her, and too quiet. She looked around and took in the sparseness of the room — the few pieces of furniture. No pictures. No phone. A delicate-looking blanket in soft blue covered one end of the couch. A jacket hung from a peg on the wall, while a pair of large, worn black shoes rested neatly on the edge of the doormat. As she considered the Plain Faith, she found herself curious about the people who were so disciplined and tied to their faith as to not use electricity or drive cars.
Eli's voice broke her thoughts. "Where are you from?" Jessica returned her gaze to him. "St. Louis, Missouri."
When he didn't say more, she went on. "There hasn't really been much time to digest all of this in ..." She made a wide motion with her hands. "The moment I learned that Sam's four sons had already passed and that I was the single heir to my great-uncle's estate, I got time off of work, packed, and drove here." Fortunately, she had a small check coming in from last year's unused vacation days at her job as a check-in clerk at a hotel. She'd miss the extra money she made from waitressing part-time.
Suddenly, she wanted to explain. She wasn't sure why. "I'm the only child of an only child. When my folks were alive, Sam Beachy was mentioned on rare occasions. Sam's brother, who was my grandfather on Dad's side, never joined the Amish church."
Eli's voice was soft. "Poor Old Sam came down with pneumonia several months ago." He lifted his chin as if he'd remembered something. "By the way, I want you to know that there's no need to worry about animals on the property. Neighbors found good homes for his horse and dog."
"Thanks for letting me know. I can't imagine the amount of work that goes into hitching a horse to the carriage. And the maintenance. Isn't it costly to feed them?" An amused smile curved the corners of his lips. He nodded. "Jah. But they're a necessity. We Amish rely heavily on animals, especially horses."
Her eyes widened. "Until now, I've never known anyone who even owned one. But I've seen plenty of them at night in the city when people take horse-drawn carriage rides. However, that's for pleasure."
"We use them to work and for travel."
She motioned. "Can I show you something?"
Wayne reentered with what appeared to be a tool box as Jessica led Eli outside to the back yard, where tall trees hovered. Leaves danced with the light breeze. She motioned to the pasture that was encompassed by a wire fence, and the huge old red building in the near distance. "The barn needs a fresh coat of paint." Then she turned to face the large tank next to the side of the house.
As if reading her thoughts, Eli offered, "We use propane gas for stoves, refrigerators, and water heaters. And the Amish who live close enough to town can tap into natural gas."
As she took in the acres of farmland that seemed to go on and on, she spoke in a soft voice filled with wonder. "The property's absolutely beautiful. In fact, it reminds me of a fairy tale."
He nodded in silence.
"During my drive here, I saw quite a bit, but what's unique about this place is the hill." She arched an amused brow. "It seems out of place."
Eli nodded in agreement. "It is unusual. Because Central Illinois is predominantly flat." He grinned. "I guess you're right. About the hill being a bit out of place."
Suddenly, pent-up emotion overcame her, and her voice cracked. "I never knew my great-uncle, and he left me this house and beautiful property."
She teared up and lifted her hands in the air before dropping them to her sides. "I don't know why I'm so emotional when I think about him."
Jessica was quick to notice the moisture that sparkled on Eli Miller's eyes. She could glimpse Wayne through the small kitchen window, unloading something. "There was no better man than Old Sam." Eli smiled a little. "And don't worry. I'm going to make sure you're well taken care of."
His words prompted her to sigh in relief. But the soft, mesmerizing way he'd assured her, along with his hazel eyes, made her pulse pick up to a speed that she was sure must be illegal.
* * *
Inside the Beachy house, Eli considered the new owner of Sam's home, who looked to be in her early twenties. Honey-blond hair with long bangs framed a lovely set of green eyes. Even though the Amish focused on a person's inner beauty, he couldn't help but think that this girl in her nice, conservative dress and high heels was pretty.
As Eli and Wayne measured the countertops, Jessica's soft voice floated over from the kitchen table where she sat. "Sandy, my real estate agent, told me that your father's the best builder around and that you're following in his footsteps."
Eli turned to offer her a small nod of appreciation before continuing what he was doing. "I don't know about that, but denki." He glimpsed suitcases against the wall. Wayne stepped outside while Eli made his way to the table and pulled out a chair across from Jessica. He breathed in the light flowery perfume that hovered in the air. He smiled a little, noting how very different that scent was from the woodsy smell of Old Sam.
A few minutes later, Wayne returned with a handful of things, including a metal tape measure. Eli nodded to his brother. "Go ahead and confirm those measurements on the countertop. Looks like it'll be coming out."
He returned his focus to Jessica and offered his most reassuring voice. "Wayne will help me get your place fixed up."
Eli scooted closer to the table and adjusted in his seat for a more comfortable position. Without warning, an odd sensation swept up his spine and landed at the base of his neck. He rolled his shoulders to rid himself of the uncomfortable tenseness. The feeling had nothing to do with being so close to Jessica. Or hearing her kind, gentle voice.
On the contrary, it was because of who wasn't there. Old Sam. As reality hit him, Eli swallowed an emotional knot that obstructed his throat. He pressed his lips together as he thought through the situation.
He'd been here many times. At Old Sam Beachy's. But now things were different. Much different. This was the first time he'd been here without the hope-chest maker. A sad breath escaped him.
Remembering his purpose, he glanced at the woman across from him and tried a polite smile. But as he did so, reality continued to sink in. It was no longer Old Sam's place. Even the favorite oak chair that he sat on belonged to the new owner.
And although he'd heard that there was an Englisch niece from out-of-state, he hadn't known exactly what to expect. He still wasn't sure. But he wondered how she could walk in such high heels.
As Jessica shuffled through some loose papers, Eli recalled the recent funeral of his dear friend. A pencil made a light noise as it hit the wood floor. As Jessica bent to pick it up, it was impossible not to notice the slender curve of her waist. He forced his attention on the former owner of Pebble Creek, and the corners of his lips lifted.
Hundreds of people had come to pay homage to the most well-respected man around. Eli's family was still receiving cards of sympathy.
As Jessica's gaze connected with his, she asked, "Have you lived here all your life?" For some reason, the question surprised him. He paused as she eyed the oak chairs that Old Sam had made long before Eli was born.
She extended her arm across the table to hand him her notes. As he retrieved them, he took in her plum-colored nails, considered the simple, reasonable question and nodded. "Jah. In the same house."
He nodded. "For nearly twenty years."
Then he skimmed her list and tapped the toe of his boot against the wood floor while a long silence ensued. He focused on what was in front of him, gently strumming his finger against the white papers. Finally, he waved the top page in the air and locked gazes with hers. He arched a doubtful brow.
But before he could speak, a soft, anxious voice interrupted what he was about to say. "How long do you think it will take to do the work?" Her innocent question prompted a chuckle from his throat. Not because the question was humorous, but because the jobs couldn't possibly be accomplished overnight. The to-do list might be short, but some tasks were time-consuming.
But when he started to explain, the hopeful expression that filled her eyes was so sincere, he forced a smile and tried to ascertain how to best explain. It didn't take long to decide on a simple and realistic approach.
One thing he'd learned from his daed was to never be overoptimistic with a customer. In carpentry, the unexpected could occur. Things happened to push back the finish date. Setbacks that weren't anticipated.
Without a doubt, it was far better to offer the most conservative prediction. As Old Sam had always said, "Prepare for the worst and hope for the best."
His daed referred to it as taking a precautionary measure and had always stressed how it was better to finish earlier than planned than later.
Eli offered a reassuring nod. "There's good news and bad."
Pausing to lean forward in her chair, she looked at him with an eager expression.
He lowered the pitch of his voice for emphasis. "All this can be done, no doubt about it, ma'am."
"Jessica," he corrected. "But projects of this size ..." He hesitated while giving the list another glance. "They take time. One thing I learned from Old Sam was to put out my best quality work, not to rush workmanship centered around detail."
Her eyes widened with interest. "My great-uncle said that?" Eli nodded. "He was a perfectionist. Especially with the hope chests he designed for people all over the US."
"Okay. So how long are we talking?"
As if realizing she'd said something wrong, she immediately straightened and cleared her throat. "I'm sorry ... I didn't mean to sound abrupt. It's just tha —"
He looked at her to continue. When the tape measure snapped closed, Eli glanced at his brother. "Better get some numbers on those cabinets, too."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Secret At Pebble Creek"
Copyright © 2018 Lisa Jones Baker.
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
Secret at Pebble Creek by Lisa Jones Baker is the fourth novel in Hope Chest of Dreams series. Jessica Beachy has come to Arthur, Illinois to fix-up the house she has inherited from her great-uncle, Sam Beachy. Jessica was surprised by the inheritance since she had never met Sam. She has managed to take four weeks off from work to fix up the house and get is listed for sale. Jessica needs a carpenter to work on the house and Eli Miller was recommended. Eli is surprised to learn that Jessica is going to sell the property because it has special meaning for his family. Eli shares the story of how his parents fell in love on the property and the special place on the hill where they talked for hours. While working on the home, Eli shares stories of Sam and his strong faith in God. Jessica had not had a relationship with God and asks Eli questions. Eli is drawn is to Jessica, but, as an Englisher, she is off limits to him. While cleaning the cottage, Jessica finds a hidden envelope. Inside is a letter from Sam to his wife along with a key. It seems he had made a special gift for their sixtieth wedding anniversary, but Esther passed away before the occasion. Jessica sets out on a quest to find the handmade gift and learns so much more along the way. Secret at Pebble Creek can be read alone. The other characters from the series are mentioned along with Sam Beachy, the hope chest maker. The author provided their backstories, so readers will not be lost. Jessica learns about God while fixing up the cottage. The stories from Eli about Sam helped to teach Jessica about God and being a Christian. Eli’s strong faith and that of those in the community played a big part. Lisa Jones Baker has a nice writing style that makes Secret at Pebble Creek easy to read. I did feel the pace was too slow. But part of it was a lack of solid content. The story is very light. The attraction between Jessica and Eli was instantaneous (of course). The romance portion of the story was predictable. It was obvious how this pair’s tale would play out. The Christian element was abundant with numerous scripture passages (too many) along with discussions about God, faith, love, hope, importance of family and good friends. I wish the author had taken the time to establish the characters (give us more background on them). Jessica was a hard character to like. She has trouble handling stress, frequent panic attacks and has yet to address the issue of growing up with an alcoholic father. I did like how Jessica came to know God and develop a relationship with Him. My rating for Secret at Pebble Creek is 3 out of 5 stars. Secret at Pebble Creek is a simple yet sweet romance novel that will appeal to a younger audience or those looking for a nice escape novel.
This is book four in The Hope Chest of Dreams Series but I had no trouble reading it as a stand-alone. It is full of hopes, dreams, inspiration, and family. Jessica is struggling with stress and panic attacks when she is given a gift from her great uncle, Sam. Will she open her heart to the legacy of love he has left her? You will have to read to find out. This is a story of a young woman trying to find a place in life and her journey to a relationship with the Lord. It is an easy read and has a different perspective on the Amish lifestyle. This is a new author to me and I enjoyed her characters and theme. I hope to read more of this series. I received a complimentary copy from the publisher. The honest review and opinions are my own and were not required.
This is the fourth book in the Hope Chest of Dream series. I really enjoyed it. This book is about Sam Beachy's niece Jessica Beachy. Jessica was not raised plain. Her father left the Amish ways and married a Englisher. When her uncle dies she is notified that he left his home to her. She moves in just to have it fixed up and for her to sell it. After she hires Eli Miller to do the work on the home they click immediately. Sam and his family tell Jessica all about her Uncle and his beautiful Hope Chests. When Jessica finds a note that leads her to a Hope Chest can she sell the home? Another beautiful book in this series.
Author Lisa Jones Baker does a great job of getting her readers involved in the story. Of course Pebble Creek is real. Weren’t you there while you read the book? And the characters are so well developed that they become your friends. Full of hope and the love of God, this sweet story will encourage you to share your faith while accepting and loving people where they are. I highly recommend Secret at Pebble Creek. I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not required to leave a review.
Secrets At Pebble Creek ( Hope Chest of Dreams #4 ) By: Lisa Jones Baker Secrets At Pebble Creek is book four in Hope Chest of Dreams Series by Lisa Jones Baker. I really love this series and it just got better with Secrets At Pebble Creek. This one got to my heart. The story was well written. The characters were real like. Baker carries you back to Pebbles Creek. In the other books we got to know Old Sam and the special Home Chests that he made. Jessica inherits Sam’s old place and she has plans to remodel and sell. This is a sweet heartwarming story that will touch your heart. Forgiveness plays a big part in this story. Will Jessica sell Old Sam’s place? You can see God’s work in this wonderful addition to a great series. I was given a complimentary copy of this book, but was not told that I had to give a positive review. All opinions are my own.
Secret at Pebble Creek Secret at Pebble Creek was the best of the series. It’s the fourth book in the series. A little sad that Old Sam is no longer with us but he leaves many memories behind. He also left his home to his great niece Jessica whom he has never met and who is English. She comes to her great uncle’s home with the intention of fixing it up and selling it. Amish carpenter, Eli and his younger brother do the remodeling. Eli tells Jessica stories about her great uncle and what he is known for. Old Sam was a hope chest maker with a lot of wisdom. He made hope chests for people all over the world. The more stories Eli told, the more it was harder for Jessica to leave her great uncle’s home. It is delayed a little longer when she finds a key and a note that was intended for Old Sam’s late wife. Jessica had to find out what Old Sam was going to give to his wife with that key. With Eli’s help and her determination, she finds what she was looking for. But does it change how she feels about Pebble Creek? You have to read the book to find out. I love this book and I highly recommend anyone to read it. The author has written an excellent series.
This is the fourth book in this series, but this one can be read alone, and while Sam is no longer with us, and the young girls have grown up and have families of their own, his legacy lives on. We meet part of Sam’s family that left the Amish and has come, oh no, to sell Pebble Creek. What starts out as a done deal, well now you will need to read this heartwarming story to find out the rest. Will the beautiful gift Sam made his wife be found? What will become of the now modern Amish home? A sweet a delightful quick read, with a little romance thrown in, and welcome to a less stressful life. I received this book through Net Galley and the Publisher Zebra, and was not required to give a positive review.