With Christmas around the corner, it’s time for Amish families to include holiday greetings in their circle letters, each writer adding to a growing collection as it travels on to the next. In this delightful trio of stories, three cousins scattered across the country share their blessings—and reveal news of romantic surprises . . .
To win a friendly annual competition, matchmaker Marybeth Martin must bring one more couple together by Christmas. Her only prospect is a man more interested in a nanny than a wife—until his little girl shows him the light. . . . Struggling farmer’s daughter Katie Mae Kauffman discovers that she and a local widower and father of four can harvest more crops—and profits—together than separately. But she’ll have to put pride aside to make room for unexpected love. . . . Corralling an unruly brood of seven is not babysitter Carolyn Yutzy’s first choice for celebrating the season—but the sparks between her and their unsentimental yet irresistible uncle may be a gift neither was counting on . . .
Now, one by one, each resourceful young woman will have a holiday to remember—and to write home about . . .
|Product dimensions:||4.12(w) x 6.75(h) x (d)|
About the Author
Patricia Davids was born and raised in the farm country of north central Kansas, where she enjoyed an idyllic childhood on her parents’ farm with four brothers, numerous dogs and her beloved horses for company. After marriage, motherhood and a career in nursing, Pat retired back to the family farm, where she continues to write full time.
Sarah Price comes from a long line of devout Mennonites, including numerous church leaders and ministers throughout the years. Ms. Price has advanced degrees in Communication (MA), Marketing (MBA), and Educational Leadership (PhD) and was a former college professor. She now writes full-time and talks about her books and her faith on a daily live stream with readers. Learn more about Sarah and her novels at SarahPriceAuthor.com.
Jennifer Beckstrand is the RITA nominated and award-winning author of the Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series, the Honeybee Sisters series, and the Petersheim Brothers series. Jennifer has six children and seven adorable grandchildren whom she spoils rotten. Please visit her online at www.JenniferBeckstrand.com
Read an Excerpt
My dearest cousins,
I write this letter with a deep and growing sense of doom. Christmas is but four weeks away, and it appears I shall be the one to host Great Aunt Ingrid for her fortnight holiday visit to Sugarcreek this year. No single event fills my heart with dread as much as knowing I will be subjected to her constant criticism, fault-finding and disapproval for two full weeks during the season when joy should fill our hearts and homes. Do I dare mention her horrible fruitcakes? I know it is unchristian of me to feel that way. I can't help it. Pray that God gives me the patience to endure this trial, or that by some miracle I find one more couple to prod into declaring their love for each other before Christmas Eve.
As you may have surmised, Cousin Wilma has for the first time in four years facilitated more matches than I did this year, and she must soon be declared the winner of our annual contest. It is truly humbling to know how badly I misjudged Sarah Troyer's affections for the handsome Isaac Stutzman, while Wilma correctly read that the young woman's eye was on Isaac's plain-looking and shy brother Carl. Her idea to have Carl build an array of birdhouses for Sarah's garden was a stroke of genius. I was unaware they were both bird-watchers. Who knew the sight of a blue-winged warbler could unlock a shy fellow's tongue?
I know this game of ours must seem silly to you, but our hobby does help pass the extra time that two old maids sometimes have on their hands. Before you insist that my advanced age of thirty-two is not ancient enough to be declared an old maid, let me assure you that I am content to wear the label. Both Wilma and I have accepted that God's plan for us does not include husbands, but we enjoy helping other people discover the best qualities in potential mates. I still believe in love, although it has never come my way. I reckon after having Great Aunt Ingrid stay with her for the last four Christmases, Wilma will be glad of the respite, but Ingrid really does like Wilma better than she likes me.
My brother, David, is in fine health and says he has no news to share. Does he ever? Please write soon and tell me all about your Christmas plans. Your wonderful, entertaining letters fill me with envy, for nothing much ever happens here in Sugarcreek.
Marybeth Martin removed her previous letter from the mail packet and tucked her new note in with the ones her cousins had included. Circle letters kept her in touch with her distant family members and made sure everyone heard the same news. She sealed the envelope and stuck it in her bag to drop off at the post office after she met Wilma for lunch. When the packet made its way around the family and returned to Marybeth in a few weeks, it would contain all new letters from her cousins to enjoy.
She slipped on her coat and tied her black traveling bonnet over her white kapp, then opened the door. Pausing on the front porch of her brother's home, she took time to savor the beautiful day. Indian summer was hanging on by a thread. The trees had dropped most of their brightly colored leaves, and only the dark green of the pines and cedars kept the woods along the ridge from looking bare. The fields still held traces of the fall harvest in the bundles of cornstalks stacked together like teepees, but most of the land sat empty, waiting for the snow to cover it.
The brisk breeze that fanned her cheeks held the promise of cooler days ahead. She wasn't ready for winter. The short days and dreary weather left her feeling low and lonely. More so this year than most. It was hard to muster holiday cheer when two weeks with Aunt Ingrid loomed in her future. How could she make a match before Christmas? Should she simply admit defeat to Wilma at lunch today?
Marybeth shook off her gloomy thoughts. It wasn't like her to give up. If there was even a sliver of hope, she would find a way. Matchmaking was more than her hobby. It was her God-given gift. Surely someone she knew needed only a tiny push from her to find the love of their life.
Having renewed her determination, she started down the steps. Her brother had harnessed her mare Trixie to her two-wheeled cart as she had asked him to do at breakfast. David didn't always remember her instructions, or perhaps he preferred to ignore the ones he didn't want to carry out. Either way, she rarely counted on his cooperation, but today was a pleasant surprise. He was sharpening an ax at the grinding wheel beside the barn. She waved to him. "Danki, David, I'm happy you remembered."
"Beats being nagged," he snapped without looking up.
"I don't nag, I simply remind you of things you have forgotten."
She couldn't hear his muttered response. Perhaps that was for the best. As an unmarried woman, she lived on the charity of her brother and tried to make the best of it. David was fifteen years her senior and a confirmed bachelor who was becoming more set in his ways by the year. He might miss her cooking if she ever left, but nothing else. He had his own way of doing things that didn't always mesh with hers.
Climbing into her cart, Marybeth headed her mare down the lane to the narrow blacktop that ran between Sugarcreek and Berlin. Trixie trotted along at a steady pace and traffic was light. Twenty minutes later, Marybeth turned into the parking lot beside the grocery store. She needed to pick up a few things, and she was early for her date with Wilma.
Inside the store, she began filling her shopping cart with flour, brown sugar, spices and other ingredients she would need for her holiday baking. She added a large tin of cocoa. There were sure to be skating parties if it got cold enough and hot chocolate was a must. Stopping beside the shredded coconut, she decided on two bags. Cookie exchange parties required several dozen cookies of assorted types to share, and her coconut macaroons were always in demand. She added several assorted cake mixes she could whip up quickly for any spontaneous visits by out-of-town guests. Marybeth was nothing if not prepared.
"Great minds think alike."
She looked up to see her cousin Wilma pushing a shopping cart toward her. Wilma pointed to the nearly identical items in her own basket.
Marybeth chuckled. "You should have mentioned that you needed groceries. I could have picked up two of everything and dropped it by your house."
"I'm not so old that I need someone to do my shopping for me." Wilma would be fifty-five in January, but she and Marybeth were great friends despite the differences in age and in looks. Wilma was tiny and spry at five foot one with graying brown hair. Marybeth towered over her at six foot. Her white-blond hair didn't show a touch of gray, but no one would call her spry. Her brother said she tromped through life. She preferred to think of her manly stride as purposeful. The two women often visited back and forth even though they belonged to different church groups and lived more than ten miles apart.
Wilma adjusted her glasses as she peered into Marybeth's cart. "You forgot the fresh ginger. You know how Great Aunt Ingrid loves her gingersnaps."
Marybeth rolled her eyes and headed to the checkout. "My cookies won't hold a candle to yours in Ingrid's opinion, but I'm not conceding defeat just yet."
Wilma's grin widened. "Come, come, you must know you are beaten."
"Your overconfidence will be your downfall, Wilma. Don't count your chickens before they've hatched."
The checkout line hadn't moved. Marybeth looked to see what the holdup was. Josiah Weaver was paying for his groceries at the checkout counter two people ahead of her. If she wasn't mistaken, he was a widower. He had only recently returned to the Sugarcreek area, but she had known him when they were children. She studied him carefully as he counted out his loose change to cover his bill.
His flat-topped black Amish hat didn't hide the fact that he needed a haircut, and his winter coat hung loosely on his tall frame. She knew he'd suffered a broken leg and other injures when a car hit his buggy six months ago. The accident had followed painfully close on the heels of his wife's passing, and Marybeth's bishop had spoken of Josiah's trials at a recent church service, asking the congregation to assist him with his medical bills. She, along with other church members, had donated generously to his fund.
She rose on tiptoe to watch the cashier sack Josiah's purchases: a jar of peanut butter, grape jelly, celery and six boxes of macaroni and cheese. No wonder he was thin if the meager foodstuff he was buying was his usual fare.
A girl about four years old clung to his leg like a silent shadow, keeping her face hidden against him. When she did look up, her eyes darted around fearfully. The dark green winter coat the child wore barely covered her wrists. The hem hung loose on one side. The kapp covering her brown hair was a dull gray instead of white. It needed to be bleached and starched. It was clear Josiah wasn't coping well as both mother and father.
It took Marybeth all of ten seconds to decide she was looking at her next matrimonial prospect. The child needed a mother. Josiah Weaver needed a wife. Marybeth tapped a finger against her lips. Which of the unmarried women in the area would be a good match for him?
"What are you staring at?" Wilma asked, leaning to look around Marybeth.
"Hush." Marybeth turned and pretended to study the candy bar display beside her. "I don't want him to know I'm interested, and I saw him first, Wilma Martin. He's mine."
Wilma clapped a hand over her mouth as she chuckled. "He won't do you any good. Christmas is only a month away. I'll grant you are a skilled matchmaker, but even you aren't that good. You should concede defeat and prepare to welcome Great Aunt Ingrid for her visit."
"I haven't given up. Our little contest goes until Christmas Eve. Besides, you have done such an excellent job of hosting Ingrid these past four years that I wouldn't dare think of trying to take your place."
"Do you even remember how our contest got started?" Wilma asked. She was covertly studying Josiah, too.
"Of course, I do. You and I were both wondering which of us Ingrid would decide to grace with her presence ten years ago. I noticed Jenny Yoder making eyes at Herman Beiler, who was making eyes at Constance Miller. You said he would ask Constance to marry him before the end of the summer. I said he would ask Jenny Yoder, and if he didn't, I would volunteer to invite Ingrid to my home."
"That's right. How did you get him to notice Jenny? She was such a quiet mouse of a girl."
"By doing my research. I learned Herman had a weakness for flashy horses and strawberry rhubarb pie. Constance was a pretty girl but not much of a cook. My father had just purchased a fine-looking, high-stepping Standardbred that he hoped to resell for a higher price to one of the local boys. I got him to agree that Jenny could drive the animal for the summer. I explained that having all the young men see the horse in action would have a dozen fellows or more competing to purchase him. I told Jenny she was to take a strawberry rhubarb pie as her covered dish at every youth gathering."
"So, the boy noticed the horse."
"Then he noticed the girl driving, and then he noticed she brought his favorite treat to every singing and picnic. When she offered to let him drive the horse, he was smitten."
"Did he buy the horse from your daed?"
"He did and for a hefty sum. My father was very pleased."
"Who will you match Josiah with?" Wilma whispered in her ear.
Marybeth went over the potential candidates in her mind. "Anna May Miller is close to Josiah in age. She is twenty-three. I think Josiah is twenty- seven or twenty-eight."
She knew he was younger than she was because he had grown up in the area and had been several years behind her in school. He took his daughter's hand and walked out with his bag of groceries. She noticed he walked with a limp.
"How are you going to find out if he is interested in someone already?"
That was a problem. How did she ask a man who was practically a stranger if she could provide him with a potential wife before Christmas? She saw him stop at his buggy. She didn't have time to waste with social niceties. "I'm simply going to ask him. I'll meet you at the café."
Marybeth moved her cart out of the checkout line and parked it beside the newspaper display. She hurried and caught up with him as he lifted his daughter into his buggy. "May I have a word with you, Josiah?"CHAPTER 2
Marybeth swallowed the lump of apprehension in her throat and composed her features into a friendly smile. A puzzled expression crossed his face but quickly faded. "Marybeth Martin, right? You are David's sister."
"I'm surprised you remember me." She wasn't. There wasn't another woman her height in the entire county. He was tall enough that she didn't have to look down on him as she did most men. It was a welcome change. Up close it was easy to see the strain his injury and illness had placed on him. There were dark circles under his eyes; his cheeks were lean and sunken behind his short beard.
"What can I do for you?"
She cleared her throat, for she was about to stretch the truth. She had several women in mind for him, but they didn't know that. "This must seem strange and perhaps very forward, but I am acting as the go-between for a young woman. I am here to discover if you are in a relationship or if you would be open to meeting her."
His eyebrows shot up. Marybeth anticipated his surprise. It was unheard of for a woman to send a go-between to gauge a man's interest in dating her. It was the would-be suitor's responsibility to find a male relative of the woman and have him discover if she was willing to go out on a date.
Josiah turned away, unsnapped his horse's tether, and picked up the weight used to keep the horse from wandering away. "I am not interested in dating your friend or anyone else, but if you know someone who can work as a nanny for the next three weeks, I will gladly meet her."
Marybeth smiled at his daughter. The child hid her face behind his arm, but not before Marybeth saw the fear in her eyes. Her heart went out to the child. "I'm sure you can find someone to fill that post without difficulty."
He put the weight in the buggy. "You would think so, but I need someone to start on Monday. I'll be working the second shift over at the RV factory. That means someone must stay with Simone at my home until nearly midnight, and no one wants to do that."
"Can't she spend the night with a friend or relative?"
"Nee, please, Daed, I want to stay at home," Simone whispered with a catch in her voice. She was on the verge of tears.
"It's all right. You can stay home." He patted her arm before turning back to Marybeth. "She had a rough time while I was in the hospital. I want her to stay where she feels comfortable. Can you think of anyone for the job?"
His compassion for his child's welfare touched Marybeth deeply. "I can't think of anyone offhand, but if I do, I will send her your way."
"Danki." He nodded, but she could see he didn't feel much hope. "Tell your friend I'm flattered by her interest and mean no disrespect by my refusal."
He climbed in his buggy and drove away. Marybeth was still standing on the sidewalk staring after him when Wilma pushed her loaded cart up beside her. "What did he say? Tell me. Tell me this instant."
Marybeth chewed on the corner of her lower lip. She couldn't shake the feeling that he was hiding the depth of his desperation. His air of sadness was almost palpable. "He's not interested in dating, but he should be. The child almost breaks my heart. Did you see how frightened she was of everyone and everything? Karen King might be just the woman for him. She has a very kind heart."
"I thought you said he isn't interested in dating."
"He's not. He's looking for a kinder heeda to take care of his little girl for three weeks."
"Why only three weeks?"
Marybeth fisted her hands on her hips as she gazed at his buggy until he turned the corner. "I don't know. There's a lot about him I don't know. This isn't going to be easy, but I can't give up. I must find a way to help him."
"Forget it. Let's get some lunch. I paid for your groceries by the way."
"Danki, but I don't think I can forget about the man."
Wilma's eyebrows rose a fraction. "Really?"
"He desperately needs someone to take care of him and his daughter, and not just for a few weeks."
"If you feel that strongly about the man, then you should take the nanny job."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Amish Christmas Letters"
Copyright © 2018 Kensington Publishing Corp..
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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