A reclusive Amish logger, Ethan Gingerich is more comfortable around his draft horses than the orphaned niece and nephews he's taken in. Yet he's determined to provide the children with a good, loving home. The little ones, including a defiant eight-year-old, need a proper nanny. But when Ethan hires shy Amishwoman Clara Barkman, he never expects her temporary position to have such a lasting hold on all of them. Now this man of few words must convince Clara she's found her forever home and family.
Brides of Amish Country: Finding true love in the land of the Plain People.
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Ethan Gingerich led his draft horses out of their stalls and started to slide open the large door of his barn, but he stopped when he saw two irate women standing just outside. At second glance, only the one gripping his nephew Micah's collar looked irate. It was Faith Lapp, his neighbor's wife. He didn't recognize the pretty young woman standing behind Faith. She looked scared. Her bright blue eyes were wide with apprehension.
Faith pointed to the child in her grasp. "Ethan Gingerich, do you know what your boy has done?"
He'd never seen the mild-mannered woman with such fire in her eyes. And what was that horrible smell? It seemed to be coming from his nephew. "I reckon I'd be the one holding him by the collar if I knew. What did you do this time, sohn?"
Micah glared at him. "I'm not your son."
"That's neither here nor there. You did something to upset Mrs. Lapp. What was it?"
Micah looked down at his bare toes. "Nothing."
Faith let go of his shirt and gestured toward the woman standing with her. "This is my friend Clara Barkman. Clara saw him jump out of a tree onto one of my alpacas."
Ethan flinched. He'd heard stories about the way Faith Lapp valued her strange animals. She treated them almost like family. How much would an alpaca cost if he had to replace one? He could barely afford to feed the family and his horses as it was. He hadn't been able to go logging in weeks. Not since his brother's children had come to live with him over a month ago. No cut timber to sell meant zero income.
Micah raked his bare toes through the dirt. "I just wanted to ride one. I didn't mean any harm."
Faith scowled at him. "They're very delicate animals. They can't carry a rider bigger than a two-year-old. Had you asked permission to ride one of them, I would have told you that. You could have seriously injured Myrtle."
"Or you might have been injured yourself," Clara added in a small voice.
He liked that she was thinking of the child. The recent deaths of his brother and sister-in-law had left him in charge of their three small children. He gazed at Micah's belligerent face. They were still finding their way with each other. Micah was having a much harder time than his younger brother and sister.
The boy was only eight, but he wasn't too young to learn responsibility and respect. "Micah will work off any damages that are owed, Mrs. Lapp. Go up to the house, boy. We'll talk about this later."
Micah's chin came up. "I'm not scared of you."
Ethan managed to keep a stern face, but it was difficult. Micah was so much like his father had been at that age. Always ready to scrap with his bigger, older brother. Ethan summoned a forbidding tone. "You should be. Don't make me tell you twice. Go!"
Micah's defiance crumbled. He bolted toward the house. The fire in Faith Lapp's eyes cooled as she watched the boy race up the front porch steps. Her expression turned to one of sympathy when she looked back at Ethan. "I know how troubled a boy can be when he has lost his parents as Micah has. It was the same with my nephew when Kyle first came to me. It takes time, and it takes attention to help them recover."
Why did women always think he needed a lecture on how to manage the children? He'd already had plenty of that from his aunts. Was he ever to have any peace? "I'll handle Micah in my own way. Is there anything else?"
He shoved the barn door wide open and led his team of draft horses out. Faith moved aside, but Clara shrieked and threw up her hands as she scurried backward, almost falling in her haste. The horses snorted and tossed their heads, jerking him off the ground for an instant. Terror-stricken, Clara covered her face with her hands. What was wrong with her?
He calmed his animals. "Easy, boys, easy."
Faith wrapped her arm around Clara's shoulders and moved her to the side. "Clara is frightened by large horses. Would you take them away, please, Mr. Gingerich?"
"An Amish woman who is afraid of horses?" He would have laughed at the idea, but the proof of it was cowering before him.
"Only big ones," Clara admitted breathlessly. She had her eyes scrunched shut.
"These are big," he acknowledged as he led them past the women to the nearby pasture gate. He owned two teams of massive Belgians, among the largest of all draft horse breeds. They were his most prized possessions. He loved their strength and their power, their placid nature and their willingness to work as hard as he asked without flagging. How could anyone be afraid of such gentle giants?
When he turned them loose in the pasture, Fred and Dutch took off at a thundering gallop, bucking like colts and nipping playfully at each other. He never grew tired of watching the matching sorrels with their sleek red-brown coats and blond manes and tails. They were beautiful to behold.
But he had more than his horses to look after now. He had three kinder to care for. One of them was bent on getting himself into trouble at every turn. Ethan came back to stand by Faith. Now that the horses were gone, Clara had her eyes open. It was easy to see she was embarrassed by her reaction. Her cheeks were bright red. Her gaze was focused on her hands clasped tightly in front of her. "I'm sorry I made a fuss. I wasn't expecting to see them."
He took pity on her. "My sister-in-law would shriek at the sight of the tiniest spider in the house. Everyone is afraid of something."
Clara gave him a tremulous smile, a reward for his kindness. "My father's team of draft horses bolted and ran over me when I was six."
"Were you badly hurt?" he asked.
The bright color was fading from her cheeks. "Nee, their big feet missed me by the grace of God."
"It's not so surprising. My teams pay close attention to where they put their hooves. They don't like to be tripped up. But you didn't come to talk about horses. What kind of damages do I owe for the injury to your animal, Mrs. Lapp?"
"Myrtle seems to be all right. She had a bad fright more than anything. She may be skittish for a few days, but I think she'll recover.
"You let me know if she starts ailing. I'll send Micah to work for you for the next three days, if that's agreeable."
"If you are sure you don't need him here."
"I can spare him for the mornings. Is that acceptable?"
Faith nodded. "Ja, it is. Perhaps if he learns more about alpacas, he'll be careful around them. I'm afraid Myrtle spit on him. It will take a few days of airing for the smell to get out of his clothes."
"Serves him right. I'll see that he's punished for what he did."
Clara's gaze snapped up and locked with his for an instant before she looked down again. "He's only a little boy."
"He's old enough to know better. I don't tolerate careless or wild behavior around my animals. He knows that. If there's nothing else, I've got two more horses that need to go out to pasture. They're big ones, too," he added.
Clara flinched at his remark. He regretted sounding short-tempered, but before he could form some kind of apology, the women turned and walked away.
His eyes stayed on the gently swaying figure of Clara as she and Faith went down the lane. Clara Barkman. He wasn't familiar with the name. Was she a local woman? He didn't attend the same church group as his neighbors, so he hadn't seen her before.
She stopped and glanced back for a moment. He raised a hand to wave. She suddenly rushed to catch up with Faith. He watched until they rounded the bend in the road, but she didn't look back again. She was a pretty woman. Was she married?
He shoved aside the thought. It didn't matter. He wasn't interested in her or any woman. Clara might be pretty, but a pretty face didn't mean much. He had loved one beautiful woman beyond all reason. She said that she loved him, too, but she had married another man. A man he had introduced her to His best friend. Their betrayal of his trust cut deep. He didn't know if it would ever heal although he tried his best to forgive them.
Jenny's beautiful face hid a selfish nature. She decided not to settle for a poor fellow with only his horses and his heart to offer her. She wanted a secure life. She found it with a man who owned a big house and his own factory. An Englisch man. That she had to turn her back on her Amish faith hadn't deterred her any more than it had kept his mother from leaving.
Ethan rubbed his hand over his chest, but it didn't lessen the ache those memories caused.
He returned to the barn and brought Rosie and Golda out. After checking them over, he turned them loose in the pasture, too. Golda took off at a gallop to catch up with the boys, but pregnant Rosie buried her nose in the long grass and began tearing up mouthfuls near his feet. He patted her sleek shoulder. "Eat good, little mudder. I need a strong, healthy hutsh from you."
Rosie and her colt would be the foundation of his business as a draft horse breeder and trainer. Up until now, he'd made a living by logging, but with the addition of the children in his life, he needed a way to earn a living that didn't take him away from home for much of the fall and early winter. It was his new plan for the future, but he knew God had a way of changing a man's plans without warning.
He settled his hat lower on his brow as he glanced toward the house, where Micah was waiting for him. He'd never expected to raise his niece and nephews. He drew comfort from knowing he was doing what his brother would have wanted, but he hadn't realized how hard it would be. For everyone.
What could he say to make Micah understand he was traveling down the wrong path? Ethan looked up at the cloudless blue sky. "God, I don't know why You needed my brother and his wife with You, but we sure do miss them. If You want me to look after their kinder, You had better show me the way to make it work, Lord, because right now I'm lost."
He shook off the sadness that made his eyes sting. He wouldn't dwell on his loss. He couldn't afford to let grief muddle his thinking. Work would help clear his head.
He turned away from the house and entered the barn. Micah could stew a few minutes. Grabbing a pitchfork, he began tossing fresh straw into the stalls. He needed to find the right thing to say to Micah. More important, he needed to find a way to take care of all the children that didn't involve sending them to live with their only other family members.
Ethan refused to consider sending them to his mother. She had given up her Amish faith and any right to be considered part of the family when she left his father. Ethan did have two elderly aunts willing to take one child each, but they wanted to leave Micah with him. He couldn't do that to them.
Separating the kinder was something he knew his brother wouldn't want. Not after the way they had been torn apart as children.
Clara resisted the urge to glance over her shoulder again as she and Faith walked away from Ethan's home. What kind of punishment did he have planned for Micah? She flinched at the memory of her uncle taking a strap to her back.
Like Micah, she and her sisters had been taken in by their uncle after their parents died. Their uncle Morris was a weak, cruel man. He made their lives miserable for years. The final straw came when he tried to force her to marry a horrible man. By the grace of God and with the bravery of her sister Lizzie, they were able to escape. Now they lived with their grandfather in the Amish community of Hope Springs, Ohio. Clara tried hard to put her unhappy past behind her, but sometimes it came back to haunt her. Like now.
She knew not every man was cruel. Faith's husband was a wonderful, kind husband and father, but Ethan Gingerich looked and sounded so stern. She glanced at Faith. "Do you think Micah will be all right?"
"He wasn't hurt in the fall. Why wouldn't he be all right?"
Clara kept her pace slow to match Faith's limping stride. Faith wore a brace on one leg due to an old injury. "Did Micah's onkel seem angry to you? He seemed very angry to me."
"I could see he was disappointed in the boy's behavior. That's to be expected."
"What do you know about him?"
"Not much really. He keeps to himself. He moved here about two years ago. He makes a living logging with his horses. He lived alone until recently. One day last month, he stopped by to ask Adrian to look after his horses while he went to Indiana for a funeral. Apparently, his brother and his brother's wife were struck and killed by lightning while they were working in the field. It was a terrible tragedy. Ethan brought their children back to live with him. I took some food to them when they first arrived. The poor children looked so lost. I should've gone back to visit."
"You've had your hands full with the new baby."
"That's true, but it's no excuse for being a poor neighbor. I hope their church has been helping."
They rounded a bend in the road, and Clara couldn't see the house behind them anymore. A large cornfield blocked her view. The sea of green leaves and golden tassels danced in the wind making rattling, hissing sounds as the stiff leaves slapped against each other.
Would Ethan slap Micah?
The boy was so small, and Ethan was a big man. He could easily hurt the child. She dreaded to think Micah was being punished because she was the one who saw him jump on Myrtle. She had been so startled that she had immediately called Faith to the window. If only she had remained silent. The boy would have gone home, and no one would have known about his actions. But that wouldn't have been right, either.
She prayed Ethan would deal with Micah kindly, but not knowing troubled her. The Amish were gentle people. She knew that, but evil could lurk among the good. Her uncle was proof of that. Her heart started pounding painfully as she remembered his cruelty.
She stopped in the roadway and clasped her arms across her middle as she closed her eyes. Images of her uncle raising his wooden rod to strike her flashed into her mind and she braced for the blow. Was Micah's uncle as cruel as hers had been? It wasn't likely, but what if he was?
"What is it, Clara?"
Clara opened her eyes and saw the concern on her friend's face. She drew a shaky breath. That part of her life was over. She and her three sisters were safe. Their uncle couldn't hurt them anymore. She had to remind herself of that fact every day. After years of fear and meekness, of striving desperately to please her uncle and failing, it was sometimes hard to believe God had finally answered her prayers. Was Micah praying for deliverance from his uncle's wrath, too? She had to know.
She couldn't leave without knowing.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
“The Amish Nanny” by Patricia Davids is another wonderful book in her 'Brides of Amish Country' series, and yet this is a stand alone book. There are mentions of prior books in this book, but everything that is needed is covered again within this book. If anyone wanted more background really the only book they would need, if they really felt the need to do so, would be “The Shepard's Bride” which is the story of Clara and her sisters, is explained in deeper depth. Really though that is not necessary for really all the important details are in this book so that one doesn't feel lost. Here is a story of two people who have suffered painful experiences in the past and need to learn how to change the way they look at the world again. Then add three hurting children into the mix, things are going to change one way or the other regardless what any of the adults want or think they desire. Clara is a woman who has reason to distrust like she does, has her own secrets that come out in this story and yet still is honest even when she tries to hide things. Above all else her heart is still gold, and she is always thinking of others. Though she has some horrible experiences in her past, she is trying her best to move forward, and still has a strange sense of humor. To me that strange sense of humor was brilliant for it made her not so shy and timid. Ethan is a man who is trying his best to do the best for his family. He is determined to keep his young niece and nephews regardless what others think due to his own past experiences. Ethan is also needing a bit of help to make his family a true family. There are trials with dealing with the young children that he doesn't know quite how to handle, and when he needs help he finally reaches out. There are reasons why he is the way he is and his story comes out fully to explain so much about him. The children of the story are so precious and so individual that it is easy to tell who is doing what. My heart ached for each of them as they struggled with all the new things going on in their lives. There is a message of learning to trust when trust seems to be about the last thing a person would want to do and how rewarding it can be. To watch the characters that need to learn to trust again to come to the point of trusting was so special and touching that at times I found myself crying from the pain that the characters went through. This then leads to second chances and how precious they are, whether it be with love of a mate or the love of family, second chances are something to hold onto when they come around, so long as people don't waste them. I truly hope that we get to see more of the Barkman sisters for they all have touched a part of me with their resilience that they have shown. I hope all who read this book enjoys it as much as I did.
4 STARS I like Brides of Amish Country series. I have read about half of them and some day would not reading the ones I have missed so far. I really enjoyed the characters. Children steal your heart. Both Ethan and Clara have been hurt in their past and don't plan to fall in love and marry. There are familiar characters for those who have been reading this series. It can stand alone fine. Ethan Gingerrich lost his brother and his wife to a storm. He brought his 2 nephews and niece to live with him. He is a logger. He can't work that job with children around him. He has his hands full. Clara Barkman character we met in Shepard's Bride. She is oldest of four girls. Her uncle raised them after their parents died. He beat them and did not treat them right. She was being forced to marry a mean way older man to protect her sisters. They got a way from him. She never wants to marry now. She wants to be a teacher till they decide she takes the job as a nanny. Lily is around 3 Amos 4 and Micah 8 when they come to live with there Uncle Ethan. Micah has lots of anger issues. He did not want the kids broken up so he agreed to take them, but he is not prepared to be a father. Lily and Amos take to Clare right off. They are all grieving. Clara likes taking care of the children and Ethan's house. She got so close to the children right away too. This is a cute clean Amish story. It is a fast read. There is plenty of action, drama as they all heal from their pasts. I was given this ebook to read and in return agreed to give honest review of it. Received it from Net Galley and Harlequin.
Once burned twice shy sure applies to this story, and in particular to Ethan Gingerich, and his outlook on taking a wife. In away it also applies to shy and horribly abused Clara Barkman, no child should have to live under the conditions that she and her sisters endured. Now things have changed and God has answered her prayers, they are living a happy life with her Grandfather. Each of the girls is moving on with their lives and one is on track to be married soon. Clara has set her hopes of becoming the new teacher at the local Amish school, and is one of four candidates for the job. In a horrible turn of events Ethan is now the Uncle/Father to his brothers three children, when their parents are tragically killed. See how he takes care of these children and being a bachelor and his logging job. One can guess with the title of the book, but you will never see what happens here and how these children act. Some of their antics will shock you, and others will have you really laughing, but don’t miss this sweet read. I really enjoyed this fast paced Amish read, and it brought to light that all cultures have some hidden dealings that no one wants to know about, swept under the rug, and hard to bring out in the open. I received this book through the publisher Love Inspired and Net Galley, and was not required to give a positive review.