Snow is falling, cookies are baking, and Christmas is just around the corner in Willow Ridge, Missouri, where a new season marks fresh beginnings for the residents of the tranquil Amish town. . .
Winter Of Wishes
As another year draws to a close in Willow Ridge, life seems to be changing for everyone but Rhoda Lantz. Her widowed mother is about to remarry, her sister is a busy newlywed, and soon Rhoda will be alone in her cozy apartment above the blacksmith's shop. An ad posted by an Englischer looking for someone to help with his mother and children may offer just the companionship she's looking for, but if she falls for the caring single father, she may risk being shunned by her community. Certain she can only wish for things she cannot have, Rhoda must remember that all things are possible with God, and nothing is stronger than the power of love.
Praise for The Seasons of the Heart series
"Another great book centered around the Sweet Seasons Café." --RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars
"Appealing." --Publishers Weekly
About the Author
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Winter Of Wishes
Seasons of the Heart
By Charlotte Hubbard
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2013 Charlotte Hubbard
All rights reserved.
As Rhoda Lantz stood gazing out the window of the Sweet Seasons Bakery Café, her mood matched the ominous gray clouds that shrouded the dark, predawn sky. Here it was the day after Thanksgiving and she felt anything but thankful. Oh, she'd eaten Mamma's wonderful dinner yesterday and smiled at all the right times during the gathering of family and friends around their extended kitchen table, but she'd been going through the motions. Feeling distanced ... not liking it, but not knowing what to do about it, either.
"You all right, honey-bug? Ya seem a million miles away."
Rhoda jumped. Mamma had slipped up behind her while she'd been lost in her thoughts. "Jah, jah. Fine and dandy," she fibbed. "Just thinkin' how it looks like we're in for a winter storm, which most likely means we won't have as many folks come to eat today and tomorrow. It's just ... well, things got really slow last year at this time."
Her mother's concerned gaze told Rhoda her little white lie hadn't sounded very convincing. Mamma glanced toward the kitchen, where her partner, Naomi Brenneman, and Naomi's daughter, Hannah, were frying sausage and bacon for the day's breakfast buffet. "Tell ya what," she said gently. "Lydia Zook left a phone message about a couple of fresh turkeys still bein' in their meat case. Why not go to the market and fetch those, along with a case of eggs—and I'm thinkin' it's a perfect day for that wonderful-gut cream soup we make with the potatoes and carrots and cheese in the sauce. I'll call in the order, and by the time ya get over there they'll have everything all gathered up."
"Jah, Mamma, I can do that," Rhoda murmured. It meant walking down the long lane with the wind whipping at her coat, and then hitching up a carriage, but it was something useful to do.
Useful. Why is it such a struggle lately to feel useful? I wish I knew what to do with my life.
Rhoda slipped her coat from the peg at the door, tied on her heavy black bonnet, and stepped outside with a gasp. The temperature had dropped several degrees since she'd come to the café an hour ago. The chill bit through her woolen stockings as she walked briskly along the gravel lane with her head lowered against the wind.
"Hey there, Rhoda! Gut mornin' to ya!" a voice sang out as she passed the smithy behind the Sweet Seasons.
Rhoda waved to Ben Hooley but didn't stop to chat. Why did the farrier's cheerfulness irritate her lately? She had gotten over her schoolgirl crush on him and was happy for Ben and Mamma both, but as their New Year's Day wedding approached, they seemed more public about their affections—their joy—and, well, that irritated her, too! Across the road from the Sweet Seasons a new home was going up in record time, as Ben's gift to her mother ... yet another reminder of how Rhoda's life would change when Mamma moved out of the apartment above the blacksmith shop, and she would be living there alone.
As she reached the white house she'd grown up in, Rhoda sighed. No lights glowed in the kitchen window and no one ate breakfast at the table: this holiday weekend, her twin sister Rachel and Rachel's new groom, Micah Brenneman, were on an extended trip around central Missouri to collect wedding presents as they visited aunts, uncles, and cousins of their two families. Rhoda missed working alongside Rachel at the café more than she could bear to admit, yet here again, she was happy for her sister. The newlyweds radiated a love and sense of satisfaction she could only dream of.
Rhoda hitched up the enclosed carriage and clapped the reins across Sadie's broad back. If Thanksgiving had been so difficult yesterday, with so many signposts of the radical changes in all their lives, what would the upcoming Christmas season be like? Ordinarily she loved baking cookies, setting out the Nativity scene, and arranging evergreen branches and candles on the mantel and at the windowsills. Yet as thick, feathery flakes of snow blew across the yard, her heart thudded dully. It wasn't her way to feel so blue, or to feel life was passing her by. But at twenty-one, she heard her clock ticking ever so loudly.
God, have Ya stopped listenin' to my prayers for a husband and a family? Are Ya tellin' me I'm fated to remain a maidel?
Rhoda winced at the thought. She gave the mare its head once they were on the county blacktop, and as they rolled across the single-lane bridge that spanned this narrow spot in the Missouri River, she glanced over toward the new gristmill. The huge wooden wheel was in place now, churning slowly as the current of the water propelled it. The first light of dawn revealed two male figures on the roof. Luke and Ira Hooley, Ben's younger brothers, scrambled like monkeys as they checked their new machinery. The Mill at Willow Ridge would soon be open to tourists. In addition to regular wheat flour and cornmeal, the Hooley brothers would offer specialty grains that would sell to whole-foods stores in Warrensburg and other nearby cities. Mamma was already gathering recipes to bake artisan breads at the Sweet Seasons, as an additional lure for health-conscious tourists.
But Rhoda's one brief date with Ira had proven he was more interested in running the roads with Annie Mae Knepp than in settling down or joining the church anytime soon. Both Ira and Luke were seemingly happy to live in a state of eternal rumspringa. Rhoda considered herself as fun loving as any young woman, but she'd long ago committed herself to the Amish faith. Was it too much to ask the same sort of maturity of the men she dated?
She pulled up alongside Zook's Market. The grocery and dry goods store wouldn't open for a couple of hours yet, but already Henry and Lydia Zook were preparing for their day. Rhoda put a determined smile on her face as the bell above the door jangled. "Happy day-after-Thanksgivin' to ya!" she called out. "Mamm says you've got a couple turkeys for us today."
"Jah, Rhoda, we're packin' your boxes right this minute, too!" Lydia called out from behind the back counter. "Levi! Cyrus! You can be carryin' those big bags of potatoes and carrots out to Rhoda's rig, please and thank ya."
From an aisle of the store, still shadowy in the low glow of the gas ceiling lights, two of the younger Zook boys stepped away from the shelves they had been restocking. "Hey there, Rhoda," ten-year-old Levi mumbled.
"Tell your mamm we could use more of those fine blackberry pies," his younger brother Cyrus remarked as he hefted a thirty-pound bag of potatoes over his shoulder. "That's my favorite, and they always sell out. Mamm won't let us buy a pie unless they're a day old—and most of 'em don't stay on the shelf that long."
Rhoda smiled wryly. Cyrus Zook wasn't the only fellow around Willow Ridge with a keen interest in her mother's pies. "I'll pass that along. Denki to you boys for loadin' the carriage."
"Levi's fetchin' your turkeys from the fridge," their dat, Henry, said from behind his meat counter. "Won't be but a minute. Say—it sounds like ya had half of Willow Ridge over to your place for dinner yesterday."
Again Rhoda smiled to herself: word got around fast in a small town. "Jah, what with Ben and his two brothers and two aunts—and the fact that those aunts invited Tom Hostetler and Hiram and his whole tribe to join us—we had quite a houseful."
"Awful nice of ya to look after Preacher Tom and the bishop's bunch," Lydia said with an approving nod. "Fellows without wives don't always get to celebrate with a real Thanksgiving dinner when their married kids live at a distance."
"Well, there was no telling Jerusalem and Nazareth Hooley they couldn't invite Tom and the Knepps," Rhoda replied with a chuckle. "So there ya have it. They brought half the meal, though, so that wasn't so bad."
"Tell your mamm we said hullo." Henry turned back toward the big grinder on the back table, where he was making fresh hamburger.
"Jah, I'll do that. And denki for havin' things all set to go."
Jonah Zook stood behind his dat's counter trimming roasts. Rhoda met his eye and nodded, but didn't try to make small talk. Jonah was a couple of years younger than she, and had driven her home from a few Sunday-night singings, but he had about as much sparkle as a crushed cardboard box. And goodness, but she could use some sparkle about now ...
Rhoda glanced out the store's front window. Levi and Cyrus were taking their sweet time about loading her groceries, so she wandered over to the bulletin board where folks posted notices of upcoming auctions and other announcements. No sense in standing out in that wind while the boys joshed around.
The old corkboard was pitted from years of use, and except for the sale bills for upcoming household auctions in New Haven and Morning Star, the yellowed notices for herbal remedies, fresh eggs, and local fellows' businesses had hung there for months. Rhoda sighed—and then caught sight of a note half-hidden by an auction flyer.
Need a compassionate, patient caretaker for my elderly mother, plus after-school supervision for two kids. New Haven, just a block off the county highway. Call Andy Leitner.
Rhoda snatched the little notice from the board, her heart thumping. She knew nothing about this fellow except his phone number and that he had an ailing mother and two young children—and that he was surely English if he was advertising for help with family members. Yet something about his decisive block printing told her Mr. Leitner was a man who didn't waffle over decisions or accept a halfhearted effort from anyone who would work for him. He apparently had no wife—
Maybe she works away from home. Happens a lot amongst English families.
—and if he had posted this advertisement in Zook's Market, he surely realized a Plain woman would be most likely to respond. It was common for Amish and Mennonite gals to hire on for housework and caretaking in English homes, so if she gave him a call, she could start working there, why—as soon as tomorrow!
How many of these notices has he posted? Plenty of Plain bulk stores to advertise in around Morning Star, plus the big discount stores out past New Haven. And if he had run ads in the local papers, maybe he'd already had dozens of gals apply for this job. But what could it hurt to find out?
Pulse pounding, Rhoda stepped outside. "You fellas got all my stuff loaded, jah?" she demanded. Levi and Cyrus were playing a rousing game of catch with a huge hard-packed snowball, paying no heed to the snow that was falling on their green shirtsleeves.
Levi, the ornerier of the two, poked his head around the back of the buggy. "Got a train to catch, do ya? Busy day chasin' after that Ira Hooley fella?" he teased. "Jonah, he says ya been tryin' to catch yourself some of that Lancaster County money—"
"And what if I have?" Rhoda shot back. "Your mamm won't like it when I tell her you two have been lollygaggin' out here instead of stockin' your shelves, ain't so?"
Levi waited until she was stepping into the carriage before firing the snowball at her backside. But what would she accomplish by stepping out to confront him? Rhoda glanced at the two huge turkeys, the mesh sacks of potatoes, carrots, and onions, and the sturdy boxes loaded with other staples Mamma had ordered, and decided she was ready to go. "Back, Sadie," she said in a low voice.
The mare whickered and obeyed immediately. Rhoda chuckled at the two boys' outcry as she playfully backed the buggy toward them. Then she urged Sadie into a trot. All sorts of questions buzzed in her mind as she headed for the Sweet Seasons. What would Mamma say if she called Andy Leitner? What if a mild winter meant the breakfast and lunch shifts would remain busy, especially with Rachel off collecting wedding presents for a few more weekends? Hannah Brenneman had only been helping them since her sixteenth birthday last week—
Jah, but she got her wish, to work in the café. And Rachel got her wish when she married Micah. And Mamma got more than she dared to wish for when Ben Hooley asked to marry her! So it's about time for me to have a wish come true!
Was that prideful, self-centered thinking? As Rhoda pulled up at the café and parked the buggy, she didn't much worry about the complications of religion or the Old Ways. She stepped into the dining room, spotted her cousins, Nate and Bram Kanagy, and caught them before they went back to the buffet for another round of biscuits and gravy. "Could I get you boys to carry in a couple of turkeys and some big bags of produce?" she asked sweetly. Then she nodded toward the kitchen, where Hannah was drizzling white icing on a fresh pan of Mamma's sticky buns. "Ya might talk our new cook out of a mighty gut cinnamon roll, if ya smile at her real nice."
Nate rolled his eyes, but Bram's handsome face lit up. "Jah, I noticed how the scenery in the kitchen had improved, cuz—not that it isn't a treat to watch you and Rachel workin'," he added quickly.
"Jah, sure, ya say that after you've already stepped in it." Rhoda widened her eyes at him playfully. "Here's your chance to earn your breakfast—not to mention make a few points with Hannah."
Rhoda went back outside to grab one of the lighter boxes. Then, once Nate had followed her in with bags of onions and carrots, and he was chatting with Hannah and Mamma, she slipped out to the phone shanty before she lost her nerve. Common sense told her she should think out some answers to whatever questions Andy Leitner might ask, yet excitement overruled her usual practicality. Chances were good that she'd have to leave him a voice mail, anyway, so as her fingers danced over the phone number, her thoughts raced. Never in her life had she considered working in another family's home, yet this seemed like the opportunity she'd been hoping for—praying for—of late. Surely Mamma would understand if—
"Hello?" a male voice said over the phone. He sounded a little groggy.
Rhoda gripped the receiver. It hadn't occurred to her that while she'd already worked a couple of hours at the café, most of the world wasn't out of bed yet. "I—sorry I called so early, but—"
"Not a problem. Glad for the wake-up call, because it seems I fell back asleep," he replied with a soft groan. "How can I help you?"
Rhoda's imagination ran wild. If this was Andy Leitner, he had a deep, mellow voice. Even though she'd awakened him and he was running late, he spoke pleasantly. "I, um, found the notice from an Andy Leitner on the board in Zook's Market just now, and—" She closed her eyes, wondering where the words had disappeared to. She had to sound businesslike, or at least competent, or this man wouldn't want to talk to her.
"You're interested in the position?" he asked with a hopeful upturn in his voice. "I was wondering if the store owners had taken my note down."
Rhoda's heart raced. "Jah, I'd like to talk to you about it," she gushed. "But ya should understand right out that I don't have a car, on account of how we Amish don't believe in ownin'—I mean, I'm not preachin' at ya, or—"
She winced. "This is comin' out all wrong. Sorry," she rasped. "My name's Rhoda Lantz, and I'm in Willow Ridge. I sure hope you don't think I'm too ferhoodled to even be considered for the job."
"Ferhoodled?" The word rolled melodiously from the receiver and teased at her.
"Crazy mixed-up," she explained. "Confused, and—well, I'm keepin' ya from whatever ya need to be doin', so—"
"Ah, but you're a solution to my problem. The answer to a prayer," he added quietly. "For that, I have time to listen, Rhoda. I need to make my shift at the hospital, but could I come by and chat with you when I get off? Say, around two this afternoon?"
Rhoda grinned. "That would be wonderful-gut, Mr. Leitner! We'll be closin' up at two—my mamm runs the Sweet Seasons Bakery Café on the county blacktop. We can talk at a back table."
"Perfect. I'll see you then—and thanks so much for calling, Rhoda."
"Jah, for sure and for certain!"
Excerpted from Winter Of Wishes by Charlotte Hubbard. Copyright © 2013 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
WINTER OF WISHES is the latest book in Charlotte Hubbard’s Seasons of the Heart series. This is the second book in this series I've read and I’m sure I’ll read all of them. Charlotte really has a flare for writing like the Amish people live. Her story grabs you and wanting to know what happens next keeps you turning the pages. In WINTER OF WISHES Andy and Rhoda come from two different worlds. Witnessing their emerging love along the lively secondary characters is worth the adventure. Get this one and snuggle up for a heartwarming read.
It seems there is a plethora of Amish fiction books out there, and many are very well-written. I can name off several authors that have become best-sellers in this genre. But I believe that with this book, another author needs to join these ranks as well. In fact, with this book, Charlotte Hubbard has moved to the top of my list of Amish authors! I have loved her writings for some time, but this book has to be the perfect Amish book! it has everything--romance, mystery, reality, true love, and a few twists along the way. I was so captivated by this book that I hated to put it down, and every time I read it, I basically devoured it. Very few books can cause me to tingle with excitement, but this book certainly provided that sensation! I remember telling my mom halfway through the book that I truly wasn't sure how the book would end. And the series is far from over (I hope). I marveled at what someone was willing to do for love because I have never known such selfless love as that (except from my mom and daughter). There is much humor, spiritual lessons, and a mesmerizing representation of the Amish communities. Charlotte never passes judgment on the English or the Amish (in fact, she leaves all judgment calls up to the reader). The Christian lessons are so entwined within the story that the reader never feels like he/she is bombarded with religion. The characters are delightful in the extreme, and the reader won't find anything problematic within the book. There's one time where one of the characters is almost perceived as swearing, but another character puts a godly spin on it (I found that detail quite charming amongst many others in the book). If you have not read the first two books in the series, you can jump on in with this story, but you may wish to the first two for optimum enjoyment of this book. I whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone out there even if you are not familiar with the Amish. I believe you will be in for an emotional, eye-opening, rip-roaring time! I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not financially compensated, and all opinions are 100 percent mine.
This is the 3rd in the series and I've enjoyed all 3. If you want to read something without suggestive acts or killing and you want books that make you feel good, get all of them. They also have recipes in the back.
One of the best series of books I've read in a long time.
This is another wonderful read by Charlotte Hubbard. I began reading Summer of Secrets late this summer and then continued with Autumn Winds and just finished Winter of Wishes today. I'm sure Ms. Hubbard is probably working on another book for spring so we can find out what happens with Rhoda and the love of her life. I'm really looking forward to the next book in the series. In addition to enjoying Ms. Hubbard's excellent writing, I'm learning a great deal about the Amish way of life by reading these books. I first became interested in learning about the Amish after a back roads tour I took of an Amish community about an hour from where I live this past summer in Minnesota.
Romance Is In The Air! I have read all the books in this series so far. The author did not disappoint me with this book either. She brings the characters in this book to life and dares you to fall in love with them. I did! I loved how the community comes to the aid of someone who isn't one of them. To add adventure to this story author Charlotte Hubbard continues with a character from previous books that you'd love to strangle! Such a troublemaker and a Bishop to boot! The main character in this book Rhoda Lantz is searching for her place in life. She is restless and feels the need to reach out and help a family in need. Little did she know how things would turn out. Is Rhoda's search over or must she continue searching? Has she found what she has longed for? Guess you will have to read this book to find out!
I have this whole series and have enjoyed each one. I would recommend reading the books in order but if you don't have that opportunity you will be just fine reading this as a stand alone book. This book will keep you going right up until the end. I like Charlotte's Amish books as they are fun and quick to read as well as she really makes you feel a part of the Lantz family. With this book as was the same with the rest of the series I found myself looking forward to finding out what each of the family members were up to. Willow Ridge is a community I would love to visit. I also like how Charlotte describes the differences between the two worlds - Amish and Englisher. Winter of Wishes is full of strong but lovable characters, well described scenes to make you feel as if you are really a part of the story. I highly recommend this series.
Carries the characters along new paths. Troubles give way to kindness, determination, lots of prayers and right thinking following a Plain path.
This was a really different Amish romance and nothing like what I expected. Rhoda is discontent with her life. She feels like the odd one out as both her sister and mother are getting married and moving on with a new life with new families. She feels a change in the air and jumps into a new job without looking back. I have to say, I admire her bravery for taking that leap. That leap leads to more than just a great job that she loves. It leads to a family that deparately needs her - and even if she doesn't realize it just yet - that she desparately needs as well. But there's one really big problem. This family isn't Amish - so they are strictly off limits in the romantic sort of way. Rhoda tackles this problem by trusting God, her Englischer friend tackles the problem in a way that I thought was postively brilliant. If I hadn't loved him already - I definitely would have fallen right then and there. The romance was amazing, the people in the story were amazing. I loved this part soooo much. Again, and I've mentioned this before in other books by Charolotte Hubbard, the accent was just a bit too much for me. It was toned down in this one since a good portion of the book takes place outside of the Amish community. I understand the concept of drawing the reader in with accents and realistic language, but it just doesn't do it for me in this case
I really love every book, from Charlotte Hubbard, I read many of them, as they follow the sequence of the Amish people. So interesting, i just start a book- and i have to finish, as I get really into the story. She is one of my favorites=
“Winter of Wishes” by Charlotte Hubbard is the third book in her 'Seasons of the Heart' series and what a roller coaster of a story it was at that. Here is a story that brings along a story line that I thought was resolved from the other books, only to see that it has grown and twisted into some interesting happenings. I just have also say that I loved the small connection that was mentioned near the end of the book to another series to where when I made the connection I just couldn't help but laugh out loud. I have to say that things happen so very fast there at the beginning, but with the explosion of emotions that develops, all that manages to happen is a small crack in the brick wall that separates the two worlds that are involved. Through the first half of the book while this explosion is taking place there is one of three things that is going to happen though I only really considered two of those options for the third seemed as if the are way too many complications to make that happen. Once the option that is going to be worked toward, the wall has so many hand holds but they don't always hold so another way must worked out to get around the little slip. Rhoda is a woman who has done some growing up throughout the other books and continues to do so in this book. Throughout all the books Rhoda is the one who seems to be the most sedate sister who doesn't want to cause problems, yet she loves with her whole heart. She is a woman who seems confident in just about all situations but she is also a woman who knows when a line has been crossed. Things in Rhoda's life sure haven't become simpler as the winter season comes upon them but what a ride we take with her. Andy is a man who at first seems to be at his wits end with so much going on that he isn't sure where to turn. Here is a hero is trying to do what is right for him and his family including switching jobs. There is a lot of changes happening but he is not making any changes without a great deal of thought for there are more than just himself to think about and he knows this. Above all else Andy is a man who can be counted on and is honorable. As I said before there is the story line that has been in the other two books, that I thought was resolved dealing with the character I have dubbed, 'the creep', but apparently the creep has come back with a vengeance and really went over the top this time around. I have to wonder if this character may have some kind of mental imbalance or if greed just became too valuable to this character they just no longer cared. I wonder what is going to happen next that is for sure. I hope that all who have been reading this series and this book, enjoys it as much as I have been.
Miriam, Rhoda and Rachel have all found "the" one. Now is it Rebecca's turn?
Would like to read more about the Amish. They seem to be such loving people. Want to know how everything works out in the Triplits lives.