With everything that's going in the world right now, we could all use some peace of mind. And what better way to get into a that kinder, gentler lifestyle than escaping into Amish country?
My story in the Amish Christmas Miracles collection is set in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. One of characters in the story, Suzanne King, tries to play matchmaker for her widowed brother. In an interesting side note, Suzanne works at GreenValley Farmer's Market, the setting for a new series coming out in April 2021. The book cover is for the first book in the Surprised by Love series, Unexpected Amish Proposal.
Here's a sneak peek at the first chapter:
“Would you like to get married?”
The heady scent of coffee brewing nearly gagged Rose Beiler. How could her best friend be so cruel? They’d just finished pieces of chocolate cake at their favorite bakery, Rebecca’s Porch, to celebrate Rose’s thirtieth birthday.
Blinking back tears, Rose said in a choked voice, “If it’s God’s will.”
Suzanne leaned forward, and her intensity shook the rickety wooden table covered with a pink floral tablecloth. “Did you ever think God allowed you to be single this long for a purpose?”
“I’m sure He did.” Although for the life of her, Rose had no idea why, unless he intended for her to take care of her parents when they aged. If so, she’d be single for a very long time. Maybe forever.
“Would you marry a widower with children?” Suzanne’s eyes bored into Rose.
At this point, Rose wouldn’t care if he had twenty children, but she didn’t want Suzanne to sense her desperation. “If it’s God’s will,” Rose repeated.
“I’m serious.” Suzanne studied Rose with an intensity that made her uncomfortable. “You like children, right?”
Why was Suzanne being purposely cruel? Rose almost snapped at her. I’ve babysat your two often enough. But she loved her friend too much to be mean. “Of course, I do. I often babysit.”
Rose volunteered to watch the children of other mamms her age from their buddy bunch at church. And she watched her nieces and nephews as often as she could.
“I know you do.” Suzanne softened a little. “I meant as in having a widower’s children all the time.”
“I’ve never thought about it.” The two older widowers at church had teenagers. Neither of them appealed to Rose.
“Think about it now, and tell me.”
Rose tried hard not to screw up her face at the thought of living with either of them. “Are you trying to match me up with Simon or Paul?”
Suzanne burst out laughing. “No wonder you scrunched up your face. No, silly, I had a different, much younger widower in mind.”
A relieved breath escaped Rose, but then she tensed. What other widowers did Suzanne know? Maybe someone at the GreenValley Farmer’s Market where she worked? “Who?” Rose asked cautiously.
“Joshua?” Even saying his name brought her teenage crush back full force.
“You remember he lost his wife more than a year ago and that he has four little ones?”
“Of course. That was so sad.”
“His sister-in-law had been watching the children, but she’s sick. Joshua’s sold his house in New York and plans to move back to Lancaster to take over Daed’s construction business. He’ll need someone to help with the children.”
“I’d be happy to help any time I’m not working at the popcorn shop.” More than happy. She’d do anything for Joshua King.
Suzanne laughed. “I think he’ll need more than a part-time babysitter. The two oldest girls will be in school, but the little ones are four and two. I thought you’d make the perfect wife.”
Rose’s heart fluttered. “He wouldn’t be interested in me.”
“Joshua liked you when we were younger.”
“Don’t you remember how he used to stare at you when we were together?”
“He was looking at me?” She’d always thought he was keeping an eye on Suzanne.
“Of course.” Suzanne’s brisk answer seemed to be an attempt to brush away Rose’s doubts.
Marry Joshua King? Her childhood dream come true? What else could Rose say but jah?
Joshua leaned back in his chair at the supper table. “It’s so good to be home.”
“We’re glad to have you here,” Mamm stood and gathered plates. “We missed you so much while you were in New York.”
Ten years ago, Joshua and Lena had purchased a farm in Fort Plain, so they hadn’t been able to visit very often. He’d missed Lancaster and his family.
Daed sighed. “If we’d known you were coming back, we wouldn’t have made plans to move to Lititz.”
In the last letter Mamm had sent to Fort Plain, she’d mentioned Joshua’s older brother was building a dawdi haus attached to his farmhouse.
“When will the house be finished?” Joshua asked.
“It already is. Merv hoped you and I would help him finish a few interior details this weekend. We were planning to move in next—”
He stopped abruptly when Mamm frowned.
“We’ll stay here as long as you need us,” she said.
Daed leaned forward. “So, sohn, do you have any plans for, um, how you’ll take care of the girls while you work?”
“I can take care of them,” Joshua’s ten-year-old daughter, Hannah, announced.
“I’m sure you do a fine job.” Mamm picked another stack of plates and flashed a let’s-drop-this look in Daed’s direction.
He ignored her signal. “But he’ll need someone while Hannah is in school.”
Mamm swished into the kitchen. “Let’s give Joshua some time to get settled.”
A loud thump on the front door interrupted them.
“That’ll be Suzanne. She’s dropping off our meat order,” Mamm called over the running water. “Joshua, can you help her bring in the boxes?”
He hurried to the door and carried the first box of chicken parts into the kitchen. Then he helped Suzanne unload the rest.
“Not those,” she said as he reached for two more boxes. “The rest is mine. I can’t believe how much Mamm ordered this time, but I guess she does have five more people to feed.”
Was his sister trying to make him feel guilty? If so, she’d done a great job.
“Thanks, Suzanne.” Mamm shooed her out of the kitchen after they’d set down the last boxes. “I know you want to spend some time with Joshua.” She called to Hannah, “Why don’t you and Lillian do the dishes while I take care of the meat?”
“Daed,” Suzanne said, “I’m sure Emily and Faith would love to have you read them a bedtime story.”
“Good idea.” His daed picked up two-year-old Faith, and four-year-old Emily took his hand.
What was going on? His sister seemed to be clearing the room. Were his parents in on this?
Suzanne sat across the dining room table from him. “Did you know Mamm and Daed planned to move into the dawdi haus next weekend?”
Mamm had interrupted Daed before he’d given their moving date.
“Well, now they won’t. Not until you have someone to care for the children. Have you thought about what you’re going to do?”
“I don’t know.” Joshua felt like he’d been smacked with a steel beam. He’d assumed Mamm would be around for a while. Now he’d have to figure that out. He already had enough on his mind with taking over Daed’s construction business. He’d expected Daed to stick around to help with that too.
“Have you thought about getting married?”
What? Joshua bolted upright.
A dish slammed down in the kitchen, and Hannah burst through the doorway. “I don’t want a new mamm.”
“Hush, Hannah.” But, to tell the truth, Joshua didn’t either.
Hannah pouted. “If you marry someone, she’ll never be our mamm. Right, Lillian.”
His nine-year-old daughter peeked out from behind Hannah and nodded. She usually followed her older sister’s lead.
Don’t worry, girls. I won’t be adding a mamm to our family. Besides, Suzanne shouldn’t even be talking about this. Dating, which he had no intention of doing, should be his decision. And it should private.
His sister chatted about other things until Mamm had taken the girls up to bed. Then Suzanne cornered Joshua before he headed upstairs.
“I know the perfect wife for you. She loves children, and she’s always liked you.”
“I’m not interested.”
“You haven’t even heard who it is.”
He tried to walk around her, but she blocked the stairway. It didn’t matter who she had in mind. He had no plans to marry.
“She’s not married?” That surprised him. She’d been sweet, kind, and cute.
He could tell she’d been attracted to him when they were teens. He’d been interested in her as well, but she was six years younger. He couldn’t believe she’d never married.
“You broke her heart when you married and moved away.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Even if Rose had cared for him long ago, she wouldn’t have waited for him all this time.
“Rose is willing to marry you.”
“You asked her?” Joshua couldn’t believe his sister had done that. “I can’t afford to marry.” Even selling his home to move here had made little dent in the amount he owed for Lena’s cancer treatments.
“You can’t afford not to. You work long hours. How much will it cost to hire someone to take care of the children?”
“I don’t know, but—”
Suzanne didn’t let him finish. “All marrying costs is adding one more person to the meals.”
Neh, it had emotional costs as well. Costs Joshua wasn’t ready to pay.