The Heart’s Return

All Souls' Day. For me, the first of November always seems to have a sense of hushed calm--maybe because of the busy-ness of the preceding week. And today the clocks went back, too, which gave the morning an even greater sense that nature was taking a deep breath before winter.

Cutting silage in Lancaster CountyWinter means Christmas--and in only a few more days, our Amish Christmas Miracles collection will be in your hands!

When I was working up my story, "The Heart's Return," I knew only a couple of things. It would be set in my fictional Whinburg Township so that I could wave to my characters from earlier books as they rattled past in their buggies, gaze out at the fields where the men were cutting silage, and admire the beautiful work in the quilts coming out on beds and sofas as the weather got colder.

But how to structure the story? And of all the people in Whinburg Township, who would it be about? Well, I already had a recurring character for whom everyone has been expecting romance: Malinda Kanagy. Blonde, calm, and with a natural sense of authority, of course she would attract the new man in town. And what if that new man was actually an old flame of my heroine, Anna? And what if I could somehow wrap my favorite Jane Austen novel, Persuasion, into the plot?

The Heart's Return by Adina Senft

And "The Heart's Return" was born!

His first choice … her second chance.

Eight years ago, Anna Esch’s parents discouraged Neil Wengerd’s courtship. The family had just had a major blow, and Anna’s leaving would have led to grief and suffering. But obeying her mother’s wishes, Anna said not a word, only refused Neil in terms that wounded him past bearing. Hurt and angry, he left Whinburg Township … and took Anna’s heart with him.

Now Neil is back for a wedding and staying with his sister and brother-in-law, who have rented the farm from Anna’s father. The whole district is buzzing. Not about Anna and Neil—everyone’s forgotten they ever courted. But about Neil and Malinda Kanagy, who is everything Anna isn’t.

Can Anna stand by and watch his family make the perfect match for the man she’s never been able to forget? Or will she realize in time that Christmas is the season for God’s gifts and second chances?

I hope you like this story as much as I do!



Adina Senft’s new release!

It's release day! I'm delighted to announce that Keys of Heaven, book 5 in the Whinburg Township Amish series is out today. Let me tell you a little bit about it.

Each book in this trilogy features a certain herb or plant that my heroine, Sarah Yoder, uses as a healer, and is a metaphor for the cure that God will work in the novel. In this book, Sarah learns that red valerian, sometimes called “keys of heaven” or “Jupiter’s beard,” often grows in rocky places where other plants don’t flourish, such as in stone walls or against fences. But adverse conditions can produce a beautiful plant, brightening hard places with its sprays of red flowers.

There are people like this, too. They grow in hard places where others wouldn’t flourish—staying where God has put them, even if they might not have chosen to grow there. But they stay because they’re needed, because their spirit transforms the hard place and makes it beautiful.

Keys of Heaven by Adina SenftWhile a young Dokterfraa learns to heal the body, the Great Physician heals the heart …

Sarah Yoder is learning to serve her Old Order Amish community as a Dokterfraa, creating teas and tinctures from the herbs in her garden and fields. But her latest patient isn’t responding to anything she concocts—a woman who, in Sarah’s mind, would be better off in any place but the one she has.

Meanwhile, Sarah’s relatives can’t resist doing some matchmaking between her and a prosperous visitor to their community. She should be willing for God to show her His choice of partner … and not allow her friendship with her neighbor, Henry Byler, to grow into anything more. Henry has seen some success as a potter since a major department-store chain commissioned his work. The trouble is that they’re telling the world he’s Amish. Though he was raised in the faith and now lives in Amish country, he never joined church—and doesn’t plan to. Which also means that, despite the attraction between them, he must keep his distance from Sarah.

The plant Sarah calls keys of heaven may grow in impossible places, but it’s not that easy for people to find the place where they really belong. So it’s quite a temptation to take matters into her own hands …

Find your copy here! Denki!

Adina Senft’s Herb of Grace

When I travel to Lancaster County to research my Amish books, part of it includes slowing down, taking a deep breath scented with grass (and cows!) and appreciating the simple things—like a leisurely walk through a field. But when I wrote Herb of Grace, book four in The Whinburg Township Amish series, which came out yesterday, walking through a field became vitally important to my writing.

Why? Because this is what my heroine, Sarah Yoder, does as part of her calling as a Dokterfraa, or herbal healer.

The Amish have a strong tradition in alternative medicine. While they go to the doctor when it’s necessary, and the church funds their visits, they prefer to look after themselves. This can mean going to the Englisch chiropractor, or it can mean visiting a local Grossmammi who keeps a pharmacy of bottled tablets and capsules in her front room, ordered from an herbal supply warehouse and sold to the community.

Amish fields

Folk names

Medicinal herbs have lots of folk names. When I was researching this book, I realized that people often summed up some spiritual property in an herb through the name they gave it, and the idea for this trilogy was born. My favorite folk name was Queen of the Meadow, which is Filipendula ulmaria, or meadowsweet. But I couldn’t seem to make that work for a humble Amish woman! In any case, in Herb of Grace, this particular folk name reflects a healing property in the herb that Sarah uses for her cure. But going a little further, God begins a similar healing process in the spirit of Sarah's patient.

Herbal medicine

To prepare for writing about a Dokterfraa, I took a six-week herbal medicine course and learned the difference between an infusion and a tincture, and between lady’s mantle and nightshade. I learned that elderflowers make a divine tea, and in the autumn, the berries make a good cure for cough and sore throat—just in time for cold season. I read dozens of herbal references, and consulted with my instructors on the best cures for my story people. They got quite used to me sidling up during classes in the garden (below) and saying things like, “How would I treat a teenage boy who is allergic to ibuprofen?” (The answer: Mormon tea, made from the stems of a certain bush that grows in Western deserts.)

In class, outside

I had other help while writing the books, too. My own chiropractor, who is also deeply interested in homeopathic medicine, told me a simple cure for gout. Here’s how the information played out in Herb of Grace:

Oran had stopped now, and was fiddling with the straps on the gray-sided buggy sitting next in line for repairs. “Medication ain’t so strange,” he muttered just loudly enough for [Sarah] to hear. “It’s putting that burden on the church for no reason I can’t abide. Stuff’s expensive.”


“No, it isn’t,” she chirped. “You can find it at the supermarket. Sometimes you can get it on sale for a dollar fifty-nine.” He huffed as if she were babbling nonsense, and turned to make his way through the big sliding door. “Black cherry juice did the trick, didn’t it, Simon?” She raised her voice just enough to carry through the door. “A couple of glasses a day, and Jacob was right as rain in a week. It dissolves what they call uric acid, you see, that forms crystals in the toes.”

Learning how the Amish look after their own has opened my eyes to the simple cures all around me—even in my own backyard.

Want to know more?

“Herb of grace” is the folk name for rue, a bitter and astringent herb used in small quantities for ailments of the digestive system. And as we know, rue is also a verb meaning to be sorry for something one has done … but there is a world of difference between ruing one’s mistake and coming to that place of repentance where God’s grace can begin its healing work…

About Herb of Grace

Herb of Grace is filled with spiritual insights and multilayered storylines. At times readers will be chuckling and other times, misty eyed as the book unfolds.” —Amish Reader

Herb of Grace by Adina SenftWhile a young Dokterfraa learns to heal the body, the Great Physician heals the heart …

Sarah Yoder, an Amish widow in Pennsylvania’s Whinburg Township, is doing her best to provide a home where her family and members of her Old Order Amish church can find fellowship and friendship. But it’s getting more and more difficult to pay the bills—until the local Dokterfraa, or herbal healer, makes a startling suggestion: Could she begin training as a healer? Now Sarah stands where two ways meet. Caring for others could take her away from home. At the same time, she must be willing for the place where God wants her.

But when she does choose, her family seems to  splinter. Her stepson Simon wants to move out west to find work. Her youngest, Caleb, is spending too much time over at the tumbledown home of Henry Byler, who left the church long ago. Henry inherited the family farm and has returned—under protest—never suspecting that God has been waiting there for him all this time.

As Sarah compiles her cures, she waits for God to do his healing work. In a man who rues a harsh decision. In a lonely prodigal who has lost everything. And maybe even in a herbalist-in-training who firmly believes she will never love again …

About Adina Senft

Adina SenftAdina Senft grew up in a plain house church, where she was often asked by outsiders if she was Amish (the answer was no). She holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania, and is currently at work on a PhD in Creative Writing at Lancaster University in the UK.

Adina was the winner of RWA's RITA Award for Best Inspirational Novel in 2005, a finalist for that award in 2006, and was a Christy Award finalist in 2009.  She appeared in the 2016 documentary film Love Between the Covers, is a popular speaker and convention panelist, and has been a guest on many podcasts, including Worldshapers and Realm of Books.

She writes steampunk and contemporary romance as Shelley Adina; and as Charlotte Henry, writes classic Regency romance. When she’s not writing, Adina is usually quilting, sewing historical costumes, or enjoying the garden with her flock of rescued chickens.

Connect with Adina






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