Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Book Review: The Girl Who Disappeared by James Lingard

The Girl Who Disappeared by James Lingard

Publisher & Release: Clink Street Publishing, January 14, 2020

Time and setting:  WWII, England

Genre: Historical Fiction

Length: 200 Pages

Rating:  3.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

Emily falls passionately in love with working class Walter, despite fierce opposition from her class conscious father. She sees marriage as a partnership of equals and resolves to elope to escape such a male dominated society. Emily’s actions will see her struggle to survive the subsequent devastation brought about by the war, as she and her four year old son are thrown into the midst of danger and death. The family experience rationing and the terror of bombing. Their air raid shelter is destroyed by a direct hit. When Walter volunteers for the army, Emily and her son are evacuated to a rat infested cottage in a farming community near Hebden Bridge. The war changes Walter into an efficient army officer who demands to be obeyed. Emily worries that she might have a rival for his affections. How can she restore their loving relationship? The Girl Who Disappeared is a moving love story about one woman’s enduring resilience, a story full of quiet humour and surprising twists and turns.

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks go to the publisher and author for the chance to read and review The Girl Who Disappeared by James Lingard, an historical novel set in the WWII era. My opinions are my own and are not influenced by the gift of an e-copy of this book.

The Girl Who Disappeared is an interesting novel that shows life prior to, during, and the aftermath of WWII. I thoroughly enjoyed that aspect of the book. As a reading experience, it’s unusual. It reads more like a documentary than a novel. There is a great deal of telling instead of showing. The dialogue is indirect and different than what I normally see in works of fiction. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book, and I’m glad I agreed to read it.

Emily is the main character. She is an interesting individual. I would have enjoyed more depth to her character. Her role is the vehicle for the information regarding the life and times of the WWII period.

Walter’s character marries Emily, but since the POV is in Emily’s, I didn’t get much insight into his character. He seemed to care for Emily and their son, Richard. However, he is rarely with them. Initially, because he’s advancing his career, and later a soldier in the Royal Army.

James Lingard certainly knows this period of history and England’s involvement, then how it affected the daily lives of its citizens. I found this fascinating. England experienced dreadful damage and loss of life during this horrific war, and not just on the battlefield. Most historical fiction novels focus on the war itself and the battles. Ms. Lingard’s shows a different aspect of the war.

If you would enjoy a fantastic view of what life was like for British citizens, then you will like this novel. In 2016, I visited England. On my tour, we drove by the shell of a church in Devon. The guide explained that it was left in ruins so British citizen would never forget the horrors of WWII. For me, that gave me a new understanding of what England suffered during that awful period of history. The Girl Who Disappeared had added to that a great deal. Happy reading!

Author Bio:

James Lingard - educated at Dulwich College and University College London - became a leading City of London solicitor specialising in banking law and insolvency. 
A former Council Member of the Association of Business Recovery Professionals and of the European Association of Insolvency Practitioners, he became a Judicial Chairman of the Insolvency Practitioners Tribunal. 
He was the founding President of the Insolvency Lawyers Association and also became Chairman of the Joint Insolvency Examination Board and of the Banking Law and the Insolvency Law Sub Committees of the City of London Law Society.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Book Review: Hannah's Courage by Molly Jebber

Hannah’s Courage by Molly Jebber

Publisher & Release: Zebra Books, January 28, 2020

Time and setting:  1912, Charm, Ohio

Genre: Amish Fiction

Length: 336 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Sweetheart

Rating: 4.25 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

A loaf of fragrant cinnamon bread for breakfast . . . a sweet and creamy custard pie for dessert. In 1912 Ohio, the Amish Charm Bakery has something to delight locals and visiting Englischeralike. And within this warm, welcoming community, there’s always room for love to grow . . .
Hannah Lapp’s life, like a long-cherished recipe, is satisfying just the way it is. She enjoys whipping up desserts at the bakery, tutoring local children, and socializing with dear friends. One of those friends, Timothy Barkman, has made his interest in Hannah clear, but she’s been in no hurry to change her circumstances.
No sooner does she feel ready to grow closer to hard-working, handsome Timothy than Hannah finds she may have waited too long. Charlene Shetler intends to become Timothy’s fraa. It’s little wonder he’s attracted to such a pretty, forthright young woman, but is the newcomer all that she seems? Only when Hannah is willing to confront some difficult truths can she move bravely toward a life of abiding faith and love . . .

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks go to the publisher and Net-Galley for the chance to read and review Hannah’s Courage by Molly Jebber in advance of publication. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Hannah’s Courage is a lovely Amish fiction novel with a heart felt love story. I enjoyed Ms. Jebber’s writing style a great deal. The plot is somewhat of a love triangle, and while that isn’t my favorite troupe, this one is done extremely well. The pacing is steady and smooth, perfect for this Amish tale.

Hannah Lapp’s character is a delight. She has a carefree side and not quite ready to settle down to being a wife and mother yet. Even though she cares for Timothy and wants to be his frau eventually, just not yet. When that proves to be an error in her judgement, I could feel her confusion when her boyfriend seems to be turning to another. 

Timothy is a perfect Amish hero. He’s humble and modest, and unsure of what he should do when a new Amish young woman pursues him. Should he move forward and see if he can have a good marriage or cling to what seems hopeless in regard to Hannah? My heart hurt when he believes any chance of having a life with Hannah seems hopeless.

The romance between Hannah and Timothy appears in the beginning to be beyond their reach. I felt Hannah’s pain when she believes she’s lost her chance to become his fraa. I truly wanted them to find a way back to each other.

I always enjoy historical fiction, and Hannah’s Courage is set in 1912. Ms. Jebber easily paints the times and mannerisms of that time. While she describes the setting, she does it in a way that flows with the story.

If you enjoy historical fiction with a strong romantic element, then you will love Hannah’s Courage. In fact, I liked it so much I’ve downloaded the first two books in this series. Happy reading!

Author Bio:

I said to my loving husband, Ed, “I’ve always wanted to write a book. A story that readers would get lost in for a while.” He said, “Do it!” My daughter, Misty, brother, Mitch, and Mom, Sue said, “Take Ed’s advice, do it!” So I did. The road wasn’t easy, but the education, Amish research, and ride along the way to getting published taught me to take my favorite verse to heart.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13 KJV

Why Amish Inspirational Romance? 

I love their dedication to serve God. I visited Amish Country in Ohio many times. They work hard and have such a close knit friendship with each other. It’s heartwarming and uplifting. At the same time, they face hardships and difficult problems just like we do.
Thank you for your support and encouragement!

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Friday, January 24, 2020

Book Review: A Chance for a Rancher by Brenda Harlen

A Chance for a Rancher by Brenda Harlen

Publisher & Release: Harlequin Special Edition, February 01, 2020

Time and setting:  Present Day, Nevada

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Length: 288 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Flame

Rating:  4 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

Would you take a risk on a cowboy’s kiss?

Dating a single mom? Patrick Stafford would never break that rule…

Patrick Stafford trades his suit for a Stetson and boots and risks it all on a dude ranch. But it’s the veterinarian in Haven, Nevada, who really challenges him. Dr. Brooke Langley is all business, a devoted single mom who is off-limits to a fun-loving bachelor like him. But Patrick should have taken his own advice, because after just one kiss, he’s ready to make the biggest gamble of his life…with his heart.

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks goes the publisher, via Net-Galley, for the chance to read and review A Chance for a Rancher by Brenda Harlen prior to publication. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

A Chance for a Rancher is a light-hearted romance with great characters and a heartwarming plot. There are some fantastic secondary characters in this novel, and they added a great deal to my enjoyment. The pacing is perfect for the story, and the descriptive writing is excellent, painting a good picture of the setting, yet still leaving room for my imagination.

Brooke Langley is an endearing character. She loves her son, and she’s a good daughter. She’s joined her father’s vet practice and is determined to fill his shoes when needed. When she meets the hero, she feels the pull of attraction, but once burned twice shy. I felt her confusion over her strong feelings for another man with more money than sense.

Patrick Stafford is a great hero with plenty of motivation, even though he has a lot to learn. He walked away from a corporate position with his family to own and operate a dude ranch. When he meets the new vet, Brooke, he’s immediately attracted to her, but when he discovers she has a child, he stumbles but doesn’t fall. I liked his determination to pursue Brooke even after she gives him the cold shoulder and throws up plenty of roadblocks.

The romance between Brooke and Patrick is electric from the first encounter. Both have baggage from past relationships, and that has both of them questioning the wisdom of being physical, but the chemistry is so powerful, they cannot resist. I enjoyed them as a couple and wanted them to find their happy ending.

If you enjoy a romance with a great lineup of characters, and with plenty of emotions running high, then you will like A Chance for a Rancher as much as I did. This is the first book I’ve read by Ms. Harlen, but it will not be the last. Happy reading!

Author Bio:

Brenda’s first love was reading.

According to her mother, she fell in love with books even before she could read and was always content when she had a book in her hands. It didn’t surprise anyone when she decided that she wanted to be a writer, but she was encouraged to pursue “a real job” first.

So she did—she became a lawyer. Two years of practicing law taught her a lot about the world—and reinforced her determination to become a writer. Because in fiction, she could promise a happy ending!

Thankfully, she had already met and married a wonderful man to inspire her fictional heroes. And when she was on maternity leave after the birth of their first son, he encouraged her to take a romance writing course at the local community college. It was while enrolled in this class that she completed her first (still unpublished) manuscript.

Three more manuscripts and another baby followed. And then, in June 2002, she finally got the call from Susan Litman—an editorial assistant and contest judge—offering to buy the manuscript she’d submitted to RWA’s Golden Heart® contest as “From This Moment.” This story was re-titled McIver’s Mission and released by Silhouette Intimate Moments in May 2003. 

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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Book Review: The Arrangement by Sylvia Day, Minerva Spencer, Kristin Vayden

The Arrangement by Sylvia Day, Minerva Spencer, Kristin Vayden

Publisher & Release: Kensington Books, January 28, 2020

Time and setting:  Regency England

Genre: Regency Romance

Length: 336 Pages

Heat Level: 2 Flames

Rating:   Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

A trio of sizzling historical romances that prove passion is timeless . . .
Mischief and the Marquess by Sylvia Day
Justin, the Marquess of Fontaine, and Lady Sophie Milton-Riley are completely ill-suited to one another. But they will have to prove it in order to end their mothers’ insistence that they should marry. Yet the more they attempt to demonstrate how wrong their union would be, the more surprisingly, irresistibly right things feel . . .
THE DUKE’S TREASURE by Minerva Spencer
Plain, prickly Josephine Loman has loved Beaumont Halliwell, the Fifth Duke of Wroxton, since the first time she saw him. But the most beautiful man she’s ever met had eyes only for Jo’s erstwhile friend, who betrayed Beau’s trust by marrying his brother. Beau hasn’t been home in years, but when his brother dies in an accident, he must marry to save the impoverished dukedom. And Jo is the overlooked heiress who will turn his world upside down . . .
As the eldest in a poverty-stricken family of daughters, Miss Diana Katherine Lambson’s only option is a marriage of convenience. Her only prospect is a rogue with a miserable reputation. Her only true desire: freedom. And that is exactly what Charles Brook, Earl of Barrington, is willing to offer, in return for the respectability their union will give him. He will even provide Diana with a contract. But does she dare entrust her future to a scoundrel? Does she dare not to?

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks go to the publisher and Net-Galley for the chance to read and review The Arrangement by Sylvia Day, Minerva Spencer and Kritin Vayden prior to publication. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Mischief and the Marquess by Sylvia Day

This novella offers aspects of a Sylvia Day romance. Hot love scenes, sure to sizzle are definitely a part of this story. For me though, I would have preferred a bit more emphasis on the emotions of the developing romance. This is a short novella, so there isn’t much character development. Nonetheless, this is an enjoyable read and is a strong4/5 Gold Crowns.

The Duke’s Treasure by Minerva Spencer

I thoroughly enjoyed the romance between Josephine and Beau. The Duke’s Treasure has an excellent plot and good character development. The writing flows well and the pacing is perfect. The romance, while clearly sexually, the emotional connection between the couple is easily apparent. I will definitely be looking for more from Ms. Spencer. This is a wonder novella and easily earns 5/5 God Crowns!

An Inconvenient Countess by Kristin Vayden

I loved this great story between Diana and Brook. They are perfect for each other, and I wanted the love to grow between them. It does beautifully with plenty of emotions between them the hero’s character arch is amazing for a short novella. I’m glad I had an opportunity to read the love story between Diana and Brook. I will be looking for other books by Ms. Vayden. This heartwarming novella earns 4.5/5 Gold Crowns.

If you enjoy Regency romances with strong characters with interest plots, then you will enjoy this charming collection of stories. I recommend this lovely anthology. Each story is unique in its own way. Happy reading!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Book Review: Cold Nose, Warm Heart by Mara Wells

Cold Nose, Warm Heart by Mara Wells

Publisher & Release: Sourcebooks, January 28, 2020

Time and setting:  Present Day, Miami

Genre: Contemporary romance/Romantic comedy

Length: 384 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Flame

Rating: 4.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

A poodle, a black lab and a Chihuahua walk into a dog park...
All Caleb Donovan has to do to redeem his family name is take a rundown Miami Beach apartment building and turn it into luxury condos. Easy, right?
Unfortunately, that would also turn the local dog park into a parking lot and the neighbors aren't having it. Caleb is faced with outright revolt, led by smart, beautiful building manager Riley Carson and her poodle, LouLou.
For Caleb, this project should have been a slam dunk. But even more challenging than the neighborhood resistance is the mutual attraction between him and Riley. It would be so much easier just to stay enemies.
Can Riley and her canine sidekick convince Caleb that what's best for business isn't always best for the heart?

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks goes to the publisher, via Net-Galley, for the chance to read and review Cold Nose, Warm Heart by Mara Wells in advance of publication. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Cold Nose, Warm Heart is a light-hearted read with the most adorable dog who stole my heart. The plot is unique with the characters joining together to build a dog park for the animals in the neighborhood. I LOVED that aspect of the story. The pacing is perfect for this book and kept me engaged from start to finish.

Riley’s the heroine and stole my heart from the first page. I loved how she kicked her shoes off and had a pile by her door. She got a raw deal when Donovan Resorts shut down. The owner ended up in jail, and she loses her position as assistant manager. 

Now she’s managing a 55+ rundown condo in Miami with lots of issues. I loved her tender care for her grandmother and the other seniors in the complex. Her loving relationship with her poodle, LouLou is endearing. I could feel her anxiety when she finds out her grandmother doesn’t own the condo complex.

Caleb Donovan is the hero with lots of problems. His father’s in prison, and his grandfather challenges him the take on the project to turn the George into a first-class Condo Complex in Miami, but there is a major problem. He must get his half-brother to agree to help him. That will be nearly impossible. When he arrives, he is bent on firing the manager, but when he meets Riley, he’s wowed by her, yet he blurts out “you’re fired.” That starts a relationship with lots of tension.

The romance between Riley and Caleb is delightful and at times emotional. They have a huge obstacle that should keep them apart, and on completely different sides, but the chemistry is so strong, they both step over the divide constantly. I thoroughly enjoyed their love story and wanted them to find a way to make it work.

If you enjoy contemporary romance with plenty of humorous moments, an array of adorable fur-babies, and characters that will steal your heart, then you’ll love Cold Nose, Warm Heart as much as I did. I can’t wait to read the next book in this wonderful series. I believe this may be a debut novel for Ms. Wells, and it’s very well-written with fantastic characters. I recommend this book to all animal lovers. It’s sure to enchant you. Happy reading!

Author Bio:

I love stories, any story, especially stories with kissing. Books, TV shows, movies––if there’s love, I’m so in. Originally from Southern California, I now live in Hollywood, Florida with my family and two carrot-loving rescue dogs––a poodle-mix named Houdini Beauregarde and Sheba Reba Rita Peanut, a chihuahua-mix.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Book Review: The Last Real Cowboy by Caitlin Crews

The Last Real Cowboy by Caitlin Crews

Publisher & Release: St. Martin’s, January 28, 2020

Time and setting:  Present Day, Cold River

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Western

Length: 382 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Flame

Rating: 3 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

USA Today bestselling author Caitlin Crews returns to the Cold River Ranch series with The Last Real Cowboy!
In Cold River, sometimes forbidden love is the sweetest of them all… 
Perennial good girl Amanda Kittredge knows that her longtime crush on Brady Everett was never really supposed to go anywhere. But when Brady comes home during Amanda’s first attempt at independence, well, who better to teach her about rebellion than her older brother’s bad-boy best friend?
Brady’s plans did not include being forced to work the family homestead for a year—and yet, here he is. And, to make matters worse, his best friend’s innocent little sister is making a menace of herself in the most grown-up, tempting ways. When Amanda begs Brady to teach her about men, he knows he should refuse. But could Brady’s greatest temptation be his salvation?

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks go to the publisher and Net-Galley for the chance to read and review The Last Real Cowboy by Caitlin Crews in advance of publication. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

The Last Real Cowboy is no doubt a well-written novel. It may have helped if I had read the other books in this series, so I would possibly have had some prior knowledge of the secondary characters. However, this can be read as a stand alone novel. It just didn’t resonate with me.

Amanda Kittredge’s character is a mixed bag for me. There are aspects of the heroine that I enjoyed very much, but I had a difficult time wrapping my brain around a woman being as sheltered and na├»ve as she. This is the 21st century, and it would be highly unusual for any young woman, unless she’d been raised in a very strict religion such as an Amish community, to be as sheltered as Amanda. If this novel had been set in the late 19th century, this aspect of the story may have worked much better.

Brady Everett is not my favorite type of hero. He’s arrogant, and at times rude to the heroine. I struggled with him from the start and would have liked more depth to his character to explain his coldness. He isn’t very nice to Amanda throughout most of the book.

For me, there just wasn’t very much chemistry between Amanda and Brady. I never became fully vested in their love affair. Brady and Amanda never seemed to connect on an emotional level. I’m not fond of relationships centered on the physical.

If you like contemporary romance set in the west with cowboys and small-town USA, then The Last Real Cowboy may be a good reading experience for you. Reading is subjective and what doesn’t work for one individual may appeal very well to another. I just downloaded the first book in this series, via Audible since that one has excellent reviews. Happy reading!

Author Bio:

USA Today-bestselling, RITA-nominated, and critically-acclaimed author Caitlin Crews has written more than 100 books, including Frenemies, Princess from the Past, A Royal Without Rules, and Undone by the Sultan's Touch. She's won fans with romances, Harlequin Presents, women's fiction, chick lit, and work-for-hire young adult novels, many of which she writes as Megan Crane (including the dystopian Viking romance Edge series). These days her focus is on contemporary romance in all its forms, from small town heat to international glamour, cowboys to bikers to military men and beyond. She's taught creative writing classes in places like UCLA Extension's prestigious Writers' Program, gives assorted workshops on occasion, and attempts to make use of the MA and PhD in English Literature she received from the University of York in York, England. She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with a husband who draws comics and animation storyboards, and their menagerie of ridiculous animals.

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Monday, January 20, 2020

Book Review: The Englisch Daughter by Cindy Woodsmall

The Englisch Daughter by Cindy Woodsmall

Publisher & Release: Waterbrook, April 21, 2020

Time and setting:  Present Day, Pennsylvania

Genre: Amish Fiction

Length: 352 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Sweetheart

Rating:  5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

A marriage is tested in this Old Order Amish novel of longing for renewed love and a path for forgiveness from the best-selling author of Gathering the Threads. 

Old Order Amish wife and mother Jemima has put her marriage and family ahead of herself for years. She's set herself aside. Raising four children, she's followed all the rules and has been patient in looking forward to her time to chase a dream of her own. 

But when she finds out that her life savings for pursuing that dream is gone--and her husband, Roy, has been hiding a child with another woman--her entire world is shattered. Will she be able to listen to God and love Roy's child? With so much at stake, how can she and Roy fix their relationship before their lives come crashing down?

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks goes to the publisher, via Net-Galley, for the chance to read and review The Englisch Daughter by Cindy Woodsmall in advance of publication. This is an Amish Fiction novel. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

The Englisch Daughter is a riveting novel that held me in its thrall from the first page to the last. At times, it had my heart stopping as I waited for what would happen next. The writing is emotional, and the plot is spellbinding. This story will stay with me a long time and will go in my keeper file.

There are several central characters in this book. Jemima has gone through almost losing her husband and daughter in a horrific buggy accident, both of them have challenges. Her husband has been through hell from dealing with Opiate addiction, to being manipulated by a very troubled young woman, to anxiety that if his wife learns what he’s done, the emotional pain will be more than she can handle.

Abigail is Roy’s sister, and she’s been impacted by the manipulation from the woman as well. She planned to partner with Jemima in running the food cart, she’d planed on purchasing, but Roy has spent all the money. She also has relationship issues and has never dated anyone more than a few weeks. Chris is another main character, and he also has his own set of issues as well. When an attraction develops between him and Abigail, their issues threaten to keep them apart.

I could feel the heartache and pain from all these wonderful characters. This made The Englisch Daughter a fascinating reading experience. The love stories involved are emotionally charged, the character development is amazing.

If you enjoy Amish fiction with compelling characters and a soul wrenching plot, then you will love The Englisch Daughter as much as I did. I highly recommend this book. I always know I’m in for a fantastic reading experience when reading one of Ms. Woodsmall’s outstanding novels. Happy reading!

Author Bio:

Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times, CBA, ECPA, and USA Today best-selling author who has written twenty-two (and counting!) works of fiction and one of nonfiction. Cindy has been featured on ABC Nightline and on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and has worked with National Geographic on a documentary concerning Amish life. Wall Street Journal listed Cindy as the one of the top three most popular authors of Amish fiction.

She's won Fiction Book of the Year, Reviewer's Choice Awards, Inspirational Reader's Choice Contest, as well as one of Crossings' Best Books of the Year. She's been a finalist for the prestigious Christy, Rita, and Carol Awards, Christian Book of the Year, and Christian Retailers Choice Awards.

Her real-life connections with Amish Mennonite and Old Order Amish families enrich her novels with authenticity. Though she didn't realize it at the time, seeds were sown years ago that began preparing Cindy to write these books. At the age of ten, while living in the dairy country of Maryland, she became best friends with Luann, a Plain Mennonite girl. Luann, like all the females in her family, wore the prayer Kapp and cape dresses. Her parents didn't allow television or radios, and many other modern conveniences were frowned upon. During the numerous times Luann came to Cindy's house to spend the night, her rules came with her and the two were careful to obey them--afraid that if they didn't, the adults would end their friendship. Although the rules were much easier to keep when they spent the night at Luann's because her family didn't own any of the forbidden items, both sets of parents were uncomfortable with the relationship and a small infraction of any kind would have been enough reason for the parents to end the relationship. While navigating around the adults' disapproval and the obstacles in each other's lifestyle, the two girls bonded in true friendship that lasted into their teen years, until Cindy's family moved to another region of the US.

As an adult, Cindy became friends with a wonderful Old Order Amish family who opened their home to her. Although the two women, Miriam and Cindy, live seven hundred miles apart geographically, and a century apart by customs, when they come together they never lack for commonality, laughter, and dreams of what only God can accomplish through His children. Over the years Cindy has continued to make wonderful friendships with those inside the Amish and Mennonite communities--from the most conservative ones to the most liberal.

Cindy and her husband reside near the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains in their now empty nest.  
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