It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today’s Wild Card author is:
***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling, Whitaker House, for sending me a review copy.***
Laura V. Hilton is a pastor’s wife, mother of five, author, breast cancer survivor, homeschooler, and book reviewer. Although for her formal education she studied business, books have long been Laura’s passion. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Laura reviews Amish fiction for the ACFW ezine Afictionado and is as a staff reviewer for the Christian Suspense Zone. At last count she’d published over 1,000 reviews on her blog: https://lighthouse-academy.blogspot.com. A stay-at-home mom, Laura and her family live in Arkansas.
Visit the author’s website.
Ready to make a fresh start and leave Lancaster County, Matthew Yoder moves to Seymour, Missouri, as part of a swap of Amish men; he’s placed with the Stoltzfus family. Shanna Stoltzfus has run away from home to follow her dream of becoming a nurse, despite her father’s threats to shun her. When her classmates embark on a medical mission trip that she can’t afford, Shanna turns to home and the Amish community she abandoned for help. She meets Mathew meet and a fast friendship blossoms, even though Shanna flirts with the people and practices of her Englisch life. When tensions escalate between Shanna and her father to the point his health is in jeopardy, Shanna is forced to face some tough issues as to where she truly belongs.
List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (September 6, 2011)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
The hand pulled back. “Is something wrong? Are you hurt?” a deep voice asked.
She looked up into incredible gray eyes belonging to a drop-dead-gorgeous Amish man. He grasped his straw hat in the long fingers of his right hand. His light brown hair shone with natural blond highlights. She’d paid big bucks for streaks like those. He also had a strong, clean-shaven jaw. Nice. Too bad he hadn’t been around when she’d been Amish. She definitely would have noticed a hunk like this. Might even have considered staying.
“Lost, maybe? I can direct you back to the main road. Where did you want to go?”
“Anyplace but here. Mexico sounds good.” She swallowed her trepidation and aimed what she hoped was a wry smile at him. When she reached for the door handle, he stepped out of the way. “You must be the houseguest Mamm mentioned in her letters. Matthew Yoder from Pennsylvania?” She swung her legs out of the car and extended a hand. “I’m Shanna.”
“Shanna.” He seemed to freeze. A little smile played on his lips. “Shanna,” he repeated.
She didn’t know quite what to think. He said her name as if it meant something special. Then, he blinked. “I’m Matthew, jah.”
He held out his hand, but before his hand could touch hers, she fixed her gaze on his brown fingers. He hesitated and then rubbed his hands together, as if to check to see if the stain was still damp. Then, he pulled back. “Shanna.”
His tongue seemed to trip over her name this time. Or maybe he’d heard some negative things about her. Her stomach churned. She shouldn’t be here. But where else could she go?
“I guess they are expecting you?”
“No. Not really.” Shanna stood and looked up at him. The top of her head barely reached his jaw.
His gaze skimmed over her. She wondered what he thought as he studied her faded jeans, T-shirt, and flip-flops. She looked down at her toenails. Good, they were painted with pink polish. Except the paint on one of her big toes had a huge chip. She wished she could reach for the bottle and repair the damage. As his gaze traveled back up, she repressed the urge to smooth her hair. It wouldn’t have done much good, anyway. She’d driven the whole way with the windows down, so it would be hopelessly tangled.
His forehead wrinkled, and there was no hint of recognition in his eyes when they returned to her face.
“You have no idea who I am, do you?”
Matthew raised his eyebrows and his gaze met hers. “No. Should I?”
Unexpected pain shot through her. Daed had made good on his threat to reject her. “Figures. He probably forbade everybody to say my name. I’m surprised he allowed Mamm to write. Or maybe he doesn’t know.”
Confusion flashed across Matthew’s face. “So, you think your mamm lives here, and she isn’t expecting you?” He shook his head, his lips curling into a sympathetic half smile. “This is the home of Levi and Deborah—”
“Stoltzfus. Yes, I know. I’m their oldest daughter.”
Matthew’s smile slipped, and he blinked, cutting off her view of those gray eyes for a brief moment.
“You know, you have beautiful eyes.” She stepped closer, then turned to shut the car door. “My things are in the back. But I guess maybe we should leave them there until we find out if I’m allowed to stay. Mamm said I would be welcome, but Daed has the final say, you know.” She bit her lip and tried to force her fear of the imminent confrontation out of her mind. It didn’t work. And since her little brothers and sisters hadn’t gathered around to welcome her, she wondered if her family was even home. She looked around for the buggy, or some sign of life other than the handsome Matthew. She didn’t notice any.
“Jah. Probably should wait.” He blinked again when she turned to face him.
“Well, shall we?” She walked past him, around the front of the car, and toward the porch. At the top step, she hesitated and glanced back. Matthew stood where she’d left him, watching her. He didn’t even try to hide it by looking away. A shiver worked through her, but she ignored it. He’d probably never met anyone like her before. Daed always said she was too outspoken. She sighed. “I guess I should ask. Where is Daed?”
He motioned behind him. “In the shop.”
“Good.” Postponing her reunion with him would at least give her time to see Mamm and her little sisters before she was kicked off the property.
If that happened, Shanna hoped this gorgeous Amish man wouldn’t witness her humiliation. She felt ashamed enough of her modern clothes, now subject to his intense gaze. She was so under-dressed, she might as well have shown up at a formal event wearing boxer shorts and a paint-spattered T-shirt.
Did Mamm still keep her Amish clothes hanging in her bedroom closet?
She scowled and turned toward the house. It would take more than a good-looking man to get her to change into Amish clothes. She hadn’t been able to wait to leave the Amish life behind, and she wasn’t about to return to it.
Well, she would stay for the summer, if permitted. But no longer than that.
And if Daed wouldn’t let her? She’d deal with that when the time came.
Matthew stared at the front door, through which the green-eyed beauty had disappeared after only the briefest look back, as if checking to see if he followed her. And he probably would have, if his feet hadn’t felt rooted to the ground.
He mused over their brief conversation and allowed a smile to play on his lips as he grappled with the sense that he’d glimpsed into his future.
“Shanna,” he whispered her name again.
He hadn’t meant to touch her hair. He’d noticed the open window, and he’d simply reached in to touch her shoulder. But she’d moved, and instead of the soft tap he’d intended, his knuckles had buried themselves in her soft, golden tresses.
Even worse, he hadn’t wanted to pull back.
Matthew swallowed, lifted his legs to see if they would still move, and turned toward the shop. He couldn’t remember what he’d needed to go to the house for, anyway. No point in looking like a bigger fool in front of her.
When he pushed the shop door open, Levi looked up from where he stood, hunched over and sanding a wooden chair. “Did you get the key?”
Matthew shook his head. “I forgot what you sent me for.” Ach, this was worse, having to admit to his mindlessness. Heat rose up his neck. “Um, there’s a girl…your daughter. She was in her car. Said something about staying.”
A look of hope flashed across Levi’s face. His shoulders straightened, and a bright smile lit his face and eyes. He put down the sandpaper and moved toward the door, then stopped, his shoulders slumping. “Probably not for long.”
Matthew couldn’t quite read any of the other emotions that flashed across the older man’s face.
“Is she shunned?” Matthew asked hesitantly.
Levi shook his head. “Nein, not formally. But I’d hoped denying her a place in the family would bring her back home.” His expression hardened. “And maybe it would have. But my frau….”
He didn’t need to say more. Matthew nodded in agreement. Shanna had mentioned letters in which her mamm had said she’d be welcome. Deborah must have gone behind Levi’s back and kept in contact with her daughter.
It was none of his business, but he decided to ask, anyway. “Will you allow her to stay?”
He hoped Levi would say “Jah,” the fascinating creature could stay. But another part of him wanted a decidedly firm “Nein.” He hadn’t been around her more than five minutes, and already she’d messed with his insides.
“I don’t know.” Levi scratched his head. “I’ll have to think on it.”
Matthew chuckled. “Maybe in the barn loft.”
Levi’s mouth curved up in a grin. “Might be best.”
“I’m teasing.” Matthew moved toward the door. “I’ll go get the key you wanted. Sorry I forgot it earlier.”
“Jah.” Levi picked up the sandpaper and went back to work. “And I’ll think on it. Gives her a few more minutes with her mamm, anyway, in case I decide not to let her stay.”
After hugging Shanna, Mamm resumed peeling apples at the counter, where a recipe for apple turnovers was propped against the flour canister. Shanna picked up a knife to help with paring, as she had countless times before. Mamm chatted nonstop, talking about Shanna’s sisters, who were at friends’ houses today, and about the garden. Not one mention had been made about whether she was permitted to stay. A piece of apple skin dangled from the peeler, ever lengthening as Mamm worked the apple around and around. It had always been a challenge for Shanna to try to pare the entire apple without breaking the strip, like Mamm did.
She’d never succeeded.
Yet another sign of failure. Another reason why she’d never be an Amish frau.
That, combined with the old-fashioned clothes and her intense dislike of the wringer washer. She’d hated that thing ever since getting her hair stuck in it as a young girl. She had always been afraid that the contraption would pull her whole head through the rollers, try to press it flat, as it did the garments, and leave it abnormally shaped.
That was almost reality. Spiritually, she was abnormally shaped. God had never intended her to be Amish. It must have been a fluke for her to have been born into an Amish family.
Shanna pushed the thought away. Why was she even thinking about this stuff? She’d settled it long ago, for pity’s sake, so that she could enroll in college to earn her nursing degree. So that she could live and work in the real world. And wear real clothes. And…well, there were many other benefits of being Englisch.
Yet those scrubs she had to wear to her clinical rotations could hardly be considered real clothes.
Her stomach felt as if a whole flock of Canada geese had landed in it, honking, with wings flapping, as they did when they passed through during migration. It had to be the fault of that young man—the one who’d come out to her car and caused her heart to flip-flop like the bottoms of her sandals.
A good Amish name, for someone who appeared to be a good Amish man.
As if she’d summoned him by thinking his name, the door opened, and Matthew strode into the room, heading straight for the key rack that hung on the wall. Not that there were many keys hanging there. Why would they need them, when they had absolutely nothing worth stealing? Well, Daed’s tools were valuable. But he was out there with them now, so Matthew would have no need to unlock the shop.
She watched as Matthew lifted down a long skeleton key. The barn key. One of the doors there led up to a loft she’d never been allowed to enter. She didn’t know what Daed kept in there, just that he’d built stairs to replace the ladder leading up to it.
Matthew palmed the key, then turned toward the door, moving with an even stride. Not once did he look in her direction.
Had Daed said something to dispel the friendliness he’d shown her earlier?
Mamm turned around. “Ach, Matthew. I didn’t realize that was you. Kum meet Shanna. She’s our oldest. Attends college up in Springfield.”
Matthew hesitated by the door, then turned, his gaze skimming over her. “Welkum, Shanna.” His tongue didn’t trip over her name so much this time. And he didn’t indicate they had met in the driveway.
“This is Matthew Yoder from Pennsylvania,” Mamm continued. “He came down in the swap I mentioned in my letter, where we traded buwe with a community in Lancaster. Matthew is looking for farmland hereabouts.”
“I hope you can find some,” Shanna said. Farmland wasn’t readily available in this part of Missouri, as far as she knew. But then, she didn’t keep track of such things. She wasn’t in the market for land.
Matthew grinned. “I have my eye on a piece not too far from here. Belongs to an Englischer, so the haus would need some work to be made suitable.”
She knew that would mean taking out the electrical lines, removing the screens from the windows, and installing a woodstove, among other things. All silly rules. Why no screens? Okay, she knew the answer: to keep God’s view unobstructed. But, really. He could see through screens! And keeping the bugs out would hardly prevent people from going to heaven. Shanna shifted her feet to hide her shrug.
“The barn isn’t adequate, so we’d need to have a barn raising to replace that, too,” Matthew went on, as if he hadn’t noticed her reaction. “But that’s if I get the property. I’m praying on it.”
“Might not want to pray too long. Someone might buy it right out from under you,” Shanna quipped.
“Then, that would be God’s will, ain’t so?” Matthew looked into her eyes and held up the key. “I’d best get this out to Levi.”
Mamm put the apple she’d just peeled in the bowl beside her. “Tell him that Sha—his daughter is home.”
So, Daed had forbidden them to mention her name. Nausea roiled within her, and bile rose in her throat. Why was she subjecting herself to this? She shouldn’t have come. Maybe one of those pay-by-the-week establishments in Springfield would have room. If she could afford it.
Matthew’s gaze stayed locked on her. “Ach, he knows. I’m sure he’ll be up in a bit.”
His expression told her nothing. The Canada geese resumed their wild flapping in her stomach. She wasn’t sure if it was more due to the compassion in those beautiful gray eyes or the news that she’d be facing Daed long before she was ready.
Mamm picked up another apple. “Don’t worry yourself. He’ll let you stay.”
Shanna wasn’t too sure.
A thump sounded on the front porch. Then another.
Shanna clutched her stomach, afraid she’d be ill.
The next second, Daed stood in the doorway.