***Special thanks to Ginger Chen of Harvest House for sending me a review copy.***
Jerry Eicher’s bestselling Amish fiction (more than 210,000 in combined sales) includes The Adams County Trilogy, the Hannah’s Heart books, and the Little Valley Series. After a traditional Amish childhood, Jerry taught for two terms in Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. Since then he’s been involved in church renewal, preaching, and teaching Bible studies. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia.
Ok I haven’t read this book yet, but I can tell you this. Anything Jerry Eicher writes is gold in my book! Where Love Grows is the third book in his series Fields Of Home, so I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of Where Loves Grows, as well as the first two books in this series, Missing Your Smile and Following Your Heart for your reading enjoyment. You will not be disappointed!
Susan Hostetler made her way to the barn to hitch the horse for the drive to the small farmstead where James and Teresa would live after their wedding next week. Susan smiled as she thought of Deacon Ray’s struggle to get used to the idea that his son James was marrying an Englisha girl. Nee, it had not been easy for him. Of course, Teresa was Amish now. In the months since she had arrived with Susan, Teresa had turned into a model of submission and humility. Deacon Ray shouldn’t complain even if Teresa’s baby, Samuel, had been born out of wedlock before she came to the community. Yah, in an unwed state, but wasn’t changing one’s life for the better a commendable thing to do? Of course it was.And Teresa was now properly baptized. She knew how to cook, wash clothes, and sew with the best of the women. She even had her own quilt completed and stashed in the cedar chest upstairs awaiting the day she and James would marry. She would spread the quilt on their bed and be able to say with complete honesty that she had done much of the work. There had been help from Mamm, five of Susan’s eight sisters who lived nearby, and Susan herself. Between the work on the quilt, helping Teresa adapt to her new life, and now the plans for the upcoming wedding, the months had sped by.
Summer was waning, and it wouldn’t be long until snow would be covering the Amish farms spread among these rolling hills of southern Indiana. But now was not the time to think of snow. The rest of summer lay ahead, followed by fall, and perhaps a glorious display of Indian summer. How appropriate that would be for all of them. And Teresa deserved a wonderful stretch of gut weather, both before and following her wedding day. It would be fitting after the hard road she’d traveled after arriving in the Amish community.
Mamm hadn’t seemed worried back then by the attempt to match Yost Byler and Teresa. But Susan had been ready to panic before Yost finally decided, with Susan’s daett’s help, that marrying Teresa wasn’t a gut idea. Such a marriage would have been a disaster for Teresa and probably also for Yost. Yah, he needed a wife who had been born Amish to cook and clean for him. The gut news floating around the community was that Yost may have finally found an older widow as a potential frau.
Only a few days remained until Teresa’s wedding to James. It would take place here on the Hostetler home place, just like Daett had provided for all Susan’s sisters. How could things be more awesome than that?
Perhaps the icing on the cake was the love that was now beginning to stir afresh in Susan’s heart for her old flame, Thomas Stoll. Who could have imagined such a thing? Yah, she had loved Thomas since their school days, but that love came to a halt the day she caught Thomas kissing Eunice outside a hymn singing one Sunday night. Thomas had claimed he’d just had a “weak moment.”
After escaping into the Englisha world for a time, Susan was back now. And despite all the fuss, she and Thomas were getting together again. Of course, it hadn’t hurt that Teresa had encouraged her to restore the relationship after Thomas’s repeated apologies and continued attention. Mamm and Daett also gave their encouragement at every opportunity. But it was Teresa’s opinion that had carried the real weight. How strange that an Englisha girl should have such sway in her life. But that was how things had turned out. Teresa was now the friend closest to Susan’s heart.
Since Susan had returned from her flirtation with the Englisha world in Asbury Park, New Jersey, Thomas was the picture of repentance. Had he wanted to, he could be married to Eunice by now—or to just about any other young woman in the community. But Thomas hadn’t pursued anyone but Susan in the months since her return. The result was that Susan felt some trust returning in her heart for him. Perhaps someday soon her heart would be fully restored.
In the meantime, there was no need to rush into setting a wedding date, even with Thomas’s pleadings that they do. Yah, he loved Susan and wanted to marry her, but he also wanted to begin the work of taking over the farm from Susan’s daett. In fact, he wanted it very badly. Thomas had no background in farming since his daett was a cabinetmaker, but he was anxious to learn.
Mamm and Daett were older now and tired. They both yearned for the comfort of the dawdy haus, which would be built as soon as the matter between Thomas and Susan was settled by marriage. Until then, Daett had hired young Steve Mast to help with the farm. He’d started in the spring and was a hard worker—no doubt due to his being raised on an Amish farm over in Daviess County. During the days he worked Daett’s farm, Steve took his supper and lodging at Susan’s sister’s place. Ada and her husband, Reuben, lived just down the road a piece.
Steve was a rare find, Daett said. A real answer to their prayers. Not many Amish men were available for hiring out once they became of age at twenty-one. Either they were married, were planning to get married, or had work on their own family places.
Steve didn’t have work on his daett’s place, neither did he have a girlfriend or a prospect that anyone knew of. He was the second boy in a family of ten—six of them being boys. He wasn’t that handsome or forward about himself, a good quality for an Amish man.
Susan stopped just short of the barn and looked up at the swaying branches of the old oak where she’d once had a swing and had climbed to its highest limbs. She sighed to think she was too old for that now. But at least she was here. She was home, hopefully to stay.
It was here she had played in the front yard with her cousins and older sisters during many a summer. Here she had watched Daett harness the horses in the first light of dawn. Here she had watched him take the teams to the fields, where his tall form moved in and out of view all day. Here her heart had taken deep enough root that she was pulled back after her time in Asbury Park. Susan sighed again. Was this why she was giving in to Thomas? Was this why she was allowing him to bring her home on Sunday nights again? Was she accepting his attentions although still feeling a little uncertain about their future?
No, it was more than that. It was high time she made up her mind and settled down with a husband. Steve couldn’t work for Daett forever. And Daett was getting up in years. He and Mamm deserved to move into a dawdy haus and not work so hard. Was that how her love for Thomas would grow? Her desire to stay here in her childhood home, Thomas’s desire to farm, and Mamm and Daett’s desire to settle in a dawdy haus?
It was possible, Susan supposed. Hadn’t Mamm said love could grow anywhere? Anywhere it was allowed to, that is. Then Susan would allow it for everyone’s sake. If love came slowly for her, then so be it. She and Thomas would have a lifetime for her love to grow stronger. That it was beginning small and uncertain for her would be her secret.
As Susan reached to open the barn door, a man cleared his throat behind her. Susan jumped and whirled around.
“Umm…I have the horse ready,” Steve said. “He’s tied up in the first stall.”
Susan relaxed. “You didn’t have to do that, Steve. I would have done it.”
A hint of a smile crossed Steve’s face. “It was no trouble. Happy to do it.” He looked up at the clear sky. “It’s sure a beautiful morning.”
“Yah, it is,” Susan answered. “Well, thanks for getting Toby ready. I wasn’t expecting that. I know you’re busy with the usual chores Daett gives you.”
“Your daett is a gut man and a gut farmer.” Steve tugged the hat rim down over his eyes more. “He’s done a gut job keeping things up on the farm, even with his age.” With that, he turned to go.
Without thinking, Susan asked, “Do you have any secrets, Steve?”
He stopped and looked back over his shoulder. “Me? Secrets? I’m a pretty ordinary fellow. No secrets.”
“Really? I thought everyone had secrets.”
“Not me. I’m pretty much what you see. No secrets and no roots. I’m kind of like the dandelions in the field. I grow where Da Hah blows me.”
“So why don’t you have a girl?”
His eyes twinkled. “Maybe I haven’t found the perfect one yet.”
“Is that why you moved to a new community? To…”
“Scout the land?” He finished her sentence. “Perhaps. Do you have anyone in mind?”
“Nee,” Susan said. “And I don’t know why I even asked something like that. Maybe it’s that type of morning.”
He smiled. “I’m afraid you’ll have to look someplace other than myself for secrets. And no offense taken.”
“Thank you,” she said. “What do you think of Teresa and James?”
He raised his eyebrows. “They seem like a nice enough couple. Why do you ask?”
“Oh, no reason,” she said. “I suppose you heard about all the ruckus before they got together.”
Steve shrugged. “I don’t pay much attention to rumors. They look like they’re in love with each other. That should be gut enough for anyone.”
“I want nothing more from life,” she said, “than to settle down to a boring sameness, day after day, night after night, living in peace and love. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”
“I don’t know about that,” he said. “I’m not much into boring. I’m surprised you are. I heard you’d been with the Englisha for a while. That’s not something a person does who’s looking for boring.”
“So now you’re paying attention to rumors?”
Steve laughed. “I didn’t really hear that much. People seem to think highly of you. And I’m sure your mamm and daett will be happy if you plan to stay. And Thomas, of course.”
“What do you think of him?”
“Thomas?” He paused for a moment. “You want me to comment on your boyfriend?”
“Yah, I’m asking you. Coming from another community, you might have an unbiased perspective.”
“What if I don’t like him? Can I continue working here?”
She laughed. “I’m not going to chase you off.”
“Come on now. Tell me the truth.”
Steve tilted his head sideways. “Thomas comes from a good family, as far as I can tell. Of course, I don’t know what secrets lie in his past. Maybe he ran off to the Englisha world for a while too. You know, something wild like that.” His eyes twinkled as he spoke the last line.
“So you think that’s a character flaw? You keep bringing it up.”
“Depends on why a person did it, I guess.”
“Let’s just say I had my reasons.”
“Fair enough,” he said.
They stood silent for a moment.
Susan finally said, “Well, I better get busy or Teresa will wonder what’s happened to me.”
“And I better get busy in the fields before your daett thinks I’ve gone lazy on him.” He turned and left.
Susan went into the barn thinking about the exchange. Steve hadn’t given away much about his past. Not that it was any of her business. But a person just couldn’t help wondering. Had some girl dumped him? He’d probably had his heart broken, and the wound was healing slowly and out of sight of the people who knew him.
She’d done much the same thing by moving to Asbury Park. True, it had been time spent among the Englisha. But Da Hah had brought good things out of the experience. That time of her life was nothing to be ashamed of.
Susan untied Toby and led him outside. Lifting the shafts of the buggy, she swung him underneath and fastened the tugs. Holding the bridle, Susan looked toward the house and waited. There was still no sign of Teresa.
Thoughts of last Sunday night buzzed through Susan’s head. Thomas hadn’t tried to kiss her yet. In a way she wished he would. It might hurry things along. But apparently Thomas wasn’t willing to rush things until she agreed to a wedding date. To his credit, he seemed to ignore the fact that Eunice still made eyes at him almost every Sunday night at the hymn singings. Mamm was right though. Susan needed to trust Thomas and believe he wouldn’t fall again just because Eunice batted her eyes at him. After all, Thomas claimed Eunice acted that way toward all the boys, which was partly true. To his credit, Thomas really didn’t want Eunice. He was choosing her—Susan. That was worth something, wasn’t it? Surely his persistence would arouse some of the old feelings she used to have for him.
And now here came Teresa, running across the yard, her face glowing with happiness. At least somebody had things figured out in this world.