The Secret Keeper by Beverly Lewis

A Different Twist and A Great Read. As the fourth book in the Home to Hickory Hollow series by Beverly Lewis, The Secret Keeper introduces us to an Old Amish Order from the perspective of a young seeker, Jenny. Jenny is a young adult who wants to leave her privileged middle class background to join the Amish and convert to their faith. Before joining the Amish church, Jenny must live among the People, learn their ways, and pass her Proving time.

Thanks to an Amish acquaintance, Jenny dives optimistically into Amish life and takes up residence with Rebecca and Samuel Lapp. Jenny loves everything Plain and finds peace and hope in her new surroundings. But, as Beverly Lewis adeptly shows us through Jenny’s story, just running from the past and pursuing a dream does not make a wholly perfect life.

As Lewis does so well, she uses the routine experiences of Amish life to show us how much relationships matter, especially family relationships. While Jenny struggles with her own insecurities, she learns that her Amish friends, despite living a simpler life, also struggle with making their hearts right with God and their families.

Jenny’s is a touching story of courage and hope in the future, and learning to accept our humanity. Bethany House Publishing sent me a complimentary copy of The Secret Keeper by Beverly Lewis to review.

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The Miner’s Lady by Tracie Peterson

As the third book of Tracie Peterson’s Land of Shining Water series, The Miner’s Lady introduces us to the Italian population that immigrated to Minnesota.  Peterson introduces the Italian culture through the Calarco and Panetta families who emigrated from the same area of Italy. While they have a motherland in common, they stoke an old feud between their families.  Peterson adeptly show us how cultural ties traveled with the people who settled Minnesota. She shows how they brought their strength and resolve, and often how they brought their passions that both help and interfere with their new lives in America.

As a main protagonist, the young woman Chantel Panetta has returned from a long trip to Italy to discover that her younger sister has fallen for Orlando Calarco. Still influenced by the old feud, Chantel is reluctant to support Isabella in her new romance. Slowly though, sisterly affection overrides old traditions and Chantel sees that Isabella and Orlando are right to put the hard feelings of their families behind them.  But resolve, however well meant, does not seem enough to help their parents see the futility of the feud.

Once again it didn’t take long for Peterson to draw me into another intense historical drama, where she shows us the strength the immigrants brought to Minnesota as they labored in the iron mines and their families who worked hard to adapt to a new life in America. She captured well the harshness of God fearing people struggling to choose right while living in the midst of hardened mining towns that encourage vice. With romance mixed with adventure Peterson takes us into the dangers of the iron mines and into the hearts that struggle with harmful traditions.

In my opinion, Chantel embodies well the promise that America gave to many immigrants who found more freedom to think for themselves and embrace a new life that included the best of their old cultures. Bethany House Publishing sent me a complimentary copy of The Miner’s Lady by Tracie Peterson to review.