BOOK REVIEW: An Amish Summer by Shelley Shepard Gray, Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller and Kelly Irvin

A new novella collection of sweet, summer romances from some of our favorite Amish authors!
A Reunion in Pinecraft by Shelley Shepard Gray
When sisters Sharon and Sherilyn Kramer attend a wedding in Shipshewana, one of them returns with a new penpal while the other returns to her job at the bakery. After sending weekly letters back and forth, Sherry and Graham Holland arrange a reunion in Pinecraft. Upon Graham s arrival, however, he realizes he s been writing to the wrong sister. He decides to use the reunion as a way to get to know both sisters, but can he sort through the confusion in time to turn the worst vacation ever into something truly wonderful?

Novella's are so hard for me.  I miss out on things that simply can't be accomplished in such a short span.  The author did a really good job of taking a previous event and making it real through the letters and interactions of the participants.  She set the scene of the mix-up so well that you don't feel like you missed a terrible lot.  It did bothered me that he seemed so clueless and wasn't able to separate what was in his eyes from what was in his heart and head from the letters. I feel like opportunities to develop more into these characters was lacking and there were a few phrasings that seemed awkward and off.  Gaa, to review a short novella in a short paragraph is hard!  This was a great first story to this compilation and I'd definitely be interested in seeing these characters in a full length novel.

Summer Storm
by Amy Clipston
Arianna is counting down the days until her wedding to Jesse. They have been friends longer than Arianna can remember, and that friendship turned into love over the past couple of years. But when Arianna s brother Isaac, who happens to be Jesse s best friend, gets them both into trouble, Arianna's father puts an end to her engagement to Jesse. Some summer storms pass quickly, but Arianna is afraid the damage from this one may be too much to repair.

I feel like I just read the Amish version of an After School Special.  Only better.  And not cheesy.  The author managed to build characters, a plot, and a cohesive story in a novella package that leaves you feeling like you almost read a short full-length novel.  An emotionally abuse father, poor choices as teens that affect how other's view you as an adult, and using alcohol as a coping mechanism.  Any of that feel like it would easily describe any English family on any street in America?  It's not just any English family in America, it's the Smucker family in Amish country.  It's real and gritty and engaging and I don't think I'd want it any other way.

Lakeside Love by Kathleen Fuller
Esther has always lived in the shadow of her beautiful younger sister Sarah. Even the boy she has known and loved her entire life, Judah, only has eyes for Sarah. But when a handsome young Englischer comes to live with the family for a summer, everything begins to change.

How do I begin to review this novella.  I really liked the story in that it pulled everything together in such a sweet way without resorting too much into cliche.  However, there were a few near pet peevy things that my mind keeps wandering back to.  Not soap box material but well...I don't know.  What bothered me the most is the way Judah and Ester's feelings changed so quickly.  While it's more realistic to think that Judah did realize quickly what he had been missing with Ester, how Ester's change in thought and belief I just can't buy.  When you feel backseat your entire life and someone that you care for suddenly professes their love it's not an 'oh really, I love you too' moment.  It's more a are you pulling my leg, what do you want, why do you tease me sort of moment.  It's a taking time to show over and over again that it's real and developing trust in new feelings. This story was sweet and engaging.  The characters were well developed for such a short time span though with the 'one year later' after part I feel like so very much was lost.  These characters would do better as a full length novel where their whole story could come to life.  

One Sweet Kiss by Kelly Irvin

Everybody in little Bee County, Texas, can see the obvious: Jacob King and Martha Byler are meant to be together. Everyone, that is, but Martha. Ever since her mother died when Martha was a young girl, she has taken over the role of caregiver to her large family. And reckless Jacob, who has had a little too much fun on his rumspringa, only seems to add to the list of people to manage. But one summer changes everything, and these two may just find a way to meet in the middle and share one sweet kiss.

 What could have been an incredible story lost something at the edges.  First, it was hard to truly get into sync with the characters as they seem to have ties into an ongoing story-line elsewhere so there was history and development that are lost.  I feel like Martha uses her mother as a crutch to not make changes for herself and move forward.  Don't get me wrong, I can't begin to imagine the long term effects of such an event happening at such a tender age, but she brings it up as an 'excuse' at such awkward moments that don't blend well to the story and leave me a little bamboozled.  Like the first story in this book, some of the phrasing was off and read awkwardly.  There were some rough scene transitions as well.  I loved the side story of Simon and Amanda.  This story would have greatly benefited from my knowledge of events that played out here but are obviously referenced in other books.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by Kathleen Fuller and NetGalley.  I was not compensated for this review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.  I was not required to write a positive review.

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An Amish Summer
About Shelley Shepard Gray

Before writing romances, Shelley lived in Texas and Colorado, where she taught school and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. She now lives in southern Ohio and writes full time. Shelley is married, the mother of two children in college, and is an active member of her church. She serves on committees, volunteers in the church office, and currently leads a Bible study group, and she looks forward to the opportunity to continue to write novels that showcase her Christian ideals.
When she’s not writing, Shelley often attends conferences and reader retreats in order to give workshops and publicize her work. She’s attended RWA’s national conference six times, the ACFW conference and Romantic Times Magazine’s annual conference as well as traveled to New Jersey, Birmingham, and Tennessee to attend local conferences.

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About Amy Cliptson
I enjoy spending time with my family, including my hubby, my two wonderful sons, my mom, and my four spoiled-rotten cats. I love reading.
I'm an advocate for organ and blood donation. I donated a kidney on June 14, 2011, at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Through my donation, my husband received a second kidney transplant. My husband and I matched another couple and we swapped kidneys with them. I gave a kidney to my husband's donor's wife. Feel free to email me and ask me what it was like to be a kidney donor. It was one of the most amazing experiences in my life. If you're healthy, please donate blood! Also, become an organ donor.

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 About Kathleen Fuller

Kathleen Fuller is the best-selling author of over thirty books, including the Hearts of Middlefield series.
1. I started writing January 1, 2000. New year, new millenium, new career.
2. I’m a former special education teacher, specializing in teaching the blind and visually impaired.
3. I was born in New Orleans, LA, raised in Little Rock, AR, and call Geneva, OH my home.
4. On June 12, 2013, my husband and I will celebrate twenty years of marriage.
5. We have three awesome kids.
6. I love chocolate. ‘Nuff said.
7. I’ve written and published over twenty-five novels and novellas.
8. I also write nonfiction–interviews, devotionals, Bible studies, essays, blog posts…
9. We have three dogs–Biscuit, Mollie, and Chief. And one cat, creatively named Kitty.
10. If I could go anywhere in the world I would go to Ireland.

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About Kelly Irvin

The Kansas native is a graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism. She has been writing nonfiction professionally for more than thirty years, including ten years as a newspaper reporter. She recently retired after working 22 years in public relations for the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Alamo City Christian Fiction Writers.
Kelly is married to photographer Tim Irvin.  They make their home in San Antonio, Texas. They have two young adult children, two grandchildren, and two ornery cats. In her spare time, she likes to write short stories and read books by her favorite authors, especially mysteries and romantic suspense novels.

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