Laura Riehl is no stranger to heartache. Less than a year after her mother’s death, Laura finds herself burying another loved one: her best friend, Savilla, who has died after a brief and sudden illness. Laura feels heartbroken and alone, but her pain is nothing compared to that of Allen, the husband Savilla has left behind. He now faces a life so different from the one he imagined—plus a baby to care for on his own. When Laura offers to help Allen with baby Mollie, he jumps at the opportunity until a permanent solution can be found. She’d do anything to lend a hand to Allen and to honor her best friend’s memory. Rudy, Laura’s boyfriend, is initially supportive of her plan, but the more time Laura spends with Allen, the more jealous and frustrated Rudy seems to become. As Laura and Allen face hardships together, their friendship takes a surprising yet comforting turn—and she discovers an attraction she’s never felt with Rudy. Would falling for Allen betray the people she cares about most, or would denying those feelings betray her heart? This latest installment in the Amish Homestead series returns us to Lancaster County, home of the beloved Riehls, where a family’s strength—and advice from a new friend—may help Laura find God’s direction.
*** WARNING: SPOILER-Y MATERIAL BELOW IF YOU HAVEN'T READ BOOK 1 IN THIS SERIES ***
In the first installment of Clipston's Amish Homestead series, readers witnessed the Riehl family navigating through the unexpected loss of their matriarch. While the first book focused on the life of Jamie Riehl, Room On The Porch Swing, the second book of the series, opens with Jamie's sister, Laura, suffering the unexpected death of her best friend, Savilla, only months after her mother's passing.
Savilla leaves behind a husband, Allen, and a newborn, Mollie. Initially, Allen's mother-in-law comes in to help with Mollie, but when a fall leaves her with a broken leg AND hip, Laura steps in and offers to help Allen with childcare and other domestic needs. The more time Laura spends at Allen's house, the more suspicious her boyfriend, Rudy, becomes. It's all very innocent at first; Laura's focused on looking after Mollie, cooking meals and helping with the laundry and household cleaning / upkeep. But as the months pass, Laura begins to realize she is in fact developing feelings for Allen, feelings that go much deeper than anything she's ever felt for Rudy. But there's also a sense of guilt mixed into that... how can she possibly allow herself to fall for her best friend's widower, especially only months after Savilla's passing? Laura tries her very best to keep things professional and platonic, but regardless of her intent, little Mollie makes it clear to everyone that Laura is the one she prefers above anyone (except maybe dad and grandma).
The chemistry between Laura and Allen --- even at the friendship stage --- was infinitely better than that of Jamie and Kayla from the first book (Jamie and Kayla do get a few brief appearances in this second one, btw, for those curious how their story progresses). The pace and depth of the growing bond between Laura & Allen seemed much more believable than that of Jamie & Kayla. There's also an extra layer of interest provided in the form of Rudy's aggravation / jealousy. It keeps the reader invested, waiting to see in what way(s) his frustration will manifest itself once his patience does finally run out.
Another wonderful element to the story is the sweet, supportive relationship between Laura and her twin brother, Mark. Sure, he spends a bulk of the novel being the lighthearted jokester character who loves being the town ladies' man... but there's also some great scenes where he turns into the protective and concerned brother when he sees his sister hurting. Laura makes a mention in this book of how she'd love to see Mark settle down with a great girl, so that may be addressed in the remaining two books in the series.
One of the best takeaways from this story is how Laura's experiences with men illustrate the differences between a relationship where you are truly valued, and missed when you are away, versus being involved with someone who is not so much invested in you specifically but merely uses you as a relationship placeholder or afterthought... a possession to have there because society tells the person SOMEONE should be in that spot... "might as well be this person here". It's a clever lesson in self respect and the importance of being truly appreciated Clipston leaves her readers with at the close of this book!
FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.
Wow, I’m… I'm totally speechless.
What. A. Ride!
This is hands down one of the best mystery/crime series (both M/M and non-M/M) I have ever read.
I can’t believe that every, and I mean EVERY question raised in the first 4 books, has been answered, and every little detail has been explained. No questions left unanswered here, folks.
Now THIS is how you do a fucking series finale, authors. Take notes!
This final instalment was so very satisfying and such a brilliant conclusion to an all-around amazing series.
I cannot recommend this series highly enough. It will forever be one of my all-time Top 5 favorite series.
I already miss Levi, Dominic, Rebel, Martine, Leila, Natasha, and every other of these so very well-developed characters. It feels like saying good-bye to real people, and while this is first and foremost an acknowledgment to this author's talent, I always hate feeling like this after I finish a book or series.
HUGE BOOK HANGOVER IS HUGE!
Cordelia Kingsbridge, I thank you and I bow to you.
~ 5 STARS ~
Ten-year-old Mary McHugh’s world is shattered when her father is injured in a mining accident in the late 1800’s. After losing his leg, Mary’s father falls into a deep depression. He no longer plays the piano or has interest in carving the intricate wooden "Reminders" that he has always made to remind the family of the milestones they shared together. To make matters worse, the family may need to leave their home in Cripple Creek, Colorado in order to make ends meet. Mary’s love for her father and her desire to get life back to "normal" push her to take a chance that restores her father’s spirit and brings her family a new life, strengthened by the hardships they have endured.
Young Mary McHugh is growing up in the frontier town of Cripple Creek, Colorado in the late 1890s. She has a very loving home life full of jokes, laughter and her father's wood carvings he calls "reminders", since he tends to carve figures inspired by real life memories.
Mary's father, a miner, experiences a work accident one day that costs him one of his legs. The transition into life as an amputee is not an easy one for Mary's father. Even once a large part of his initial physical healing has passed, he still struggles with the emotional turmoil brought about by this new life situation. Mary's father doesn't like to see his wife having to take up work as a laundress to pay the bills now that he is out of work... or Mary herself sneaking in babysitting jobs where she can to supplement the family income. Once a man who took pride in doing an honest day's work, Mary's father now battles a sense of uselessness. But when suggestions are made as to what he can contribute (work-wise), he goes back to moping.
But Mary is determined to do whatever is necessary to raise her father's spirits and keep the family unit strong. It is through Mary's bold, optimistic spirit that an answer to the family's prayers comes about, guaranteeing the reader a happy ending to close on. Once he gets his groove back, Mary's mother can't help but lightheartedly comment, "Guess he got bored with his orneriness."
Although Daddy didn't respond, I saw the corners of his mouth turn up. Just a tiny bit. And a new feeling, a spring feeling, lifted my spirits just a tiny bit too. After that, Daddy's hands were always busy. He made the bookshelf for the parlor. He worked on a new bench for the front porch, and he also began carving new Reminders. Mama didn't mind the mess...I didn't mind the mess either. I loved to sit beside Daddy at the kitchen table while he worked. It was like magic to watch him uncover the secret hidden in the wood. His hands were strong and sure as he held the carving knife.
Family Reminders is a quick little read --- big print, lots of heartwarming illustrations --- but there's a fair amount of heart and inspiring, feel-good plot, even a little humor, woven into these few pages! Author Julie Danneberry writes that the storyline is loosely inspired by the childhood of her grandmother, who grew up in the real Cripple Creek, CO and who also had a father who lost a leg in a mining accident. I'd recommend for fans of the Little House on the Prairie books.