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11.29.2013

An Amish Country Christmas ~ Review and Excerpt

An Amish Country Christmas 
By Charlotte Hubbard/Naomi King

An Amish Country Christmas is a two-in-one book  First up is The Christmas Visitors by Naomi King. Second is Kissing the Bishop by Charlotte Hubbard.  And there is an added bonus 23 pages of Sugar and Spice! which is a delightfully delicious assortment of recipes to create and sample.

If you like Christmas/Winter romance and Amish fiction An Amish Country Christmas will enchant you!  In both stories sisters are about to find love and have fun in the process.

In The Christmas Visitors almost 18 year old twins Mary and Martha Coblentz invite Nate and Bram Kanagy to stay over for Christmas and to help celebrate their 18th birthday.  But when what seems like a possible romance gets nipped by a mischievous prank love seems out of the question.  But Mary and Martha are determined to set things right and have fun in the attempt.  If only they can avoid getting in more trouble everything should be fine....

In Kissing the Bishop two maidel sisters and two bishops find sparks of romance when a winter snowstorm gives them a chance to get to know one another.  Nazareth and Jerusalem Hooley are acting as hostesses for Tom Hostetler when he hosts the area bishops after the Willow Ridge district finds itself without a bishop.  When Bishop Vernon Gingerich stays over sparks start to fly.  But can two maidel sisters find romance with two formerly married bishops?  Only time will tell...

While both stories are equally delightful, I liked The Christmas Visitors best just because of the antics of Mary and Martha.  Dating identical twins can be quite a challenge as Nate and Bram are about to find out and it is fun to to observe (or read) about.

I was provided an ARC copy of this book in conjunction with this Pump Up Your Book (PUYB) blog tour in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author:
I’ve called Missouri home for most of my life, and most folks don’t realize that several Old Older Amish and Mennonite communities make their home here, as well. The rolling pastureland, woods, and small towns along county highways make a wonderful setting for Plain populations—and for stories about them, too! While Jamesport, Missouri is the largest Old Order Amish settlement west of the Mississippi River, other communities have also found the affordable farm land ideal for raising crops, livestock, and running the small family-owned businesses that support their families.

Like my heroine, Miriam Lantz, of my Seasons of the Heart series, I love to feed people—to share my hearth and home. I bake bread and goodies and I love to try new recipes. I put up jars and jars of green beans, tomatoes, beets and other veggies every summer. All my adult life, I’ve been a deacon, a dedicated church musician and choir member, and we hosted a potluck group in our home for more than twenty years.

Like Abby Lambright, heroine of my Home at Cedar Creek series, I consider it a personal mission to be a listener and a peacemaker—to heal broken hearts and wounded souls. Faith and family, farming and frugality matter to me: like Abby, I sew and enjoy fabric arts—I made my wedding dress and the one Mom wore, too, when I married into an Iowa farm family more than thirty-five years ago! When I’m not writing, I crochet and sew, and I love to travel.

I recently moved to Minnesota when my husband got a wonderful new job, so now he and I and our border collie, Ramona, are exploring our new state and making new friends.

You can visit her website at www.CharlotteHubbard.com
Her latest book is An Amish Country Christmas.
Visit her website at www.charlottehubbard.com.
Connect and Socialize with Charlotte!

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Purchase your copy at AMAZON or at Kensington Books.

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Book Spotlight:
Title: An Amish Country Christmas
Genre: Amish Romance
Author: Charlotte Hubbard
Publisher: Zebra Books (October 1, 2013)
Pages: 350
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1420131885
“The Christmas Visitors”: For spirited Martha Coblentz and her twin Mary, the snow has delivered the perfect holiday and birthday present to their door—handsome brothers Nate and Bram Kanagy. But when unforeseen trouble interrupts their season’s good cheer, it will take unexpected intervention—and sudden understanding—to give all four the blessing of a lifetime.

“Kissing the Bishop”: As the New Year’s first snow settles, Nazareth Hooley and her sister Jerusalem are given a heaven-sent chance to help newly widowed Tom Hostetler tend his home. But when her hope that she and Tom can build on the caring between them seems a dream forever out of reach, Nazareth discovers that faith and love can make any miracle possible.

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Excerpt:
Kissing the Bishop

By
Charlotte Hubbard
 1
    Tom Hostetler opened his mailbox out by the snow-packed road and removed a handful of envelopes. A quick glance revealed a few pieces of junk mail and a letter from an attorney whose name he didn’t recognize before the clip-clop! clip-clop! of an approaching buggy made him look up.

   “Morning to you, Tom. And Happy New Year,” Jeremiah Shetler called out as he pulled his Belgian to a halt. “Enos isn’t far behind me. Saw him coming up the highway from the other direction as I turned down your road.”

    “Glad to see you fellows, too,” Tom replied as he stepped up into the carriage with the bishop from Morning Star. “Who could’ve guessed Hiram would disrupt Miriam and Ben’s wedding? He’s set Willow Ridge on its ear—not to mention throwin’ my life into a tailspin—now that we’ve excommunicated him.”

    “Never seen the likes of it,” Jeremiah agreed. He drove down the snowy lane past Tom’s house to park beside the barn. “I still feel God’s will was done, though. Hiram brought this whole thing on himself when he didn’t make his confession. The rumors are flying about that town he’s starting up, too. What’s he calling it?”

     “Higher Ground,” Tom replied with a snort. “But we’re pretty sure he’s got the lowest of intentions, after his dubious ways of raisin’ the money for it. A real sorry situation, this is.” He looked up to see Enos Mullet, the bishop from New Haven, turning his buggy down the lane. “Vernon Gingerich is drivin’ in from Cedar Creek, too.”

    “The four of us will figure things out. Wherever two or more gather in the Lord’s name, He’ll be present.” Jeremiah gazed steadily at him as they paused in the dimness of the barn. “I’ve prayed over this a lot, Tom, and I believe God’s ushering in a new Heaven and a new Earth here in Willow Ridge. And He’s prepared you to handle whatever comes along, my friend.”

    Tom raised his eyebrows. As one of the two preachers for the Willow Ridge district, he was a candidate to become its next bishop . . . a huge responsibility for a man who milked a dairy herd twice a day. “Hope you’re right, Jeremiah. A lot of fine folks are dependin’ on what we decide today.”

    Tom walked out of the stable, noting the gray clouds that gathered in the distance. When the approaching buggy stopped, the man who stepped down from it looked pale. Enos Mullet seemed to get thinner every time Tom saw him, too, what with taking chemo treatments after a nasty bout of cancer. “Enos, it’s gut of ya to come ,” he said as shook the bishop’s bony hand. “You fellas will be glad to hear the Hooley sisters have been helpin’ me get ready for ya. The kitchen smells like they’re cookin’ up something mighty gut for our dinner.”

     “Well then, we certainly won’t starve!” Enos remarked. “Seems like they’ve fit themselves right in amongst you folks. Nice addition to your town.”

     “That they are.” Tom smiled to himself as they led Enos’s Morgan into a stall. He didn’t let on to folks, but Nazareth Hooley had been a lot of company to him this winter, and it was too bad she couldn’t become more than his friend. His wife Lettie had divorced him last Spring, and Old Order Amish couldn’t remarry until their former spouses passed on.

    But his spirits lightened as they stepped into a kitchen filled with the aromas of the fresh pastries and cookies Nazareth and Jerusalem had baked early this morning. As Jeremiah and Enos greeted the sisters and accepted hot coffee and treats, Tom was glad he’d asked them to hostess for him today.

    “Here comes Vernon,” he said, pointing toward the road out front. “And would ya look at that sleigh he’s drivin’, too! You fellows make yourselves comfortable in the front room, and we’ll be right in.”

    What was it about a sleigh that made him feel like a kid again? Tom hurried outside again, delighting in the merry jingle of the harness bells and the proud way Vernon’s Percheron pulled the vehicle.

    “Whoa there, Samson,” the bishop called out. “And gut morning to you, Tom! I’ve had a fine ride, even if those clouds make me think more snow’s on the way.”

     “Jah, I’m glad you’ve come to visit for a day or so. We’ll get right to our business so the other two fellows can be safe on the roads.” Tom stroked the horse’s black neck, grinning. “This looks to be a fine old sleigh, Vernon. Brings to mind the one my dat got from his dat, back when we kids prayed for snow so we could ride in it.”

      “This one’s of the same vintage. And thanks to our James Graber’s way with restoring old vehicles, it’s a beauty again.” Vernon patted the deep maroon velvet that covered the high-backed seat. “Three of the best pleasures in this life are spirited horses, fine rigs, and a gut woman—not necessarily in that order. Guess I’ll be happy with having two of the three.”

     Tom laughed. “Jah, that’s how we have to look at it sometimes.”

     As they stabled Samson and then entered the warm kitchen, Tom felt better about their morning’s mission: Vernon Gingerich was known for his down-to-earth faith and simple wisdom, and his sense of humor made even the most difficult tasks easier to accomplish.

     “My stars, I must’ve stepped into Heaven,” the bishop from Cedar Creek said as he inhaled appreciatively. “Don’t tell me you baked the goodies on this sideboard, Tom!”

     “The credit for that goes to Nazareth and Jerusalem Hooley,” Tom replied as he gestured to each of the women. “Two more generous, kind-hearted gals you’ll never find, Vernon.”

     As the women greeted their final guest, Jeremiah and Enos replenished their plates and made Vernon welcome, as well. It did Tom’s heart good to hear these voices filling his kitchen, to feel the presence of friends who would put their faith and best intentions to work today in behalf of Willow Ridge. Living alone this past year had taught him to appreciate the company of those who had seen him through some rough months.

    As Vernon chose from the array of treats, Tom closed his eyes over a pastry twist that oozed butterscotch filling onto his tongue. When he looked up again, Nazareth was beaming at him, pouring him a mug of coffee. “It’s going to be a gut morning for all of us, Tom,” she assured him. “If you fellows need anything at all, we sisters’ll be right here in the kitchen.”

    “Denki for all you’ve done,” he murmured. “Couldn’t ask for better help, or a better friend than you, Naz.”

    Her sweet smile made Tom wish the snow would pile up around the doors so they couldn’t get out for days—after Enos and Jeremiah had gotten safely home, of course. But he set such wishful thinking aside and led the way into the front room. It was time to determine who would lead Willow Ridge into the New Year . . . into a future no one but God could foresee.

    “Have you ever seen blue eyes that twinkle the way Vernon’s do, Sister?” Jerusalem whispered. She peered through the doorway at the four men who sat around the table where Tom usually carved and painted his Nativity sets—except she and Nazareth had cleared the wooden figures from it earlier today. Jerusalem ducked back into the kitchen when the white-bearded bishop from Cedar Creek smiled at her.

     Nazareth laughed softly. “Seems like a nice fellow, Vernon does. A far cry from the sort of man Hiram Knepp turned out to be.”

    “Jah, you’ve got that right. I’m thankful the gut Lord opened our eyes to his underhanded ways before I let myself get sucked in.” Jerusalem stirred some barley into the pot of vegetable beef soup on the stove. Truth be told, she had been attracted to Hiram Knepp from the moment she’d set foot in Willow Ridge last fall—and he had taken to her right off, too. But as time went by, she’d realized the bishop was more interested in having her keep track of his four younger children than he was in hitching up with an outspoken maidel who’d become set in her ways . . .

     Is it too late for me, Lord? Jerusalem watched the emotions play across her sister’s face as she set places around the kitchen table: it was no secret that Nazareth and Preacher Tom were sweet on each other despite that fact that they couldn’t marry. Surely there must be a fellow who would appreciate her own talents for cooking and keeping up a home . . . a man who could tolerate her tendency to speak her mind and do things her way. Was it such a sin to be competent and efficient enough that she’d never needed a husband?

     “What do you suppose they’ll decide on today?” Nazareth asked as she took six soup bowls from the cabinet. “What with Preacher Gabe havin’ poor Wilma to look after while he’s gettin’ so frail himself—”

    “Jah, I thought it was the wise thing for him to tell Tom, right out, that he couldn’t handle bein’ the new bishop,” Jerusalem agreed. “That leaves Tom as the only real choice, because I can’t see folks wantin’ a totally new fella from someplace else to take over. Tom’s perfect for the job, too.”

    Nazareth’s brows knit together. “It’s a lot to ask of a dairy farmer who’s got such a big herd to milk, especially since his kids all live at a distance and he’s got no wife. Some districts back East wouldn’t even consider a divorced man.”

     “Everyone knows it’s not Tom’s doing that he’s alone.” Jerusalem held her sister’s gaze for a moment. “Not that he’s really by himself, what with you helpin’ him every chance you get.”

     “Folks might frown on me spendin’ so much time here, after he’s ordained,” Nazareth replied in a shaky voice. “Bishops are expected to walk a higher path. Can’t appear to live outside the Ordnung—especially after the way Hiram went rotten on us.”

     Jerusalem set down her long-handled spoon and placed her hands on her younger sister’s shoulders. Nazareth was slender and soft-spoken; had chosen a brilliant green cape dress that looked especially festive today. But her quivering chin told the real story, didn’t it? “So you’re worried that if Tom’s to be the new bishop, he’ll have to forget his feelings for you? I don’t see him doing that.”

     “But—but we’re to devote ourselves to God first and foremost,” Nazareth reminded her. “No matter what Tom and I feel for each other, we’re to follow the Old Ways. I’d begun to believe that God had led me here from Lancaster to find him. . . to be his helpmate someday. But now—”

     Chairs scooted against the floor in the front room. The men’s louder talk made Jerusalem embrace her sister quickly and then step away. “It’s in the Lord’s hands, Sister. Let’s not worry these molehills into mountains before we see what comes of today’s meeting.”

     “Jah, you’re right.” Nazareth swiped at her eyes and began taking food from the fridge. “I’m just being a silly old maidel. Until we came to Missouri, I’d been so certain God meant for me to be a teacher rather than a wife, so maybe I’m just confused.”

     Silly? Confused? Those were hardly words Jerusalem associated with her sweet, hard-working sister, but she certainly understood Nazareth’s sentiments. She, too, had spent her adult life believing she had a different mission from most Plain women. If Hiram hadn’t upset her emotional apple cart, why, she would still be staunchly convinced that teaching—and then coming to Willow Ridge with their three grown nephews—was what she was meant to do. Now she had a bee in her bonnet and she buzzed with a restlessness she didn’t know how to handle. And her longing wouldn’t disappear just because Hiram had.

     As the four men entered the kitchen, however, Jerusalem set aside her worrisome thoughts. “You fellas ready for some dinner? It’s nothing fancy, but we thought soup and hot sandwiches would taste gut on a winter’s day.”

    “Ah, but fancy isn’t our way, is it?” Jeremiah quipped. “You’ve had my mouth watering all morning.”

    “The snow’s startin’ to blow, so we decided Enos and Jeremiah should be gettin’ on the road as soon as we eat,” Tom said. “We’ve pretty much settled our business for today.”

     As the men took places around the table, Jerusalem opened the oven to remove the pan of open-faced ham and cheese sandwiches, which looked like little pizzas. She had picked right up on the fact that Tom hadn’t said Vernon was heading back. Although Cedar Creek was a lot farther away than Morning Star or New Haven, he wore an unruffled expression, as though driving home was the least of his concerns. Nazareth dipped up big bowls of the steaming soup, chockfull of vegetable chunks and beef, while Jerusalem set butter and jelly alongside a basket of fresh whole-wheat rolls.

    “Looks like a feast,” Enos said in his raspy voice.

    Jerusalem took the empty chair across from her sister, wishing she could feed that poor man enough to fill out all his hollows. They bowed in a silent prayer and then Tom passed the platter in front of him. “You fellas are gettin’ a real treat here,” he remarked. “Naz and Jerusalem made the cheese on these sandwiches from their goats’ milk.”

    Vernon’s face lit up as he took two of them. “So those goats in the stable are yours? They seem right at home among the horses.”

    “Oh, jah,” Jerusalem replied, “goats and horses are natural companions. We brought those four from Lancaster with us, well . . . as a gift to the bishop.” She paused, wishing she hadn’t gone down this conversational path. “But when we informed Hiram we wouldn’t be joining him in Higher Ground, we took them back.”

   “And Preacher Tom’s been kind enough to let us keep them here,” Nazareth continued. “Our does will be havin’ kids this spring, and we couldn’t take the chance that they’d not be properly tended.”

   Jeremiah helped himself to the hot sandwiches. “You folks are in the prayers of all the districts around you,” he said in a solemn voice. “Enos and I suspected, back when Hiram confessed to us about his car, that other issues might come to light someday. We can only trust that God has a reason for all the trouble Hiram’s caused.”

    “We also believe, however, that Willow Ridge will be in capable, compassionate hands with Tom as its spiritual leader.” Vernon took a big bite of his open-faced sandwich and then closed his eyes. “My goodness, ladies, what a treat you’ve blessed us with today. I’m ready to buy myself a few goats so I can enjoy more of this marvelous cheese.”

    Jerusalem’s heart fluttered. “Thank you, Vernon. It’s been our pleasure to provide you fellas a meal while you’ve been here on such important business.”

   “So it’s settled then?” Nazareth asked. “Preacher Tom is to become the bishop?”

    “It’s what our prayers and discussion have led us to, jah.” Jeremiah smiled at the man who sat at the table’s head. “What with you folks needing two new preachers now, we feel Tom will provide the continuity—the leadership and spiritual example—to bind up the wounds Hiram has inflicted. It’s not the usual falling of the lot, the way we Amish let God select our bishops, but in your case it’s the most practical solution.”

     Jerusalem noted the way her sister nipped at her lower lip before biting into a roll she’d slathered with butter and jam. Well they knew the blessing Tom Hostetler had been to them and to this entire community, even if it meant Nazareth must put aside her hopes for romance. And while Tom’s expression suggested he had his share of doubts and questions about the role he would assume, he was accepting this new wagonload of responsibility as God’s will for his life.

    Tom’s faith—his willingness to serve without complaint or question—will be an inspiration to us all, Jerusalem thought. Give me the grace to follow where You’re leading me, as well, Lord.

    When Jerusalem looked up, Vernon Gingerich was studying her, and he didn’t lower his eyes for several seconds. It felt unseemly—downright brazen—to return his gaze, yet she indulged herself in this fascinating man’s silent attention anyway. Hadn’t Tom mentioned that the bishop of Cedar Creek was a widower?

    The conversation continued along the lines of farming, shepherding of human flocks, and other topics of common interest as Jerusalem refilled soup bowls and Nazareth brought the goody trays to the table. What a blessing it was to be surrounded by the wisdom and experience these three bishops had brought with them . . . a balm to her soul, after the way Hiram had condemned them when they hadn’t followed him to Higher Ground. It was such a delight to watch the men devour the cookies they’d baked, too. All too soon they were scooting back from the table.

   “Can we send goodies home with you fellas?” Jerusalem asked. “It’d be our pleasure, after the help you’ve given our district today.”

    Jeremiah’s dark eyes flashed with pleasure. “Jah, I’ll take some! Not that I promise they’ll all make it to Morning Star.”

    Enos laughed until his bony shoulders shook. “You’ve got a bottomless pit for a stomach, Jeremiah. These days nothin’ I eat seems to stick. But I’d be happy to relieve Tom of the burden of having to force the rest of them down.”

   “None for me, thanks,” Vernon said as he slipped into his coat. “Tom invited me to stay over, and by the looks of those huge snowflakes he’s a pretty fine weather forecaster. I’ll be back in a few, so don’t put those cookies away yet.”

    A schoolgirl’s grin overtook Jerusalem’s face. Vernon was staying over! And wasn’t that the best news she’d heard in a long, long while?

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Excerpt:
The Christmas Visitors
By 
Naomi King
1

    “Easy, Clyde. Back up, fella.” Nate Kanagy stood aside as his Clydesdale came backwards out of the horse trailer, sensing Clyde was every bit as excited as he was on this fine December twenty-third. The horse whickered and shook his massive head, then waited patiently beside his brother’s bay gelding while Bram shut the trailer gates. Nate stepped up to pay the driver who had brought them here from Willow Ridge this morning. “Thanks again, Gregg. And a merry Christmas to you.”

   “Merry Christmas to you boys and your family, too,” Gregg replied as he started his van. “Enjoy you new sleigh and courting buggy!”

   “Jah, we intend to!” Nate’s brother, Bram, piped up from behind them. “If you can’t have fun drivin’ a new rig, what’s the point of gettin’ one?”

    The two of them waved as Gregg headed back onto the county blacktop, hauling their empty trailer behind him. Then Nate gazed around the little town of Cedar Creek, Missouri. From where they stood in the parking lot of Graber’s Custom Carriages, the countryside rolled gently beneath a fresh blanket of snow, dotted with tall white homes, silos, and barns. Deep green cedar trees followed the creek at the bottom of the hill, where cardinals called to each other. Across the snow-packed blacktop, Treva’s Greenhouse sported a sign that said CLOSED FOR CHRISTMAS, but beside it the Cedar Creek Mercantile bustled with buggies and cars alike. “We’ll get our fill of Aunt Beulah Mae’s homemade goodies tonight—”

   “Along with a hefty helping of her nosy questions and Uncle Abe’s looooong stories,” Bram added.

   “—but a special occasion like this calls for some serious junk food.”

   “Jah, let’s hit the merc.” Bram hitched their two horses to the railing on the side of the carriage shop. “No tellin’ what else we might find there. Looks to be a place that stocks everything under the sun, including stuff you never knew you needed.”

     To Nate, Cedar Creek seemed a lot like most Plain communities, in that the businesses were scattered along the roadside, on the farms where their owners lived. Back home in Willow Ridge they didn’t have a carriage maker, so this trip was indeed a treat: their parents had given them their choice of new vehicles on the understanding that he and his younger brother wouldn’t go running the roads in cars like a lot of Amish fellows did during their rumspringa years. At eighteen, Bram had chosen a buggy so he’d be ready for that day when a special girl compelled him to court and marry her. 

    Nate, however, had a hankering for a sleigh. Nothing else felt so grand on a winter’s day as skimming across the snow-covered hills—and what could be more glorious than such a ride on a moonlit night? After they ate their snack, he couldn’t wait to hitch Clyde to his new rig and take off. He’d been engaged to a special girl last Christmas, only to learn she’d been seeing other fellows, so at twenty, Nate wasn’t out to impress anybody. These days, he was pleasing himself.

    When they entered the mercantile, he felt right at home. The scent of bulk grass seed, stored in wooden bins along the wall, filled the warm air and a wide wooden staircase led to an open second level where they sold work boots and clothing. A banner on the railing said ABBY’S STITCH IN TIME, and a young woman—Abby, most likely—smiled down at him from her treadle sewing machine. Mesh bags of oranges and locally grown apples and potatoes were displayed by the check-out counter. Nate exchanged greetings with the gray-bearded fellow who was ringing up an order and then followed Bram toward the aisles of bulk snacks that had been bagged and labeled here in the store. 

“Here’s those chocolate coconut haystacks you like,” Bram said, “not to mention trail mix and sweet potato chips and saltwater taffy and—”

But Nate wasn’t listening. Down the aisle a ways, where they sold livestock supplies, a girl was hefting a mineral block into her pull cart. Her auburn hair glimmered beneath her white kapp, and as she straightened to her full height, she caught his gaze. Held it for a few moments. Then she leaned down again. It seemed only polite to see if she needed help. 

    As Nate headed her way, he wasn’t surprised to hear the tattoo of Bram’s boots on the plank floor behind him. “How about if I get that for you?” he asked as the redhead wrapped her arms around a fifty-pound sack of horse feed.

   “Jah, how many of those do you need?” Bram chimed in. “No sense in strainin’ yourself when we toss this stuff around all the time.”

    Nate had always heard that blue eyes could twinkle, but now he was seeing it for himself. The young woman looked from him to his brother as though she hid a secret behind her smile. “Not from around here, are you?”

He blinked. Had he sprouted a second head? Did he sound so very different from the Amish fellows here in Cedar Creek? Or was it Bram’s lovestruck-puppy grin that made her say that? “Just got here from Willow Ridge, truth be told,” he replied. “I’m fetching the sleigh James Graber’s built for me—”

   “And he’s got a courtin’ buggy with my name on it,” his younger brother added.

   “Well, you couldn’t ask for a better rig, then,” she remarked. “James has even built special carriages for Disney World and the likes of Miss America, you see.”

    Nate didn’t know a thing about Miss America, but she surely couldn’t hold a candle to this girl. Her ivory skin glowed, with just a few freckles on the bridge of her nose—tiny ones, that he had to lean closer to see. And then there was the way her eyes widened as she gazed back at him. He caught himself and grabbed the bag of feed she’d been lifting. “So how many of these bags do you need?”

   “Four, please. And what’d you say your name was?”

    Bram laughed as he, too, hefted a sack of the oats mixture. “Last name’s Kanagy. I’m Bram—the cute one,” he teased, “and Mr. Shy here is my brother Nate. He got burnt by a girl he was engaged to, so now he mostly keeps to his horses.”

Nate closed his eyes against a wave of irritation as he placed a third sack of the rations in her wooden cart. “If you believe everything my kid brother says, well—but you look to be way ahead of him. And your name would be—?”

The redhead looked him over yet again. “Martha. Coblentz.” She pointed to the shelf where the mineral blocks were. “A couple more of those and I’ve got to get on home. Denki ever so much for your help, fellas. Have a gut time with your new rigs.”

It was on the tip of his tongue to invite her for a sleigh ride, yet Nate hesitated.  After all, they were only spending the night with their aunt and uncle before returning to Willow Ridge tomorrow, in time to celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with their family. As though she suddenly needed to be someplace else, Martha strode down the aisle toward the check-out counter, pulling her sturdy wagon behind her.

   “Well, you blew that one,” Bram muttered.

   “And you, little brother, have a mouth bigger than your brain,” Nate replied under his breath. “We’ll have to work on that.”

    “Jah, Mary?” Martha murmured into her cell phone. She looked behind her as she walked down the road, with the wind whipping at her black coat and bonnet. “You’ve got to come see these two fellas who’re heading over to James’s carriage shop! I just now met them in the mercantile and, well—you can gawk at the both of them all you want, but I’ve already decided to go for Nate.”

   “Puh! What makes you think you get first pick?” her twin retorted.

   “First come, first served. Be there or be square,” Martha quipped. She loved the way her breath came out in a frosty vapor on this brisk December morning. Truth be told, she was enjoying this day a lot more now that she’d met the two Kanagy boys in the mercantile. “Better get a move on, though, or you might miss them. They’re here to fetch a sleigh and a courting buggy James built for them, and they might head right on home afterwards—unless we give them a gut reason to hang around, you know.”

   “Well, I can’t get there any too fast if I’m on the phone with you now, can I?”  Click

    Martha tucked her cell into her coat pocket and continued down the snow-covered road as fast as her heavy pull cart would allow. What with her dat and her older brother Owen out working on a house today, the barn chores fell to her, as they often did. It was just as well, because she preferred working outdoors while Mary was happier helping their mamm get ready for today’s meals as well as Christmas dinner. Martha was perfectly capable of placing those heavy sacks of feeds in their covered bins and then setting out the new mineral blocks for the horses, but wasn’t it a fine thing that two gut-looking fellows had come to help her in the mercantile? The boys around Cedar Creek seemed to think she was part of the landscape . . . always there, so mostly invisible.  Apparently not worth a second look.

    By the time Martha was within sight of the house, here came Mary up the road. 

    Oh, but she had a glint of mischief in her eyes, too! “So what’s in that sack, Sister?” 

    Mary laughed. “That’s my beeswax, ain’t so?”

   “Now don’t go thinking you can have those fellas all to yourself,” Martha protested, playfully blocking her sister’s path. “I was nice enough to tell you about them."

   “And Mamm’s already got her suspicions about me taking out of the house so sudden-like, too. This better be worth my time, Sister!” Mary declared. “After all, it was your dinner—your favorite oatmeal bread and goodies I was baking when you called.”

   “Puh! If you don’t think the walk’s worth your while, then I’ll just have some fun 
with those fellas myself. Not a problem!”

    “We’ll see about that, won’t we?”

    Martha hurried on down the snowy lane to the barn with her cart, which was harder to pull on the clumpy gravel. No doubt her sister would know a fine opportunity when she saw one, so it was best to put these supplies away and feed the animals in short order. The Kanagy boys didn’t know it yet, but as thanks for helping her they were about to receive a Christmas gift like they hadn’t counted on.


An Amish Country Christmas Tour Page