Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Last Bride - Beverly Lewis (Bethany House - Apr 2014)

Series: Home to Hickory Hollow (Book 5)

Of her Old Order parents' five daughters, Tessie Miller is the last to marry. She has her heart set on Amishman Marcus King, but Tessie's father opposes the match.

Impetuously, Tessie and Marcus elope to the English world, then return to Hickory Hollow to live as singles, trusting they'll convince the Millers to give their love a chance over time. But when the unthinkable happens, Tessie faces the almost-certain censure of the People. Will she find a reason for hope in spite of her desperate plight?

Good book. Tessie and Marcus have been in love for a long time, but no matter what they do, they can't get Tessie's father to approve their courtship. After months of trying, the two secretly marry at the county courthouse, then return home to live as singles. Marcus continues to try to gain Ammon's approval. Meanwhile, they seize every opportunity they can to be together. After several more weeks, Marcus is ready to just announce their marriage and face the consequences, when he is killed in an accident. Tessie is devastated. Worse yet, she finds out she's pregnant, and without the marriage certificate she can't reveal her marriage.

I ached for Tessie throughout most of the book. First, to be denied marriage to the one she loved, to the point where they felt they must marry in secret. Then the following weeks of living apart, when all she wanted was to be a proper wife to Marcus. I completely understood her frustration. Then to have him die so tragically before they can reveal their marriage left her in a kind of limbo. She's a widow, even though no one knows it, and because of that they don't understand the depth of her grief. As she tries to go on with her life, she discovers that she's pregnant. She doesn't know what to do, so she hides her pregnancy as long as she can. Without proof of her marriage she is in danger of losing her status within the church. I was really worried for her and how things would go with the church elders. There was an interesting twist at the end that made a huge difference.

Added to the mix is the young man that Tessie's father wanted for her. He is still interested in Tessie and makes sure that she knows it. Because of her circumstances, she isn't too sure he knows what he'd be getting into. I really liked Levi. He was kind and patient with her uncertainty. I also liked his belief in her when she told him the whole story. He also had a very different personality than Marcus, one that I think was better suited to her anyway.

Also intertwined throughout the book was the story of Tessie's sister Mandy and her husband Sylvan. Mandy had followed her father's dictates and married his choice for her, even though she cared for another. At the beginning of the book she is unhappy in her marriage. Her husband is rather distant, they still haven't been able to conceive, and she needs something to distract her. A friend wants her to join in opening a shop selling Amish goods. This really appeals to Mandy, who sees it as a way to expand her world, but she's afraid that Sylvan won't approve. Over the course of the book, the slowly learn to communicate with each other, with Sylvan taking a surprisingly proactive approach. By the end, both have found unexpected happiness in their match.

There was an unexpected theme also, that of the problem of birth defects in the Amish community. Because there is so much intermarriage, the instances of serious genetic problems has been growing worse. Partway through the book, Tessie discovers that the reason her father was against her marriage to Marcus was that they are more closely related than is wise, opening them up to greater possibility of that happening to them. With her pregnancy, this adds even more stress, as Tessie worries about the future health of her baby.

I really liked the ending and seeing how things worked out for the various people in the book. I also enjoyed the occasional appearance/mention of characters from previous books. Ellie Mae, the wisewoman, is always interesting to spend time with. I also loved the mention of Katie Lapp, who was the first of Beverly Lewis's characters I read about, and who got me hooked on her as an author.

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