Rooted in Love
Rosemary Lantz is doing her best to run her family's household. She excels at all her tasks except one: gardening. Saul Petersheim has pursued Rosemary for years, but Rosemary keeps turning him down. What Saul doesn't know is that she has good reason--something no one can know--especially not him.
Good story. Rosemary and Saul had dated when they were teens, until Rosemary abruptly broke things off. Now she takes care of her widowed father and her three brothers, and dreams of what might have been. Saul has never given up on the love he felt for her and keeps asking her out. When Rosemary's dad and Sauk are injured in an accident, Saul insists on helping out, in spite of his own injuries, hoping for another chance.
I loved Saul. He's true in his love for Rosemary and doesn't give up, even when it seems hopeless. His sense of honor insists on him helping out because he was the one who caused her father's injuries. It was a bit amusing to see that he didn't handle his own injury too well.
I had a bit more trouble with Rosemary. She doesn't treat Katherine very well because she's jealous of what appears to be the other woman's perfect life. I admired the way that she has taken care of her family since her mother's death, especially since she is often overwhelmed by it all. But she is also a little bitter about having missed out on the husband and children she wants. She is still in love with Saul, but doesn't treat him very well. The reason she broke things off haunts her, and she wonders if it was worth the loss of the man she loves.
I got pretty frustrated with her because she was so inconsistent with her treatment of Saul. I was glad to see her talk to her friend about what happened and that it gave her the motivation to actually talk to him about it. When she finally got up the courage to do so, it was to find that it had been a misunderstanding of what she heard. If she had only taken the time to talk to him about it, so much time wouldn't have been lost. However, I liked Saul's philosophical look on the lost years.
There was also a secondary story involving Rosemary's dad, Wayne, and Katherine. Rosemary's treatment of Katherine nearly ruined the blossoming of their romance. I ached for both Wayne and Katherine and their unhappiness. I was happy to see Rosemary see her mistakes and try to fix things.
A Love for Irma Rose
The year is 1957, and young Irma Rose has a choice to make. Marry the man who loves her? Or go after Jonas, the high-spirited, yet noncommittal man her heart loves?
Good story. Irma Rose is sixteen and finally old enough to date. She has two young men who are pursuing her. Jake, an upright, serious and handsome fellow. And Jonas, a rascal of a guy with a taste for speed and cigars. She feels that she's being led toward Jake, otherwise why would her hands be clammy and her stomach churn around Jonas? But Jonas won't give up, even when she chooses to date Jake instead. She thinks she has her life all planned, but something happens that has her rethinking.
I really liked Jonas. Yes, he's a bit reckless and wild at times, but he's also steady and loving. He had first seen Irma Rose three years earlier and knew right then that she was the girl for him. He just had to be patient. I enjoyed his confidence that things would eventually work out. His father died three years ago, leaving Jonas to take care of his mother and four sisters. He works hard and sometimes makes poor choices when he gets a chance to take a break. In this story he ends up with some Englischers who are arrested for drag racing and drinking. Because he can't pay the fine, he ends up in jail for two weeks, just after his mother is hospitalized.
I liked Irma Jean too, though she seemed to be a bit hard on Jonas. She was so intent on dating Jake that I had to laugh a little over the date itself. It didn't go quite as she expected. She is a kind person at heart, and when Jonas's mother is in the hospital, she's one of the people that brings food to help the family. When she goes back later and discovers the girls there alone, she steps right in to help. It was fun to see the things she learned about Jonas from his sister (always a good source).
Both Irma Jean and Jonas learn something about themselves and their choices during this story. I liked seeing Jonas realize that he's in control of his own life and his choices affect more than just himself. Irma Jean discovered that perhaps she likes a little more adventure in her life than she thought. I also liked that she realized she was still pretty young and didn't need to decide her whole life right away. I loved the segment at the end showing she and Jonas as grandparents.
There was also an interesting bit between Jonas and his cellmate, when Theo was talking about his life. Jonas tried to help him. It turned out that there was an unexpected connection between the two of them. I liked knowing what happened to Theo after he got out of jail too.
Eli Byler has been a widower for two years when he chooses to make a fresh start in Paradise, Pennsylvania. Eli's children are determined to keep their family the way it is, but they aren't in Paradise long before the available ladies begin to show an interest in Eli. As Eli juggles the admiration of two women, he meets Miriam Fisher--the most unconventional Amish woman he's ever met. She doesn't fit the mold for what Eli is looking for, but it isn't long before Eli realizes that Miriam is everything he wants. But with two children constantly trying to sabotage his efforts, will he ever be happy again?
This was a good story. Eli has moved to Paradise with his two children two years after his wife's death. He wants to marry again, but his district is small with few available women. Two widows, Ruth and Elizabeth, notice him right away and make their interest plain. He also meets another woman, Miriam, who is nothing like he expects. She has made it plain to everyone that she doesn't intend to marry. He is fascinated by her, even though she doesn't cook, garden, or do the other things expected of an Amish woman.
It was fun to see Eli trying to find his way through the dating world. Both widows are appealing to him at first look. But a meal with each of them shows him that perhaps they aren't quite what he's looking for. It doesn't help anything that neither of his children is exactly enthusiastic about the prospect of a new mother.
Eli's daughter Grace is having her own problems. At almost sixteen, she's caught the eye of Wayne, a seventeen year old with a reputation as a heartbreaker. She's happy about his attention, until he starts to want more than she's willing to give. Several times they are interrupted by Miriam, who knows Wayne's reputation. Grace soon realizes that Miriam is someone she can go to for help if she needs it, and she soon does.
I loved Miriam's understanding and compassion when she talks to Grace. She opens up a little to Grace, sharing some things about herself that helps the girl. I liked how she talks to Eli for Grace, and his own understanding about Miriam comes out of that talk. I loved how Eli showed Miriam that she too deserves a chance to be happy.
When Christmas Comes Again
Katherine knows the first Christmas without Elias will be hard for her and the children. But when a mysterious Englischer appears with photographs of her late husband, Katherine begins to wonder what other blessings Christmas could have in store.
Good story, though not a romantic one. Katherine and her children are all having a hard time dealing with their grief after Elias's death. Katherine is a little disturbed when a strange man starts following her around. Then he delivers a box of photographs of her husband and she and the children, with an invitation to meet for coffee so he can explain. Who he is comes as a surprise to her, and she continues to meet with him.
Mary Carol and her boyfriend Abe meet the same man at an abandoned farmhouse. There is something about him that Mary Carol finds interesting, and the two befriend the man.
I liked how James had such insight into the grief they felt and an amazing sense of how each would deal with it best. I also enjoyed his stories and wondered, along with the others, how much of it was true. His actions were occasionally bizarre and I had a feeling there was a story behind them. I loved the ending, with the way that the family embraced him.