When Emma leaves the security of her Amish community for a job in North Carolina, she finds herself navigating choices, circumstances, and a relationship that she never could have imagined. Follow as she struggles to reconcile her faith and her complicated feelings in this romance by bestselling Amish writer Linda Byler.
(From the book blurb)
Love in Unlely Places is an unusual kind of an Amish book, a book that isn’t just entertaining, but also touches upon more difficult questions.
When we first meet our protagonist Emma Beiler, she is reflecting on the artistic talent of one of her pupils and whether it is worth developping it at all. At 26, Emma is already considered a leftover blessing or in other words an old maid. Is she too picky? She wants to have that special feeling she experienced once when she fell in love with a smart, open-minded man, who later chose a quiet, obedient girl, not as curious or opinionated as Emma. He chose to marry her younger sister. Emma was heartbroken and threw herself into work. Now, ten years later, she feels her life has become too repetitive and even her teaching is missing the joy and spark it once had. Should she try to date one of the available single men of her community? She could probably force herself to like somebody and become a loyal and supportive wife. Or is God’s plan for her is to stay single and devote herself to her family, her nephews and nieces? Emma’s character and her dilemma is relatable to anybody single who is feeling the pressure to settle down, whose relatives are taking every opportunity to ask her/him when she/he is going to get married and whose friends keep hinting that her/his standards might be too high.
Emma decides to change her life and starts by looking for a job outside her community. She gets an interview and is hired to be a nanny to two children aged two and six. As the family are going to have their summer holidays in their beach house in North Carolina, Emma’s world is about to get dramatically expanded. The descriptions of the oceanfront, the sights, the smells are amazing. For Linda Byler, nature is a manifestation of God’s love for humankind.
I really enjoyed reading about Emma’s interactions with the children in the Englisher household. She is kind, respectful and patient. She knows her job is to observe, not impose her own ideas, but it becomes apparent very soon that the children would benefit from stricter boundaries, clearer guidelines and perhaps more genuine attention on the part of their parents. To Emma’s great surprise, the family hired an Amish construction team to work on their house and this is how she meets charming, easy-going, well-spoken Ben, who wouldn’t mind getting to know Emma better. She might be reserved and afraid of getting her hear broken again, but gradually Emma opens up to the possibility of having finally met somebody unlike the other single men in her community, somebody who is more informed, more worldly, and openly attracted to her.
When Emma’s contract is terminated suddenly, she doesn’t get a chance to say good-bye or exchange contact information with Ben. Still, he knows enough about her to be able to find her address and write to her and this thought is something Emma is cherishing deep in her heart, as she is settling back into her farm life at home. As more and more days and weeks and months pass, Emma is facing now a different kind of dilemma: should she continue trusting that Ben is still in love with her and will turn up on her doorstep and whisk her away or should she listen to her family and friends who are much more cautious?
Emma’s friend Eva suggests a camping trip with her husband and their baby. They are also joined by Eva’s cousin Matt who, although adopted and raised by an Amish family, later chose to live as an Englisher. Emma and Matt discover that they have a lot in common, but being Amish, her faith and traditions are very important to Emma, so she cannot permit herself get attracted to Matt. There is still hope for Ben, after all. And he does write and invite her back to North Carolina. Can anybody’s love life get more complicated than that? Read the book and find out what future has in store for Emma.
Love in Unlikely Places is indeed an unusual kind of romance, with a heroine who is intelligent and well-informed in some ways, and desperately romantic and perhaps even naive in other ways. The book touches upon a variety of topics ranging from raising children, the use of technology, post-natal depression, adoption, politics, historical justice, and even global warming. There is romance, there are diffrent kinds of families, there are some wonderful friends who will tell you the truth and will stand by you, and there are fabulous descriptions of nature. Perhaps, the book is less light-hearted and straightforward than most books in this genre, but it has its core elements which for me are community, faith and trust in God’s will and kindness.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Good Books for this fascinating ARC. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.
About the author:
Linda Byler grew up Amish and is an active member of the Amish church today. Growing up, Linda Byler loved to read and write. In fact, she still does. She is well known within the Amish community as a columnist for a weekly Amish newspaper. She writes all her novels by hand in notebooks. Linda and her husband, their children and grandchildren live in central Pennsylvania.