Welcome to the Blog + Review Tour & Giveaway for Forever Home by Amy Grochowski, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!
ABOUT THE BOOKTitle: Forever Home
Series: Amish Dreams on Prince Edward Island #1
Author: Amy Grochowski
Publisher: Ambassador International
Release Date: June 9, 2020
Genre: Inspirational Amish Romance
A Canadian Amish farmer
A Lancaster Amish businesswoman
A Prince Edward Island foster child
Providence brings together a mismatched family, giving all three a second chance for love. Only love may never have had such a tough job.
Lydia Miller is an anomaly among her Amish people-a single woman in her 30s, running her own store, determined to forge a life on her own. But when Joel Yoder comes into town to sell his property, Lydia suddenly finds all of her hopes and dreams crumbling around her and a new opportunity placed in her lap.
Joel has his own problems. Recently jilted by his fiancée, Joel has seen his own dreams of moving to a newly established Amish community begin to falter. The new community welcomes married couples only. With his dreams quickly slipping from his fingers, Joel suddenly sees the only option he thinks he has--a marriage of convenience for both of them.
As the new couple begins life in a new settlement, they are even more surprised when a foster child in need of a home finds her way to them. Yet what will happen when the English world and the Amish world collide?
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Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
A sensible Amish woman aspired to marry, as Lydia Miller was reminded daily.
She also knew any wise Amish woman ought to bypass schemes destined to failure. Yet here she stood, determined to avoid the first and ready to plunge headlong into the second.
Lydia sucked in a breath and slid into a seat on the second-to-last row of chairs under the auction tent. She may not win the bid for the farmhouse at today’s estate sale, but at least she’d know she tried everything to keep her business.
The air smelled of autumn—the cooling rest of the earth after yielding her summer labor. Under the heavy canvas of the tent, the two-mile stretch of Amish farmland known as Millers Creek was hidden from Lydia’s view.
A wet trickle of perspiration trailed from underneath her prayer kapp, then down the back of Lydia’s neck. She almost allowed Ben to bid for her; but her brother wasn’t familiar with her finances, nor was his future on the bidding block.
Nay, the task was up to her alone.
The wooden seat beside Lydia creaked under the heft of her neighbor, Miriam Stoltzfus, who emitted a groan of her own as she sat.
“Have you lost all of your good sense?”
Ever since Lydia’s mamm died, Miriam had taken the mother role upon herself. Lydia was used to the older woman’s more-often-than-not good intentions, which were more than Lydia needed at the moment.
“I still have all my wits about me.”
The click of Miriam’s tongue against her teeth issued her contradiction. Lydia’s vision settled onto the handle attached to her bidder card. The rounded edge of the re-purposed tongue depressor pressed into her palm. Lydia prayed a silent prayer of forgiveness for the unkind urge to use it on the other woman.
“Gott’s will couldn’t be plainer if Moses himself carved it on a stone tablet for you to read.” Miriam’s prayer kapp bobbed up and down with the surety of her conviction.
The Almighty’s will? Or Miriam’s? Lydia had to wonder.
Lydia shoved the tongue depressor between her knees for safe-keeping and pressed her lips tight to keep from disrespecting her elder, who continued in a not-so-quiet whisper. “The sale of this property—including your Amish Shoppe—is a clear sign the time has come for you to quit this spinster nonsense and settle down with a goot Amish husband.”
“And marry whom?” Not your cousin, Hiram Glick. Miriam knew full well Lydia couldn’t accept Hiram. “I could own a business, not just rent the building.” Lydia turned to face her neighbor. “You know why this is important to me.” She didn’t dare say the reason aloud. Miriam was one of the few who knew the reason for her determination to support herself.
“Ya, I know. Even so, I tell you, Lydia, this is a mistake. The Lord has a bigger plan for you. He is not bound by the past. Remember, with Gott all things are possible.”
“Well then, it’s still possible I might buy this house and save my shop today.”
Miriam sank with a deflated plop against the back of her seat.
Lydia had the last word, but satisfaction didn’t follow. Miriam’s words nagged at her conscience. Not the part about signs and plans. Lydia didn’t believe she deserved such consideration. Rather, she was struck by the existence of a Power great enough to overcome the past. If only the past had not bound her.
But she was Lydia Miller, humble mortal.
Lydia shifted in her seat. She’d attended many auctions, but never bid for anything. She bit her lower lip. Did she know what she was doing with such a large sum and stakes so high? All the money she’d earned from five years of teaching in the Amish school had been poured into renovating the farmhouse into a shop. Now, she had only her business savings to try and outbid the fancy men here today.
Ouch. Lydia jumped from a sharp jab in the ribs.
“I wasn’t talking about Hiram, if that’s what you’re thinking.” Miriam aimed the offending finger toward an Amish man whom Lydia had never seen.
Tall with powerful strong shoulders, he stood alone on the far side of the tent, tapping his straw hat against his leg. The Amish stranger’s face was tanned and his hair the blackest she’d ever seen. His dark eyes, set deep under thick brows, met her own. Lydia ducked her head, but not before she noticed his square, unshaven chin. Unmarried.
“What in the world?” Lydia leaned into Miriam to keep her voice low. “Now you’d try to match me with a man we don’t even know?”
“He’s Canadian Amish. Beulah Yoder’s grandson.”
“Oh…so, you’d have me marry the man responsible for this…” Lydia’s throat tightened. If she attempted to describe what this horrible day really meant to her, she’d be in tears. She couldn’t afford the distraction. As far as Lydia was concerned, the man should have stayed in Canada where he belonged. He hadn’t been around these parts even when his grandmother was alive. All was fine and dandy if he wanted to sell his inheritance, but a little more notice would have been appreciated.
“Maybe he’s a bit responsible, but…”
The auctioneer interrupted Miriam by calling for the first bid. Lydia jumped to join with the rest of the bidders. Was her eagerness too obvious? She wished her datt were still alive to give her advice.
The rumble of the first bids began like the intermittent thunder of a faraway storm. As the bidders increased, the fervor pitched faster. Lydia sat on the edge of her chair as though lightning might strike her. All of the sudden, the bidding slowed. Several bidders had thinned to a few, and Lydia was amazed to find herself still alive among them.
She had better free her mind of distractions—the smell of the straw beneath her feet, the flap of the canvas roof above her… Focus, focus. Wasn’t that what Datt used to say? Focus on the task at hand.
She concentrated on the auctioneer and an Englischer in the corner of her periphery. She’d met many non-Amish neighbors and businessmen since opening her shop, but she didn’t recognize this one. Unlike the Amish stranger who watched with his jaw squared in concern, this man was relaxed as he upped the price time and again. He was confident about something, for sure. Was the auction a game to him?
Her pulse buzzed in her ears. This was her life, not an amusing way to pass the time.
The auctioneer looked at her. The third-to-last bidder must have bailed. Lydia lifted her card to an amount that squeezed every penny from her account. She had no collateral or credit for a loan. The bid had to be her last.
The man countered and waited. So smug.
She had rented the large farmhouse, remodeled it with her savings from five years as a teacher in the Amish school, and then turned it into a profitable business. Yet this man waltzed into her community to buy it right out from under her.
Lydia raised her number.
His expression remained unchanged. He bid again.
She’d go until she saw him sweat. Her card sailed into the air over and over again.
The Amish men began to murmur. The handsome Amish stranger was staring at her. With concern or admiration? She couldn’t take time to wonder. She looked back at her opponent.
The Englisch bidder no longer slouched against the tent pole. He upped the price. And Lydia countered. The auctioneer’s cadence carried across a room full of people gone silent.
Miriam grabbed Lydia’s hand and squeezed hard enough to break every one of her fingers. If the man didn’t bid, Lydia was in worse trouble than she’d thought possible from this day.
One last bid. Lydia held her breath. The cotton fabric of her apron pressed into her palms as she dried them. What would she do if he didn’t go for it?
The man wiped perspiration from his forehead and raised his card.
The gavel dropped with a thud, and the echo of splintered dreams reverberated through Lydia’s heart.
A day after the auction of his grandparent’s farm, Joel strode with purpose toward the farmhouse-turned-business. He had a wrong to make right. A bell jingled above Joel Yoder’s head as he entered Lydia’s Amish Shoppe through the front door. Newspapers and bubble wrap littered the floor. Boxes were stacked high in every corner.
He and the shopkeeper had one thing in common—boxes packed with nowhere to go.
The realtor had neglected to inform Joel the house was being used as a business, a ploy which had to be in favor of the Englisch buyer, who paid handsomely after all. Had Joel known, he would have…what? Truth be told, he had no idea. But he never would have been so unfair to the Amish business woman who rented the place. Would she believe he was ignorant of her existence? Even though he lived all the way in Ontario, she could reasonably expect him to have known the details about his rental property. She couldn’t know his realtor had left him under the impression both the land and the building were rented by her brother. Easy enough, since he never would have guessed a single, Amish woman had turned the old house into a shop—a profitable success, to boot.
All night, he’d tossed and turned. The woman who drove up the price of sale haunted his sleep.
She’d done him a favor. He’d put her out of business.
Now, she sat perched on a countertop beside a rustic cash register. Strands of golden-brown hair fell loose from her prayer kapp to frame her heart-shaped face and delicate chin. Green eyes held his gaze moments before averting under thick lashes.
She swiped the back of her hand at the moisture on her cheeks. He hadn’t meant to intrude. Didn’t she hear the bell when he came in?
“Vass is letz?” What’s wrong? His question made him sound even more out of touch than he’d already proved himself to be. Joel twisted his hat in his hands. He was no expert on women, but even he could surmise the answer. If only he’d done so sooner.
“I’ll be fine. Danki.” She jumped down and smoothed her hands along the front of her apron. She stood tall, a few inches shy of his six feet. “How may I help you?”
No more tears. The sight of her so brokenhearted pained him. He’d come to Lancaster to sell his inheritance, not ruin another woman’s life.
“I’m Joel,” he offered, but her expression told him she already knew who he was. Since his arrival in Millers Creek, everyone knew who he was before he could offer an introduction. He understood. Word would travel just as fast back home in Ontario. Whenever he could finally arrange his move to Prince Edward Island, their fledgling Amish community would be no different. “And you are Lydia.”
She nodded and continued to stare down at her laced fingers. Of course, he hadn’t expected an exuberant welcome.
Joel searched for something to say next. “I spoke with your brother, Ben, about the fields. He said you would be here.” Her brother had done an admirable job of farming the land Joel rented to him. At least Joel had managed to ensure Ben’s arrangement remained in the sale contract.
Joel cleared his throat. “I’ll be here until the final closing in two weeks. I can help you.” Nervousness loosened his tongue, and guilt prodded him to offer more. “I can pack or do heavy lifting.”
Her lips twitched against an almost smile at the extended olive branch. At least he hoped, until he followed Lydia’s line of vision to his hat tapping against his thigh. Stupid, nervous habit. He forced his hand to still.
Maybe he should stick to his original intent. “This was once my grandmother’s house. I’d like to look around, if it’s not too much trouble.”
“No trouble at all.” She turned and resumed packing with a relieved sigh.
Had he ever met this woman? His last visit had been so long ago; but for sure, he’d remember her if he’d seen her before. He wasn’t likely to ever forget such a pretty face. He would have noticed her at the auction, even if she hadn’t been the only woman bidding. He had to wonder if she’d always had as much gumption as she showed yesterday. An Amish woman like Lydia Miller would have made an impression on him, no matter their ages.
“Would you like me to show you around?” Lydia interrupted his thoughts. Her cheeks were a pretty pink.
He hadn’t intended to remain standing so close. What in the world? He’d been staring at her. He cleared his throat. “It has been a long time, and much has changed.”
“For the best, I hope.” She moved away from him. Her long fingers slid across the wood grain above her head. Her movements were graceful and accentuated her slender features. “You can see the original cabinetry has been preserved.”
Joel better focus more on the architecture and less on Lydia. In fact, he did recognize a resemblance to his own childhood home in Ontario. The place resurrected a sense of connection to his datt. After his father’s death and mother’s remarriage, the house had been sold. Joel had been five years old. What memories he had, he held dear.
“Yes, it looks very similar to my grandfather’s work at home. In Canada, I mean, in the house he built there before my father was born. I think he built this one a short time before moving to Canada at the start of the Second World War.” Clearly his grandfather always planned to return here, since he’d never sold the place. But decades later, when the time came to return, Joel’s datt was already in love with his mamm. They married and remained in Ontario. His father’s dreams encompassed far more than time granted him, when his life was cut short in a farming accident. Above all, Joel desired to see those dreams realized. Now, everything seemed to be coming to pass without Joel.
Lydia stepped out into the larger part of the room. “When we removed the walls, my brother built custom pillars to match. I wanted to maintain the heritage of the house as much as possible, even though the space needed to be open for the shop.” She turned to face him. “I was truly grateful for your permission to make the changes. I hope you are pleased.”
Permission? Joel never knew about the shop, much less structural changes. When the realtor was forced to explain Lydia’s circumstance, he acted as though Lydia’s business was of no consequence.
Joel’s jaw clenched at the injustice. “I was never informed.”
Color drained from Lydia’s face. Her fingers fussed with the stray hairs on her face. “Your realtor s-s-spoke as if we increased the value for you.”
Joel tried to relax the muscle tightening his jaw. His frustration was misleading the poor woman. “If I had known, I would have consented. No one did me more favors than you, when it comes to the value of the property at auction.” An image of her in a price war against the bidder in cahoots with the realtor flashed through his thoughts, as it had a million times the night before. “You’ve made a fine shop.”
“Danki.” An unconvinced thank you, if ever he heard one. She tucked her chin to hide her face.
Her modesty drew him to her, making him wish he could convince her all she had done was an impressive accomplishment. He held back. The praise would likely make her uncomfortable.
The sound of the front door bell announced someone’s arrival in the store. A teenage girl sprinted toward Lydia, skidding to a stop when her head turned in Joel’s direction. Her mouth dropped open as if she were about to speak, but she remained mute. Her blonde hair had come loose from her kapp. In fact, she was one of the most disheveled Amish girls Joel had ever seen. Her rounded eyes suggested Joel appeared to be more monster than man. Joel smiled to reassure her. Instead of relaxing, she emitted a perfect croak as her gaping mouth finally closed. With a great deal of effort, Joel held back the laughter threatening to burst from his lips.
The same amusement bubbled out of Lydia, who failed to contain her laugh. She wrapped an arm around the girl’s shoulders. “Anna is a little shy. Can you give us a minute?”
More than happy to oblige, he roamed around to admire Lydia’s craftsmanship. Bolts of fabric for quilts and clothing stood in straight lines against a back wall. Drawers labeled in calligraphy were stocked with sewing supplies. Near the large front window, simple hand-crafted chairs and bookracks formed a semi-circle around a woven rug like an invitation to sit for a spell. He sat and stretched his legs straight out in front of himself.
Someday, a shop like this would be a perfect addition in New Hope. The Prince Edward Island Amish community had only just begun in March. His brother and sister-in-law, Abe and Sarah, were the first Amish to settle on the island. A picture of their buggy traveling down an island roadway even made headlines in the Canadian papers. Abe and Sarah weren’t alone for long. Five other families had followed close behind them. And Joel planned to be the next. All was right on schedule until Rachel had bailed on him.
Joel leaned forward and held his aching head in his hands. New Hope? Not for him, apparently.
“Where will you stay?” Lydia asked from behind him.
Joel lifted his head up to see her walk around to face him. “I’ve been staying at a motel.” And the cab fares were getting expensive.
“Anna was sent by her mamm to offer for you to stay with the Stoltzfus family.” Lydia nodded toward the back door, where Anna stood waiting in silence.
“It’s a kind offer. Anna might not survive my presence for two whole weeks.” The truth was Joel didn’t know whether he wanted to spend that long with total strangers himself, even though they were Amish.
Lydia summed him up with a sympathetic nod. “The attic room here still has a bed.”
“How much do you charge? If you beat the motel, I’ll take it. Plus, the cab fees are killing me. Yoders are thrifty, you know.” He’d spoken before thinking. Guilt for all he owed this woman was driving him to offer money to stay in a place he still owned—for two more weeks, anyway. She had to think he was farukt.
She laughed. Apparently, she’d decided he was joking instead of crazy.
Joel reveled in her genuine amusement—far more welcome than tears, even if he was the joke. “We’ve been known to sleep in our buggies to save from paying for a hotel.”
Ya. He liked the sound.
“I’ll tell Anna to let Miriam know you will be staying here. You are welcome to come to my brother’s house for meals, if it suits you. His house is across the street. He rents your fields. But you know that, of course.” Lydia’s last words trailed behind her as she walked toward Anna, who now held onto the door handle as if her life depended on a fast escape.
Looking for a way to be useful, Joel picked up a broom. He couldn’t lounge in a chair when he owed this woman such an enormous debt. Not only did he owe her gratitude, but also some sort of recompense for her livelihood. She had a shop with no home. He would soon have a farm but no wife. He knew too well the pain of losing all of one’s hard work and years of effort.
When his engagement to Rachel ended, Joel appealed for an exception to the rule allowing only married men and families to join the new community for the first few years. Bishop Nafziger wouldn’t change his mind, not even for his step-son.
No wife. No deal.
“Did you say something?” Lydia had returned with her right brow quirked upward.
“Nay.” Had he? He hoped his thoughts were not so transparent.
“If I work hard enough this morning, do you think you might show me around Millers Creek during a break for lunch?”
Her right brow arched a little higher. “Fleeya.”
Maybe? What kind of answer was that? “I’ll buy lunch at the bakery down the road.”
The question in her eyes turned cheeky. “Well, then, I can’t miss an opportunity to see a Yoder on a spending spree.”
The sound of his own laughter was the best surprise of the day. Lydia Miller might be the exact medicine he needed after the stress of the past month.
A warning rang in Joel’s conscience to proceed with caution. His courtship notions had recently landed him in a heap of trouble. His heart was supposed to be broken—not galloping away like an untethered stallion.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amy Grochowski's deep appreciation for the Amish faith and way of life stems from six years of living and working with a Beachy Amish family, as well as her own Anabaptist roots. Her debut novel, Forever Home, was a pre-published winner of Romance Writers of America's Maggie Award and a semi-finalist in ACFW's Genesis Contest. She is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers Int'l.
Amy spent her childhood in Melbourne, Australia, where her parents worked as church planters. After returning to the States, the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia became home. Her real-life romance began on a travel nursing assignment to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she met her husband, David.
After a nursing career of more than twenty years, Amy is now fulfilling her long-awaited dream career as an author of inspirational romance. She is also a full-time homeschool mom for her two boys, one of whom has Autism Spectrum Disorder, and lives with her family in the bustling foothills of North Carolina.
CONNECT WITH AMY: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
(1) winner will receive a signed author copy of Forever Home, a classic 200 recipe Mennonite Family Cookbook, a Magic Amish cloth (it really does clean like magic with no chemicals), and a $25 Amazon gift card!
Be sure to check out each stop on the tour for more chances to win. Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway will begin at midnight June 22, 2020 and last through 11:59 PM EST on June 29, 2020. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.
Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.
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