Letters of Trust by Wanda E Brunstetter – Difficult Topic Handled with Care

Author Wanda E. Brunstetter has become one of my favorite writers.  I appreciate that her books are clean, without profanity and sexual immorality, and that the characters are more fully developed.  That’s why I wanted to read her newest book Letters of Trust.

This book is quite different from any other story I’ve read by this author.  The subject is more difficult and a bit darker.  When I think of the Amish community, I don’t think of alcoholism.  Wanda explained that she had Amish readers request that she write a story that deals with alcoholism.  Sadly, alcohol abuse has impacted their communities as well.  The story also had a personal touch because alcoholism has touched Wanda’s life though a family member. 

Letters of Trust tells the story about newlyweds Vic and Eleanor Lapp who are moving to Vic’s home state of Pennsylvania where his family lives.  Other than Vic and his family, Eleanor had no family or friends there.  Eleanor loves Vic and wants to support his decision to move back home.  Like any newlywed couple the first year of marriage can be a challenge.  Eleanor keeps in touch with family and friends through letters. 

Vic is employed by an English man and is surrounded by English workers as well.  Vic finds himself under regular pressure by a coworker to drink alcohol.  He’s able to resist until a crisis breaks down his resolve to not drink alcohol.  Alcohol had been an issue in his youth, before he had committed himself to the Amish community and church.  Now Vic chooses not to resist the draw of alcohol. 

Like every other sin, alcoholism and drinking to excess, doesn’t just impact the one who is drinking.  Vic’s drowning his sorrow impacted his marriage, his family, his job, and most importantly his faith.

Will Eleanor find support and wise counsel from her dear friend and family?  Will she have the wherewithal to remain in her marriage and help her husband?  Will she be strong enough to acknowledge the truth, get wise counsel, and the help and support she needs?  What will it take to wake Vic up to the truth that alcohol is destroying his life and his marriage?  Will he realize it before it’s too late?  

Something I would like to have seen, especially since faith is an integral part of the story and character’s lives, is to see alcoholism in light of the truth of Scripture.  Secular society calls alcoholism a disease, but a Christian believer knows it is a sin.  There may be some beneficial secular programs to help the alcoholic and their family.  But for a Christian believer, first and foremost, we need to recognize our sin and repent.  Like all sin, God has provide a way for us to be forgiven through Christ Jesus.  If this had been a secular story, I would not have had that expectation.

Something that flowed from the aspect of faith and seeing a character caught up in sin, was Vic a true Christian?  I don’t have good understanding of the Amish faith.  But I wondered if there is some measure of legalism?  Is a person considered a true believer as long as he complies with the rules of the Amish community?  What is a warning sign that a person’s outward confession is not genuine?  Would an Amish Christian be concerned about their witness and testimony to an unbelieving coworker?

I would like to have seen the faith aspect of alcoholism dealt with, in addition to the practical steps recommended by the secular world.  I liked that Vic’s parents had a realistic understanding of their son and didn’t try to make excuses for his choices and behavior.

If you like Wanda E. Brunstetter’s writing, or have an interest in the topic of alcoholism, you may want to read Letters of Trust.  This was a hard book to read because of the subject matter and the fact that too many lives are impacted by alcoholism.  I appreciate that the author tackled this painful topic. 

I would like to thank Barbour Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complementary copy of Letters of Trust by Wanda E. Brunstetter.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

Letters of Trust will be published March 1, 2023.

Love Though the Seasons by Tracie Peterson – Mixed Impressions

I looked forward to reading this release of four short stories, Love Through the Seasons by Tracie Peterson, which will be published February 1, 2023.  Once I started reading the book, it was obvious that some of the stories must have been written a few years ago.  Things that are common today, like cell phones, weren’t mentioned in the stories and there were no time references.  Stormy Weather was written in 1999, King of Hearts in 1997, Falling for Love is a new release for 2023, and Silent Nights was written in 1998.

I enjoyed a couple of the stories, Stormy Weather and Falling for Love, but wasn’t too keen on King of Hearts and Silent Nights.

Stormy Weather takes place in the spring and is about a widow, Gina Bowden, and her young son, Danny.  Danny’s Cub Scout leader, Gary Cameron, is a widower.  This is a sweet story and the characters are very likable.  Gina tries to make up for being a single mom, but finds that she needs help when her son has been assigned a project for Cub Scouts.  Gary is willing to help and they develop a comfortable and caring relationship.  I appreciated the faith and trust that both Gina and Gary had in the wake of losing their spouses. 

I found King of Hearts to be an odd story.  Elise Jost received bad news that she was just shy of having the credits she needed to graduate from college.  As a result, she would need to take one class during summer school.  The one class that fit her schedule was Renaissance Appreciation taught by Dr. Ian Hunter.  Elise is less than pleased about taking the class, partly because of a required assignment at the end of the semester.  Elise’s attitude was crummy and there was very little in her behavior that displayed Christian faith.  This story may not have aged well.  Back in the day, Renaissance fairs were very common and folks had an interest in them.  Today, this story come across as kind of weird and at times almost creepy.  One character was introduced that seemed to be there for no other reason than to put a damsel in distress that needed to be rescued.  Overall, I found the story very odd.

Falling For Love is the newest story and was very likeable. Nice characters who were kind and caring.  Karen Jacobs, a widow, owns the old family farm and lives there with her mother Meredith.  Karen is contacted by her cousin Marlene who hopes that her mother, Lettie, might be able to come and live with Karen.  Over the coming days, Karen’s two other aunts, Helen and Rachel, contact her to see if they too might be able to come live with them.  Thankfully the house set up where the downstairs area would work well as a home for all four sisters.  Work needs to be done to make things ready for the aging family members.  Karen contacts someone from church, Dan Polk, who can help with the project.  This was one of my favorite stories.  The sacrificial love and kindness Karen demonstrates by inviting her family to come live with them is refreshing.  The developing relationship between Dan and Karen was sweet.  The characters demonstrated their Christian faith.  I very much liked this story.

Silent Nights was the story I liked least.  Lynn Murphy and her attitude and actions did not display Christian faith, nor did her husband Frank.  They have issues in their marriage which need to be worked out.  While acknowledging that God does not like divorce, Lynn leaves home because her husband heading out of town again on business trip and their anniversary trip will need to be rescheduled.  Lynn goes to stay with her grandfather Omar Lewiston, but doesn’t even leave a note for her husband to let him know where she is at.  I liked the grandfather, he was kind, caring and displayed some wisdom.  The characters’ change and development was not really handled well.  I did not like the characters, nor their attitudes and the Christian faith was not evident in their lives.  Then suddenly, things changed and the story ends, but how and why they changed wasn’t well developed.  Perhaps this story would have been somewhat better as a full-length novel where the characters could have been better developed. 

A couple of the stories, Stormy Weather and Falling for Love, were enjoyable and had likable characters and the characters displayed more mature Christian faith.  King of Hearts and Silent Nights fell short. 

Would I recommend Love Through the Seasons by Tracie Peterson?  If you like Tracie’s writing you may want to read these stories.  It was nice to read shorter story format and some of the stories were enjoyable.  But the short story format may not work well for some of the storylines. 

I would like to thank Barbour Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Love Through the Seasons by Tracie Peterson.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

The Apple Creek Announcement by Wanda E Brunstetter – Mixed Emotions

Wanda E Brunstetter has become one of my favorite writers and I looked forward to reading her newest book The Apple Creek Announcement, Creektown Discoveries, volume 3.

Reading one of Wanda’s books is like catching up with old friends, especially Orley and Lois Troyer.  They own an antique store and want to engage with and to help the customers who visit their store.  In The Apple Creek Announcement, readers are introduced to Andrea and her boyfriend, soon to be fiancé, Brandon Prentice.  Andrea is a piano teacher and a painter who sells her artwork capturing local Amish scenes.  Brandon is the town’s veterinarian.  Their relationship seems to be going well until Andrea learns about a lifelong secret her parents have kept.  It throws her for a loop, and her focus has changed. 

Two of my favorite characters are Orley and Lois.  I’m glad these characters are included in this novel.  I enjoyed their storyline in this book.  They seem very kind and caring. 

I had a hard time with Andrea and Brandon.  At first, I found them very boring.  Their romance kind of fell flat, wasn’t believable.  Once there were developments in the story, these two characters became more interesting. 

Unfortunately, I didn’t much care for the main character Andrea.  She seemed spiritually immature.  She reacted emotionally and didn’t turn to God in prayer or to the Bible.  Even towards the end of the book, her character didn’t acknowledge wrong behavior and attitudes on her part.  Andrea held on to anger, resentment and blamed her parents.  She seemed to play the victim and blame everyone.  If her character had developed and grown over time, repented and turned to God, it would have come across as different.  Brandon was more likable, and he seemed more mature, willing to examine if he had made the right decision.  He sought wisdom and good counsel from an older believer. 

I found it odd that when Andrea and Brandon were engaged, that one of the obstacles they encountered were their pets not getting along.  You would think that a vet would have clue on how to help the situation. 

A couple of things that should have been left out was Andrea trying to calm her nerves with lavender essential oil.  If the character was a Christian, she should have turned to God’s word and prayer.  Some advice that Orley gave Brandon wasn’t the best.  He told him to pray…good!  Then he said God may give you a “sign”.  No!  Examples of those in the Bible who asked for a sign were descriptive, not prescriptive.  It was before they had the Bible, God’s Word. 

I rather liked Andrea’s friend, Colleen.  She seemed to genuinely care about Andrea and was straightforward with her and Brandon. 

Something I appreciated about The Apple Creek Announcement is that it’s clean, and the Gospel of Christ and word of God are shared.  I look forward to reading more of Wanda’s books in the future. 

If you’ve read the earlier books in this series, you may want to read The Apple Creek Announcement by Wanda E Brunstetter.

I would like to thank Barbour Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy The Apple Creek Announcement by Wanda E Brunstetter.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

The Sugarcreek Surprise by Wanda E Brunstetter – A Lovely Book with Likable Characters

Wanda E Brunstetter has become one of my favorite writers and I was excited to read her newest book The Sugarcreek Surprise, the second book in the Creektown Discovery series

The Sugarcreek Surprise tells the story of Lisa Miller the only survivor of a tragic car accident.  She lost her parents and paternal grandparents at seven years old and has very few memories before the accident.  Lisa went to live in Ohio with her maternal grandparents.  She works as a school teacher with the young children at their Amish community’s schoolhouse.  Lisa lives a very insulated life, has very few friends, and has no desire to get married or have children.  Truth be told, Lisa is trying to protect her heart from the pain of losing someone else she loves.  Her life is about to be changed by a persistent dog Maggie and a newcomer Paul Herschberger from Pennsylvania. 

This book is about relationships.  Lisa’s relationship with her grandparents, her dog Maggie and her developing friendship with Paul.  Orley and Lois Troyer, from the Walnut Creek Wish, are back and befriend Paul and in turn his friend Lisa.  Orley and Lois are my favorite characters.  They are continually looking for people whom God would have them befriend.  They are mentors, prayer warriors and give wise biblical counsel. 

I liked Paul and appreciated his kind, caring, gentle, and hardworking character.  At times I struggled with Lisa and her negativity or not being open to others.  But I appreciated seeing how her grandparents and Paul responded to her.  They prayed for Lisa, gave her time and trusted the Lord to be at work in her life.

I appreciate the Christian faith being included as part of the characters’ lives, in the form of Scripture verses, sermons, and prayers.  The Sugarcreek Surprise is not action-packed, instead, it goes deeper into people’s lives, relationships, and what motivates them.  I love that this book is clean and shows good and healthy relationships.  The characters deal with honesty, forgiveness, growth, and how to trust God and obey Him. 

I loved reading The Sugarcreek Surprise by Wanda E Brunstetter and highly recommend it.  It was a lovely book, filled with likable characters, the kind of people you would want to know.  Wanda E Brunstetter is the kind of writer that makes me want to read all her books.

I would like to thank Barbour Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of The Sugarcreek Surprise by Wanda E Brunstetter.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.