Hello, my friends, Patricia Davids here with a few words about my newest book, Amish Christmas Twins. Go buy it. Please.
The Widower’s Christmas Wish
With Christmas just around the corner, widow Willa Chase will do anything to retain custody of her twin girls and unborn baby—even if it means escaping to her childhood Amish home. After her grandfather turns her away, Willa finds herself stranded at the home of blacksmith John Miller. A widower, John buries himself in work—until Willa’s vibrant twins become impossible to ignore.
And before long, John is smitten with their beautiful mother, too. But when Willa’s past secrets are revealed, will they prevent John’s Christmas wish for a happily-ever-after from coming true?
It has a beautiful and charming cover. The back sounds interesting, but how do you know you want to buy a book, especially if it isn’t by an author you are familiar with? That’s where I love the preview chapters Amazon and other book sites let you read. I want to see the meat of the story.
With that thought in mind I have given you a chapter of the story to read below. It isn’t the first chapter. It’s deep in the meat of the story. I hope you enjoy it.
The sound of tires crunching through the snow outside brought Willa bolt upright in bed. Car lights shone through the window. Had the sheriff come back? Was he going to take her children?
She jumped out of bed, pulled a robe over her nightgown and rushed into the hall. John came out of his room fully dressed. He carried a flashlight in his hand. The beam illuminated a circle on the floor but it gave enough light for her to see his face. “It’s all right, Willa. Go back to bed. I’m being called out for fire.”
The painful hammering of her heart slowed. “I thought the sheriff had returned.”
“It is only the Englisch neighbor who collects Amish volunteers in our area.” He spoke softly.
As her panic receded, she realized he was heading out to fight a blaze in frigid conditions. Would it be dangerous for him? “What kind of fire is it?”
He stood inches away from her. “I don’t know the details. I’ll learn more when I reach the fire station.”
“Be careful, John.”
He touched her cheek. “I trust God to keep me safe as you should, too.”
She wanted to grasp his hand but she didn’t. “I sometimes think He is busy elsewhere and isn’t paying attention to me.”
“Never think that. He is with us always. Go back to bed.” He slipped past her and went out the door letting in a blast of cold air.
She pulled her robe more tightly around her. She hadn’t realized how much she did doubt God’s mercy until this instant. The faith that had sustained her since childhood hung by a thread. What kind of life would she have if she lost it?
Unable to go back to bed, she went into the kitchen and made a sandwich for herself and one for John in case he was hungry when he returned. Spreading the mayo, she realized she hadn’t given a thought to the people affected by the fire. Laying down her knife, she folded her hands and asked God to watch over John and the other firefighters. The lives or livelihood of a family somewhere might be in peril. She prayed for them, too.
Picking up her knife again, she finished cutting the sandwich and carried her plate into the living room where the window looked out toward the lane. She settled in the chair, ate a few bites and kept watch for John’s return.
The clouds in the east held the barest hint of pink when a red pickup turned into the lane and stopped by the house. John got out and the vehicle drove away. She couldn’t help but notice the tired slump of his shoulders as he approached the house.
He looked surprised when she opened the door for him. “What are you doing up so early?”
Willa stretched her stiff neck as she took in his grim covered face. “I couldn’t sleep. You look tired. Was it a bad fire?”
“Bad enough.” He walked into the kitchen, turned on the water and began to wash his face.
She waited until he finished washing and drying off. “Was it a family you know?”
He shook his head. “A gasoline tanker truck missed a corner and overturned on the highway about four miles south of here. The truck caught on fire. We managed to get the driver out before the truck exploded. It was a near thing. Then we had to keep the fire from spreading to a nearby house. We did with the help of another fire crew. The driver had some injures but the paramedics said they thought he’d be okay.”
“That is a wonderful blessing.”
“Some family will have a much happier Christmas, that’s for sure.”
“I made you a sandwich but would you like me to cook something?”
“A sandwich is fine. I’m going to try to catch a few winks before we have to leave for church. You should do the same.”
She started down the hallway, but stopped when he spoke. “Thanks for waiting up for me.”
“I knew I was going to worry so there was no point in trying to sleep.”
“To worry is to doubt God.”
“Perhaps, but it’s a skill I have perfected in the last two years.” She walked on down the hall and wondered if that would ever change.
Later that morning John stomped the snow from his boots on the front porch and stepped onto the rag rug inside the kitchen. Willa was wiping strawberry jelly from Lucy’s face He noticed the dark circles under her eyes had reappeared. She had been too worried about him to sleep. Did that mean she cared about him?
Today was her last day with them. A few days ago, he had been eager to see the last of her. Now he didn’t want to think about her leaving. When had be become such a fickle fellow?
He knew the answer. When Willa had slipped her hand in his and said that she trusted him. He wasn’t sure he had earned her trust, but it pleased him to know she gave it freely.
She turned to wipe Megan’s face next. “We’re almost ready.”
“Bundle them up well. It’ll be a cold ride. Are you sure you are up to this?”
She straightened and pressed a hand small of her back. “Ask me in an hour. Can we make it through this much snow with the buggy?”
“The roads have been plowed. We won’t have any trouble. You may want to put some bricks in your pockets today as long as they are hot ones. You’ll need them.”
She gave him a sad smile. “At least you won’t have to try and lift me up onto the wagon the way you did last week.”
Had it been only a week since he’d met her on the road to her grandfather’s farm? Sometimes he forgot she was little more than a stranger. It felt as if he had known her for ages.
She grimaced and bent from side to side. “My aching back is not looking forward to the drive. I didn’t have this kind of pain during my pregnancy with the girls until I went into labor.”
He reeled with shock. “Are you in labor now? Shall I get the midwife? Where is my mother?”
She had the nerve to laugh at him. “I’m not in labor, John. I know what that feels like. This feels like I’ve been lifting twenty pound sacks of potatoes all morning.”
He strode past her to lift Lucy out of her highchair hoping to hide the red tide felt rising up his neck. “Perhaps too many rundlich boppli like this one.”
Willa took Lucy from him. “She is not a plump baby. She is exactly where she should be for her age.” She scowled at his feet. “And you are getting my clean floor dirty.”
He looked at the trail of melting snow and barn muck he’d left as he crossed the kitchen. “It is my floor. I will get it dirty if it pleases me.”
Her eyebrows shot up. “I hope it pleases you to mop it. I’ve already done that once this morning and I need to get the children ready for church. The mop is on the back porch.” She tipped her head toward the door and walked out of the room.
John allowed a smile to slip free as he watched her carry Lucy to the back bedroom. Megan followed after her.
“What are you grinning about?” his mother asked as she came in from the living room. She carried several flannel-wrapped bricks that she placed in the oven.
“Willa is sadly lacking in demut. Have you noticed that?”
“Nee, I have not noticed a lack of the humbleness in her, but why should that make you smile?”
“Because it is my kitchen floor.”
“You aren’t making any sense. Are you sick?” She reached up to lay a hand on his forehead.
“Nee, I’m not sick. Make sure Willa and the girls are bundled well and you do the same. I don’t want you coming down sick.”
“Don’t worry about me. I feel fine.” She glanced toward the back bedroom. “It is our last day together. I will miss them when they go. This house hasn’t felt so alive in years.”
“Kinder have a way of doing that,” he said softly. Having the twins and their mother around had been as disruptive as he’d feared but he was growing used to them.
“I wonder what frightens her so much,” his mother said softly.
He frowned. “I thought she was afraid her husband’s parents will take her children away?”
“There is that, but she is safe with us and she knows it. Yet I heard her walking the floors again last night. I feel something else has her deeply worried. I wish she could confide in us.”
He mother enjoyed gossip, as much if not more than the next person did, but she wasn’t given to imagining things. If she believed Willa was afraid of something else, she probably was.
Turning to face him, his mother laid a hand on his chest. “John, will you drive Willa to Hope Springs when the weather clears? I don’t want her traveling there by herself. I hate to think of her out on the roads alone in the winter. Her horse could slip and fall. Anything could happen.”
He had been thinking the same thing. “I have a sleigh to finish. I gave my word I’d have it done next week. I can’t take four days away from my work to drive to Hope Springs and back.”
It was a poor excuse and he knew it.
“Please, son, for my peace of mind.”
He didn’t want to spend two days enduring a lingering goodbye. A quick break was the best. “I’ll arrange for a driver to take her there in a comfortable car. Will that make you feel better?”
His mother frowned. “I thought we couldn’t afford to hire a driver.”
He couldn’t afford it but with the money he had been promised for his work on vis-à-vis he could pay part of it and perhaps barter for the rest with one of the local drivers. “I’ll work something out. Willa will be much more comfortable and can make the trip in a few hours.”
“If you think that is best, I agree. We’re going to be late for church if I don’t hurry up and get ready. The food hampers are packed. Will you take them out for me?” She started down the hallway to her room but she didn’t look or sound pleased.
“I will as soon as I finish mopping the floor,” he called after her.
She stopped and turned back. “What did you say?”
“Never mind. Don’t forget to bring the bricks.”
She gave a slight shake of her head and walked into her room. John mopped his way backwards from the door to the counter where the hamper sat and then out the kitchen door. He left the mop leaning against the porch railing.
After placing the hamper on the backseat, he walked up to stand beside Clover and scratched the mare under her chin. “This should be an interesting church service. I am guessing that Lucy and Megan will have a hard time sitting still on our wooden benches. Let’s pray the bishop and the preachers give short sermons today.”
Vera was already in the backseat of the buggy when Willa finally made it out the door with both the girls dressed in their new Sunday clothing. It had been a fight to keep Megan’s bonnet on her head and Lucy’s shoes on her feet but they looked sweet and very Amish in their deep purple, ankle-length dresses and eahmal shatzli, the long white aprons worn by little girls. Willa was especially pleased with their forest green woolen coats. She and Vera had worked hard to get them finished in time. Both girls wore black traveling bonnets over their kapps to keep their heads warm on the ride. She and Vera wore bonnet, too.
John stood waiting patiently beside the horse. He looked quite handsome in his black Sunday suit and his flat-topped, wide-brimmed black hat.
Willa mentally corrected herself. He looked very Plain. His eyes brightened as he met her gaze. If only she could find a way to still the flutter in her midsection when he smiled at her. His kindnesses the previous evening made her respect and admire him even more. It was a good thing that she was leaving tomorrow because she was becoming very fond of him. Too fond.
“I’m sorry if I have made us late.” She hoped he attributed her breathless tone to battling with her daughters.
“I know who to blame for your tardiness.” He leveled a stern look at her girls. “The next time you disobey your mamm you will have extra chores to do.”
“Me good,” Lucy said, her eyes round as saucers.
“And you Megan? Will you do what your mother tells you?”
She nodded. “My hat on. See?” She smoothed the sides of her bonnet.
He crouched down to their level and smiled at them. “Goot. When you honor your mother you please God and that pleases me.”
“Okeydokey.” Lucy patted his cheek.
He lifted the girls into the backseat with his mother. She already had the hot bricks on the floor to warm their feet and spread a quilt over their legs. Willa looked in and frowned slightly.
“Don’t you want to ride up front, Vera?”
“I’m fine here with the girls to keep me warm. It’s best that you sit up front. Sitting in the back when I was pregnant always made me queasy. I don’t want you feeling sick during the service.”
In that instant Willa realized John’s mother was trying to foster a romance between the two of them. The elderly woman was going to be sadly disappointed if she hoped to sway Willa from leaving. She might have gotten away with loosening the wheels of Willa’s buggy but she wasn’t going to be able to pull the same stunt again. The very idea of his mother’s meddling would have been funny if not for the fact that Willa already liked John far too much. She like Vera, too, and the girls adored her, but a relationship with John wasn’t possible.
Willa had to leave. She had to have her family around her when her baby was born.
John took hold of Willa’s elbow to steady her as she climbed in the buggy. Willa smiled her thanks but she wasn’t smiling inside. Love and marriage were out of the question for her no matter how much she might wish it could be otherwise.
He tucked the thick lap robe around her. “Are you warm enough?”
“I’m fine.” She looked away from the concern in his eyes. He climbed into the front seat and slapped the reins to get the horse moving.
They arrived at the home of Hank Hochstetler and his family about forty minutes later. They weren’t late. The service hadn’t started but they were the last to arrive. Vera got out with Willa and the girls as John parked his buggy among the two dozen other vehicles that lined the lane and unhitched his horse.
Vera took Willa’s arm. “Be careful on this ice. Hank runs a small engine repair business. The service will be held in his shop. His home is too small to accommodate all of us.”
Willa entered the metal building and almost backed out when she saw the number of people inside. She closed her eyes and drew a deep breath. As nervous as she was, she knew she couldn’t let it show. The twins clutched her coat and looked at her in concern.
“It’s okay,” she whispered to them.
Vera took them both by the hand. “There are only friends here so there is nothing to be scared of.”
“Let’s sit near the back in case I need to take the girls out,” Willa said knowing it was unlikely her girls could remain quiet for three or more hours of preaching in Dietsh with Bible readings in High German. Amish children were expected to mirror their parents and elders with a somber devout demeanor during the service but exceptions were made for children as young as the twins.
Willa followed Vera into the building and felt the weight of all the eyes watching her. A new person at church was always a cause for curiosity.
The inside of the workshop was spotlessly clean. She knew the family and friends of the owner would have spent days making sure every surface was cleaned inside and out. The workload for hosting a service was such that each family in the congregation was expected to host only once a year.
The backless wooden benches were lined up either side of the center aisle. Men and boys sat on one side while women and girls sat on the other side. Around the perimeter, a few padded chairs had been carried out from the house for some of the more elderly members. The room was a sea of black on the men’s side. Black coats and pants were the standard Sunday dress code. Identical black hats hung from a long row of pegs on the back wall.
The women were more colorful. Their long dresses and matching aprons were an assortment of solid colors, blue, green and mauve. Vera took her place on one of the benches and patted the seat beside her indicating the girls should sit next to her.
From the men’s side, the volsinger, the hymn leader, began the first song. He had a fine steady voice. After the first line the rest of the congregation joined in. The slow and mournful chanting reverberated inside the steel building as members blended their voices together without musical accompaniment. The opening song, like all Amish hymns, had been passed down through the generations for more than seven hundred years. Willa picked up the heavy black songbook, the Ausbund. It contained the words of the song but no musical notations. Every song in the book has been learned and remembered by members of the faith down through the ages.
The second song of an Amish church service was always the same hymn. Das Loblied, a song of love and praise. Willa was astonished at how easily the words and melody came back to her. It was as if she had last sung it yesterday instead of a dozen years ago.
She had kept God in her heart but there was something special about worshiping with others. The bishop was an eloquent speaker who filled his sermon with praise for God, His great works and His unending mercy. The heartfelt words sparked a ray of new hope in Willa. Vera had been right. Willa drew deep comfort from the preaching and the songs. She didn’t have to be alone. She could become part of a larger community bound together by faith and a commitment to each other.
This prayer meeting was the first step in her journey back to that faith. Not to hide among the Amish, but to become one of them again if God so willed it.
What makes you pick up a new author? Is it the cover? Is it the back blurb? Is it the reviews on Amazon or Goodreads? Do you pick a new author because a friend recommends him or her? Or do you like a recommendation from your local library? It will be interesting to see what makes you the reader pick up new books.