Today is release day for the first book in my new series, The Petersheim Brothers.
Things at the Petersheim house are getting too crowded for eight-year-old twins Alfie and Benji. As if things weren’t bad enough with three older brothers hogging all the bacon at breakfast and using more than their fair share of toilet paper, Mammi and Dawdi Petersheim have to move in because of Dawdi’s stroke. If Alfie and Benji have any hope of getting their old bedroom back, they have to get rid of their annoying brothers, and the only way to convince their brothers to move out is to make each of them fall in love. What could be so hard about that?
Andrew, Abraham, and Austin Petersheim make and sell gallons of homemade peanut butter, thus earning themselves the title of “The Peanut Butter Brothers” in their small community of Bienenstock, Wisconsin. The brothers are so busy making peanut butter, they don’t have time for girls or romance. But Alfie and Benji have a knack for getting into trouble, and their mischief brings more than one girl to the door. Will the brothers be able to convince Alfie and Benji to behave themselves, or will the girls just keep coming around?
In book 1, Andrew, Aunt Bitsy from the Honeybee Sisters series makes an appearance as do all of the Honeybee Sisters.
Andrew Petersheim has always been sure of himself and his place in his Amish community. He’s a godly, hard-working man, and he knows any girl would be blessed to marry him. He can afford to be picky, and he hasn’t yet met a girl good enough to capture his heart. Mary Coblenz certainly isn’t that girl. She jumped the fence and was gone for two years and then returned pregnant with the shame of sin upon her. It doesn’t matter how pretty she is or how vigorously she challenges his notions of forgiveness and Christian charity, he refuses to fall in love with her.
Here is an exciting sneak peek of Chapter 1. Enjoy!
A muscle pulled tight across Mary’s abdomen, creating a line of pain from her hip to her belly button. The tightness made it difficult to walk. She didn’t care what that website said. Five miles was too far for a pregnant girl to go in one day.
Not that she had a choice. Mary’s mamm had slammed the door in her face before Mary had even gotten a word in edgewise, and Mary hadn’t known when the next bus was scheduled to come down the deserted road. She had turned her back on her parents’ home and cried good and hard for about a mile before talking herself out of her self-pity. She couldn’t blame her parents for reacting the way they had. She’d even been expecting it. After not seeing her family for two years, she’d shown up wearing jeans and a Maroon 5 t-shirt. And pregnant. Mamm couldn’t very well overlook that inconvenient fact. Mary should have taken out her earrings. Mamm might have at least listened if Mary hadn’t been wearing earrings.
Mary huffed out a breath. She should have thought that one through a little better. Mamm was hurt and angry. The community might be even less forgiving.
Did she really want to raise her child in such a place?
If a wayward daughter wasn’t welcome in her own home, how could Mary hope to be accepted by the community? Would the Amish treat her child like an outsider for the rest of his life? By mile number two, it was safe to say that Mary’s hopes had fallen in the ditch. But Mary wasn’t one to slosh around in her own tears. She’d made a lot of mistakes, bad ones, but she wasn’t afraid to own up to them and get on with her life.
Finally, the Honeybee Farm came into sight as Mary rounded the next bend in the road. A big sign painted with flowers and butterflies stood right in front of the property. BEWARE THE HONEYBEES, it said. It wasn’t a very friendly message and Mary didn’t know Bitsy Kiem well, but something told Mary if anybody would take her in, Bitsy Kiem and her three nieces would. Bitsy had once been an Englischer. Surely Bitsy would feel sympathy for Mary’s plight. Then again, Mary had been away a long time. Maybe nobody here would feel anything for her, not even obligation.
Maybe she’d have to walk back into town and find a park bench to sleep on for the night. She hoped not. Her feet were going to fall off.
Mary clomped clumsily over the small wooden bridge that spanned an even smaller pond at the front of Bitsy’s property. She passed several beehives on her left and nearly a dozen on her right.
The hives hummed like a Corvette, and a cloud of bees flew in and out and around the hives. It was late spring, and they were busy. Mary inhaled the glorious smell of the flowering bushes lining the little lane that led to the house. The Honeybee Farm was the best-smelling property in Bienenstock, Wisconsin. The Honeybee Sisters had planted hundreds of trees, bushes, and flowers to attract and feed their bees. It was a heavenly place. Mary thought she could be quite happy here if Bitsy didn’t throw her out before she even got in the door.
Mary climbed the porch steps, swallowed hard, and knocked. Her heart pounded against her ribs, and not just because she’d walked the five miles from her parents’ house in flip-flops. Maybe Bitsy would have pity on her and give her a drink of water before kicking Mary off her property.
The door cracked open an inch, and the barrel of a shotgun appeared through the gap. Mary sucked in her breath. She had jumped the fence two years ago, but surely Bitsy didn’t think she deserved to be shot for it. Mary took two steps back and raised her hands over her head like she’d seen people do in the movies. “I’m going. I’m going,” she said.
The shotgun drooped, the door opened even farther, and Bitsy Kiem stuck her head outside. Under a red bandanna, her hair was a pleasing shade of blue, not too bright, not too faint. She wore a purple dress, pink earrings, and her usual frown. “Mary Coblenz? Is that you?”
Keeping her hands high above her head, Mary nodded slowly.
Bitsy grunted, propped her shotgun against the wall, and folded her arms across her chest. “I thought you were that magazine salesman. That boy won’t leave me alone.”
“I’m…I’m sorry,” Mary stuttered.
“Don’t apologize. I’m glad you’re not the magazine salesman. I might have had to shoot you.”
Mary giggled in spite of her racing heart. “I’m glad you didn’t have to shoot him.”
Bitsy’s frown deepened, and she waved her hand in the air like she was swatting a fly. “I’m teasing. I wouldn’t shoot anybody unless they deserved it. I don’t believe in guns.”
For a woman who didn’t believe in guns, Bitsy certainly treated hers like it was an old friend. And maybe she’d pick it up again as soon as she heard what Mary had to say. “Bitsy, I know this is strange—”
Bitsy stepped onto the porch, curled her fingers around Mary’s arm, and nudged her into the house. “You look like you’ve had quite a time of it yet. Cum reu and sit down. I’ve got muffins fresh from the oven and cold milk.”
Nothing in the world sounded so good as muffins and cold milk. Mary closed her lips and sat down at the table. What she had to say could wait. She’d like to eat a muffin before Bitsy made her go. Maybe Bitsy hadn’t noticed she was pregnant.
“Those shoes are the most impractical things I’ve ever seen,” Bitsy said, taking a plate from the cupboard and putting two muffins on it.
“They are,” Mary said, because the space between her right big toe and the next toe was growing a blister, and bits of caked dry mud stuck to her feet like moss on a rock.
Bitsy set the plate of muffins on the table with a knife, a spoon, and a jar of raspberry jam. Mary sighed out loud. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had homemade raspberry jam. Bitsy went to the fridge and poured the most delicious-looking glass of milk Mary had ever seen. “They’re bran muffins, but don’t worry. They’re delicious. You can even make bran taste good if you use enough sugar, and Yost needs them to stay regular.”
Mary didn’t know who Yost was, but bran muffins sounded like about the best thing in the world right now. Her stomach growled. She hadn’t eaten anything since about five this morning except a bottle of water, and that definitely didn’t count. She cut a muffin in half, spread a generous dollop of jam on the top, and took a bite. It was the best thing she’d ever tasted and probably the best thing she’d ever taste again.
Bitsy set the glass of milk on the table. “Good?” she asked.
Not wanting to talk with her mouth full. Mary smiled, nodded, and took a drink of milk. It tasted so good, she finished off a third of the glass before taking a breath. “It’s appeditlich, Bitsy. Denki.”
Bitsy studied Mary’s face. “I’ve got some peanut butter in the pantry. You look like you need some protein. Or I could fry you up a steak right quick. I have a special seasoning.”
“Nae. Of course you don’t need to fry up a steak.”
“I don’t need to do anything, but I don’t mind cooking a steak. It’s not that hard.”
“Please don’t trouble yourself.” Mary finished off her first muffin and started in on the second. She needed to get it down before Bitsy started asking questions.
Bitsy pulled out the chair next to her and sat down. “My muffins are famous, but I don’t expect you came because you heard I’d made a batch today.”
Mary looked down at her hands. “Nae. I didn’t come for the muffins.”
Bitsy nodded as if she already knew what Mary was going to say. “Well, it’s lucky I had some on hand.”
Might as well get it over with. Mary drank the rest of her milk and stuffed the last of the muffin in her mouth, taking a few seconds to chew before she explained herself.
She should have known Bitsy would be four steps ahead of her. “When’s the buplie coming?”
Mary instinctively rested her hand on her growing abdomen. “August sixth.”
Mary hadn’t expected Bitsy to smile—she rarely did, at least since Mary had known her. Bitsy laid her hand over Mary’s. “It’s wunderbarr to have a baby, you know. I never got that chance.”
Mary pressed her lips together. She’d spent so many months worrying about being pregnant. It almost a relief that someone was happy about the baby. Of course, Bitsy probably didn’t know Mary wasn’t married. She might feel differently if she knew.
“They say your bladder will never be the same,” Bitsy said, “but it’s a small price to pay to bring another soul into the world. Boy or girl?”
“I don’t know.”
“We’ll have to do the needle test on you. If it circles, it’s a girl. If it goes back and forth, it’s a boy. I’ve never seen it fail yet.”
Mary nodded. “I…I’d like to try that. It would be…fun to know.”
“Well, it’s nice to be able to make blankets and booties the right color before the buplie comes. Have you had any heartburn? They say if you have bad heartburn, your baby will have lots of hair.”
Mary couldn’t speak past the lump in her throat. It was such a commonplace conversation—two women talking about having a baby, making plans, actually getting excited about it. Mary had missed so much.
Bitsy tilted her head and eyed Mary with all the understanding of a woman who’d raised three nieces. “That boy you ran off with, did he marry you?”
Mary shook her head and braced herself for Bitsy’s indignation.
Mary’s eyes nearly popped out of her head. “Thank goodness?”
“It’s easier when you don’t have to unstick yourself from a sticky situation. The lawyers get rich, and you get nothing but heartache.” Bitsy poured Mary another glass of milk. “So. You’re pregnant, you’re unmarried, and you’ve completely lost your sense of fashion.”
A laugh escaped Mary’s lips, and droplets of milk shot out of her mouth and splattered the tablecloth. “You don’t like my t-shirt?”
“It’s a bad color on you and the earrings are all wrong, and since when does a self-respecting young woman wear holes in her jeans?”
Mary didn’t dare take another swig of milk. Bitsy was so unexpectedly brash. “Everybody wears holey jeans these days.”
Bitsy handed Mary a napkin. “You’ve got your mamm’s smile.”
“Denki,” Mary said, not feeling all that much like smiling anymore. Mamm hadn’t smiled this morning.
Bitsy heaved a great sigh. “I suppose she kicked you out.”
Mary’s shoulders sagged. “She didn’t even let me in.”
“So you came here?”
Mary caught her bottom lip between her teeth. “I should have known she wouldn’t let me come home. I wouldn’t have let me come home. I was foolish, deerich, not to have another plan when I left Green Bay, but I only had enough money to get here. You were once an Englischer. I thought maybe you wouldn’t mind if I stayed here for a few days until I can make arrangements to go back to Green Bay.”
“Do you want to go back to Green Bay?”
She might as well be honest, even if it made her sound pathetic. “Not really.”
Bitsy leaned forward. “I need to know a few things first, Mary Coblenz. Are you afraid of bees?”
“Are you allergic to cats?”
“Not that I know of.”
Bitsy frowned. “Too bad. It would have given me an excuse to get rid of them. I have four. People at church call me ‘The Cat Lady’ behind my back.” She pointed to a fuzzy white cat lounging on the window seat. “Farrah Fawcett is as useful and as pleasant as a bowl of Brussels sprouts.” Bitsy wiped at a spot of milk on her tablecloth. “This is the most important question. Will your parents be mad if I take you in?”
Mary’s heart sank. And just when she was starting to feel a tiny sliver of hope. “I don’t think they’ll like it.”
Bitsy smiled again. That was twice in less than fifteen minutes. “Gute. People need something to get worked up about. It’s so much fun for everyone if I give them a reason to gossip.”
Jennifer Beckstrand is the award winning Amish romance author of The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series and The Honeybee Sisters series for Kensington Books. Huckleberry Summer was nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award and the 2015 RITA® Award, and Huckleberry Hill won the 2014 LIME Award for Inspirational fiction. Both Huckleberry Hill and Huckleberry Christmas appeared in Examiner.com list of top ten inspirational books for 2014. Visit JenniferBeckstrand.com for recipes, upcoming events, and news about books and giveaways.