Three generations of Brunstetter women pen the three Amish romance tales found in “The Brides of the Big Valley”, which is fitting because the stories themselves have intertwining characters. Furthermore, three Amish communities from the Big Valley region in Pennsylvania are represented: the very conservative and plain white-toppers, the conservative black-toppers, and the more progressive yellow-toppers. This was the first that I had heard about these groups and found it very interesting that despite their differences, they lived in the same general area and intermingled, at least to some extent. Being contemporary, these stories reflect issues that affect not only the Amish, but the English world as well, which makes them easy to relate to and provides insight into the Amish way of life.
In “Deanna’s Determination”, the Amish characters are white-toppers, strictly adhering to a plain and simple lifestyle without indoor plumbing. As a widow with a young son, Abner, Deanna struggles to make ends meet. A friend shows interest in her, but when a tragedy occurs, Deanna’s world is upended all over again. So many can relate to circumstances such as these. What I appreciated most about this story was its inclusion of two central characters with significant disabilities, one of whom I will not mention in order to avoid spoilers. Abner has Down Syndrome, and I enjoyed his cheerful and loving yet sometimes challenging personality. Deanna, in my opinion, was not very determined, at least not during the majority of the narrative, but it was interesting to see how the Amish cope with disabilities.
As the title hints, “Rose Mary’s Resolve” deals with the pull and temptation that the English world can have on Amish teenagers. A black-topper, Rose Mary has grown up in a conservative Amish community. However, she finds it difficult to take a stand, whether that is with dating another Amish boy who is considering becoming English or with a young English man who suddenly appears in her life. Notable in this story is the point of view of an English outsider and the serious decisions faced by Amish young people. This tale reminds me somewhat of Rachel Good’s novel “The Amish Midwife’s Secret”.
“Leila’s Longing” had the biggest impact on me. I could empathize with Leila in not fitting in with others of her age group and with being socially awkward. As a yellow-topper, she belongs to an Amish community that is a bit more progressive. Having experienced bullying as a child, she does not trust people and has not forgiven those who hurt her in the past. When she does begin to connect with a few other young people, they are from the black-top community, which causes some tension that threatens their relationship. Beyond the germane issues of victimization and regrets, this story also deals with heartbreak and family ties.
Following each story is a recipe pulled from the narrative itself, and the alliterative titles further contribute to the charm. One aspect that I would have liked to see is more use of the Pennsylvania Dutch language. Many times, the characters call their parents “Mom” and “Dad”, with an occasional reference to them as “Mamm” and “Daed”. Consistency would add to the atmosphere and further immerse the reader in the stories. Overall, however, these tales are sweet and will appeal to modern readers, especially those who may be curious about different Amish communities and their lifestyles.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and Goodreads and was under no obligation to post a review.