Shannon here: Kelly Irvin shares insight into her characters’ romance with a romantic excerpt from her latest Amish Romance, The Warmth of Sunshine. Comment or answer the question in this post to enter the drawing for a print copy. Deadline: July 23rd, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Kelly:
Letting Go and Letting Love Find Its Way by Kelly Irvin:
Sometimes the hardest thing to do in a loving relationship is let the other person find his own way. When my husband has to make a hard decision, I’m often tempted to tip the scale in the direction I think he should go. Instead of supporting him by letting him know I’ll stand by whatever decision he makes.
That’s the situation Owen finds himself facing in The Warmth of Sunshine, when Abigail, the woman he’s growing to love, has to decide if she wants to continue her life as an Amish person or choose another path. He’s afraid of losing her, but he also knows pushing her to stay in their community may result in problems for them both in the future.
His situation is different, but Own has his own dilemma to solve. He wants a different occupation—an occupation that will truly make him happy. But he also wants to be a good son and continue to work for his father’s construction company. In his Amish world honoring his parents is an important biblical concept. So is “dying to self.” In other words, putting God and others before his own needs and wants. Owen has a big decision of his own to make. Abigail’s need to explore her new identity gives him the time to do that.
Their decisions will determine if Abigail and Owen have a future as husband and wife. As I wrote their stories I thought about what was best for each of them and whether they would have the fortitude to decide that for themselves. I wondered if I would be brave enough to set aside the opinions of the people I love in order to do what was best. Could I live up to the tenets of my faith if I had to sacrifice my happiness to do so? Would Abigail and Owen be called upon to do this? Or did God’s plan for them involve finding happiness together?
Read this excerpt from The Warmth of Sunshine for more peek into Abigail and Owen’s difficult situation.
Maybe it was best to get the elephant in the buggy out in the open. “Kayla says your biological mother showed up at the restaurant today.” Owen tugged on the reins. Cupcake wanted to forge ahead this evening. Maybe she sensed the uneasiness that hung between the two humans who sat behind her. “Kayla says she seems to be stalking you.”
“That’s an exaggeration. Did Kayla tell you she gave me a picture of my father—my biological father?” Abigail drew out the two syllables fa-ther, as if tasting them for the first time. “His name is Eric Waters. He’s a cowboy, but he restores classic cars. He loves cars more than horses.”
“That must’ve been almost as hard as learning you have an English mother.” The words bounced around in his head before he said them. Finding just the right ones might be the difference between a budding courtship and a courtship shut down before it even started. “Does he want to know you too?”
“She says he was mad about her giving me away. They both married other people.” Abigail’s voice still had that peculiar monotone so different from her normal cheery chatter. “Now they’re both divorced, so they drink beer and eat pizza together. And go bowling.”
This revelation didn’t come as a big surprise. The English lived in a different world. Plain folks like Owen and Abigail weren’t to judge, but there was a reason they adhered to Romans 12:2. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
He’d heard that verse in sermons on Sunday from the time he was old enough to sit on his mother’s lap and eat the crackers she pulled from her canvas bag.
“She gave me pictures of my half brother and two half sisters. She says they like the idea of having a big schweschder.”
Abigail had experience in that department with her seven younger siblings, but the English world was a far different place. Owen directed Cupcake to turn left onto the dirt road that would take them to the one small pond on the Bontragers’ property. This time of day the bullfrogs sang duets while the crickets played backup music. Maybe it would soothe Abigail and help her to relax. “You have plenty of brieder and schwesdchdre here.”
Abigail slumped against the seat as if the air had suddenly gone out of her. “That’s what I told her. But I can’t stop thinking about them. About her. She wants to know me. She wants them to know me. Bryan and my eldre don’t want me to see her anymore. They’re afraid she’ll lead me away from my faith.”
Bryan’s job was to guide them on the path of faithfulness. His concern was understandable. “She’s narrisch. She can’t just turn up here and expect you to be her dochder after all these years.”
“I know.” Abigail chewed a fingernail for a few seconds, then drew arms around her middle, her hands hidden under them. “But then I had a thought. What if that’s the reason I’m so clumsy and awkward? Maybe this is why I find baking so hard. And why I really don’t like to sew. I’d rather go hunting or fishing or go hiking any day.” The words rushed out in a huge swoosh as if she’d been holding them in until the dam broke and she could no longer control them.
“Whoa, whoa.” Owen halted the buggy at the pond’s edge with an abrupt tug on the reins that made Cupcake toss her head and whinny. Sorry, girl. “You’re not clumsy and awkward and your apple pie is . . . pretty gut.”
“Lying is a sin.”
Point well taken. Tripping over her own feet on the way to the blackboard at school had resulted in two black eyes when she hit her face on a desk. Falling out of a tree led to a broken wrist. Dumping a cup of hot coffee in the bishop’s lap had sent him scrambling, which caused Abigail to drop the mug and break it. The first time Owen tried one of her peanut butter cookies he almost broke a tooth. But she’d taken down the first deer during hunting season more than one year. Folks laughed about Abigail’s trials and tribulations. Not in a mean way. More in awe and wonder that she survived unmaimed.
That didn’t make her English.
The buggy’s headlights illuminated weeds and cattails blowing in a humid night breeze. Mosquitoes buzzed Owen’s face. Cupcake’s tail slapped away flies. He chose his words like a man edging along a narrow cliff with a deep canyon below. “What I mean is, those were growing pains. Some people have more than others. Kayla says you’re a gut waitress now. You almost never spill anything. You’re a cheerful, hard worker. You do your best with the baking and sewing. You embraced your baptismal vows. You are Plain.”
“Who are you trying to convince? Yourself or me?”
Her tart tone stung. The muscles in Owen’s shoulders tightened. It’s not her fault. She’s upset. “No one. I’ve known you forever. I’m telling you what I see from my spot in the world.”
“I’m sorry.” She laughed a high, nervous laugh. “I’m so mixed up I don’t know which direction is north. Up is down.”
“You are who you are. That hasn’t changed.” This was the truth. His heart said so. Owen wasn’t a scientist or a fancy psychologist with degrees in how children were changed by who their parents were and where they lived, but he knew what he saw. “Gott has a plan for you. You grew up with Plain parents. Don’t you think that’s what He intended for you to be? Otherwise, why let it happen?”
“Gott can bring gut from all things.’ She murmured the words as if talking to herself. “All things.”
“That’s right. That’s what Scripture tells us.”
“Jane says I’m as Plain as anybody she knows. That my faith is as strong. She doesn’t see how it’s been shaken by this secret. It must not have been so very strong after all.”
A sea of platitudes threatened to drown Owen. “These trials hone our faith. A faith not tested would be a weak faith.”
Abigail’s hand slid across the buggy seat until it reached the halfway point. Owen stared at it, then at her. If only the darkness didn’t obscure her expression. She wanted something from him. She needed something from him. The realization sent a strange but nice warmth bubbling up in him.
He slid his hand over hers. She didn’t withdraw. He rubbed his hands over hers to warm them. The heat wound its way through him instead. She was warm, as warm as sunshine, her skin soft. He didn’t move, didn’t breathe. Let this moment last.
If only a touch could say the words he couldn’t seem to utter. I’m sorry. I care. I wish this wasn’t happening to you.
Abigail sighed, a sound replete with a deep sadness.
Whatever he offered, it wasn’t enough. Give me the words, Gott. Please give me the words. “I’m sorry this is happening to you.”
“It’s not your fault. There’s really nothing you can do to help. No one can.”
What could he say to that? They’d known each other forever—but hardly knew each other at all. Plain men and women were like that. “Your eldre must be hurting something awful.”
“They’re sorry they didn’t tell me sooner.” Her voice trembled. “They’re scared. That’s why they don’t want me to see her. They’re afraid she’s right. That I belong more to her than them.”
“I think they’re right to be afraid.”
Abigail snatched her hand from his, hopped from the buggy, and left Owen sitting by himself.
Okay, so that wasn’t the right thing to say.
“I reckon that’s easy for you and them to tell me to ignore something so big it fills up all the space around me.” She threw the observation over her shoulder like a parting shot. “You can’t imagine what it’s like to have your world jerked out from under you from one moment to the next.”
Not true. Not fair. But then this was about her pain, not his.
Owen hauled himself from the buggy. He tromped through the weeds, his boots squelching in the mud. Grasshoppers and bugs flew out in every direction. Mosquitoes buzzed his face in an angry cavalcade. A toad hurled itself into the hinterlands.
Owen stopped within arm’s reach of Abigail at the pond’s edge. The storm earlier in the week had left it swollen. A breeze rippled the murky surface. Owen breathed in the night smells of mud, water, and summer just on the horizon. “I think I understand a little of what you’re going through. But from a different perspective. Being able to talk to your mudder—in your case to both of them—is a gift not everyone receives.”
This time her hand came all the way across the big divide first. Her fingers found his and squeezed. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I’m wallowing in my own self-pity with no thought of how it must seem to you.”
To be awakened by his father in the dark predawn of a hot August day to find himself motherless had turned Owen’s world into a gray, grim place for a long spell. Gradually light and color returned. His father’s steady voice and warm hand on Owen’s shoulder helped. His grandparents, his aunts and uncles, his mother’s friends—everyone embraced the Kurtz children in a perpetual hug.
Still, Owen’s world no longer included his mother. “You don’t owe me an apology. My daed would say to pray for the will of Gott and wait for His plan to unfold.”
“If you had a chance to talk to your mudder again, you would take it, wouldn’t you?”
“That’s a fanciful question.” But one he had entertained on those first awful nights when he contemplated how much darker the world was knowing his mother no longer slumbered in the room down the hallway. The sound of Lee’s sobs muffled in his pillow broke the eerie silence. Micah’s nightmares. Claire’s sleepwalking. They all stumbled around in a darkness that had nothing to do with the night.
Yes, Owen desperately wanted to talk to her one more time. To tell her not to go. To ask her why she went. In the days that followed, the doctors could not pinpoint definitively why she died. The not-knowing made it worse. Father said it was the will of God, pure and simple. Not so simple, from the vantage point of a sixteen-year-old boy who missed his mother. “It makes no sense to consider it. She died. It was the will of Gott. Her days were done.”
“I have that chance. It seems wrong to ignore it.” Abigail faced Owen. The buggy headlights silhouetted her body. Shadows hid her expression. “I’m an Englisch girl adopted by Plain people. Who does that make me?”
Did bloodline trump the Plain world that had embraced Abigail since birth? It did not. Haven had another family in its midst that proved this truth. “Maybe you should talk to Cassie and Mason Keim.”
“Their situation is different. It’s reversed. Those kinner were brought up Englisch and then sent to live with the Keims.”
Not so different. Mason and his five brothers and sisters were brought up English by their mother, who left the faith after she became in a family way with Mason. When she died she left a will that said she wanted her parents Job and Dinah Keim to raise them. Eventually Mason was baptized in the Plain faith and married Cassie.
“They didn’t know they were Plain. They didn’t know their Plain family. Now they’re growing up in the faith.” Some of them. Bobby Keim had chosen to finish high school so he could go to college. He wanted to be a police officer. God’s plan? “Cassie adopted those children as her own. Knowing what they went through might help you with what you’re going through.”
“Those kinner experienced both lives, and they’re deciding for themselves which one they’ll choose.”
The quiver in her voice reverberated in Owen’s heart. How could he help her? He squeezed her hand again. “If you think it will help, go to Abilene, experience your Englisch roots.”
“Bryan says I risk meidung if I stay too long, adopt their ways, or even decide to marry an Englischer.”
Had that thought crossed her mind? The darkness was a welcome friend, masking Owen’s embarrassment at how his mind raced ahead of him—of them. “Going to Abilene doesn’t mean you’re giving up on your Plain life.” He wrangled his voice into a gentle tone. “It’s better for you to understand what all this means now. Otherwise it will always be there in the back of your mind. You’ll always wonder.”
Abigail inched closer. Her scent of soap and fresh mint enveloped him. “I know this isn’t how you wanted this evening to go.”
“I want you to be happy.” Owen touched her cheek for one brief second. The newly sprouted, tender plant they’d been nurturing between them stretched and reached for the sky, new leaves unfurling. “You need time to figure this out. I’m still figuring out some things in my own life. We have time.”
“If I decide to go I can’t ask you to wait for me to come back. It wouldn’t be fair.”
“I know what’s between us is new.” Owen picked his words with great care. “But I was looking forward to helping it grow. I’m not giving up on that or you, but we both need to be sure of who we are and what we want in order to make things work. Okay?”
“You don’t have to make any promises. If you decide to go off in search of the real you, don’t let my feelings stand in your way.”
Abigail nodded. “No promises. And you don’t have to wait for me. You shouldn’t have to wait.”
It wasn’t about waiting so much as searching and finding and ending up in the same place someday. Someday soon.
Their farewell in front of the Bontragers’ house was quick and wordless. Everything had been said. Owen took his time driving home. That hole Kayla claimed he was trying to fill with Hairy and a gangly foal gaped, dark and empty. He’d done the right thing, said the right things, but the lonely night still stretched before him.
Question for Readers: What city (or location) would you like to be the setting for a romance novel and why?
About Kelly: Kelly Irvin is the author of more than 25 Amish romance novels. She is currently working on her latest series, Amish Blessings, set in the Kansas Amish communities of Yoder and Haven.
She is the author of the Amish of Big Sky Country series, which focused on three Amish communities in northwestern Montana affected by devastating wildfires. These included Mountains of Grace, The Long Bridge Home, and Peace in the Valley.
The first book in her Every Amish Season series, Upon a Spring Breeze, won the 2018 Readers Choice Award from the Faith, Hope, and Love Chapter of Romance Writers of America in the long contemporary romance category.
She is also the author of the Amish of Bee County series that includes The Saddle Maker’s Son, The Bishop’s Son and The Beekeeper’s Son. This last novel received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, calling it “a delicately woven masterpiece.” The Beekeeper’s Son was a finalist in the national 2016 ACFW Carol Awards Contest in the romance category. Kelly is also the author of the Bliss Creek Amish series and the New Hope Amish series, both from Harvest House.
A former public relations professional, Kelly writes full time and lives in Texas with her husband Tim. They are the parents of two kids, three grandkids, and two ornery cats. Learn more & connect:
About the book – The Warmth of Sunshine (Book 2 Amish Blessings series):
Abigail’s Amish life has always followed a certain path . . . until an Englisch woman disrupts all she’s known to be true.
Growing up Amish, Abigail Bontrager often felt like a square peg in a round hole. Her pie crusts always turned out tough. Her stitches always ran crooked. She was clumsy. Not ideal for an aspiring Amish wife and mother, but her faith and love of her family, which are so much more important, are solid. Plus, her relationship with the attractive and kindhearted Owen Kurtz is moving in the right direction.
Owen is part dreamer, part entrepreneur. His friendship with Abigail has gradually blossomed into a sweet and loving courtship. Inspired by the hope of a future with the girl of his dreams, he decides to take the next step in building a business of his own—in the promising new industry of growing sunflowers.
When an outsider claiming to be Abigail’s birth mother abruptly enters her life, Abigail’s world comes crashing down. Confused and upset, she is determined to discover who she really is. Her journey of discovery leads to the possibilities of a new life waiting for her in the Englisch world. But is this new life really worth giving up everything and everyone she’s known? How can Abigail and Owen follow their hearts—and God’s plan—when these new paths now lead them into the unknown?
In this second book in the Amish Blessings series, bestselling and award-winning romance novelist Kelly Irvin shares an inspiring story of following your heart while trusting God to lead you into your future.
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