Shannon here: Kelly Irvin shares a romantic excpert from her latest Amish Romance, Every Good Gift. Comment or answer the question in this post to enter the drawing for a print copy. U.S. only. Deadline: Feb 25th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Kelly:
Sometimes Friendship is the Most Romantic Gesture by Kelly Irvin:
As I attempt to write this blog about Joshua and Maisy, the main characters in my new novel Every Good Gift, I find myself dancing around the subject of romance.
This blog is slated to appear on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, so readers might expect all the traditional trappings of romance. I could write about how my husband and I married on Valentine’s Day and how we’re headed to Costa Rica later this month to celebrate our 35th anniversary. But I’ve told our story before, and that won’t be the kind of romance readers will find in Every Good Gift.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Maisy and Joshua’s story is one of the most romantic I’ve ever written. I’m simply not sure others will see it that way. And I don’t want to give away too much of the story in trying to explain why I find it romantic in a nontraditional way.
BUT from the beginning when Joshua trips over Maisy’s bag at the train station in Hutchinson, Kansas, I knew there was something special going on here. It’s even more special when Maisy proceeds to vomit on Joshua’s boots when he helps her out of the van in her cousin’s front yard later that morning.
Joshua’s not mad. He’s not even irritated. He’s a good guy and he’s concerned for Maisy’s well-being. He’s curious about why she’s made this long trip from Jamesport, MO, to Haven, Kansas, alone. He wonders why his boss—Maisy’s cousin-in-law—isn’t more pleased to see her on his doorstep. Joshua is a loner by choice. He’s gone out of his way to avoid human connections for what he sees as a good reason. Yet Maisy gets under his skin with her singing as she does housework, her love of animals, her sense of humor, her love of big words, and her desire to please.
Maisy can’t understand why Joshua is so nice to her. Everyone else is keeping their distance. He teaches her about tools and helps her get a job at the hardware store in Yoder. Gradually, she begins to realize Joshua is broken too, just in a different way. They’re both going through a hard season of trial. Maisy likes Joshua, but she doesn’t trust her own judgment. What if he’s another temptation? How can she be sure he’s the right man for her? How can he even look at her in a romantic light?
I’m happy to say that I think Joshua comes through like a champ. He proves his trustworthiness in a most unusual way (even a non-Amish man would’ve been hard-pressed to do what Joshua does). His love for Maisy is indisputable. He puts being a good friend ahead of his own discomfort.
Here’s an excerpt from Every Good Gift. I hope you enjoy it.
Excerpt from Every Good Gift by Kelly Irvin:
“Have you eaten?”
At the sound of Maisy’s soft voice, Joshua stopped in the middle of the kitchen. She followed so closely she nearly butted into him. He swerved toward the stove and the coffeepot. “Nee. Kaffi is all I need.”
“I could make you breakfast.”
“Nee.” He grabbed a mug, poured the coffee, and headed for the back door. “Not necessary.”
Joshua turned and paused, his free hand on the doorknob. “Understand what?”
“You’re not wanting to be here with the likes of me.”
“What do you mean, the likes of you?”
She sped to the stove, slapped a teakettle onto the burner, and turned up the flame.
What now? He’d shamed her without even trying. This had nothing to do with her condition. A single man and a single woman, unrelated, shouldn’t be alone in the house. His father’s voice rang in his ears. “I thought I’d drink my kaffi on the front porch before it gets too hot out.”
Without waiting for a response, he went outside and settled into a canvas camping chair. That had been a stupid thing to say. The last day of August in Kansas would be nothing but hot, beginning to end. Hot, humid, still air. As long as he didn’t move, he wouldn’t sweat. Until that first sip of hot coffee. His little sister once asked him why folks drank coffee when it was so hot. It made a person sweat. Which cooled his body.
His teacher would’ve called that science. He called it common sense.
The screen door creaked. Maisy stuck her head out. Like a crab checking for predators. Joshua took a sip of his coffee. “Come on out. It’s a free country.”
“I don’t want to bother you none.”
Hardly any at all.
Instead of taking the battered lawn chair next to Joshua, she scooted over to the steps and took a seat. Her mug held a tea bag. Her head raised to the morning sun, she dipped the bag up and down.
He sought a topic of conversation. None came to mind. That was nothing new for him.
Maisy left off messing with the tea bag and took a quick sip. A calico cat trotted across the yard, paused, one paw in the air, meowed, then proceeded to climb the steps and sprawl on the porch next to Maisy. With a soft chuckle she stroked its thick fur. “You must be even hotter than we are, kittycat.”
Cats didn’t make Joshua chuckle. They made him sneeze. He leaned back in his chair and contemplated his companions. If Maisy stopped petting, the cat would meow and nudge her hand until she started again. The cat had her under its thumb or paw, as it were. “I think you made a friend.”
“Funny how some cats are standoffish and others want to be your best friend right off the bat.” The cat rolled over onto her back. Maisy obliged by rubbing her belly. More pleased meows. “Like people, I reckon.”
Joshua didn’t need friends. Regardless of Maisy’s intent, the remark stung. He concentrated on the coffee. It could’ve used some doctoring. Served him right. He ran out of the kitchen without the usual tablespoon of sugar and dollop of milk.
“Do you have a name?” Maisy tugged the cat into her lap. “Hmm, let’s see, you’re orange, and black, and white all over. Calico isn’t very original. What does Ruth call you?”
“Mostly she calls her Kitty.”
“Not very original, either.”
“I reckon Ruth doesn’t have time to worry herself over a stray cat.”
Maisy’s hands stilled. “Not when she’s got a stray girl who invited herself to the house with no warning, you mean. If I could go somewhere else and save her the bother, I would, just so you know.”
This was why he didn’t make conversation. Sinkholes and quicksand lurked everywhere. “I’m just saying since Amos’s accident she’s taken on a lot more of the outside work. Besides the produce stand and the jams and jellies for the gift shop in town and the quilts for the furniture store.”
Maisy’s gaze bounced his direction and back out to the yard. “I reckon I’m still figuring out what to expect from people.”
“Don’t assume the worst, for starters.”
“Sometimes I can’t help it.” Her nose wrinkled as if in concentration, as she smoothed the cat’s fur. “So far most folks haven’t given me a reason to do otherwise.”
“I reckon you expected that.”
What Joshua hadn’t expected was to sit on Amos’s front porch and make stilted conversation with a half-woman, half-girl who’d shown up all of a sudden, looking like she needed a friend or someone to talk to. That someone couldn’t be him. She had Ruth, didn’t she?
“Can I ask you a question?”
Joshua studied a swollen bite on the back of his thumb. Mosquito or chigger? It itched like crazy. He hazarded a sideswipe glance at her. She’d gone back to spoiling the cat. “If you really need to, I suppose you can.”
“Are you baptized?”
“Why didn’t you go to church?”
“That’s two questions.”
“Ruth was right.”
“About you. She said you never met a silence you didn’t like.” Maisy picked up her tea. She set it down without drinking. “Have you always been like that?”
“Not always.” Joshua couldn’t contain a sigh. This conversation had tuckered him out, and the day wasn’t even half over. “People jaw at each other too much. They use way too many words, to my way of thinking.”
“I like words. I make lists of them. I study them and memorize their meanings.”
“Why not? It’s gut to be able to use words to make yourself understood.” She kissed the cat’s nose. It snuggled closer. “I figure the more words you know, the more you can tell people what you mean and understand what they’re trying to tell you.”
“I know words in three languages, and I still don’t understand half of what people are talking about.”
“Maybe you just don’t know the right words.”
The cat stopped meowing. The only sounds were her purr and the chirp of the blue jays scolding each other in the sycamore tree across the way. Occasionally a bee made itself known with its incessant buzzing. A dragonfly zipped through the air and landed on Ruth’s pink rosebush that hugged the porch railing.
A sweet silence a man could enjoy.
“I miss my family. I miss them so much even my teeth hurt with it.” Maisy whispered the words as if sharing a terrible secret no one but Joshua could know. “I even miss my dog.”
She was determined to confide in him. She couldn’t know that confiding in Joshua was like telling her life story to a tree stump. He was no good at this. He slid down in the canvas chair and hunched his shoulders in order to better bear the weight of her sorrow. “What’s your dog’s name?”
It was the best he could do.
Maisy cocked her head in his direction. She smiled. Everything about her changed in that split second. The wretched girl drowning in her own guilt disappeared, replaced by a pretty woman with blue eyes and sunshine on her lips. “Skeeter. He’s dumb as a doorknob, but he’s brave and fierce—when he’s chasing a squirrel. He makes a gut pillow. Boplin love him. He loves them.”
More words than Joshua had ever heard spoken about a dog. She felt about dogs the way he felt about horses. Skeeter sounded like a better friend than most people. Animals often were. “Huh. Skeeter.”
“I reckon I see why you miss him.”
“I better get in there and finish cleaning the kitchen.” She kissed the cat’s nose again. “I dub thee Sunny because you have a sunny disposition.”
The cat yawned widely, revealing a wicked set of incisors and a skinny pink tongue.
“We moved to Haven when I was twelve.” Dangerous territory, but something about her lament over a dog had touched him. Whether he liked it or not. And he didn’t. “I still miss my friends. But I see them once in a while when they come up for a visit.”
“And you made new ones.”
Maisy seemed to ponder his revelation like a puzzle missing some pieces. The silence stretched, this time more companionable.
Question for Readers: Would you rather your significant other, friend, or family member tell you the truth on a sensitive topic or tell a white lie to spare your feelings? Do you think one is more loving than the other?
About Kelly: Bestseller Kelly Irvin is the author of thirty books and novellas, including romantic suspense and Amish romance novels. Publishers Weekly says of her latest release, The Warmth of Sunshine, “[Irvin] delivers an elegant portrait of a young Amish woman caught between two worlds.” The two-time ACFW Carol Award finalist worked as a newspaper reporter before spending more than twenty years in public relations. Kelly now writes fiction full-time. She lives with her husband, photographer Tim Irvin, in San Antonio. They are the parents of two children, four grandchildren, and two ornery cats. Learn more & connect:
About the book – Every Good Gift:
During the most difficult season of her life, how could she know whether their meeting was a gift from God—or another temptation?
Maisy never expected that a Plain girl like her could have her heart stolen by an Englisch boy. But when her rumspringa ends and Maisy realizes she’s pregnant, the reality of their choices—and their differences—sets in.
Maisy knows she will never leave her faith to marry her baby’s father. But she also knows the road to acceptance as an unwed mother in an Amish community will be long and hard. To protect her family from the scandal, she goes to live with her cousin in Haven, Kansas, where she will have some solitude to figure out what kind of future she might have.
In Haven Maisy begins to find her way—thanks in no small part to Joshua Lapp, a Plain man who’s made it clear he isn’t bothered by her situation or ashamed to be seen with her, despite the bishop’s warnings. But Joshua has struggled with his faith ever since the death of his twin brother, leaving Maisy to wonder: How can two people who are so lost ever help each other discover Gott’s plans for their future?
The author of more than twenty-five Amish fiction novels, Kelly explores the lives of Plain women who experience many of the same life challenges as women of other faiths. Her series have spanned the country from Montana to Texas to Kansas to Missouri to Virginia. The women in these books walk through seasons of loss, grief, sudden widowhood, unexpected pregnancy, adoption, domestic abuse, post-partum depression, and infertility. They come away stronger in their faith and their love, giving readers the hope that they can do the same.
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