Review: Christmas in Apple Ridge by Cindy Woodsmall

Cover of "The Sound of Sleigh Bells"

Cover of The Sound of Sleigh Bells

Rocky Ridge Apple Orchards

Rocky Ridge Apple Orchards (Photo credit: NixBC)

I received a copy of Christmas in Apple Ridge to review by Edelweiss publishing. This book is trilogy of romance stories by Cindy Woodsmall where the setting involves Amish communities in Pennsylvania and Ohio; most of the main characters are Amish.

In book 1, “The Sound of Sleigh Bells”, Beth carries a secret she has shared with no one, not even her Aunt Lizzy, who is more like a best friend and sister than her aunt. Beth and Lizzy together own and manage a dry goods store. Beth has a good head for business and she has become adept in the role of middleman between Amish craftsmen and a variety of businesses who sell their goods. Her work sometimes takes her  on long buying trips to several communities. What worries Lizzy most is that Beth has chosen a silent and solitude life, not socializing with other young people. When Lizzy meets Jonah, she starts to interfere, and cooks up a slightly misleading plan. But Jonah, a very talented carver, has mental scars as well as physical scars from a serious accident several years ago.

In book 2, “The Christmas Singing”, Mattie designs and bakes cakes for special occasions. Her talent is well known among Amish and non-Amish alike.  Working on her cakes is cathartic while her broken heart heals. Just a few years ago, she’d moved from Pennsylvania to an Amish community in Ohio near her married brother. Things seem to be going well with Mattie until her shop burns down to the ground. Circumstances take her back to her home town for a month while she bakes cakes for Jonah and Beth’s wedding, and her Aunt Lizzy and Amos’ wedding. Unknown to Mattie, the man who broke her heart, Gideon, was also in Apple Ridge, finishing Jonah and Beth’s new home. Gideon had a secret he had kept from his community. He had been battling a rare form of cancer. He had intended to set Mattie free from any ties with him when it looked as if he were losing the fight. But he had eventually recovered, and when she returned he didn’t know what to do and it appeared that Mattie was not interested in listening to him.

In book 3, “The Dawn of Christmas”, Sadie had experienced betrayal just days before her wedding to Daniel. Her family allowed her to join a mission group hoping it would help her broken heart heal. Years later, she is determined to live independently and single, to the disapproval of her family who want her to return home. One night she rides her grandmother’s horse over fields and encounters Levi thrown from his horse and injured. She saves his life through quick thinking, and they become fast friends, recognizing in each other the desire to remain alone and unmarried.

Their relationship doesn’t stay simple for long. Sadie still plans to return to Peru with her mission team, but she needs to earn more to pay for the trip. This becomes a problem when the store owners she worked for suddenly retired and closed their store. So Sadie and Levi team up to make things to sell at Beth and Lizzy’s dry goods store in Apple Ridge. Levi makes large toys and Sadie creates dolls to be sold with them. It doesn’t take long for people to make the assumption that they are courting. Taking the path of least resistance, they allow the speculations to continue, but obstacles kept them confused about what is real and what is imagined about their relationship.

My first impression after reading these three books was how thoroughly the author developed her characters, allowing them tension and conflicts that fit within the lifestyle of the Amish community and seemed feasible and believable. The characters are so well written that it was easy to form attachments to them because of the depth of their personalities and the struggles they live through that brings development and growth. By the end of the third book, Beth and Jonah had given birth to their first child and the reader feels excited for them. Mattie and Gideon are married and Gideon continues to be free of cancer.

Each story can be read independently from the others, although I enjoyed reading them one right after the other. The storyline begun in book 1 builds within the subplots of books 2 and 3. I have always enjoyed authors that create a community peopled by persons in consecutive books and growing their community over time. I will definitely read these books several times and would love to see more books written about others who live in Apple Ridge. I highly recommend this series for those who love to read Amish fiction.

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