By Leslie Gould
Bethany House, 373 pages
Book 2 in the 3 novel series Neighbors of Lancaster County
Time Period – Present Day, 2016
Synopsis – Zane Beck and Lila Lehman grew up together as neighbors on Juneberry Lane in rural Lancaster County Pennsylvania. Zane is Englisch while Lila’s family is old order Amish. As children they played together, even building a fort by a creek near their homes. Zane always made Lila feel special, while she was limited to an 8th grade education, Zane would talk to her about his school lessons and respected her intelligence. In this way, he considerably expanded her understanding of the outside world. Because of this connection both characters clearly have feelings for each other, in particular Zane. While Lila cares for Zane, she is a practical woman, and because of the vast differences between their respective cultures she sees no future for them.
As a new adult, when Zane clumsily tries to speak to her about their future she angrily informs him there is no future for them. When he brashly threatens to move far away she responds “Good!”. Zane follows through on his threat and enlists in the Army. He is deployed to Afghanistan while Lila is home being courted by the district Bishop’s son Reuben. While Reuben is caring, stable, and kind he doesn’t care to talk much and more importantly doesn’t make her feel the way Zane did. Zane’s time apart from Lila does not decrease his feelings for her and they both find moving on impossible.
Zane is involved in combat while deployed and kills an enemy combatant in the process. Sadly, it’s the grandson of an Afghan village elder Zane has become good friends with. This leads to Zane seriously thinking of becoming nonresistant and he even briefly attempts desertion to Canada while recovering from his wounds. Lila reaches a point where she can no longer deny her love for Zane leading to them both openly acknowledging their love for the first time late in the book, though they have no idea how they’ll be able to be together. The book ends with Zane getting permission from Lila’s father that they can be married if he joins the Amish faith when he is discharged from the army.
Pacing – The book moves along quickly with the dialog compelling the reader along.
Frame / Setting – The book focuses mostly on Lancaster County Pennsylvania and is deeply immersed in Amish Culture. The differences between the Amish and Englisch communities is a constant theme.
Storyline – Character driven. Everything in the book revolves around Zane and Lila.
Characterization – Lila and Zane are typical romance characters with Zane being handsome, strong, and brash while Lila is attractive, intelligent and resolute. Lila also displays strong elements of her Amish culture; faith, family, hard work, and pragmatism. Zane and Lila are the primary developed characters the vast majority of the book is focused on their perspectives.
Tone/Mood – Heartwarming, Feel-good, Spiritual, Chaste.
Style/Language – This book focuses on the emotions the protagonists are experiencing; hurt, confusion, anger, longing etc. Since the book focuses a great deal on Amish culture Pennsylvania Dutch is sprinkled throughout. The Christian faith of both characters is key with prayer and “God’s will” of central importance. This is a Christian fiction title so there is no sexual content, strong language, and the violence is minimal.
Read-alikes (Novelist Plus)
- White Christmas pie by Wanda E. Brunstetter
- The road home by Beverly Lewis
- When the soul mends by Cindy Woodsmall
- Sarah’s son by Jerry S. Eicher
- Beginnings by Kim Vogel
Novelist Plus. (2019). Read-alikes for Amish sweethearts.
Saricks, J. G. (2009) The Readers Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction (2nd Edition). Chicago, IL. American Library Association.