Title: Breath of Spring by Charlotte Hubbard
Seasons of the Heart Book Four
Publisher: Zebra Books
Genre: Contemporary, Amish, Romance
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
As a bright season brings a fresh start to Willow Ridge, Annie Mae Knepp feels she can never make peace with the past. Her disgraced ex-bishop father is furious she has taken her five siblings to live with her. She’s never been truly at home in her faith. . .or believing in herself. And Annie Mae fears no man will want to take on the responsibilities she’s gladly shouldered. True, her quiet neighbor Adam Wagler has been steadfast and unshakeable helping her through her trials, but he surely couldn’t think of someone so lost as more than a friend. Believing she is unworthy because of her doubts, Annie Mae will find in a moment of surprising revelation that God can work impossible miracles–and that love makes all things new.
Breath of Spring by Charlotte Hubbard is a sweet contemporary romance that provides a realistic and informative look into Amish life. This heartwarming fourth installment in the Seasons of the Heart series has an engaging cast of charming characters and a storyline that is refreshingly unique.
Annie Mae Knepp is a young Amish woman whose life is dramatically altered after her father leaves town to build a new religious community. Now working as a waitress to support herself and her younger sister, Nellie, she has been warmly accepted into the owner of the Sweet Seasons Cafe’s family. The rest of the town is also very supportive but it is her former neighbor Adam Wagler she has come to rely on after he rescues her from a couple of dangerous situations.
Annie Mae has a lot of responsibility resting on her, and she sometimes yearns to be free of the strictures of her religion. She sometimes puts her trust in the wrong person and makes very unwise decisions that lead to some perilous circumstances. Annie Mae is sometimes resentful of Adam’s (perceived) interference, but in the long run, she comes to appreciate his loyal support. Helping him make peace with long ago mistakes brings them closer and their friendship begins to look a lot like love.
Adam is well-respected in the Amish community but he is haunted by his past mistakes. Living with his widowed brother, their frequent clashes over household duties leads to some surprising insight into how negative their lives have become. Adam begins to change his reactions to their conflicts which leads to a more positive outlook in most areas of his life. Despite evidence to the contrary, he remains convinced he should not be responsible for anyone but himself, but his vow to remain a bachelor is soon tested by his growing feelings for Annie Mae.
Amish life appears to be deceptively simple but a slower pace of life does not necessarily mean trouble free. As demonstrated by both Annie Mae and Adam, rebellious behavior is also a rite of passage and leads to sometimes tragic consequences. There is also strife and dishonesty among community members. Children are sometimes mistreated and corporal punishment can occasionally cross over into abuse. Struggling with faith is universal to all religions as is guilt that stems from poor decisions. It is very refreshing to see that Ms. Hubbard does not always paint a rosy picture and that the characters in Breath of Spring also must overcome some of the same problems that exist in secular communities.
Another high point of the story is the slow progression of Adam and Annie Mae’s relationship and how they first resolve their past issues before entering into a romantic entanglement. The solutions to their problems are not quick or easy and they take the time to listen to one another and offer useful advice for solving their respective issues. Although the two have been acquainted for their entire lives, it is not until they step out of their usual roles that their perception of one another begins to change. This makes their evolving relationship believable and sets the stage for their respective transformations.
Although Charlotte Hubbard does not gloss over hardship or real life problems, Breath of Spring is an endearing novel that is always upbeat and positive. The Amish faith is explored in great detail but the story is never preachy. Likable characters (with a few notable exceptions), strong friendships and a close-knit community are greatly enriched by the beautifully developed storyline. The tantalizing excerpt from Harvest of Blessings leaves readers impatiently awaiting the next novel in the Seasons of the Heart series.