Vannetta Chapman's debut novel is far from "simple." Annie is an unconventional heroine, full of doubt and constantly striving to do the best she can for her family and her community. Samuel is insecure and and still hurting from a long ago accident that claimed his family. The protagonists of this Christmas tale have to learn that God's grace can wipe away their pasts and bring something new and wonderful into their lives - together.
A Simple Amish Christmas is full of quirky and lovable secondary characters (some of whom captured my heart in such a way that makes me wonder if Chapman plans to expand on their stories in another novel?) and has a wonderfully Christmassy and chilly setting which makes you want to wrap up under a blanket (or perhaps an Amish quilt!) with a cup of hot chocolate. Chapman has captured the essence of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania perfectly, not only in its landscape and culture but also the spirit of community that is present among the Amish. Annie's family and friends welcome her back with open and arms and encourage her to use her nursing skills to help those in need. This is a far cry from the likes of Beverly Lewis's novels where characters are shunned or flee their families because of past transgressions. Instead, I was reminded of Amy Clipston's Kauffman Amish Bakery series, where the focus is on dealing with day-to-day problems that anyone could face, inside or outside the Amish community - a pregnant teenager, a troublesome home-birth, a car accident, a misunderstanding between a new couple. I have a feeling that Chapman could be following in Clipston's footsteps to become the next bestseller in the Amish genre - and pride of place on my bookcase!
Although I found this a leisurely and unchallenging read, this debut novel is not the "Simple Amish Christmas" story it sells itself as. Annie and Samuel have to learn to trust God and each other and overcome their fears and doubts in order to reach happiness in this endearing romance peppered with challenges, subplots and snowstorms. Vannetta Chapman is an author to look out for, especially if you're a fan of the Amish genre or just a hopeless romantic like me.
I'm very grateful to have had the chance to review this book from NetGalley and Abingdon Press.