It’s almost Valentine’s Day, the busiest time of the year at Beechy’s Sweets, where the Amish gifts of love and faith are even sweeter than the home-made candy.
THE SWEETEST COURTSHIP National Bestselling Author Emma Miller
At age thirty-six, Jacob Beechy is a rarity—a master candy maker, and a bachelor. His mother, however, still hopes for grandchildren. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, she convinces Jacob he will need extra help in the shop and interviews a string of applicants—for his future wife . . .
THE SWEETEST TRUTH National Bestselling Author Laura Bradford
Sadie Fisher has accepted that she will never marry. Her scars from a barn fire are a daily reminder of why. So when she receives mysterious gifts leading up to Valentine’s Day, including chocolate from Beechy’s, she’s bewildered—yet curious. Sadie may not think she’s pretty, but there’s a young man who sees only sweetness when he looks at her . . .
NOTHING TASTES SO SWEET Award-Winning Author Mary Ellis
Pregnant and suddenly widowed, Hannah must give up the dreams she once had. But when she learns that her longtime English employer plans to sell his hardware store, she’s determined to buy it. She doesn’t realize that will mean following a clue from Beechy’s to clear a man’s name—and finding a partnership in work, faith, and love . . .
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
EMMA MILLER lives quietly with her family on a farm in Kent County, Delaware. She also writes sweet Amish romances for Harlequin’s Love Inspired line.
LAURA BRADFORD is also the author of the women's fiction novel Portrait of a Sister, and the national bestselling Amish Mysteries. Her next novel, A Daughter's Truth, will release in 2019. Laura lives in Mohegan Lake, New York. Visit her website at laurabradford.com.
MARY ELLIS has written twelve award-winning novels set in the Amish community and several historical romances. Before “retiring” to write full-time, Mary taught school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate, a job with amazingly sweet fringe benefits. She lives in Ohio with her husband, dog, and cat. Visit her website at maryellis.net or find her on Facebook at facebook.com/Mary-Ellis/Author.
Read an Excerpt
"Jacob, you really needn't look so sour." Clara glanced at her only son and then tugged on her black prayer kapp, adjusting it until it was just right.
"I'm not sour." He frowned as he poured sugar into the kettle on the old iron wood stove he'd converted to propane gas. No one would say Beechy's Sweets wasn't modern.
The entire kitchen in the back of the candy shop smelled of chocolate, a rich, earthy aroma as pleasing as Clara had ever smelled in her fifty-eight years of life. It was a scent that she associated with contentment, if not happiness, because while her life had not turned out as she had thought it would, it was still a good life, a blessed life. And her greatest blessing was her son, her only child, her only tangible evidence of the beloved husband she once had.
"I'm not sour," Jacob repeated, reaching for a long-handled wooden paddle he'd fashioned in his own wood shop for just this task. "I just think you're wasting your time with these interviews. I don't need any help here." He stirred the kettle with greater vigor than necessary. "We do this together, Mam. You and I."
Clara harrumphed. "We won't be doing it together, you and I, while I'm in Indiana with Sadie and the little one. I could be gone three weeks, longer if there are complications."
Her mouth twitched into a smile at the thought of her upcoming trip. Her niece was expecting her first baby soon and when Clara's youngest sister said she wouldn't be able to help after the baby was born, not with nine little ones still at home, Clara jumped at the opportunity to go. She loved babies and she loved an adventure and traveling alone to Indiana would certainly be one.
"You can't run the cash register, wait on customers, and make the fudge," Clara pointed out, smoothing her apron as she checked the clock on the wall. She hoped the first applicant of the day would be prompt, otherwise Jacob would be ready to cross the young woman off the list without even giving her an opportunity to interview. "This is our finest year yet, with so many orders for Valentine's Day." She smiled at him. "You make the best fudge in Lancaster County. Everyone says so. Your secret recipe is the key, I tell them."
Jacob continued to stir the bubbling fudge. Most candy makers used a thermometer, but not her son. He went by the feel of the mixture of butter, cocoa, and sugar as he brought it to a boil. One minute too long, or too short, and the whole pot of fudge would be headed for Sam Troyer's pigs.
"Which is why I don't need any help," Jacob continued, his frown not budging. "You hire a girl to work here and the secret won't be a secret much longer, will it?"
Clara studied her Jacob for a moment, a bittersweet smile on her lips. He looked so much like his father, God rest her Matthew's soul. Jacob was a handsome man of thirty-six, tall and slender with dark hair and a smile, when he dared share it, that could bring light to a room.
Clara's Matthew had only been a few years older than Jacob was now when he'd passed suddenly. She and Jacob had tried running the farm alone after that, but there was too much work, not enough time and with economic bad times, well ... they'd found themselves at risk of losing the house and their sixty acres. It had been Jacob, barely into his twenties at the time, who had come up with the idea of selling the candy Clara made for friends on special occasions. Mostly they made fudge, a recipe Jacob had tinkered with over time. First, they had prepared it in their kitchen in their farmhouse, selling it at farmer's markets and such. In a year's time, they were bringing in more income from the candy than their farm. Then, five years ago, they'd taken a chance, sold a portion of their land to the Amish farmer next door, and bought a little house on Main Street in Bluebird. Bluebird was barely a town, more just a crossroad in the midst of thousands of acres of farmland and woodland, but tourists bound for Lancaster passed through it every day. The sales they made in their little store, plus the orders Jacob received from several shops in Lancaster on Englisher holidays, were enough to keep Clara and Jacob comfortable. She and her son had taken a tragedy and made sweets out of lemons. And it was a good life. Her one wish, however, before she died, was to see her son wed and God willing, with children of his own. Grandchildren to keep Clara in her dotage.
The bell on the front door jingled and Clara reached for the notebook where she was keeping notes on all the job applicants. "Ach, our first interview of the morning." She threw up her hands in excitement and then pushed through the swinging doors that led from the kitchen into the shop.
"We don't need to hire anyone," Jacob shouted after her.
Clara let the doors swing shut behind her, hoping her son's voice hadn't carried. "Good morning," she greeted. "You're right on time." Five minutes early, in fact, she noted. She liked this young lady already. "Rose Bontrager, I'm guessing? I'm Clara."
The young woman who was gazing through the glass at the candy counter turned to Clara. "Ya, Rose, that's me." She smiled a smile that Clara thought might be one of the prettiest, most genuine she'd even seen.
Rose slipped out of her heavy wool cloak. "It's so warm and cozy in here. It feels wonderful. And the smell." She inhaled deeply. "Amazing. It's so nice to meet you, Clara." She tugged on one string of her black bonnet. "My cousin Mary told me you were hiring."
"Ya, Mary Byler married to John Junior Byler, right? A nice girl. Junior cuts our meadow when it gets too high."
"She thought I might be suited to the job," Rose explained.
The two women stood there in the middle of the candy shop looking at each other for a long moment, sizing each other up, and then Clara made a clicking sound between her teeth. "I suppose we'll see about that, won't we?"
Rose gave a nervous laugh, glanced at the floor, and then at Clara again. "I'm sorry, I'm just a little nervous. New to town. And I've never interviewed for a job before."
"No need to be nervous. You can hang your cloak and bonnet there," she told Rose, pointing to the pegs on the wall Jacob had added for just that purpose.
Clara watched Rose hang her outer garments. Rose was small and slender, but not so slender as to seem weak or sickly. And pretty, very pretty, but not so pretty so as to be at risk for suffering from hochmut. A woman too prideful of her looks could be difficult to live with. Better that she has a sweet disposition. Though Jacob did like a pretty face.
"Come, sit with me," Clara invited, waving her to a little table Jacob had brought from the barn at home. He'd whitewashed it and added darling little mismatched chairs that he'd painted to match. Above the table, on the wall, Clara had added a pastoral painting of an Amish farmyard surrounded by the rolling hills of Lancaster County planted in alfalfa hay. The nook was a place for customers to sit and have a taste of their sweets, or just relax for a moment on their way to or from Lancaster. "Tell me a little bit about yourself, Rose."
The young woman, who looked to be about thirty, slid into the chair across from Clara and folded her hands.
Rose had told the truth when she said she was nervous about the interview, but she pushed on because she wanted this job. She wanted this opportunity and she was a woman who always tried to do her best, whether it was making a batch of applesauce or trying to impress one of the most respected elders in the town where her cousin resided. "Well ... I worked in an orchard once. My uncle got me the job. I can run a cash register. I'm good with numbers," she said, trying not to feel flustered. It wasn't really the Amish way to talk about one's self. "And ... and I'm good with Englishers. A lot of your customers must be Englishers."
"No, no, no. Tell about yourself, Rose." Clara stared intently at her from behind round, wire-frame eyeglasses. "How old will you be come your next birthday?"
Rose pressed her lips together, trying not to smile. An odd question for a job interview, but just as her cousin had promised, she had liked Clara Beechy the first moment she set eyes on her. The older woman was short and sturdy and chubby, with a twinkle in her nutmeg eyes that immediately made Rose feel comfortable.
She'd almost chickened out this morning and not come for the interview. While she had that little bit of experience working in an orchard years ago, an Amish woman of her age didn't usually seek a job outside her home. Of course, that was because she should have had a husband and children to attend to. It had been her cousin's suggestion that she apply for the job, to get out of the house and meet others because not only Englishers came to Beechy's Sweets, but Amish, too.
Rose met Clara's gaze. "I ... I'll be thirty-one come May Day."
"Perfect!" Clara declared, opening a little calico-covered notebook and removing a pen from behind her ear. "Parents both living, ya?" She glanced up. "Both healthy?"
Another odd question. But now that Rose was here, she realized how much she wanted this job. The little shop was darling. It looked as homey and welcoming as her mother's kitchen back home in Delaware. And it smelled of earthy chocolate, sweet vanilla, and ... happiness. She made eye contact with Clara. "Both living, ya. And healthy. My father still works his farm. A hundred and forty acres. With the help of my eldest brother. Mam is in good health. She cares for Dat's mother, and I have two little brothers and a little sister unmarried and still at home."
"And how many children did she have?" Clara looked up, her pen poised over her notebook. "I mean ... how many siblings do you have? All healthy as well?"
Rose laughed, unable to help herself, and picked a bit of fuzz from her sleeve. She'd changed her dress twice, first putting on the blue, then the green, then the blue again. Then she debated whether or not to wear an apron. In the end, she'd left the starched white apron hanging on her bedroom door. Surely Clara and her son were looking for a modern woman, a backward girl wouldn't be able to deal with Englisher customers, would she? "I have six brothers and five sisters. Ya, all healthy."
Clara was scribbling something in her notebook. "You cook I assume? Well?" She glanced up. "What's your best dish? When asked to bring a dessert to a potluck?"
Rose pressed her lips together to hold back a chuckle. She wanted to ask Clara if they'd be hosting a lot of potlucks during business hours, but her cousin had told her that Clara could be a little eccentric. At least for Old Order Amish. "An apple-layered streusel with dried cranberries and a cinnamon crumb topping. I'll make you one if you like, so you can try it."
"And if I want something simpler? Something quick?" Clara pressed.
Rose thought for a moment. "Well ... a schleck boi is always good in a pinch."
"Ya. A custard pie is good for a snack when a man comes in from the barn in need of a cup of coffee." Clara's mouth twitched. She didn't smile, but her eyes were twinkling. "And a main dish?"
Rose surrendered to a hint of a smile. "Something with ham. My father has always raised hogs, so I'm good with pork." She thought for a moment. "Probably schnitz un gnepp. My gross-mama taught me to make it."
"Perfect!" Clara again turned to her notebook, scribbling excitedly. "Jacob does love a good ham with dried apples and dumplings." She glanced up. "He's my son; it's his shop, really. I just help where I can."
Rose raised her eyebrows, not sure what to say. While she didn't have any experience with job interviews, she was pretty certain being able to make a dish the owner enjoyed wasn't a requirement of an employee. "Does he?" She glanced over his shoulder. "Will I have a chance to meet Jacob. To say hello."
Clara frowned. "Not today if I can help it. He's in a mood. You know men." She lowered her voice until it was barely more than a whisper and peered at Rose through her spectacles. "He doesn't understand why we need to hire someone, but he'll learn soon enough. You understand the circumstances, ya? Your cousin told you that I'll be out of town?"
The large fluorescent ceiling light in the middle of the shop suddenly flickered and Rose glanced up.
"Bulbs need to be replaced. Jacob just hasn't gotten to it." Clara gave a wave of dismissal.
"Um ..." Rose returned her attention to Clara as the light flickered again. "Ya, Mary said you'd be gone a few weeks. But that there would be time to train me first. And that you'd possibly want to keep someone on after you return."
Clara scooted closer to the table, though her round belly barely fit beneath the table. "I understand you're not walking out with anyone." She was whispering again. "But that you hope to find a husband here in Bluebird. Ya?"
Rose felt her cheeks grow warm and she looked down at her hands on her lap. Why would Clara be asking such a thing? Was Clara worried she would marry and then Clara would have to train another clerk? "Lord willing."
Clara nodded and met Rose's gaze. "I'm sorry for your loss. But you seem well."
Rose smiled bittersweetly. "Ours is not to question God's ways," she said, not wanting to speak any further of the loss of her husband and child.
"Certainly not." Clara closed her notebook, slipping her pen behind her ear. "Well, I think we're done here."
"We are?" The little bell over the door rang and Rose looked up. Two English women were coming in the door. She glanced back at Clara, unsure of how the interview had gone. "I've taken too much of your time. I should go so you can see to your customers," she said as she got to her feet. "It was so nice to —"
"I'm sorry. Can't you stay?" Clara rested a hand on her ample hip. She was wearing a navy dress, white apron, black hose, and black shoes. "I understood you were available immediately."
"Can I stay?" Rose asked, hoping Clara meant what she thought she meant.
Clara nodded in the direction of the two Englisher women, both in jogging suits, one hot pink, the other lime green, with puffy down vests overtop. They had to be sisters they looked so alike. "To work," she told the surprised Rose as she got out of her chair. "No time like the present to start learning."
"So ... I have the job?" Rose grinned.
"Didn't I just say that? Grab an apron hanging from the hook behind the counter. Everything's self-explanatory. Prices are marked. We just got a new digital scale. I'll be here if you need help."
The woman in the pink jumpsuit approached Rose. "Excuse me, miss. Is your fudge fresh today?" she asked, squinting from behind pink jeweled glasses. She had a big pink fuzzy scarf wrapped around her neck. "I like my fudge fresh."
"Freshly made every day," Rose assured her. "Let me grab my apron, and why don't I get you a little sample to see for yourself." She glanced in Clara's direction and Clara winked at her. Smiling, Rose hurried to grab the apron with the Beechy's Sweets logo on it and get to work.
Watching Rose make conversation with the customers, Clara reached for her notebook on the table. It wouldn't do to leave it out and risk Jacob seeing it. Or Rose, for that matter. There was no need for them to know that the job applicants she'd interviewed for the last three days weren't just interviewing for a job behind the Beechy's Sweets counter, but also for that of a bride.
Clara smiled to herself, pleased with her own creativity at solving two problems at once. Jacob needed help in the shop, whether he could admit it or not. At thirty-six years old, it was also clear he needed a little help in the marriage department. The past was the past and it was time he was wed and gave her grandchildren before she was too old to enjoy them.
Clara had to give herself a pat on the back for coming up with this idea. Of course, in the end, all would be left to God's will, but there was nothing wrong with giving young folks a push in a certain direction. The moment she'd set eyes on Rose, she knew she was the one for Jacob. And now not only would Clara have someone in the shop to help them, but she'd get a chance to get to know her daughter-in-law-to-be.
Clara glanced in Rose's direction. Rose was busy ringing up the Englisher in the pink outfit. And not only had Rose sold her two pounds of fudge, but some taffy, too. And Rose had had no trouble figuring out the fancy scale or the cash register.
She chuckled to herself as she headed for the door to the kitchen to tell her son that she'd hired a shopgirl. If this went as well as she hoped, Clara thought she just might go into the matchmaking business.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Amish Sweet Shop"
Copyright © 2019 Kensington Publishing Corp..
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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