Today Wednesday Writers welcomes back Kelly Irvin, best-selling Amish romance author. Take it away, Kelly!
The Beauty of Great Expectations
By Kelly Irvin
I’ll share a little secret with all y’all today. I approached writing my current series, The Amish of Bee County, with some trepidation. I had this idea that I would write this series about the only Amish district in Texas. It’s a tiny community, only about 12 families, mostly related to each other. I’d read about the district on the Amish America blog and some blogs by Kevin Williams, who shot video outside the district’s Combination Store. Bee County is about two hour’s drive south of San Antonio where I live, so I took off work on one Friday morning and drove down there with high hopes. I knew it would be different from the idyllic scenes of beautiful white houses and red barns with lush, green fields up north. It had to be. This was south Texas.
Different is putting it mildly. I pulled into the dirt lot in front of the Combination Store, turned off the ignition, and stared.
The building was rusted and dirty. A broken down buggy appeared to be permanently parked in the front. A junkyard of old buggy parts and machines sprawled adjacent to the store.
They don’t have a lot of money to spare to fix things up, I thought, it’ll be better inside. So I went into the store. True it held a treasure trove of goods from hats to saddles to books on beekeeping to homemade candles and lip balm made from beeswax. Unfortunately (to my way of thinking) the store was also a hodgepodge of stuff, some junk, and a lot of it dusty.
I bought some honey, a loaf of bread, some cookies, spearmint lip balm, and a dozen eggs—why I bought the eggs I don’t know. I had a nice, if somewhat stilted, chat with Mr. Borntrager Senior, owner of the store and one of the founders of the district. I knew from my research the Borntragers came to south Texas from Tennessee because land was cheaper and more plentiful and “he liked the humidity.” He kindly answered my questions about some olive trees they planted and the location of their 300 apiaries.
Driving home, the impressions spun round and round in my head. What did I think of this bedraggled, dilapidated collection of haphazardly placed buildings. What would my readers think of it? What if they decided to pop down to south Texas for a look-see after reading my books?
It took a few days, but God finally reached down and smacked me over the head (figuratively speaking of course). He made south Texas, He made the mesquite and the nopales and the dry, river beds. The Borntragers settled there and they work the land, raise bees, make honey, sell vegetables to the grocery store chain, and they don’t complain. They raise their children, they put food on the table and clothes on their backs and they don’t ask anything of anyone—certainly not of me. Who am I to judge? I was reminded to never judge others by the world’s standards, but rather by the God who created the universe and everything in it—including south Texas with its feral hogs, rattlesnakes, mosquitoes, horseflies and grasshoppers.
From all this turmoil, came the underpinnings of my new series. I had the opportunity to create a completely different world for my readers that would challenge some of their beliefs and stereotypes about the Amish. A family with four daughters moves from Tennessee to Bee County. Like me, they have to learn to see the beauty in their new home. They have to learn to see God’s hand moving in this new season in their lives. With the first book, The Beekeeper’s Son, the oldest daughter, Deborah, learns with me to see beauty not only in the landscape, but in a particular morose, scarred man who wants nothing more than to hide from the world.
With the second book, The Bishop’s Son, which debuts this month, daughter number two, Leila, is drawn away from this close-knit community. She’s torn between her heart and her head. The man she loves is following a path that will take them both far from their roots.
Suffice it to say, I’m very glad I decided to brave this new frontier and write an Amish romance series that steps outside the usual box. I love these families and I hope my readers to do. I recently finished writing the third book, The Saddle Maker’s Son, so I’m moving out of Bee County. I will miss it!
The Bishop’s Son
Leila Lantz is in danger of losing her heart to a Plain man until she discovers he’s not so Plain after all.
Leila has been drawn to Jesse Glick, the bishop’s son, since the first day she met him at his father’s store, and she knows he feels the same way about her. But she can’t understand why he seems to make overtures one day, then withdraw the next.
Jesse has a secret. He has been attending an Englisch church youth group, and he’s starting to believe he’s being called to be a minister, something Amish men cannot be unless they draw the lot. He’s considering leaving his Amish community to follow his calling. The only reason he has stayed is Leila. Will, Jesse’s cousin, has his own feelings for Leila, but he has stood back in deference to his cousin for many months. Until he can’t stand the thought of Leila being hurt.
Leila can choose Will and know that she will never have to leave her home or family. Or she can choose Jesse and the love her heart desires, knowing she’ll have to say goodbye to her entire community. The day comes when Jesse, Will, and Leila all have to make their choices, choices that will deeply affect their small, close-knit community of Plain families.
Kelly Irvin is the author of The Bishop’s Son, the second novel in the Amish of Bee County series from Zondervan/HarperCollins. It follows The Beekeeper’s Son, which received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, calling it “a delicately woven masterpiece.” She is also the author of the Bliss Creek Amish series and the New Hope Amish series, both from Harvest Housing Publishing. She has also penned two inspirational romantic suspense novels, A Deadly Wilderness and No Child of Mine.
The Kansas native is a graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism. She has been writing nonfiction professionally for thirty years, including ten years as a newspaper reporter. She has worked in public relations for the City of San Antonio for twenty-one years. Kelly is married to photographer Tim Irvin. They have two young adult children, two grandchildren, two cats, and a tank full of fish. In her spare time, she likes to write short stories and read books by her favorite authors.