Summary from Christianbook.com: When her mother passes away, Ella's forced to auction off her family's farm. Her father died years ago, and she could never manage the fifty acres on her own. But after she moves to town, she can't deny the pain she feels watching the new owner, Loyal Weaver, repairing her family's old farmhouse-everything Ella had once dreamed of doing.
What Ella doesn't know is that Loyal secretly hopes she will occupy this house again . . . as his wife. He begins inviting her over, to ask her opinion on changes he wants to make. As their friendship blooms, Ella starts to wonder about Loyal's intentions, especially when her best friend, Dorothy, hints that Loyal is not who he seems. There's no way the golden boy of their close-knit Amish community could be interested in Ella, long the wallflower, hidden away caring for her ailing parents.
I think that if I were to meet Ella, we would probably be friends. Not the toxic friendship that she has with Dorothy, but real honest to goodness friends. I mean we're both not good with mingling with people, we both wear glasses and we both love reading and worked in libraries. Hmm, this makes it sound like we're both antisocial nerds. Anywho, I really liked Ella's character because for the most part, I felt like I could relate to her.
I loved all the bits involving the library. First off, I'm thrilled to see Ella actually working in a library and mixing with all sorts of people. No one is surprised that she's Amish and she is comfortable being around "worldly" books and technology. I also love how she enjoys reading to children and am very glad at the book choices she made about what to read to them. I mean I've read other books about the Amish where they had no idea what fiction even meant. Here Ella is having a ball reading "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom". It warmed my heart.
It's probably not what the author intended but I kept thinking that Dorothy and Ella's relationship is probably the closest thing we'll get to an Amish lesbian story. Dorothy is extremely possessive of Ella. It goes way beyond being a close and concerned friend. I found it most interesting that Dorothy becomes enraged the most when Ella starts hanging out with Loyal. She constantly says that Ella and her should be together and will spend the rest of their lives together. She doesn't want anyone else to be around Ella either. She also keeps calling her a loose woman in order to soil her reputation. Yes it's mentioned as to what could possibly be a reason as to why Dorothy acts like this, but to be honest I wouldn't have been surprised if she had blurted out that she was in love with Ella. This was an intriguing concept that probably made me see this book in a different light from other Amish readers.
The story also has some subplots involving the point of view of a little girl as well as a storyline involving John, a former Amish man who is torn between two women. I found this plot to be a bit distracting from the main storyline. Also it didn't end the way I wanted it to go unfortunately. Mattie, the girl with cancer from the first book, is shown here again. I believe the final book in the series will focus entirely on her.
Again, this book shows why Gray is my favorite Amish author. Throughout the entire book, the characters who are Amish are just treated like normal people who just happen to be living a different culture. No one really points that they are not like the rest of society and they actually act like normal people! This type of Amish fiction is just what I like: non preachy, character focus and including themes that can be interpreted in different ways. I'm looking very forward to the final book in the series.
The Protector by Shelley Shepard Gray is published by Avon Inspire (2011)
This review copy was provided for a blog tour with the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
Other books in the Families of Honor series that I have reviewed:
The Caregiver (Book 1)