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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 by 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.
"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 would 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 and 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."
THE SWEETEST TRUTH by National Bestselling Author Laura Bradford
Sadie Fischer 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...
Stepping back, Sadie Fisher drank in the varying shades of yellow that fairly danced across the quilt like rays of sunlight. "Miss Jenny, I think this just might be the prettiest quote we've ever had in the shop. Ruth Hershberger does fine work. I think this one will sell very fast."
"I certainly hope so." Jenny Duggan pulled her attention from the front window of Bluebird Quilts long enough to beckon Sadie to her side. When Sadie acquiesced, the sixty-five-year-old shop owner pointed out to the street. "I think the buggy-to-car ratio on Main Street today favors the buggy."
Sadie nodded as her own gaze followed three different buggies past the shop, their destination certain. "Ya. Ruth's daughter, Miriam, is to be married tomorrow. To Atlee Stutzman. Many people from many communities will be there. I'm going, too — with Mam and Dat, of course."
"Miriam and I went to school together and she is in our church district."
"Are you close?" Miss Jenny prodded.
"We spoke a little and hymn sings. Mam says that is because we were friends as little ones. But I think it is because we were the last of our group to get married. But that will change now as it has with the others." Sadie watched yet another charcoal-colored buggy meander down the road and then hooked her thumb in the direction of the quilts she still needed to price. "I should put the tag on Ruth's quilt before more customers come in."
"What will change, dear?"
"The talking part. We will speak after church, I'm sure. But she will be married, like the others, and I will not be. Soon, we will have even less to say to each other than we already did."
Ms. Jenny took one last look out the window and then trailed Sadie across the shop to the section earmarked specifically for new additions. "It could happen for you, too, dear."
"What could?" Sadie pulled an empty tag from the drawer beneath the register, noted the price with ink, and then carried it over to Ruth's quilt.
She felt her throat tighten as it always did when her English boss brought the conversation around to boys. It wasn't that she didn't think of them, because she did. But trying to get Miss Jenny to see things as they were was exhausting. Still, she tried and hoped that maybe, just maybe the woman would finally come around to the same reality Sadie had been forced to accept six years earlier. "A boy would have to be interested for me to marry, Miss Jenny. And there is no one."
NOTHING TASTES SO SWEET by 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...
"Daniel," Hannah called from the stove. "Your breakfast is ready. Those quote
"What are we having — Eggs Benedict?" He teased. "Corned beef hash?"
She laughed. Daniel always requested the same menu each Monday morning and today was no different. "Two eggs, over hard, four strips of bacon, and three pieces of buttered toast. Better hurry before everything gets cold." She filled his mug with coffee.
"Ahh, my favorite.. How did you know?" He winked while adding jam to a slice of toast.
Hannah took her coffee over to the window seat. Normally she ate with her husband, but today her stomach didn't feel right. In fact the thought of bacon grease and butter made her downright queasy.
"Any plans this week, other than work?" he asked between bites of egg.
"If Wednesday's weather is nice, I may call for a ride to Mam's. She's hosting a quilting at her house. Then Dat can bring me home."
"What does weather have to do with quilting?"
"I don't want him out late if it's snowing. That makes it too hard to see buggy reflectors.""
Daniel nodded and refilled his mug.
Hannah peered down on the street below. "Oh, my, your ride is here already."
"Tell Mr. McCourt I'll be down right now." Daniel built a sandwich with his remaining eggs and toast and then headed to their bedroom to finish packing.
Hannah wiped the glass and squinted, but couldn't distinguish whether it was Mr. McCourt — her husband's regular driver — or not. "I hate screaming out the window while everyone in town is sleeping," she called on her way to the stove. "After I fill your thermos, I'll carry down a cup of hot coffee. Mr. McCourt might have asked someone to fill in today."
Without warning, her husband of eight years crept up behind her, enfolded her in his massive arms, and lifted her off her feet.
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 and Amish mysteries for Kensington.
Laura Braford is also the author of the national bestselling Amish Mysteries, including A Churn for the Worse and Suspended Sentence as well as the novel Portrait of a Sister. Under the pen name Elizabeth Lynn Casey, she writes the Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries. She lives in Mohegan Lake, New York, with her husband and their blended brood. 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.