A Dash of Love, a Pinch of Hope, and a Whole Lot of Good Cooking
Lovina Miller should be thrilled. Pinecraft, Florida, has everything a young Amish woman could ask for: sun, sand, volleyball games, and evening singings in the park. But Pinecraft lacks the one thing Lovina desperately wants–a pie shop of her own. She longs for a place to gather with the community and serve the treat she loves.
A young carpenter named Noah Yoder strolls into her life and offers a way to make her dream come true. But before Noah and Lovina can build a shop–and a life–together, they must each face heartaches from the past. Is their new love stronger than their regrets?
Not knowing a lot about the Pinecraft Amish community, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting myself in for with Made with Love. I’ve read a lot of Amish novels over the past few years, and after a while I do find that some of the standard romances feel a bit too similar. If you’re going to write a typical romance set in an Amish community (without chucking in an extreme element like murder or vampires), it still needs to have something fresh or new to make it stand out. Made with Love definitely had some original aspects to it, the setting being one of them.
For those readers who don’t know a lot about Pinecraft, it’s primarily a holiday community, which means it’s missing a lot of the elements commonly found in Amish fiction.
Lovina’s family feels a bit lost in this new location, with no farm to look after or buggies to drive. The town is filled with retirees and holiday makers (mostly Amish), which means that most of the local businesses cater to tourists. While back home Lovina and her sisters might stay close to the family farm, they’ve all found jobs in Pinecraft—and travel to these jobs by bike! If you’re more familiar with the Pinecraft setting this information might not be all that interesting, but I enjoyed learning about a different community, especially one that’s more liberal and accepting of modern conveniences. Lovina’s family has air conditioning and electric lighting, and her sister uses social media to advertise the pie shop. It felt a little strange to begin with, but it was interesting to learn that not all Amish communities have the same restrictions.
Lovina’s mother doesn’t adjust to these changes as easily as her daughters, and she’s uneasy about Lovina’s desire to open a pie shop. I enjoyed reading the letters between her and her close friend back home, detailing her struggle to accept some of the more liberal aspects of their new district, and her worry that her daughters wouldn’t find husbands because they were too busy working. I’m sure there are a lot of parents—Amish or not—who find it difficult to see their children embracing things that just weren’t a possibility when they were children. Lovina’s mother is by no means the villain of the story, and while I rarely agreed with her decisions, I understood the motivations behind them. I’m sure a lot of parents of adult children will be able to relate to her dilemmas.
While I’m not a big fan of decorating or cleaning, I enjoyed the details about Lovina and Noah setting up the pie shop, particularly seeing how Lovina’s dream transferred from the pages of her scrapbook to real life. There was something satisfying about seeing her live out something she’d longed for for so long. Likewise, it was intriguing to learn about Noah’s salvage work, a career path I’d never really thought about before.
As much as I enjoyed learning about Pinecraft and the work it takes to get a business off the ground, the aspect of the story that I really found lacking was actually the romance between Lovina and Noah.
In between disagreements with Lovina’s parents and decorating the pie shop, our hero and heroine don’t actually spend that much time together. They go on a couple of dates, but most of their time is spent working on the pie shop. In all honesty, I think their relationship is pretty normal—they get to know each other while working on a project and eventually fall in love. But normal romances aren’t actually the most interesting to read about, and since there weren’t any real stumbling blocks in the way of Lovina and Noah’s relationship, there wasn’t any real suspense or worry that they wouldn’t make things work out.
The main “conflict” between Lovina and Noah is that he has a secret from his past that he’s not told her about. Lovina knows this because her parents have heard rumours and warned her about Noah. She doesn’t prod him, and eventually he opens up and tells her the truth. As realistic and healthy as this is…it wasn’t all that dramatic or interesting to read about. Isn’t it kind of funny that I hate drama in real life relationships, but I want more in my romance novels? The romance isn’t bad, I just never had any doubt that Lovina and Noah would get together! Give me conflict, please!
While the romance in this novel isn’t amazing, I did really enjoy Lovina’s character development. Even when reading an Amish novel, I like my female characters to be strong and assertive—but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have any flaws.
All throughout the novel, Lovina is determined to strive towards her goal of opening a pie shop, and her confidence in this endeavour never seems to waver. She’s pretty headstrong and stubborn for an Amish woman. It’s not until towards the end of the novel that we see the flaws she’s been hiding. I don’t want to spoil anything for potential readers, but there’s a really beautiful scene towards the end of the novel where Lovina realises that she’s been clinging to lies that were said over her as a young girl, and that she’s been allowing these lies to motivate her actions, rather than relying on God. Since I know that I’ve been guilty of exactly the same mistakes, this scene really spoke to me.
Made with Love isn’t the strongest Amish novel I’ve read this year, but it has some really original elements, and a very relatable heroine. I think I’m probably intrigued enough to pick up the next volume in the series in March 2016 in order to find out what happens to the rest of Lovina’s sisters.