SERIES: Willow Brook: Secrets of the Pen #1
GENRE: Inspirational Amish Romance/Mystery
PUBLISHER: Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.
RELEASE DATE: May 18, 2021
What if your greatest passion was a threat to all of your family?
Johanna Yoder is Amish. Forbidden from writing by her Bishop. But she can’t keep the words from pouring out, and when she’s found out she faces an ultimatum that will crush her, no matter which path she chooses. And when Johanna discovers a secret that could tear her family and entire community apart, she must make a choice that could turn her Amish district upside down.
Reporter Judah Barton is on a climb to the top of his world, and he doesn’t have a care for the people he crushes under his feet on the way up. But then his newspaper’s finances are hit hard, and the answers that were always so easy to find have vanished. He vows to help his editor save the paper, no matter the cost. But then he meets a young Amish writer, and his life takes a turn in a way he never could have imagined.
Forbidden Gift is an intriguing story that lightly mixes several genres, so there’s a little something for everyone. There’s an Amish fiction element but also an equal focus on the non-Amish characters. Several different people are trying to solve a couple of different mysteries (that may be related – or maybe not), and a light romance thread promises to be developed even more in the next books of the series. There’s even a light suspense element, especially toward the last 1/4 of the book. And weaving through it all is a sweet gospel message of restoration, forgiveness and redemption.
Johanna Yoder loves to write, as did her grandmother before her, but their strict bishop banned creative & personal writing (journals, etc.) when Johanna’s Mammi Miriam was a young woman & still strongly enforces it. Though Johanna managed to evade Bishop Zook’s notice for a time and write popular columns for the local newspaper under an assumed name, she is forced to quit when he discovers her secret. Enter Judah Barton, an eager young reporter sent by his editor to track down the elusive author & beg her to come back in a desperate attempt to save the newspaper.
Their first encounter sets in motion a chain of events that brings decades-long mysteries & wrongs to light and also lays the foundation for the healing that waits in the wings. I really enjoyed both of these characters and how, though they come from very different backgrounds, they share many of the same struggles and strengths. The author does a great job of making you truly care what happens to Johanna and Judah, as well as other great secondary characters like Bert & Consuela & Hilton & Gideon. Their spiritual journeys unfold naturally, in ways organic to each character, and never feel forced or trite. Instead, I found myself quite touched by Johanna’s emotional surrender to God’s plan and by the restoration and salvation that other characters experience on these pages – and by the characters who help bring those moments about.
While I loved the characters, it took me a bit longer to become solidly invested in the plot, but once I did I had to read the rest as quickly as possible. As the suspense ramps up in the last part of the book, my interest level piqued even more and there were a couple of moments when I held my breath or gasped out loud at a twist I wasn’t expecting. I will warn you that, while the main storylines have resolution by the end of Forbidden Gift, there are also several threads that wait to be told in future books. It’s not a cliffhanger, per se, but some loose ends are definitely left loose haha.
Bottom Line: Forbidden Gift is a charming debut novel perfect for fans of Shelley Shepard Gray & Rachel J. Good. Part Amish fiction, part mystery/suspense, part light romance – it all adds up to a book full of wonderful & layered characters who draw you in to the outcome of their joined stories. The gospel is clearly but gently & naturally presented, and I never felt like we stopped the story for a sermon. I’m eager to read the next book to see where the mystery/suspense & romance threads go from here!
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 4 stars / enjoyed it!
KissingBook Level: 2 / warm, rosy glow of romance
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Debra Torres is an author of inspirational Amish fiction. She writes romantic suspense for readers who are looking for relatable characters dealing with raw and real-life issues. Her debut novel, “Forbidden Gift,” is a touching story of self-discovery, forgiveness, and healing set in a small Amish community in Northwestern Pennsylvania.
For 11 years, Debra and her family lived in rural Northwestern Pennsylvania where she observed the Amish in grocery stores – and the “buggy lanes.” For several of these years, Debra and her family lived on a 29-acre farm sharing the land with a herd of white face beef cows, two carrot-loving horses, and a barn full of cats. Here, Debra kept a large “kitchen” garden and learned from locals how to “put up” her produce.
Debra and her writer husband, Michael, live in Virginia and have five wonderfully gifted children.
What about you? What makes you want to read Forbidden Gift by Debra Torres?