Book Review: Once Upon a Buggy by Shelley Shepard Gray

Posted April 3, 2023 by meezcarrie in Amish, Christian, contemporary, romance, Shelley Shepard Gray / 6 Comments

ONCE UPON A BUGGY by Shelley Shepard Gray
The Amish of Apple Creek #2

GENRE: Inspirational Contemporary/Amish Romance
PUBLISHER: Kensington Books
RELEASE DATE: March 28, 2023
PAGES: 254

This sweet Amish retelling of Beauty and the Beast from New York Times and USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Shelley Shepard Gray—one of the best-loved names in inspirational romance—will delight fans of heartwarming fiction and readers of Charlotte Hubbard, Beverly Lewis, and Beth Wiseman.

May Schott would do anything to change the tragic moment when she stepped too close to the fire that left her best friend, Carl Hilty, devastatingly burned. After Carl left Apple Creek for extensive surgeries, May patiently prayed for one chance to ask his forgiveness. Now, six years later, Carl Hilty is coming home.

The reunion goes nothing like May anticipated. Overwhelmed with emotion at seeing Carl again, she is speechless, unable to look away. And Carl’s own stone-cold silence leaves her certain that whatever attraction they once shared has been replaced by his hatred of her.

After hiding in the shadows of the big city, Carl has returned to connect with his family and to see if May can overlook his scars and accept his tender love—but her reaction makes it clear that she wants nothing to do with him. He grudgingly agrees to stay with his family for a time before retreating to anonymity once again.

But in Apple Creek, it’s easy to miss what everyone around you sees plain as day. For two people who belong together, it will take a few helping hands to heal the hurts of the past and make a miraculous new beginning.


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“There was nothing like a wayward alpaca to act as a reality check.”

While not a purist retelling of Beauty and the Beast, there are several elements in Once Upon a Buggy that will appeal to fans of that fairy tale, including me. Carl may be physically scarred and the obvious ‘beast’ archetype in this story, but May carries just as many scars on the inside from her guilt over the same fire that drove her and Carl apart and created a rift between their once-friendly families. In fact, this story paints a vivid picture of how bitterness and unforgiveness can make you ugly on the inside, no matter what your outside looks like – and I’m not referring to May here but rather to Carl’s father. Conversely, Shelley Shepard Gray also shows how beautiful reconciliation & restoration can be, namely through a secondary romance that made my love-story-loving heart happy.

And what’s a fairy tale without animals that have almost-human personalities and help work things out?? Oh how I loved the alpacas in Once Upon a Buggy – all named for Santa’s reindeer. The way May talked to them as though they were real people made me smile often, and they usually stole every scene they were in. The author gave each of these supporting animal-characters a larger-than-life personality that quickly endeared them to me, and I think other readers will agree with me, too. The role they play in breaking down some of the walls these families have figuratively built up is also fun to watch.

Bottom Line: Wayward alpacas. A outwardly scarred hero. An inwardly scarred heroine. Two feuding families. Two pairs of star-crossed loves. Storms within and without. All the ingredients for a romance with hints of both Beauty & the Beast and Romeo and Juliet. In Once Upon a Buggy, Gray once again has written a story that will engage your heart from beginning to end. More than one romance will capture your interest, and the sweet themes of forgiveness and faith may just help heal some readers’ heart-scars too. And let’s just admit it – the alpacas are hands-down the stars of this show. Be prepared to be delighted in more than one way as you visit the Amish of Apple Creek again, once upon a buggy.

(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)

My Rating: 4 stars / loved it!

KissingBook Level: 3 / may forget to breathe on occasion

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Photo Credit: Dianne Bomar

Shelley Shepard Gray is a NYT and USA Today bestselling author. She’s published over a hundred novels and has over a million books in print. She currently lives in northern Ohio and writes full time.

Shelley lives just an hour from Holmes County, where many of her Amish-themed novels are set. She currently writes contemporary romance and Amish fiction for a variety of publishers. When not spending time with her family or writing, she can usually be found walking her two dachshunds on one of the many trails in the Cleveland area.

She also bakes a lot, loves coconut cream pie, and will hardly ever pull weeds, mow the yard, or drive in the snow.

Shelley also spends a lot of time on line! Please visit her website, to find out her latest news or to sign up for her newsletter. Shelley can also be found on FaceBook, Instagram @shelley.s.gray, or on Twitter @ShelleySGray.

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What about you? What makes you want to read Once Upon a Buggy by Shelley Shepard Gray?

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6 responses to “Book Review: Once Upon a Buggy by Shelley Shepard Gray

  1. Wendy Williams

    I enjoy Shelley Shepard Gray’s writing very much, but I haven’t read any of her Amish fiction yet

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