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Today we are really pleased to welcome bestselling author, Jo Ann Brown, to Alternative-Read.com
Review by Elise Cooper
A Wish For Home (Secrets of Bliss Valley Book 1)
Jo Ann Brown
Sept 8th, 2021
Love Inspired Pub
A Wish For Home by Jo Ann Brown is a wonderful read. It delves into love, forgiveness, and second chances, something every reader can relate with. The heroine, Lauren, must reconcile her anger and resentment toward the Amish community for shunning her parents but also must deal with the boy who bullied and tormented her as a young teenager.
The book opens with Lauren driving her 1966 VW Beetle through her old hometown of Bliss Valley Pennsylvania. Now part of the English world, she no longer goes by the Amish name Laurene, wanting nothing to do with the Amish community she belonged to. She planned on just driving through it on her way to Lancaster to meet with developers who want to build a casino. Unexpectedly, Lauren gets caught in an ice storm and hits a pothole that damages her car. At the local garage she must deal with the mechanic, Adam Hershberger, the boy who bullied her all those years ago. Life’s circumstances have changed him considerably. Now a widower and raising a four-year-old daughter, Mary Beth, he regrets how he treated Laurene. But she must also come to grips with her past and is helped by her Great Aunt Sylvia Nolt. To make matters worse, she is also dealing with the fact that she was adopted, a bombshell her parents just laid on her.
The other piece to the story is a gripping mystery. Someone is starting fires at Amish homes, a serial arsonist. Since Adam is a volunteer firefighter, he intends to find the person behind the fires. Although he and Lauren are reconnecting and having some romantic feelings toward each other they must overcome the past and the present, where he resents her for encouraging a casino in the area.
From the very beginning readers will be drawn into Lauren’s story. The plot, mystery, romance, and characters blend for a great novel.
Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for the story?
Jo Ann Brown: Two of my children are adopted. About two years ago my son’s birth mother reconnected with him through his adoption agency. She was looking for him for a long time. It was wonderful to see the connection they made and to see how the family came back together. I am fascinated with those who are adopted and how their birth family finds them.
EC: Why the Amish angle?
JAB: Amish romance is incredibly popular the last five to ten years. Writers of this genre realize that the simpler and quieter life of the Amish is attractive. Of course, there is the illusion that the life is simpler. I live in a small town and have Amish neighbors, so I understand that feeling. But when I lived in larger cities, I realized you do not know your neighbors. Readers of Amish stories also like the sense of community and how the Amish want to keep the family and community together.
EC: Why casinos?
JAB: I live in Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. There are casinos here. One is being built in the city of York. Because they pay taxes the Amish can go to meetings and have a say.
EC: How would you describe Adam?
JAB: Someone who has changed. As a teenager he lost his way and found his true self with the help of his grandfather. He had a lot of loss along the way: his parents, wife, and respect for himself. I think Adam is now responsible, very family minded, and caring. He is very grounded, with his family and community the upmost importance.
EC: How would you describe Lauren?
JAB: A lost soul ever since her parents left the Amish. She was turned away from everything she knew and is now trying to find herself. What she really wants is to be happy. Lauren is direct, honest, at times timid, and has a sense of humor.
EC: Can you compare the relationship, past versus present?
JAB: In the past Laurene (Lauren) was the one who obeyed the rules, while Adam broke them. He wanted to be the cool kid. Although he had a crush on her, he tormented Laurene. Because of what he went through in life he took out his frustrations by bullying her and her friends.
In the present he now thinks for himself instead of having his friends think for him. They both had to overcome the past. At the beginning of the story, neither wants to be with each other because it brings up a reminder of the past. They now have a second chance to get it right and forgive. The Amish believe someone can be forgiven for their sins if they forgive others. This is very important to them.
EC: Adam’s daughter, Mary Beth, plays a big role in the story?
JAB: I love children in books. They can say things that adults could not get away with it. They provide humor and a bridge between two people. Mary Beth made Adam and Lauren look at their distrust of each other. She wants a mother because hers died. The scene in the book was heart-wrenching where she asks Lauren, “can I have one of your mamms? Daed says you gots two mamms. Me gots no mamm. Can I have one of yours?” This scene is of my favorites. Also, without Mary Beth, Adam and Lauren might have gone their separate ways. She was their connection. A lot of my books have relationships between mother and children, father, and children.
EC: Why the VW Beetle?
JAB: It was my college car, a 1966 white Beetle named Hilda. In the story Lauren has a blue one named Ringo.
EC: Lauren’s Aunt Sylvia was a Mennonite?
JAB: There are a lot of levels of this group. Some are very similar to the Amish except for the color of their buggies and hats. They do not use cell phones and electricity. Then there are the Mennonites like Aunt Sylvia who have lights, phones, computers, and appliances. There are even some who do not wear caps.
EC: If Adam and Lauren get together is there a compromise where they both join the Mennonite community?
JAB: No. Adam could not become one because he was baptized, and he would have been shunned. He would not have been able to sit at the same table as his family or even touch them. Aunt Sylvia had left before she became baptized so there were no consequences for her.
EC: What about your next book?
JAB: It will be the second book in the series, titled A Promise of Forgiveness. The heroine is Lauren’s best friend from childhood, Naomi. Adam’s friend as a teenager, Samuel will be the hero. They both find a baby on the doorstep after she returns to her childhood home. She and her twin children live with her father after she became a widow. It will come out in late November. Both Laurene and Adam will be in the story
Caught between who she is…and who she was.
Lauren Nolt hasn’t forgiven the Amish community of Lancaster County for shunning her parents. But returning as a successful Englischer working for large developers is just what she needs to get a promotion and give her parents the life they deserve. Coming face-to-face with her childhood bully, Amish widower Adam Hershberger, is the last thing she wants. Yet when her world’s shaken by a shocking discovery, Adam’s the only one she can confide in…
Adam’s never forgiven himself for the part he played in Lauren’s past, nor what drove him to do it. But as developers threaten his great-grossdawdi’s farm, she’s the only one who can help. And with his little girl determined to bring him and Lauren together at every turn, keeping his distance is impossible. Now they must learn to trust each other—even as their secret feelings grow stronger. But is love enough to bridge the gap between their very different worlds?
Secrets of Bliss Valley