GENRE: AMISH ROMANCE
PUBLICATION DATE: JUNE 15, 2012
RATING: 9 OUT OF 10 – EXCELLENT
PROS: Good conclusion to the series; ties up loose ends from previous books; relatable characters make you invest emotionally in the story
CONS: Katie’s father is over-bearing and can be difficult to read about
Newly baptised into the Amish church, Katie Kauffman longs for the love that her two best friends have found. When everyone around her seems to be growing up and getting married, Katie is staying the same. As much as she enjoys working for the family bakery alongside her grandmother and her cousins, she’s the fifth wheel to Lindsay and Lizzie Anne and their boyfriends whenever they attend youth gatherings, and she’s known for a long time that none of the boys in their district are going to interest her. But her loneliness starts to dissipate when she meets Jake Miller, a Mennonite carpenter who is helping her grandfather build new cabinets for the bakery. Jake’s mother was once Amish and left the community to marry someone outside their fold, but Jake has always felt a kinship to his grandparents’ faith. As innocent as their friendship is, Katie’s father forbids her to spend time with Jake and warns her of the consequences of forming a relationship with someone outside their faith. Katie doesn’t want to be shunned, but she can’t help but feel a connection to Jake, and a series of situations conspire to bring them together. Misunderstandings about the circumstances of her relationship with Jake cause Katie’s relationships with her parents to disintegrate, and Katie isn’t sure if she can ever find happiness. She knows that she cannot be with Jake, but she can’t help but care for him. Can she learn to let go and love someone of the same faith, or will something drastic have to occur in order for her and Jake to finally be together?
The conclusion to a popular series is always tricky. Do you choose to go out with a bang, or to quietly wrap up all of the storylines with a happy ending? I often find that while I enjoy the final book in a series, I don’t love it as much as the others, often just because tying up all of the loose ends doesn’t always make for a terribly compelling story. When it comes to the conclusion of the Kauffuman Amish Bakery series, Katie’s story wasn’t quite as complex as some of the other Kauffman books, but I was impressed with the way that A Season of Love managed to conclude several ongoing plot-threads without detracting from Katie’s story. I appreciated being able to learn more about Rebecca’s pregnancy, Lindsay’s blossoming relationship with Matthew, and Jessica’s non-relationship with Jake, as well as the details about Lizzie Anne and Samuel.
While Katie’s story occasionally takes the backseat so that we can catch up Lindsay and Matthew or other members of the Kauffman family, I never lost interest in her storyline. Like Lindsay, the protagonist of A Life of Joy, Katie is one of Amy’s younger heroines and is barely out of her teen years. To some of the more mature Amish readers, reading about such a young protagonist might not be so appealing. Even I was surprised to read about an eighteen-year-old contemplating marriage and planning her future...until I remembered that I got engaged at nineteen and will be married before my twenty-first birthday, so I have no right to complain about Katie. Although my upbringing and life experiences are very different to Katie’s, I could relate to the position she was at in her life and her desire to get married and start a family and be done with her dating years. I could even slightly relate to her father’s disapproval of her boyfriend, Jake. While my dad never forbade me to see Simon, he didn’t pay him a lot of attention when we first began dating. No boy is going to be good enough for daddy’s little girl, although Katie’s father definitely took a more extreme approach to this idea.
For me, Katie’s father was the biggest stumbling block in A Season of Love. On the one hand, his treatment of Katie made me really angry and I rooted for her to stand up to her father and call him out on how unfair he was being. A fictional character that can get me this riled up is definitely a sign of a talented author. But I can also see why a character like Robert Kauffman can be discouraging to read about. Stubborn father-figures are pretty prevalent in Amish fiction, and Robert is at least the second I’ve come across in Amy’s books alone. In fact, when I try to recall books containing supportive, caring Amish fathers, the only one I can think of is Laura Hilton’s Patchwork Dreams. Considering how many Amish books I’ve read in my lifetime, this is evidence that fathers like Robert Kauffman are unfortunately more common than they are not.
Considering how unrelenting and stubborn Robert was throughout the whole of A Season of Love, his turn-around towards the end didn’t seem entirely convincing, and he didn’t apologise for everything he’d said and done to Katie. I was glad that Katie reconciled with her father, but I did struggle to read about a girl, almost the same age as myself, who was under her parents’ rule and unable to speak up and defend herself even though she was a legal adult. I know that this is the way that the Amish community works, but I did wish that Katie had had more of a backbone and stuck up for herself rather than running off to cry in her room whenever her father shouted at her. To put it simply, I have mixed feelings about the conflict between Katie and her father. I loved that it got me so emotionally invested in the story, but I also felt uncomfortable reading about such an overbearing and narrow-minded father figure.
The end of a series has to have a happy ending, but thankfully A Season of Love didn’t overdo the happiness. I loved the way that Amy managed to get all of the principal characters from previous books into the final scene together without it seeming too contrived. The final chapter of A Season of Love was a brilliant conclusion to the Kauffman Amish Bakery series, and as much as I’m looking forward to whatever Amy’s writes about next, it’s a little sad to say goodbye to these characters who were one of my first introductions to Amish fiction. Even if you only pick up A Season of Love to find out how the cliff-hangers at the end of A Life of Joy are concluded, you can’t help but care about Katie Kauffman and sympathise with her desire to find the love and her frustrations over her family situation. Despite my struggles with Katie’s father I did really enjoy reading this book, and I will be anxiously awaiting the arrival of Amy’s next Amish novel in winter 2013.
Review title provided by Zondervan.