Breath of Spring (Seasons of the Heart)
Zebra / May 6, 2014 / $6.99 print & $5.99 digital
As a bright season brings a fresh start to Willow Ridge, Annie Mae Knepp feels she can never make peace with the past. Her disgraced ex-bishop father is furious she has taken her five siblings to live with her. She's never been truly at home in her faith. . .or believing in herself. And Annie Mae fears no man will want to take on the responsibilities she's gladly shouldered. True, her quiet neighbor Adam Wagler has been steadfast and unshakeable helping her through her trials, but he surely couldn't think of someone so lost as more than a friend. Believing she is unworthy because of her doubts, Annie Mae will find in a moment of surprising revelation that God can work impossible miracles—and that love makes all things new.
The theme of Charlotte Hubbard's Breath of Spring is hope. It's right there in the title. Spring brings warmth and new life, the same way that the love of family, friends and community restores the heroine's faith in God and in herself.
Annie Mae Knepp needs hope. She's only seventeen, but she has experienced her fair share of suffering. Her mother and stepmother died in childbirth, and at the age of eleven, she began raising her five younger siblings with very little help from her father, Hiram Knepp. A former bishop in their community of Willow Ridge, Hiram used their Old Order Amish religion to suit his own needs and aims and was eventually excommunicated. Annie Mae and her younger sister Nellie chose not to follow him into exile, which was a difficult decision for them.
Defying their father was the scariest thing she and her sister Nellie had ever, ever done…and now they were looking over their shoulders, waiting for Dad to get back at them.
Annie starts working as a waitress to support herself and Nellie, and her life is hard. It would be very easy for Annie to succumb to temptation and follow her father's path to sin. She hasn't been baptized into the church yet. She's in her rumspringa, which is a time of experimentation and choice for young Amish men and women, and she is exploring romance and temptation. There are two boys she's been seeing, but she's uncertain about them. Luke Hooley is happy to take Annie Mae for carriage rides filled with moonlit kisses and sweet embraces, but he's critical of the Amish church and marriage. Yonnie Stoltzfus is a wealthy, attractive young Mennonite who gave Annie Mae her first kiss, but his business dealings are secretive and shady and he seems to want only one thing from Annie Mae—her purity.
And wasn't that the way of it, with guys? One minute they were eager to please the girl they were seeing, and just that fast another gal could turn their heads. It was one reason Annie Mae planned never to marry. She figured to have her fun while it lasted, but not get caught and trapped—the way Mamm and a lot of her friends had—by marrying men who made pretty promises.
The hero—twenty-two-year old Adam Wagler—is different than the other men Annie has dated. He makes her look at her life differently—literally. When she first starts working as a waitress, she has trouble reading the menu, so he gives her his glasses. He puts them right on her face, which symbolizes how he wants to help her see the world more clearly.
She sucked in her breath. Adam had taken something out of his shirt pocket…was slipping a lightweight pair of glasses onto her nose. He positioned the sides over her ears carefully, so he wouldn't mess up the hair that was pulled into a snug bun beneath her kapp.
He's also shorter than her, which is unusual for a romance hero. On a more symbolic level, she literally has to change her perspective by looking down at him. She also calls him by the nickname “Short Stack,” which he likes.
Short Stack, is it? While Adam had always been the shortest guy in his class—and plenty of folks still teased him about his height—something about Annie Mae's nickname made him chuckle. Why would a looker like Hiram Knepp's daughter flirt with him? She could see right over the top of his head…
Adam and Annie Mae bond over food, which is an important symbol in the book. First, it represents the love Adam and his widowed brother Matthias have been denying themselves. They live together as bachelors and rarely take the time to clean or cook. Their home, like their lives, is devoid of love.
When Matthias set the skillet on a towel in the center of the table, Adam bit back his immediate reaction to their main course. Strips of partially blackened bacon stuck out of the soupy beans, with little pockets of grease forming around them.
But what could he say? His brother had made supper and he had done the shopping…each of them filling in the blanks of their lives as best they could. They sat down across the table from each other and bowed their heads.
Adam shut himself off from love after a traumatic event when he was sixteen, during his own rumspringa, when his mother died. He's carried the burden around for years and it's kept him from opening his heart and finding love.
For a moment, a cloud settled over him. Adam didn't often dwell on that fateful day anymore, but he dared not forget how—had he not been joyriding when he was supposed to be fetching his sister Ruth—Mamm wouldn't have hitched up a rig…wouldn't have been thrown into the road when her horse spooked…wouldn't have died because he'd been so irresponsible.
Annie Mae likes to give Adam special treats from the diner to show him how much she cares. And by accepting food from Annie Mae, Adam is opening his heart to her love and the possibility of a new, hopeful future.
Breath of Spring is about so much more than the blossoming love between Adam and Annie Mae, however. It's also about Annie Mae's love for her siblings, her love for her community, and her love for God. The story feels like a breath of fresh air—a feel good tale that will warm your heart and make you want to cook up something delicious.
Learn more or pre-order a copy of Breath of Spring by Charlotte Hubbard, out May 6, 2014:
Brittany is a freelance writer, aspiring novelist and small business owner who hopes that heaven will be like a bookstore with an endless supply of free books, free coffee and super comfy chairs.