The Christmas Cradle
by Charlotte Hubbard
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For the peaceful town of Willow Ridge, November presents an early holiday surprise. Stranded in the snow, 18-year-old Lena Esh and her boyfriend Josiah Witmer need more than a place to stay for the night. Lena defied her strict family and their judgmental beliefs to run away with Josiah and have his baby. But she’s starting to wonder if he can prove as responsible as he is passionate. And she isn’t sure how—or if—they can ever find a place to truly call home.
Expecting their own miracle baby, Miriam and Ben Hooley rally the town to help the young couple, and Lena draws strength from their unexpected support. Though trouble may come calling, in this season of joyous rebirth, a little child will lead them. And two couples will see their dreams of forever family come true…
GENRE: Amish/Inspirational Romance
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Josiah entered the barn, where the earthy scents of manure and horse feed soothed him. While Ben had done very well for himself in Willow Ridge—his beautiful new home and barn were evidence of his business sense—Josiah didn’t appreciate him being such a naysayer. Why didn’t Hooley believe he could cook? Who would make up a story about catering? The proof was in the pork chops—and the brisket and baked beans and other food he and Savilla dished up.
As he climbed the ladder to drop a few bales of hay from the loft, Josiah’s temper rose and his thoughts spun faster. What if Miriam expected him to audition—to work during her day shift and prove himself? It was one thing for the neighbor ladies to cook at the Sweet Seasons, but it was another thing altogether if they thought he would peel potatoes and wash dishes and—
“No women’s work for me, thank you very much!” Josiah hollered. “I’ll do this my way!” The echo of his voice in the high ceilings gave him a sense of release and satisfaction as the horses glanced up from their stalls.
“Sounds like something I would’ve said at your age.”
Josiah winced. Just inside the barn, Ben stood with his arms crossed, smiling. “My attitude cost me several years of productive life, considerin’ how I didn’t settle down with Miriam until I turned thirty-five,” he went on. “But jah, I left home to run my business my way.”
Josiah stood stock-still, bracing for a sermon. Ben was a preacher, after all.
“That’s why you’ll not partner with my wife until the details are in writing, Josiah,” Ben went on. “You’re too much like I was—like my brothers Luke and Ira, too. Reckless. Fearless. Careless,” he insisted. Then he shrugged. “But since you’re not gonna follow anybody else’s rules, I don’t have to worry about ya messin’ up Miriam’s business, do I?”
Josiah’s lips twitched. He felt really stupid, but that was no reason to back down or act as though he was sorry. “Nope.”
“I’m glad we understand each other,” Ben replied. “Denki for doin’ my horse chores. It’s gut, solid men’s work.”
Josiah nipped his lip. Where did he stand with Hooley, really? He and Savilla shared the cooking and cleanup without separating the tasks according to gender—he made a pretty fair batch of biscuits in a pinch, and his sister could change a rig wheel. She was a crack shot when they went deer hunting, too.
Josiah climbed down to the barn floor and filled a bucket with water. When he’d topped off the troughs for Ben’s animals and fed them, he tended Dolly. Then he stood before Ben, figuring he’d better clarify his living arrangements. “If you figure me for a bad apple—too irresponsible—I can be on the road as soon as throw my clothes in my duffle.”
Ben’s face fell like a sad old hound dog’s. “And break Lena’s heart?” he asked quietly. “I’m hopin’ it won’t come to that, son. But that’s your choice, too.”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Drawing upon her experiences in Jamesport, the largest Old Order Amish community in Missouri, longtime Missourian Charlotte Hubbard writes of simpler times and a faith-based lifestyle in her Seasons of the Heart series. Like her heroine, Miriam Lantz Hooley, Charlotte considers it her personal mission to feed people. Faith and family, farming and food preservation are hallmarks of her lifestyle. She’s a deacon, a dedicated church musician and choir member, and when she’s not writing, she loves to try new recipes, crochet, and sew. Charlotte now lives in Minnesota with her husband and their border collie.
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