Patrice Lewis latest has three novels centering around the Amish. Each of the last three years she has written stories that allow readers to see the conflicts involving the hero and heroine. A bonus is that people begin to understand the differences between the Amish and English worlds.
The Amish Newcomer has a TV journalist, Leah Porte, witnessing a gang murder. Put into witness protection for her own safety, she is sent to live with an Amish Family. This story centers on country life versus city life as well as living independently versus relying on family and community. Leah also grapples with her feelings for Isaac Sommer who had lived among the English until he decided to return to his Amish roots and become baptized. Would their living in a different world, with different cultures, be too much for a relationship to flourish?
Amish Baby Lessons is an ugly duckling type of story. Jane Troyer sees herself as a “plain Jane” who is awkward, although useful. Deciding to have a change of atmosphere she goes to live with her aunt and uncle in a new state. After meeting Levy Struder and his infant niece Mercy, who he is caring for, Jane decides to accept his job offer of being a nanny. Caring for Mercy brings Levy and Jane together, both realizing that they have feelings for each other. Will they overcome their own insecurities to realize how much they care for each other?
Her Path to Redemption has Eliza Struder, Levy’s sister, coming back to the Amish community. She left during her rumspringa and had a baby, Mercy, out of wedlock with an English man whom she married. After he died, she gratefully accepted the charity of a Pastor and his wife, returning home. She quickly realizes that she still has feelings for Josiah Lapp, the man she left behind. Each are drawn to each other, but must overcome some obstacles including Josiah’s mother, if the bishop is willing to baptize Eliza, and will the community accept and forgive her.
Elise Cooper: Were these books a series?
Patrice Lewis: The first one, The Amish Newcomer, was a stand-alone book but the other two books, Amish Baby Lesson, and Her Path to Redemption, are related.
EC: Why witness protection in the first book, The Amish Newcomer?
PL: I was trying to figure out how an English woman would be a part of an Amish community, including her having to dress the part. The only thing I could come up with is witness protection. The Amish have been known to take people in for witness protection. How would the character settle in with no background about the Amish? Leah had to be taught by the family how do work without electricity, appliances, a learning curve. There is a lot of me in this book.
EC: How so?
PL: I wondered if I could do what Leah did. I also wondered if I could ever become Amish since I do not like modern electronics. A quote in this book, “In the world, but not of the world.” I did have the Isaac hero character publishing a magazine on a computer powered by solar panels. I would belong to a more modern branch order that is not so resistant to technology. People who like to withdraw from the modern world must conform to an extent to make a living, but they are selective.
EC: How would you describe Leah?
PL: A duck out of water because she never lived in a rural area. She was completely urban. The Amish work as a community, while Leah is used to being independent. She had to learn that labor, working with her hands, is not something to avoid. Labor with the Amish is a form of barter. She had to learn that domestic chores are not oppressive. Previously she was strong, competent, and career minded. Leah was part of the feminist culture who competed in a man’s world. She can be sarcastic, feisty, and blunt.
EC: How would you describe Isaac?
PL: He had a lot of baggage. He came back to the Amish and became baptized. He still has a lot of “English” about him. He is determined and confident, but feels he has a lot to prove.
EC: What about the relationship between Leah and Isaac?
PL: He was more interested in her. There is a massive barrier because he was Amish, and she was not. This stopped him from getting involved with her.
EC: In Amish Baby Lessons what gave you the idea?
PL: Originally, I had the idea of a plain Jane, an ugly duckling.
EC: How would you describe Jane?
PL: Originally, I had her very plain, sarcastic, and bitter. Her mom told her to travel to her aunt and uncle for a change of environment. I decided to tone her bitterness down because she was not a very likeable character. Hired as a nanny, working with an infant, the more her true spirit comes out: she cannot be beautiful, but can be useful. Jane was based on a librarian I knew years ago who was adored. Even though she was not pretty, everyone loved her. Looks are not everything.
EC: What about the relationship with Jane and Levy?
PL: He adores her. He feels Jane’s inside is pure gold. He must get over his guilt because he thinks he chased his sister Eliza away when raising her after their parents died. Jane respects him for trying to raise Eliza’s daughter. Jane drew out the best in him and realizes he is a good man.
EC: What is the role of the baby Mercy?
PL: She represents hope. She gives Levy a do-over chance. She brings Jane and Levy together. Backstory on the book cover. It shows a four-month-old but when the book begins Mercy is a newborn infant. They did alter the text on the back cover description.
EC: How about Eliza who is in this book and the main character in the next book, The Path to Redemption?
PL: Caring, has an unsettled life, rebellious, but has changed. Because of her turnaround she still has a fire in her but has become subdued. In the last book Eliza marvels how Levy has changed. She was at rock bottom and was given money to return home. She was determined to pay this debt back.
EC: In the last book, Her Path To Redemption, how would you describe Josiah?
PL: He was bitter toward the English world because it lured Eliza away. His mother was resentful of Eliza.
EC: The role of the dolls?
PL: I was surprised to learn that the Amish share medical costs, if necessary, but everyone is responsible to make their own living. The dolls grew into a business for Eliza where she could become financially independent.
EC: Next books?
PL: The Mysterious Amish Nanny is out in January. The heroine was originally raised Amish but after her parents were killed, she had to enter foster care in the English world. She had been a banker until everything comes crashing down. She takes this cross-county trip, and her car breaks down next to an Amish community. Another book is a story of three siblings, a three-book series, which will probably not come out until April of next year.