Bertha’s Resolve by Serena B. Miller is the fourth installment of the Love’s Journey in the Sugarcreek series. This novel, as well as the other three, have engrossing characters, a riveting plot, and information about the Amish of Ohio. The stories involve policewoman Rachel Troyer, her three elderly Amish aunts who run a Bed and Breakfast, Joe Matthews, Rachel’s eventual husband, and his son Bobby, along with other Amish town members. These books should be read in order to get a feel for the characters, but after the first chapter of the first book readers will not want to put down any of the stories.
Going from the first book to the latest:
Love Finds You in Sugarcreek, Ohio also known as The Sugar Haus Inn brings to life the Troyer family. Three elderly aunts who happen to be Amish have raised their niece, Rachel Troyer ever since her father died. The aunts understand her desire to respect the Amish culture, while not following in the Amish footsteps. Rachel has since joined the Sugarcreek police force and views her job as protecting her aunts and the town.
Bertha is the oldest of the three aunts and she is the leader who is strong, responsible, and dominant. Lydia, the middle sister, is gentle, kind, and finds solace in baking. The youngest is Anna, a sweet, Down Syndrome person who gives unquestioning love and befriends younger children.
The plot has Rachel suspicious of a bearded stranger who land on her aunts’ doorstep, begging shelter for himself and his young son. Joe Matthews and his son Bobby decided to escape the Los Angeles lifestyle after his wife was brutally killed. They are looking for anonymity and a quiet life. Although the aunts warmed to Joe and Bobby immediately, it took Rachel much longer to realize she had feelings for the father and son. In addition, all the books, have a suspenseful mystery. In this one Rachel must protect herself, her aunts, Joe, and Bobby as she tries to find who murdered the wife.
Book 2, Rachel’s Rescue, delves into the backstory of how Rachel’s father was killed. On her tenth birthday she and her dad, a policeman, had gone to the bank. There, her father was murdered in front of Rachel’s eyes after he tried to stop the bank robber. Knowing how to use a gun, Rachel grabs her father’s gun and points it at the killer, Carl Bateman. This book explores forgiveness and second chances as Rachel must come to grips with her anger and bitterness over losing her father. Twenty years later, she becomes obsessed with wanting revenge when Bateman was released from prison for serving his time. The suspenseful mystery also involves Bobby being kidnapped. This story takes readers on a journey with Rachel as she tries to overcome her feelings of revenge.
Book 3, Love Rekindled focuses on two new “English” characters. Dr. Michael Reynolds gets an opportunity to take over a country veterinarian practice in Sugarcreek, Ohio, and jumps at it, because this is his childhood town, and he feels close to the Amish community. His wife, Cassie, a Columbus attorney, is climbing the corporate ladder with lightning speed and refuses to go with him. Neither will compromise. A second plot finds Keturah Hochstetler, a midwife saving a baby after the mother has a horrific car accident. This story compares the English couple with the elderly Amish couple who show that sometimes career goals need to take second place to love and devotion, that career sacrifices are needed. The mystery involves Rachel trying to find family members of the rescued baby.
Book 4, Bertha’s Resolve explores the oldest aunts’ backstory. In 1959, after reading a heartbreaking plea for medical personnel, Bertha Troyer, a young, beautiful Amish woman from Sugarcreek, rebels against church rules and enters nursing school determined to pour out her life on behalf of the desperate children of Haiti. As a young nurse, she dealt with a nightmare of poverty, political unrest, and the fury of nature, as Bertha is forced to make the most agonizing decision of her life to protect these people. This book is very relevant today regarding the Americans and Afghan people who need to be rescued.
There is also a romance, and the choices Bertha must make so that a marriage is not destroyed, sacrificing her own love. Fast-forward to current time and Bertha again meets up with her forever love. Also, in this book Joe’s brother, Darren, is highlighted. He and Joe have opened a restaurant/bar that is becoming very successful until someone tries to steal their money. Childhood bullying and abuse are also issues in this story.
In all the books, the way of life of these simple, hardworking people is explored. People become engrossed in reading about Joe and Rachel, the aunts, Bobby, and Darren. Readers will take a journey with each character and have a vested interest in how the plot plays out. The stories combine a smidgen of romance, a suspenseful mystery, Amish life, and the importance of family.
EC: The last book has Bertha part of a rescue effort. Rumor has it that your son is also part of a rescue effort for those in Afghanistan?
Serena B. Miller: My son had been in Afghanistan for five years as a contractor. He is currently working day and night to get people out, Afghan translators. One was tragically killed by the Taliban a few days ago. They warned his wife that she and her four children were next to be executed. Thankfully, he got them out, but I am worried about others who are trapped.
Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for the series?
Serena B. Miller: An editor suggested I write an Amish story. I decided to choose the Sugarcreek area in Ohio because of its pretty name and it being compared as “the Little Switzerland of Ohio.” I lucked out because the owner of the Bed and Breakfast where I was staying had a lot of Amish friends. I had dinner with an Amish family that had seven children and the grandmother/grandfather was also there. The matriarch of the family told me I could ask anything, nothing was forbidden. His one stipulation was that I write the truth about the Amish. They loved the finished book. I even have an Amish family vet every Amish book I write.
EC: You write other series/books?
SBM: I have written three historical books, another Amish series, a non-fiction book about Amish parenting, and a series about Manitoulin Island in Canada, which was optioned for the Hallmark channel. Also, the first of these Amish books was made into a TV movie which can be found on many of the streaming channels.
EC: How would you compare the three Amish sisters?
SBM: Bertha is the oldest who has integrity and a tender heart. She is not domesticated but is the wise leader of the family with a bossy will of iron. Lydia is the baker who lives for cooking and is very quiet. Anna has Down Syndrome and is very sweet. Her personality is based on a church friend of mine. Since I have three sisters, I have become fascinated with the sisterly dynamics.
EC: How would you describe Rachel?
SBM: Very protective of those she loves. The killing of her father in front of her has defined her personality. She is determined to protect her family no matter what. She is analytical with common sense except where her father’s killer is concerned. Although very compassionate and direct, at times she is vulnerable. She also is very loyal and tenacious.
EC: What about the relationship between Joe and Rachel?
SBM: Both are very strong personalities. They can be stubborn at times. They have their disagreements, but always respect each other. They are on equal footing.
EC: In the second book you redeem the killer?
SBM: I felt I had to. He served his time in prison for twenty years. Now he has turned his life around by healing abused dogs and training them for search and rescue. His early life, when he was abused by his mother, is based on a true story. Carl, the killer, has an affinity for animals because they saved him as a child. He is now caring, remorseful, and deserves a second chance.
EC: How would you describe your books?
SBM: They are mysteries, suspense with a crime, and has an emphasis on the importance of family. For me, the mystery has the reader turning the pages to see what happens next. I put this quote in, “Whenever she (Rachel) needed the world to feel like a safer, saner place, she went to visit her Amish aunts.” I like writing about the big family, the agrarian culture, and the Amish community. Each book has a goal, a mystery, and a spiritual theme, with of course, a happy ending.
EC: What are the themes of each book?
SBM: Love Finds You in Sugarcreek, Ohio is about acceptance and not to judge a book by its cover. Rachel’s Rescue has a theme of forgiveness. Love Rekindled is about the healing of a marriage. I wrote this one in the months after my husband passed away. We had been married for many years. It is about family relationship, but at that core is the marriage relationship. Bertha’s Resolve shows that it is possible to do the right thing and to walk away from the possibility of an extra marital affair.
EC: You always have tidbits about the Amish lifestyle. In Bertha’s Resolve you compare the Amish with the Mennonites?
SBM: The Mennonites can get on a plane, go to college, and have an extensive mission program of helping. The story of this book has Bertha worshipping a co-worker from afar. Now fifty years later they still have that depth of friendship. I want to show that with both groups they have a very strong work ethic and are problem solvers.
EC: What about your next books?
SBM: I am currently writing book 5 in this Sugarcreek series. I am debating if Rachel will continue her profession as a police officer, maybe part time. It will feature Joe’s brother Darren who will get a love story. Since Joe is a former Major League baseball player, I will bring baseball into this story. I am thinking of having an Amish boy who has a phenomenal talent for the game. Both Amish girls and boys love baseball. Hopefully it will come out in the Spring of 2022.
I am also working on an Amish children’s novel that is for children. It will also be set in Sugarcreek with some familiar characters. There will be twelve books in the series. The first should come out around Christmas time.