The Last Bride by Beverly Lewis is the fifth in her Home to Hickory Hollow series but can easily be read as a stand-alone novel. Tessie Ann Miller is the last of five daughters in her family and the only one still unmarried. She loves Marcus King, but her father disapproves of him. He wants to encourage Levi Smucker’s attentions to his daughter. Marcus and Tessie decide their best course of action is to marry secretly, have Tessie remain home with her parents, and then tell them the news when they feel the time is right.
As you can imagine, they set themselves up for a number of problems. I did guess one outcome of their situation, but another totally took me off guard. It happens fairly early in the story, so I can’t say too much about it without spoiling the suspense.
Woven in is a subplot involving Tessie’s sister, who was in a similar situation except that she did end up marrying the man her father preferred. But that situation did not go smoothly either, and she struggles to learn to live with and submit to someone she doesn’t truly love.
There is an undercurrent, if not a theme, on the problems caused by keeping secrets: at least four characters keep secrets from others, for varying lengths of time, but with negative consequences in each case. One of them is Tessie’s own father, who doesn’t reveal the reasons why he wanted his daughters not to marry certain men until the hardships caused by what appears to be his unreasonableness bruise his relationships.
Another undercurrent in the story is the fact that, since many people in the community are related in some degree to each other, there is a plethora of genetic diseases among their children.
One factor common to all the books in this series, besides the fact that they are set in Hickory Hollow, which I believe is the setting for Beverly’s first books, is the presence of Ella May Zook, an older lady whom they call the Wise Woman who gives kind and gentle but helpful advice to the main characters.
I always enjoy Beverly’s books. Hers is pretty much the only “Amish fiction” I read, and I started back before that became a popular genre. I enjoyed following along with what the characters were learning about their walk with God and each other.
(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)