“The Way to a Man’s Heart,” by Mary Ellis, was an October read for me. How does a work of Amish romance literature get into the hands of a faithful sci fi/fantasy/drama reader? Well, the way to my heart was receiving it from a gift basket I’d purchased in a silent auction from the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference in September.
As my first foray into Amish literature, this wasn’t half-bad. In fact, I enjoyed the new vocabulary I picked up, and the gentle way the author introduces readers to Amish traditions, preferences and social mores. It was educational, and the story featured an unusual heroine and off-the-beaten path plot.
Leah Miller loves to bake, and she’s invited by business owner April to cook for a restaurant in an old restored diner made out of a train car. Her pies soon become famous, and locals stop by to chow down. Only thing is, some locals come for the sights as well as the sweets. Certain young Amish gentleman love Leah’s cooking and think she’s quite cute. The young ladies in the community and young men’s parents accuse Leah of being a flirt, and situation after situation arises where Leah is mistakenly assumed to be a tease. I’m not entirely sure how much of this is Leah’s fault or the boys’, and the author leaves it open in each situation for interpretation. I find it hard to believe Leah had nothing to do with the confusion – where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.
However, the story really gets going when she falls for a handsome dairy farmer, Jonah Byler, who was left the church due to some theological disagreements. As a religious studies major, I ate that up – it was exciting to read Leah’s gentle debates with this articulate, embittered man she likes.
Leah learns valuable lessons, as does April, her boss. Discussions from working on Sundays to chores vs. work, to ambition versus enjoyment all arise. Perhaps the most interesting conflict is April’s failure to manage the money wisely, and her eventual blame on Leah for their lack of profits and late bills. Leah and her family suffer greatly when the diner fails to meet its obligations, and the author does a great job of showing a very real attitude of forgiveness and fairness between the characters.
I would say if you’re a younger person, maybe a teen or young adult, and looking for a satisfying, wholesome story with good morals, lessons and a relatable, introverted main character, read “The Way to a Man’s Heart” by Mary Ellis.