2 out of 4 stars
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The Blue Gate by LL Fox is a romance novel set in an Amish community in rural Tennessee. Senta Miller is the only child of Elijah and Sarah, and the family lives a simple life on their dairy farm. Just before her seventeenth birthday, Senta is thrilled when she wins the annual blackberry cobbler competition. Then, shortly after attending her first singing where Amish teens gather in hopes of courting, a tragedy affects her family. Senta must place her dreams of courtship and having her own family on hold to care for her parents. As months turn into years, Senta's hope begins to fade, but everything changes when her path crosses with handsome Jerrick Douglas. Jerrick isn't Amish, and Senta must make some difficult choices. Can Senta finally have the future she once dreamed about or will Bishop Yost interfere?
My favorite aspect of the book was learning about the Amish tradition of the blue gate and how the author tied it into the book's ending. I won't reveal any spoilers, but I will say that I wasn't previously aware of this particular practice and found it a rather charming custom. I also enjoyed the portions of the book that described Amish life on the farm including the preparation of homemade cheese.
I think many readers may share my curiosity about the customs and traditions of the Amish. Fans of Amish romances are likely familiar with author Beverly Lewis, who grew up in Lancaster which is considered the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch community. I've read several of her carefully-researched books myself. However, The Blue Gate is not the typically chaste Amish romance novel. Since the book's synopsis contains few details about the plot, I am cautious about revealing any spoilers. Suffice it say, that those who enjoy books related to the Amish community may be disappointed, and I feel the author dropped the ball regarding research.
I also found the character development disappointing. When the book begins, Senta is a strong young woman with her future ahead of her. After an unexpected tragedy affects their family, she is committed to supporting her parents, but readers will relate to her disappointment of putting plans for her own family on hold. Then Senta meets Jerrick. While a certain amount of insecurity is understandable due to her inexperience, Senta's constant need for his approval seems inconsistent with her overall character. Likewise, I was irritated by Jerrick's tendency to speak to Senta as though she was a child.
Though the book was exceptionally edited, due to the weak character development and inconsistencies related to Amish lifestyles, I rate the book 2 out of 4 stars. It will appeal to readers who appreciate happily-ever-after romances. On the other hand, due to sexual content, I would not recommend it readers who tend to enjoy conservative Amish romances.
The Blue Gate
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