Four novels in one, Lancaster Brides is composed of the four novels in Brunstetter’s Brides of Lancaster County series — A Merry Heart, Looking for a Miracle, Plain and Fancy, and The Hope Chest. In A Merry Heart, Miriam Stolzfus’s students say she has a heart of stone, but the young woman’s fiance decided to marry another woman and Miriam has pledged never to love again. When two different men — one Plain and one Fancy — come into her life, Miriam must make a decision between leaving her family, religion, and home or making a marriage of convenience.
In Looking for a Miracle, the narrative follows Miriam’s niece, who was paralyzed in a freak accident in A Merry Heart. Confined to a wheelchair, Rebecka longs to be loved and not considered a burden by those around her, but while her dreams of financial independence come true, she’s forced to stand aside as the man who has stolen her heart is obviously in love with her best friend and cousin. Relocating to Lancaster for college, interior design student Laura Meade falls in love with Eli Yoder, an Amish man, and must choose between being Plain or “fancy” in Plain and Fancy. Rebecka’s daughter, Rachel, is in love with her sister’s boyfriend in The Hope Chest, but she figures she’s destine to be alone.
Interwoven through family relationships, Lancaster Brides follows the lives of two generations of women with Laura Meade being the only one who didn’t fit into the collection. Laura’s story was the most interesting as an English women joins the Plain life, but I found her to be my least favorite character as she joined the Amish with plans to force her husband to leave the faith he already said he never would. I also felt like Plain and Fancy was wrapped up too quickly, and the ending felt really forced. My favorite story was probably that of Looking for a Miracle simply because it was interesting to learn about how one handles being paralyzed in an agrarian community, and Rebecka and Daniel were some of my favorite characters. Rachel and Miriam’s stories were quite predictable, but there were some timeline issues simply because Miriam had her photo taken with a digital camera, which would mean Rachel’s story would have to occur in 2025 or later. I still found these stories to be diverting reads even if the collection as a whole was fairly repetitive and had a tendency to drag on.
- Brunstetter, Wanda E. Lancaster Brides. Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour Pub., 2002. Print. 478 pgs. ISBN: 1586608029. Source: PaperBackSwap.