MY REVIEW OF
JOYFUL: RETURN TO SUGARCREEK
SHELLEY SHEPARD GRAY
A young Amish couple gets a second chance at love in New York Times bestselling author Shelley Shepard Gray’s final book in her Return to Sugarcreek series.
Randall Beiler is doing his best to put his family and the farm’s needs first, even forsaking love. But though he tries, Randall knows he needs help caring for his younger siblings and keeping the house together.
When his brother offers pretty Elizabeth Nolt a job taking care of the house and cooking for the family, Randall is furious—and guilty about the way he once broke Elizabeth’s heart. But when he learns that Elizabeth and her grandmother are struggling to make ends meet, he knows the offer, no matter how painful, is the right thing for everyone.
Elizabeth wants to refuse—to stay far away from the man who hurt her—but she needs the money. Though she vows to protect her heart, spending time in the Beiler household makes Elizabeth realize that, while she’s older and wiser, her love for Randall still burns strong.
Randal, too, seems to want something more. But does he want Elizabeth because he truly loves her—or because he needs a housekeeper? If Randall sincerely wants something more, he must find a way to show Elizabeth—or risk losing his chance at love forever.
Joyful includes a P.S. section with a letter from the author, discussion questions, and a teaser from her next book.
When I realized this was the third book in this series, I was surprised that I did not know about the first two in the series. Shelley Shepard Gray is an exceptional writer. Her stories are easy to follow and she eloquently expresses the feelings of the characters whether negative or positive.
It was easy to understand Elizabeth’s confusion as to Randall’s feelings toward her. She had far more maturity than Randall. Randall seemed to be short sighted, which is comprehensible in the way he felt so much responsibility for his siblings. He believed he did not have time for romance and dropped Elizabeth without being able to explain with honesty his purpose in doing so. In my estimation, he made thoughtless decisions in many areas as well as being insensitive toward Elizabeth as well as his siblings. Elizabeth put her whole heart into caring for her grandmother. Since her mother had remarried after her father’s death, she seemed to leave Elizabeth to her own devices to earn money enough to care for herself and her grandmother. Randall’s brothers devised a plan to bring Randall and Elizabeth together, hopefully reuniting them and help Elizabeth earn money. Elizabeth’s patience with Randall and willingness to do her finest job is to be marveled. Frankly, I lost patience several times with Randall and wondered what Elizabeth saw in him in the first place.
The two sub-plots were interesting, but I felt a bit frustrated whenever we were drawn away from Elizabeth’s story. Although I could identify with Judith and Ben wanting to adopt James as their own child – I have three adopted children and could never give either of them up – I had empathy for James’s mother as well. Pippa’s story was sweet and not long, but there was more I would have liked to learn about her and Bud’s story. Perhaps Ms. Gray has in mind another story for her in the future.
Overall, I liked this story very much. There are a lot of surprises and definitely much soul searching. Ms. Gray’s imagination proved lively as she added fun and on again, off again chances for romance between Elizabeth and Randall. You will need to read this story for yourself to find out all the answers you want to know. You will fall in love with Elizabeth’s grandmother and her expressions of wisdom. Particularly interesting are the discussion questions at the end of the book. Even though I had not read the first two books in this series – Joyful is a stand-alone story. Is there real joy in the end? That’s for you to find out. I am so thankful that God gives writers such splendid inspirations to write about. You will never be bored with a book written by Shelley Shepard Gray!
I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR…….
Shelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail.
I grew up in Houston, Texas, went to Colorado for college, and after living in Arizona, Dallas, and Denver, we moved to southern Ohio about ten years ago.
I’ve always thought of myself as a very hard worker, but not ‘great’ at anything. I’ve obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degree…but I never was a gifted student. I took years of ballet and dance, but I never was anywhere near the star of any recital. I love to cook, but I’m certainly not close to being gourmet…and finally I love to write books, but I’ve certainly read far better authors.
Maybe you are a little bit like me. I’ve been married for almost twenty years and have raised two kids. I try to exercise but really should put on my tennis shoes a whole lot more. I’m not a great housekeeper, I hate to drive in the snow, and I don’t think I’ve ever won a Monopoly game. However, I am the best wife and mother I know how to be.
Isn’t it wonderful to know that in God’s eyes that is okay? That from His point of view, we are all exceptional? I treasure that knowledge and am always so thankful for my faith. His faith in me makes me stand a little straighter, smile a little bit more, and be so very grateful for every gift He’s given me.
I started writing about the Amish because their way of life appealed to me. I wanted to write stories about regular. likeable people in extraordinary situations-and who just happened to be Amish.
Getting the opportunity to write Inspirational novels is truly gratifying. With every book, I feel my faith grows stronger. And that makes me feel very special indeed.