Christmas in Apple Ridge, by Cindy Woodsmall

Emily Rachelle Reviews, by Emily

Experience the holidays with the Plain folk of Apple Ridge, Pennsylvania

This is my first time reading, much less reviewing, an Amish book. Most Christian and/or female readers are probably aware of the huge Amish trend going on right now.  Honestly, I’ve been more than reluctant to try it myself. I only decided to review this book because (a) I wanted something Christmas, and (b) I figured three novellas in one book made a great “Amish fiction” sampler and would give me a better first impression/opinion than one novel.

The stories were great. I’m not about to go out and buy her next book the minute it releases, like I might for Cidney Swanson or Shannon Dittemore.  But I’m the target audience for those writers, and I’m not for this book. The writing was pretty strong. There were a few parts were the story seemed a little slow or bogged down. For the most part, though, I was cringing at the characters’ embarrassing moments and grinning idiotically when they got the guy (or girl). The story world was beautiful. I especially loved how each character in each story was unique and alive.

The romance was sweet and warm and fuzzy. All three books were beautifully set in a country Christmas, but they weren’t more focused on the setting than the story, like some Christmas and/or country books tend to be.  Basically, the book was great and I’m over my prejudice against Amish books.

I do have one complaint.  The back of the book has a different blurb for each novella, as would be expected. The first story is about a young woman named Beth who is still getting over a tragedy from a while back. However, when you start reading, the first several pages are from the viewpoint of a forty-something spinster named Lizzy.  Huh?  As a reader, this first confused and then frustrated me. You realize soon that Lizzy is Beth’s aunt, and later that she is vital to Beth’s story – but when you’re starting the story, you don’t know this, and you want to see the main character. You subconsciously expect it.  So I think Cindy messed up a little with her first chapter.

Anyone with a connection to the publishing industry – writer, agent, editor, publisher, or want-to-be’s of each – knows the ultimate importance of the first chapter, the first page.  It’s the worst place to mess up.

This is an even bigger problem when there are three stories in one book. Each story in this set is better than the previous one (in my opinion), so the third was my favorite. That’s not a problem – but a person’s reading those stories all hinges on the first page/chapter of the first novella. The third story doesn’t get a chance to shine with its first page or chapter if the first story doesn’t shine. That’s not fair for the amazing writing that is the third story.

In all, I give this book four stars.

Note: I received this book for free through Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. I was in no way otherwise compensated. All opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.

~Emily Rachelle

Find me every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at my blog, Emily Rachelle Writes ( where I discuss books, family, media, faith, and life as an atypical American girl.

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