by Jennifer Beckstrand
Article for April issue of Because Fiction magazine
I grew up in an orchard. Well, not literally in an orchard, but about ten giant steps from one. When I was little, my dad and mom grew six acres of cherries, peaches, and raspberries right behind our house. That’s why I love writing about orchards and berry picking in my Amish romance books. Anna and Felty Helmuth, the Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill, live near a large huckleberry patch, and orchards play a big role in my Honeybee Sisters series as well. Families in Amish communities are farming less and finding other ways to make a living. In my next book, His Amish Sweetheart (June 28), Austin Petersheim has the idea to start an Amish market. His little brothers, Alfie and Benji, have a few mischievous ideas of their own.
When I started writing Amish romances, I felt an immediate kinship to the Plain people because of my upbringing on a fruit farm. My sisters and I would stack limbs, drive the tractor, pick and pack peaches, and can fruit all summer and fall. My favorite time of year was raspberry picking time. I loved filling my bucket with plump, red berries and eating as many as I wanted while I worked. I always carefully inspected every berry before it went into my mouth so I wouldn’t inadvertently eat a bug.
A good raspberry picker knows that, many times, the best raspberries hide beneath the cover of the leaves or are tucked deep inside the bushes, just out of casual reach. If you don’t want to miss the choicest berries, you have to look carefully, be patient, and be willing to search for the hidden gems.
I’ve decided that relationships are like raspberries. We’re so busy these days. We tend to rush past each other, not really seeing, not making connections because we have a to-do list and a pair of blinders on. We miss out on priceless opportunities to nurture relationships, to find the hidden gems in our families and neighborhoods.
So today, think of the patient, careful raspberry picker who fills her bucket with rare and delicious fruit. I want to be her.
Here is our secret family recipe for one of my favorite desserts ever: Raspberry Cheesecake. At our house, we put up a lot of jam, and we made a lot of raspberry cheesecake. It was pretty much the perfect childhood.
Fondly nicknamed “The Peanut Butter Brothers,” Andrew, Abraham, and Austin Petersheim skillfully run one of Wisconsin’s most cherished family businesses. But their mischievous younger twin siblings have a talent all their own—for matchmaking . . .
Between work and keeping his little brothers out of trouble, Austin Petersheim barely has time to think, much less court the most popular maidel in town. But if he can establish a local market to direct-sell his family’s goods, he’ll stand out as a potential husband. He’s so grateful for the help of his longtime friend, Hannah Yutzy, who has such practical ideas—and is so easy to talk to . . .
While Austin embarks on his plan, his siblings have a plan of their own: to give Austin and Hannah a little nudge to show them they’re made for each other. When their antics wreak havoc with a rival family emporium, Hannah must help Austin set things right. And as she does just that, Austin is stunned to realize his best friend could be his perfect wife. Now he’ll just need the courage and faith to find out if she agrees . . .