By Leslie Gould
Release Date: February 1st, 2014
Genre: Christian/Amish Fiction
Genre: Christian/Amish Fiction
If you know me pretty well on Goodreads, or have followed my blog for any period of time, you can probably guess I have a weird fascination with Amish fiction. And in addition, I love retellings of all types whether they’re fairy tales or classics or what have you. So, when I came across the Courtships of Lancaster County series by Leslie Gould – which combined both these favorite genres – I knew I had a recipe for the perfect series.
The Courtships of Lancaster County series is a retelling of different Shakespeare’s plays. The first book, Courting Cate, is a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, one of Shakespeare’s few comedies. The second installment of the series, Adoring Addie, is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Finally, the third book – which I will review here – is based off of A Midsummer’s Night Dream. It really is a shame that I can’t get the full enjoyment out of the retelling. I’ve only read a handful of Shakespeare’s plays (Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar and Macbeth), so the only one I’ve really been able to adequately compare to the source material is Adoring Addie. However, I know the gist of many of the plays – even if I had to do a little research before writing the review. Haha!
Minding Molly centers around the ever vivacious Molly Zook, who we’ve seen before here and there in the previous two books. After her father dies in an unfortunate accident, Molly, her mother and her sister, Beatrice, are having a hard time paying the bills for their home. So far, their thriving landscaping business, where Molly grows flowers, shrubs, trees and herbs, has kept their heads above water, but the family knows it’s only a matter of time before things take a financial downturn. Their mother thinks she has the best solution for both Molly and their family: have Molly marry the next door neighbor’s boy – Mervin Mosier – and combine their two farms together. Molly, who has no interest in marrying Mervin – and is quickly falling for a handsome man, Leon, down the street – is left with quite the dilemma. Not wanting to disobey her mother or hurt Mervin’s feelings, she helps set up a camping trip, where all her friends are invited. Hannah – who’s pined for Mervin for years – Mervin, his twin brother Martin, her sister, Leon and plenty of others. It’s up to Molly to win Leon’s heart, while also trying to set Hannah and Mervin up together. And, in between all the relationship drama, she has to find a way to save her family home.
What I’ve really come to like about Gould’s work is that her retellings are definitely well thought out. They aren’t some loosely based plot idea, but specific characters actually relate to specific characters that Shakespeare created. For example, Molly represent Hermia who is in love with Leon (Lysander) but is told that she needs to marry Mervin (Demetrius). Meanwhile, Hannah (Helena) is secretly in love with Mervin (Demetrius). It’s just so perfectly plotted together, especially considering that many of these characters are recurring, meaning we’ve seen and met them in the previous two books. To have all these characters so intricately weaved together demonstrates that Gould really plotted her series carefully before even writing the first book. I love when authors put in so much effort. To top it all off, much of the book takes place during the camping trip, out in the middle of nowhere in the woods, much like how the classic is told from a magical forest.
That said, this book isn’t without its flaws. Due to the setting in the story, we get plenty of chapters that are relatively slow, many of which dealing with detailing the forest and camping trip itself. There were only so many hikes I could read through before I started skimming to get to the next serious part. As far as the characters, I really like the distinct personality that Gould has given to all her characters. When it comes to Amish fiction, it’s easy – simply by the nature of the Amish – to have characters that demonstrate the same qualities, beliefs, and values. Gould manages to keep her characters true to their faith without giving us that same, dried up and over-used Amish girl and guy.
Of course, the major set-back with this book – and the main reason I gave it four stars – is the insane insta-love that occurred between Molly and Leon. Yes, I get that it’s a retelling and, yes, I get that part of the Amish customs have a play in it, but really? You know the guy TWO DAYS and you’re already confessing your love to him? I’d be more apt to marry Mervin, whom I’ve known for years, rather than some good looking stranger I know next to nothing about. But that’s just being suspicious, sensible me. But of course, Leon ended up being a great guy and all. I just couldn’t excuse the book that ridiculous intsa-love, though. Thus, the four stars. Overall, though, it’s a fantastic retelling of an awesome classic that I REALLY need to make time to read. And as far as Amish books go, it’s definitely up there. Check it out if you haven’t already and, if you’re new the Amish fiction genre, considering picking up the first book, Courting Cate. (As of now, it's a KINDLE FREEBIE!) It’s great as well!