A Double Dose of Love releases on January 5, 2021. If you haven’t seen the cover yet, here it is:
I LOVE this cover because:
- The couples show their personality, even though they’re identical twins. You’ll be able to tell which couple is which shortly after you start the story.
- The colors. The greens and blues and purples and browns all go together so well.
- The quote on the front. Thank you Jennifer Beckstrand for such a lovely endorsement! Y’all make sure to check out her books here.
- The postmark on the front. So cute!
So what is A Double Dose of Love about? Obviously identical twins, but here’s a little more info:
Prepare for a double dose of romance and fun when two sets of Amish twins find love.
Identical brothers Zeb and Zeke Bontrager aren’t looking for love. They have their hands full with a new horse farm, a half-finished ranch house, and a wild colt, thanks to Zeke’s hasty business dealings. Now Zeb must contend with Zeke’s bad decisions, hidden debts, and tendency to avoid responsibility, which threaten their good standing in the Birch Creek Amish community.
When a newspaper ad prompts Darla King to travel to Birch Creek in search of a husband, her identical twin, Amanda, promises their parents she’ll convince Darla to come home. After all, Amanda is the responsible and reliable one. She has always protected Darla, who acts on impulse and trusts people too easily. The sisters’ close relationship is strained as Darla asserts her independence and Amanda grapples with regrets of her past and the longings of her own heart.
When Zeb and Amanda join forces to protect Darla and Zeke from each other, none of them can possibly predict the outcome as all four come face-to-face with their highest hopes and deepest insecurities in the first installment of the Amish Mail-Order Bride series.
Zeb and Zeke are the brothers of Phoebe Chupp, who is featured in Written in Love. You might remember she has eleven brothers. Zeb and Zeke are the oldest set of twins.
I’ll be talking more about A Double Dose of Love in the upcoming weeks, but for now here’s the first chapter:
Mamm! Amanda! Look!”
Amanda flinched at her twin sister’s excited tone. “Goodness, Darla. I almost dropped this.” She held up a pink, cut-crystal cup from where she stood beside the kitchen table. She’d never seen such fancy glassware, but the box her mother’s cousin mailed from Millersburg was filled with it, each item carefully wrapped in newspaper. Mamm had explained the large punch bowl set was a family heirloom.
Amanda gently set the cup on the table before turning to Darla. “Look at what?”
“This.” Her sister had smoothed out a newspaper page on the kitchen counter, and Amanda stepped closer to see her pointing to a tiny box in one corner. The print was so small she was surprised Darla could even read it. “‘Looking for marriage, ladies? Single Amish men available in Birch Creek, Ohio.’”
“Talk about tacky,” Amanda said, frowning. She snatched the page and crumpled it into a ball.
“Don’t!” Darla grabbed the wad from Amanda’s hand. Then she smoothed the page again and tore off the small ad.
“Let me see that.” Mamm took the tiny piece of paper and pulled her reading glasses out of her apron pocket. She slipped them on and read what it said for herself. “This almost sounds like an ad for mail-order brides.”
“What are those?” Darla asked.
“When thousands of single men journeyed to the frontier out west back in the 1800s, they found very few available women. So they wrote letters back home or put ads in newspapers asking women to come marry them. People called them mail-order brides. But that was a long time ago. I didn’t know people still did this kind of thing. Especially Amish.” She frowned. “Who would put something like this in a newspaper, of all things?”
“Single men in Birch Creek, of course.” Darla clapped her hands together. “Amanda, we should geh there.”
“What?” Amanda and Mamm had spoken simultaneously, then they glanced at each other before turning back to Darla.
Darla’s eyes had turned dreamy. “If the single men in Birch Creek are so desperate for wives, they’ll put an ad in the paper, we’ll surely find husbands there.”
“I don’t want a husband,” Amanda said as she stared at her sister. “And you don’t need one,” she added, muttering.
“I heard that,” Darla said, stepping closer to their mother, her eyes narrowed with indignation. “Mamm, she’s doing it again. She interferes every time I try to get close enough to a mann for him to even think about dating me. And you and Daed—”
“Maed.” Mamm let out a long-suffering sigh as she slipped her glasses back into her pocket. “When you two behave like this, it’s hard to believe you’re twenty-one years old.”
Amanda wasn’t surprised Mamm redirected the conversation. Her parents still didn’t think Darla was mature enough to date, let alone marry. And neither did she. “Sorry,” Amanda said, glancing around at the scattered newspaper among the crystal on nearly every surface in their kitchen.
“I’m sorry too.” Darla’s deep-set, blue-green eyes, identical to Amanda’s own, filled with apology. “But I don’t like it when she bosses me around.”
“Both of you forget about that ad and help me finish unpacking this box.” She put her hands on her hips. “I’m still not sure why mei cousin sent this to me. When would I ever use such a fancy set?” she mumbled.
As they all returned to the task at hand, Amanda glanced at Darla, who was uncharacteristically silent—but no doubt still upset with her for shutting down her wild idea. She wished Darla didn’t see her concern as bossiness. Neither one of them were ready for marriage. Darla, because she was so naïve. And as for her? Well, she had her own reasons.
When they’d finished unpacking and gathering all the newspaper, Mamm placed the punch bowl set inside a cabinet under the counter, near the sink. “Just until I can figure out what to do with it.”
Darla still hadn’t said a word. From experience, Amanda knew she probably wouldn’t talk to her for a while. But that wouldn’t last long. Darla didn’t hold grudges. “I’ll be out in the garden,” she told Mamm as Darla left the kitchen without comment. “But I’ll be back to help make supper.”
When Amanda stepped onto the back porch wearing a light jacket, the warmer, late-March sunshine hit her face, lifting her mood. Just not as much as she’d hoped it would. She cared about her sister, but it was exhausting trying to keep her from making impulsive—and sometimes not-so-bright—decisions.
She’d been doing that for most of her life. Just last week, when they were both working at their jobs as waitresses at Yoder’s Pantry, a local diner, a male customer asked Darla several personal questions. She answered every one of them, and that was bad enough. But then when Amanda heard him ask when her shift ended, she had no choice but to intervene.
It made no difference that the man was Amish. He might have been from another, nearby district, but they still didn’t know him. Not all Amish men were trustworthy.
“You can’t tell men you don’t know when you’ll get off work,” she whispered as she yanked Darla away from the man’s table. “Not even an Amish mann.”
“Why not? He was nice. He even gave me a big tip.”
Amanda shook her head at the memory, grateful she’d managed to stop Darla from answering the question. She might have gone so far as to give him their home address. She sighed. Even though Amanda was younger by ten minutes, she’d felt like the older sister for as long as she could remember. Her parents had even encouraged that role. Darla’s birth had been difficult, and for a few hours, they feared they could lose their first twin. Amanda was sure that had to be part of their ongoing concern for her. But then when Darla never outgrew her naivety and impulsive nature.
Now her sister wanted to run off to a strange community to find a husband. That was by far the most reckless move she’d ever suggested in her ill-advised quest for male companionship. Their own area, Holmes County, had plenty of suitable single men for Darla when the family thought she was ready. Men who weren’t so desperate they’d place an ad for women looking for marriage. Besides, Birch Creek was almost a two-hour bus ride from Walnut Creek, the community where she and her twin, their parents’ only children, had lived all their lives.
Amanda shook her head in frustration as she made her way to the back of her family’s small plot of land, where she planted a garden every spring. Her father owned a local lumberyard with his cousin, and while their business competed with larger lumberyards in the area, their family lived comfortably. And with only the four of them, they didn’t have to care for a farm besides. They were fine with a modest house, a small barn for their horse and buggy, a chicken coop—and not much land. She was grateful the property still had room for a garden, though.
She knelt on the newly thawed ground and pulled out a few weeds already springing up. Neither of her parents enjoyed gardening. They considered it just another chore, necessary to carry on the Amish tradition of fresh, homegrown food on the table and canning for the winter. Darla felt the same way. But Amanda loved being outdoors, digging her fingers in the dirt, breathing in the earthy scent of rich soil, surrounded by vibrantly colored flowers and fresh, appetizing vegetables. After planting in a week or so, she’d spend all her free time here. A sigh escaped as her thoughts returned to the diner. She didn’t particularly like waitressing, but Darla enjoyed interacting with the customers and other employees, who were both Amish and English. The owners were English as well. It was okay to be friendly. She even admired Darla for that. She just wished her sister would be more careful and less trusting when it came to men.
Why should she worry, though? Darla would never take off for Birch Creek. Their parents wouldn’t allow it, for one thing. And for another, her twin wouldn’t go there without her. And I’m not leaving. Life isn’t perfect in Walnut Creek, but this is mei home, and this is where I’ll stay—married or not. And right now, that was a very big not. She had no intention of marrying.
If Darla brought up marching off to Birch Creek again, she’d convince her the idea was absurd. What kind of men would pursue—what did Mamm call them? Mail-order brides? Only men with something really wrong with them. One thing was for sure. She didn’t want to find out what that was.
“Do you think you can break him?”
Zeb Bontrager gave his twin brother, Zeke, a hard look. “Sure,” he said, doubting the word as it came out of his mouth. But it wasn’t as if he had a choice in the matter. He turned his attention to the young, wild colt. “Although it’ll be difficult.” Probably the most difficult challenge he’d ever have training a horse, and he’d trained a few. “But I’ll get it done.”
Zeke pushed back his straw hat, revealing the only distinguishing physical mark between the brothers—the thin scar above his left eyebrow from falling off a horse and hitting his head on a big rock when they were twelve. In typical Zeke fashion, he barely shed a tear even though he had to have six stitches. “I know you will.”
Frowning, Zeb turned to his twin, wishing he had half the confidence Zeke had about breaking the colt. “Adam and Jalon said they warned you not to buy him, but you did anyway.”
“Because you have a special gift when it comes to horses, little bruder.” Zeke grinned and clapped him on the back so hard Zeb had to take a step to regain his balance.
Zeb rolled his eyes. Zeke was all of three minutes older than him.
“If anyone can tame this colt, you can. Besides, Adam and Jalon aren’t the be-all and end-all of horse knowledge.”
“They’ve been buying horses longer than we have,” Zeb said, growing annoyed. “You should listen to yer elders once in a while.”
“Nee risk, nee reward. Besides, I couldn’t resist. He was such a gut deal.” Zeke’s grin widened. “I’ll leave you two to get acquainted.” He turned and headed toward their house.
Still annoyed, Zeb watched him go. A month ago, he and his brother had purchased the old English home and property, which had a barn and not much else, to turn it into a horse farm. And every day since, Zeb had regretted it. Purchasing the farm had been Zeke’s idea, and before Zeb had enough time to think it through, his brother had placed a down payment despite their father’s advice not to rush into such a big decision.
Knowing Zeke couldn’t buy the property without going into debt, Zeb had let his brother talk him into partnering with him, throwing in his own hard-earned savings. Hopefully, his brother was right when he insisted their horse farm would be just as successful as their father’s.
He certainly wasn’t opposed to farming. Their family had been through hard times when they lived in Fredericktown, but everything changed when they moved to Birch Creek. Ever since they arrived, he, Zeke, and their eight brothers had all helped make the farm here a success, including Elam, who was now eight years old. But Zeb hadn’t been prepared to own a farm, much less one that needed so much work—a lot of which Zeke had ducked.
Zeb leaned against the white oak fence, remembering the week he and Zeke had built the corral with Jalon and Adam’s help. Jalon was married to his only sister, Phoebe, and Adam was Jalon’s cousin and business partner in the large family farm they’d built together. Although Adam was in a wheelchair because of a childhood accident, he always pulled his own weight, and he could pound in nails faster than any of them.
He watched the colt as it galloped around the corral. He was supposed to attend that horse auction with the other three men, but he’d chosen to paint the oak fence instead since the day had been unusually warm for March. Maybe if he’d been there, he could have talked Zeke out of buying a horse they couldn’t afford yet, no matter how sweet the deal.
“Enjoy yer freedom for now,” Zeb said to the colt, setting aside his irritation with Zeke so he could focus on a plan to get the animal under control. He’d start breaking him in tomorrow—slowly, since he was so unruly. Even the English man Zeke had recklessly bought it from had tried to talk him out of the purchase.
According to Jalon, the owner’s daughter had just about ruined the animal. “She wanted a horse for her birthday, so we got her a horse,” the man had said. “She never spent much time with him, though, only half training him. Now he gets spooked so easily.”
Thinking about the colt’s past made Zeb more uncertain than ever. Why couldn’t his brother think more than two minutes into the future before making a move? Still, his heart went out to the animal—not that he would ever admit that to Zeke. Knowing the colt had been neglected stuck in his craw, and while he still wasn’t happy Zeke had once again acted without thinking, he was glad the horse had been rescued. Whatever hardship he’d experienced, Zeb would make it up to him. But he’d have to teach him some lessons first.
Deciding to name the colt Job, Zeb pulled a few carrot pieces out of his pocket and whistled. Job ignored him, of course, but Zeb persisted, and the horse finally ran past him, then turned around and slowed down until he was at a walk. He took the bits from Zeb’s palm, but when Zeb reached out to pat him, he took off. Yeah, this will be a challenge.
He decided to let the colt run for a while, and as he headed to their mailbox down by the road, he thought about the condition of the house. Although he and Zeke had moved in, so much work still had to be done—like installing the rest of their new kitchen cabinets. They continued to eat meals at their parents’ house from time to time, though not as often as would please their mother, but he was ready for the house and especially the kitchen to be fully renovated. If he could pin down Zeke for more than an afternoon a few times a week, they might get it all done eventually.
He clenched his hands. At least when his brother was around, he worked hard. Trouble was he had a habit of disappearing whenever he felt like it. But then Zeb, like always, forgave him. He hoped Zeke was inside working on the house now, but he wasn’t counting on it. Most every place Zeke would go was within walking distance, so just looking to see if their horse and buggy were gone never told him anything. He could be anywhere by now.
He opened the door of the black mailbox and reached inside, pulling out just one envelope. Inside he found a bill from Atlee Shetler, charging them for the cabinets. He grimaced. He thought Zeke paid Atlee when he ordered them, in cash. He stuck the bill in one pocket and made a mental note to discuss money management with Zeke tonight. They couldn’t get their horse farm off the ground, much less make much of it, if they weren’t on the same page when it came to managing their finances.
He also didn’t need any more drama in his life, which reminded him of what he found in the mail a few days ago—an envelope he thought he’d never see. Like always, his name and address were on it but no return address. That didn’t matter, though; he’d recognized the handwriting. Nettie. He couldn’t believe she wrote to him again. After a pause, wondering if he should open the letter or throw it away and save himself the trouble, he’d ripped open the seal and pulled out a single sheet of paper.
I haven’t stopped thinking about you since you last wrote. I don’t want our relationship to end this way. I care about you,
and I know you care about me. I also get the feeling you don’t really want that horse farm. And isn’t love more important
than a farm anyway? Isn’t a happy wife and family worth everything?
He’d stopped reading and gritted his teeth. She still didn’t understand. Hadn’t he been clear that she was asking too much in his last letter? And why had she used the word love? There was no love between them.
But then his heart surprised him with a spark just like the one that appeared the first time she wrote—after they’d briefly spoken at a wedding in Millersburg last fall. As a schoolboy, he’d pined for Nettie Miller, the prettiest girl in school. But his family had been poor then, hers well off, and she’d made it clear she wasn’t interested in him. Nor had she seemed interested in him at the wedding.
Then he’d received her first letter, saying she’d like to reconnect. He’d assumed she meant as friends. But after a few exchanges, he realized she wanted more—a romance. Considering that possibility, he’d suggested she come to Birch Creek for a visit. But she absolutely refused, insisting he come to Fredericktown instead. That’s when he’d written her to break things off. He would never go back there.
That last letter had come from her a few days ago, and before he read it all, he started wondering if she’d changed her mind about coming to Birch Creek. But he’d put that notion to rest after reading her last two sentences.
I wish you would come back home, Zeb. I wish we could be together.
That spark he’d felt had immediately died. Even when he’d been smitten with Nettie as a boy, he’d known everything had to be her way. And now she wanted him back in a town that not only was no longer his home but a place he’d vowed to never step foot in again. A relationship between them would never work out. If one of them gave in, one of them would always be unhappy. And knowing Nettie, it wouldn’t be her.
He’d shoved the letter back into the envelope as he strode to the house, realizing he hadn’t thought much about her since sending the letter breaking their connection. If he did care about her, she’d be in his thoughts, right? Granted, he’d been busy.
But shouldn’t he have at least thought about Nettie occasionally? Yet once he told her they had no future, all thoughts of her had disappeared. Thankfully, Zeke didn’t know anything about the letters, and that would continue. They never talked about women anyway; they never had. But he figured—or at least suspected—Zeke had to know how much Zeb liked Nettie back then.
Unbidden, unhappy memories surfaced as he walked toward the house, clutching Nettie’s letter in his hand. Sometimes Zeb had lingered after class to ask Nettie if he could carry her books for her, but she always refused. He’d tried to show her he liked her other times, too, like when he asked his mother to cut his apple in half so he could share it with Nettie at lunchtime. She took the apple, but then she ran off to play with her friends without even thanking him. Zeke had seen all that.
Thankfully, he’d finally realized the truth. He’d changed and Nettie hadn’t. He wasn’t the poor schoolboy who longed for the pretty rich girl anymore. They had no future together, and he didn’t want one. Apparently, though, she hadn’t understood that from his last letter, and so he’d stepped into the living room, grabbed a pen and pad of paper from the coffee table, and then sat down and wrote one short sentence in reply.
It’s best we leave things as they are.
He’d quickly found an envelope and addressed it to her, not adding his name or return address as she’d requested from the first. Like most Amish couples in a courtship, they’d kept theirs secret—not that a few letters could be called a courtship. But he honored her request just the same.
After dumping Nettie’s letter into the trash can in his bedroom, then shoving his stamped envelope inside the mailbox outside and raising the flag, he’d felt relief. A clean, albeit sharp break was necessary. He didn’t like being so blunt, but he had little choice. He imagined a few people might think he was crazy if they knew he was turning down the chance for romance when
Birch Creek had no single women anywhere near his age. But he wasn’t a desperate man, and if he was meant to marry someday, God would allow that to happen. Just not with Nettie Miller. He was putting her behind him for good.
Well, he thought he had.
Now he entered the house and looked around for Zeke. But he was nowhere to be found. Figures. He stopped in the kitchen and, for a moment, stared at the two cabinets he’d hung last night.
Then he stared at the rest of them stacked against the wall on the other side of the room. Again, they had so much work to accomplish, work he’d committed to doing. Because Zeke talked me into buying this farm. Because I always bail him out.
He stepped out the back door and spotted Job, now grazing on the stubbly grass in the corral. He’d have to get him back into the barn later this evening, but right now he’d let the horse enjoy some peace.
Then he surveyed their property for what had to be the hundredth time. The splintery barn needed work, too, and they had to break the patch of ground to the west of the structure to plant feed corn. He sighed. Besides all that, the cabinets hadn’t been paid for yet, and now he had a wild colt to train.
No, the last thing he needed or wanted was a relationship—with anyone. He’d be ab im kopp if he did.
Click here to preorder A Double Dose of Love.