My Thoughts - A Brighter Dawn Author: Leslie Gould
About the Book
Book: A Brighter Dawn
Author: Leslie Gould
Genre: Amish Romance
Release date: March 28, 2023
Ivy Zimmerman is successfully navigating her life as a young Mennonite woman, one generation removed from her parents’ Old Order Amish upbringing. But when her parents are killed in a tragic accident, Ivy’s way of life is upended. As she deals with her grief, her younger sisters’ needs, the relationship with her boyfriend, and her Dawdi and Mammi’s strict rules, Ivy finds solace in both an upcoming trip to Germany for an international Mennonite youth gathering and in her great-great-aunt’s story about Clare Simons, another young woman who visited Germany in the late 1930s.
As Ivy grows suspicious that her parents’ deaths weren’t, in fact, an accident, she gains courage from what she learns of Clare’s time in pre-World War II Germany. With the encouragement and inspiration of the women who have gone before her, Ivy seeks justice for her parents, her sisters, and herself.
Leslie Gould (www.lesliegould.com) is a Christy Award-winning and #1 bestselling author of over 35 novels, including four Lancaster County Amish series. She holds an MFA in creative writing and enjoys studying church history, research trips, and hiking in the Pacific Northwest. She and her husband live in Portland, Oregon, and are the parents of four adult children.
More from Leslie
The historical thread of my dual-time novel A Brighter Dawn is set in Nazi Germany from 1937 to 1939. During that period of time, Germany incorporated Austria, mandatory registration of all Jewish property began, and concentration camps opened. Then came the Night of Broken Glass—the anti-Jewish pogrom in Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland. Soon following was the German occupation of Czechoslovakia before the Nazis invaded Poland in September 1939.
My main character, Clare Simons, is a Mennonite young woman from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, who is staying with her uncle and cousins in Frankfurt, Germany. She doesn’t follow current events much and struggles to balance the Nazi propaganda her uncle and oldest cousin believe with the events unfolding around her. Slowly, she begins to see the truth behind the Nazi lies.
One thing that broke up the narrative of the heavy events I researched and wrote about? The food.
When I traveled in Germany with my husband (who had lived there during his Army service years ago), I marveled over the scenery, became engrossed in the history, and definitely enjoyed the food. My background is Swiss, so it wasn’t that the food was unfamiliar. It was just at a level I hadn’t experienced before!
As I researched what Clare would fix for meals, I pored through cookbooks. For added inspiration, hubby and I ate at German restaurants. Jägerschnitzel (seared pork with gravy). Rinderbraten (paprika and caraway spiced beef roasted in red wine gravy). Wienerschnitzel (breaded and fried pork loin with warm potato salad and a vegetable remoulade.)
I noted food in research books, documentaries, and films. The entrees became focal points in the stories, including rabbit stew, a Christmas goose, and Sauerbraten with Spätzle and red cabbage. So did the desserts, including trifle and Black Forest cake.
When I visited Germany with my hubby, one of the things I really loved was stopping in a café for Apfelkuchen (apple cake) and coffee in the afternoon. In one scene in A Brighter Dawn, when Clare and her cousin Lena stop for coffee, they order apple cake too. Then, in another scene, Clare bakes an apple cake for the family of the nearby Jewish grocer who will soon lose their property.
Below is a recipe for a simple and dense German apple cake (which may have originated in Poland and been influenced by a Jewish apple cake recipe).
The food in A Brighter Dawn doesn’t take away from the narrative, but it is a reminder that a nurturing soul, such as my character Clare, can stand against the lies of an evil regime.
German Apple Cake
1 cup salted butter, melted
¾ cup white sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ to 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
5 cups apples—peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (to soften apple slices before baking, place in a microwavable dish with a lid and microwave them with a Tablespoon of water for 3–4 minutes)
1 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9×13 cake pan.
Beat butter and eggs with an electric mixer until creamy. Add sugar and vanilla; beat well.
Stir together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Slowly add flour mixture to egg mixture; mix until combined. The batter will be very thick. Fold in apples and walnuts by hand using a wooden spoon. Spread batter into the prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45–50 minutes. After 30 minutes, put a sheet of foil over the top of the cake to keep it from burning. Cool cake on a wire rack.
Crumble: ¼ cup brown sugar, ¼ cup white sugar, ½ cup flour, 4–6 Tablespoons softened butter. Combine ingredients and evenly spread over the top of cake.
Butterscotch: Sprinkle a package of butterscotch chips over the top of the cake.
Almonds: Sprinkle almond slivers over the top of the cake.
Dust with confectioners’ sugar.
Drizzle with caramel sauce.
Sprinkle with white sparkling sugar.
Top with whipped cream.
A Brighter Dawn is an Amish Romance that is written by Leslie Gould. This is the first book in the Amish Memories series. This book switches back and forth between Ivy and Clare's story. Separated by decades it was so heartwarming to see how their stories are intertwined.
Ivy Zimmerman is a Mennonite woman that loses her parents in a horrific car wreck that she does not believe was an accident. When her dad's parents and great aunt come for the funeral, Ivy and her sisters are told they will be traveling to Pennsylvania to spend some time with their paternal grandparents in their Old Order Amish home. The girls have different reactions to it. Ivy reluctantly goes and is looking forward to visiting Germany on a missions trip. While traveling her great aunt tells her more of her family history and she is captivated by it. She is in a awkward relationship that she starts to realize may not be right for her.
Clare Simons wants to marry Jeremiah, her father's farm hand. He is Amish and her mother believes that she deserves more. She is sent to Germany with her uncle and cousin to assist with her twin cousins who suffer from seizures. Life is very different in Nazi Germany then what Clare is used to. Her twin cousins are left in her charge and she starts to feel uncomfortable with the treatment they are receiving. She desperately wants to come home but her mother forbades it and encourages her to meet a German Man.
This book is woven together so seamlessly with the different decades. The author did an amazing job in her research. The characters were well written and the storyline pulled me in within the first few pages. I cannot wait until the next book in the series.
Thank you to the author, publisher and Celebrate Lit for allowing me to read a copy of this book - all thoughts are my own.