A Mother’s Secret (Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel) book review


  • Title: A Mother’s Secret
  • Author: Amy Clipston
  • Print length: 309 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: June 3, 2014
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
  • Rating:
  • 4 gingersnaps (out of 5 gingersnaps) for content(1)
  • 3 gingersnaps for craft(2)
  • 5 gingersnaps for its handling of Christian themes(3)
  • Comprehensive score: 4 gingersnaps (recommended)

Review copy provided by BookLook Bloggers, a subsidiary of HarperCollins Christian Publishing

The periphery details:

A Mother’s Secret is book two in Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel, a series of romances set in an Amish community. I did not read book one, and I was still able to enjoy this book as a stand-alone. The book also includes a glossary of terms used in the Amish community, a family tree, and a set of discussion questions.

The book:

(From the publisher)


Carolyn Lapp longs to have a traditional Amish family. But she lives on her brother’s farm with her parents and her 15-year old son, Benjamin. Carolyn has never revealed the identity of Benjamin’s father and lives daily with the guilt and shame of her youthful indiscretion. Her brother simply will not forgive her.


His answer is to arrange a practical marriage for Carolyn to Saul, a widower with a little girl. But Carolyn isn’t convinced that Saul really loves her and believes he is simply looking for someone to help raise his daughter.


When Benjamin causes trouble at a local horse auction, horse breeder Joshua Glick decides that he must be taught a lesson. Carolyn and Joshua are unmistakably drawn to each other, but Joshua mistakenly assumes that Benjamin is Carolyn’s brother. Carolyn fears that if he discovers the truth, her past will destroy their budding romance.


After years of shame and loneliness, Carolyn suddenly has two men vying for her attention. But which of them will give her the family—and the unconditional love—she’s longed for?

The positive:

The writing is more tell than show, Clipston relies heavily on cliches, and the paper-thin plot is no more than a series of romance novel tropes cobbled together. Still, the book is charming. In the world of Christian fiction, this is the equivalent of the new Avengers movie: you know you are being manipulated to cheer, but you do it anyway. Pleasant, formulaic, and inoffensive, this novel ends with a happily-ever-after that satisfies even if it is not quite earned.

By the end of page one, the reader knows exactly how the story will end. There are no surprises here, but Clipston makes the read a pleasant journey. If you want a family-friendly story as a diversion for a few hours, this is a sure bet. I enjoyed reading about a family that has its foibles but genuinely cares for each other. I rate this book four gingersnaps, not because the writing is outstanding, but because the book clearly defines its premise from page one and delivers exactly what it says it will. If you enjoy the first few pages of the ebook sample, you’ll like the book.

The not-so-positive:

While the Amish community Clipston researched may have a stylized, limited vocabulary and repeat the same words in every conversation, in a novel this reads as inferior writing and a distraction. In some places, it felt as if Clipston had to justify her glossary by repeating the same words as many times as possible.

While I enjoyed the sweetness of the romance (a few romantic touches at most), others might have difficulty with a subplot of chastising a teenage girl for talking with a boy. Still, given the context and acknowledgment by the girl’s father that he was too harsh, it works. Potential readers should be aware, though, that some of the patriarchal attitudes toward women and sexuality may not be their cup of tea.




Conclusion: A Mother’s Secret is a pleasant, formulaic read filled with cliches and feel-good moments. Recommended as a quick, light read.

  1. Content refers to the themes and structure of the book. For fiction, this includes macro elements such as the book’s premise, character arcs, and how well the conflict and resolution fulfill the promise of the book. For non-fiction, this refers to the information that is conveyed.
  2. Craft refers to the level of writing technique, ranging from clarity of text to carefully edited prose.
  3. Christian themes refers to the application of Biblical principles as well as the understanding and application of Christian theology.
    Additional note: The combined score generally is a mathematical average of the three ratings, unless an individual rating is especially low or high.

7 thoughts on “A Mother’s Secret (Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel) book review

  1. Nina says:

    Ana, thanks for the review. According to what you write, this is surely the kind of story I want to read, after the Zion Covenant books. (I couldn’t wait for the paperback to arrive, so I started number two with the kindle. Bleak atmosphere, but I definitely did something right by listening to you. 🙂 )
    I like family-friendly stories and stories which show care for each other, reconnection, romance etc., if done in an interesting way. I think seeing things through rose-coloured glasses is the right thing to do, at times. Therefore this seems like a good read with a few weaknesses because of clichés and repetitive vocabulary. Sounds a bit like light fare, and is not meant as a negative point from my side at all. And four gingersnaps are not bad at all. Writing and reading about cookies increases my cravings. I need cookies. I need cookies …




    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I really did not expect to finish this book enjoying it as much as I did. I think you are right that we all enjoy a feel-good story about good people doing mostly good things. And yep, absolutely light fare…but we need that, too.

      How are the Zion books? I have been wishing I still had my copies so I could go back and re-read. I wonder what I would think of them now.


  2. annapurna1951 says:

    I wish I could be more enthusiastic.

    Narrative-heavy writing, limited vocabulary, clichés, paper-thin plot, predictable ending, and patriarchal attitudes makes for strange bread dough, unlikely to rise for me.


    I have two other F/F romance books fresh out of the oven; two golden loaves they are, both with enticing aromas, rich and unique. I have my jar of honey and I’m ready to take my first bite.

    Let’s hope I don’t get thrown out of the Garden of Eden.


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      This is why I write my reviews as transparently as possible, so someone can read and come to the opposite conclusion. I *should* dislike this book, but I loved it…so much that I gave it to a friend to read.

      Ooh, which F/F books? Enjoy!


      • annapurna1951 says:

        Bless your sweet heart! I’m so sorry for being a stick in the mud. I have a hard time with patriarchal. The rest, well, I was just loading it on and shouldn’t have.

        You gave it to someone else to read? I’m so confused. Why?

        As for the F/F, I’ll give you a hint: it’s somebody you know well.

        Now, don’t shoot me: I’ve been trying to tweet “Desire in any Language,” and no one has re-tweeted it! The nerve of those people. The first tweet was just a little racy, but not to folks so inclined. In fact, I thought it was rather tasteful. The second, far more boring, isn’t working either. It’s completely proper, mind you.

        If you search on your name, you might see them.


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