My original thought when I set out to write my new book was to write an Amish romance set in south Texas because it hadn’t yet been done. My research showed that while there are Mennonite settlements in Texas, the Bee County Amish district is the only Plain community in the Lone Star state. A book set there would be unique and stand out in the market.
Then I drove down to Bee County. A whole new theme emerged as I meandered along the back roads and saw how rusty and worn and unkempt the area looked. It was totally different from those picturesque scenes one associates with Lancaster County. I caught myself wondering why this tiny band of families didn’t clean up their community. Why didn’t they paint their houses and get rid of the junk next to the Combination Store?
As I drove back to San Antonio, I began to chastise myself. Do I believe that outward appearances are all-important? Could it be that the Bee County families don’t care about outward appearances? Does God care if the siding is a little rusty on a house? Did he not create the dry, windswept, dusty land in south Texas with its gnarly live oak and scrappy mesquite and inhospitable climate that makes growing crops so difficult?
Yes, he did, I scolded myself. Ultimately, I realized we often judge beauty by the world’s standards, not God’s. I wanted to write that story; the story of finding beauty in God’s creation—all of God’s creation. The world might worship perfection, but God created everyone with imperfections. Do we allow ourselves to look past physical imperfections to a person’s inner beauty or do we look away? Do we learn to love them for the way they make us unique in God’s eyes?
From that inner dialogue grew the story of Deborah Lantz, newcomer to Bee County, who when she first arrives can only see dirt, cacti, bugs like the plague, and houses that need a good coat of paint. All she wants to do is go home as fast as possible. Then she meets the beekeeper’s son, Phineas King, a man with a scarred face and a prickly exterior. They have nothing in common, and both are so afraid of being hurt and rejected it seems impossible for them to venture onto common ground long enough to really see each other for the beautiful, warm, loving people they are.
The Beekeeper’s Son is a story of how two people learn to let go of their sorrows and pain so they can see the beauty that surrounds them, both in the landscape and in each other.
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