Leslie Gould is a Christy Award–winning and #1 bestselling author of over 40 novels, including four Lancaster County Amish Series. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and an MFA in creative writing. She enjoys church history, research trips, and hiking in the Pacific Northwest. She and her husband live in Portland, Oregon, and have four adult children and one grandchild.
In this interview, Leslie talks about her new book, This Passing Hour, the second book in her Amish Memories Series.
FF: Can you please tell us a little bit about your new novel, This Passing Hour?
This Passing Hour is a dual-time story that begins with Brenna Zimmerman, who is finally managing her grief over her deceased parents, enough so that she befriends a disabled Afghanistan war veteran named Rylan Sanders and feels optimistic she can help him. But when he’s injured further at her Amish grandmother’s Lancaster County store that Brenna is supposed to take over in the near future, Brenna struggles with how to help Rylan while protecting her family from the threat of a lawsuit—and also protecting her future.
To complicate things, she finds herself falling for her (mostly) online friend, Johann, who used to be Mennonite but currently serves as a soldier in the Ukrainian Army. He discourages her from getting overly involved with Rylan.
A story about Brenna’s great-great-aunt, who volunteered with the Red Cross during the last months of World War II and also managed German POWs working on the family farm, inspires Brenna to consider what she truly wants for her future.
FF: This Passing Hour is book 2 in the Amish Memories Series. Is there a connecting element that ties each of the books in the series together?
The theme of memories connects all three of the stories—both the memories of the three sisters who are the main characters in the contemporary threads and the memories and stories of their ancestors.
FF: Do these novels stand alone, or do they need to be read in order?
If someone picked up one of the novels out of order, it would stand on its own, but I definitely recommend reading them in order because both the contemporary and historical threads are written chronologically, book by book.
FF: This novel focuses on Brenna Zimmerman as the main female POV. What do readers need to know about Brenna and the traits that set her apart from her sisters?
Brenna has JOMO, joy of missing out, compared to her older sister Ivy’s FOMO, fear of missing out, and her younger sister Treva’s seeming ability to adapt to whatever situation she finds herself in. Brenna struggles with anxiety but doesn’t care what others think of her. She’s honest, sometimes to a fault, and doesn’t see herself as nearly as capable as she actually is. She doesn’t see herself as likable either—but she definitely is.
What other themes present themselves throughout the novel?
Both the historical thread and the contemporary thread include themes around finding our identity in the Lord. They also feature young women from the present and the past in fairly restrictive communities finding the futures that are right for them in coming-of-age stories.
FF: What do you enjoy about writing Amish fiction novels?
I thoroughly enjoy researching the Amish way of life and then juxtaposing it with the general American culture both in the past and the present. The contrast between the two, even in a historical context, really emphasizes how the Amish have managed to set themselves apart from the dominant society through the centuries.
FF: Why do you think this continues to be an enduring genre that appeals to so many?
I think the simplicity of the Amish way of living reminds readers more of the way their grandparents lived and even, for some, how they lived as children, often with a deeper sense of community than many of us experience today. But the genre also shows that certain struggles and themes—belonging, forgiveness, redemption, and finding love—are universal to all groups of people.
FF: Is there anything you find challenging about writing in this genre?
The possibility I’m getting details wrong about the Amish faith or culture or that an important premise is off-base is my biggest challenge. Thankfully my friend Marietta, who grew up Amish, reads all of my manuscripts in an early version and helps keep me in line.
FF: What will fans of romance love about the relationship between Brenna and Johann?
They’re both incredibly—and sometimes painfully—honest. Brenna is not looking for love and doesn’t want to pursue a romantic relationship with Johann because she doesn’t want to lose the friendship she already has with him. Johann sees in Brenna all the qualities she doesn’t see in herself and accepts her for exactly who she is—something she hasn’t experienced from others since her parents died. I hope readers will cheer for Brenna and Johann’s endearing relationship!
FF: What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
No matter how inadequate we feel, God can and will use us. He sees through our doubts and fears. He’s made us for particular works. We can trust Him to use us in all the best ways—for us and others.
FF: Can you share a little about the next book in the series?
By Evening’s Light is the third book in the series. It’s Treva’s story, the youngest of the Zimmerman sisters. She’s returned to Lancaster County feeling exhausted, discouraged, and burned out after a Mennonite mission trip to Haiti. Her Amish grandfather is wanting to retire but that would mean selling the farm that’s been in the family for centuries. Treva is torn between her responsibility to her family and her desire to flee Lancaster County and reinvent herself.
The historical thread is Rosene’s story. She’s the youngest Simons sister and the great-great-aunt of Treva and her sisters. After World War II, she falls in love with an Amish young man and plans to join the church but instead ends up returning to Germany to visit her biological family. Things don’t go well. When she returns to Lancaster County, it seems she’s lost her Amish sweetheart forever, and she finds solace in helping a Jewish refugee as she waits for God to heal her broken heart. Rosene’s story inspires Treva to look for opportunities to serve others in Lancaster County—and to learn to trust God with her own future.
This Passing Hour
Genres: Amish Romance
Release Date: November 28, 2023
After the death of her parents, Mennonite Brenna Zimmerman relocates to the Lancaster County farm of her Old Order Amish grandparents. There, she befriends Rylan Sanders, a disabled veteran, and commits to rising above her own grief to help him as much as she can. But when things take a turn for the worse, Brenna finds herself at a loss for what to do.
As Brenna struggles, her Mennonite friend Johann Mazur, a soldier in the Ukrainian Army, encourages her to distance herself from Rylan. But when she discovers that Rylan’s army buddies are withholding secrets that could help with his psychological healing, Brenna is torn between her feelings for Johann and her commitment to help Rylan.
Inspired by the story of her distant relative who served with the Red Cross and supervised German POWs during World War II, Brenna considers her own future and must decide whether she has the courage to give up the comforts she craves for the life she truly wants.
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