Monday, February 19, 2018

The Story Behind "The Amish Nanny's Sweetheart"

Order your copy here!
We're getting close to the March 1st release of "The Amish Nanny's Sweetheart," and some readers already have their copies!
This story is close to my heart. I loosely based the hero, Guy, on a real person – my grandfather. I never met the real Guy, who passed away several years before I was born, but his story is one I had to share.
I had a couple helpers as I worked on developing Guy's character. 

One was an essay my grandmother wrote for a college class. She had attended college before her marriage, but at that time only needed a limited number of classes to earn her teaching certificate. After my grandfather passed away in 1951, Grandma went back to college and earned the additional credits she needed to return to teaching.

In the essay, she talked about Grandpa's childhood and the boy who grew up to be known as "Daddy" by his five children. Her love for him gave her a special insight into his formative years.

Grandma in the late 1950's

But the best source of information was Grandpa, himself. He kept a journal from the time he was a young man - just a day book filled with short entries - but it was an invaluable record of his day-to-day life. I'm in the process of transcribing the collection of journals, and his entries let me learn to know Grandpa in a unique way.

Grandma and Grandpa's engagement picture

Born in 1902, Guy’s life changed dramatically when he was seven years old. His mother gave birth to a daughter and died of complications soon after the delivery. Faced with raising three very young children on his own, their father placed Guy and his younger brother in an orphan’s asylum and put his newborn daughter up for adoption.

Grandpa Eugene, Orville, and Guy

It was a hard life for a young boy. When he was old enough to do farm work, he was hired out to farmers in the area as an indentured worker. Abuse of various forms were part of his life, while the father who had left his sons in the orphanage traveled from job to job, never able to provide a home for them, but never signing away his parental rights. 

Grandpa Eugene (aka "Slim") is the man standing
at the left with the suitcase in his hand. He was
a "traveling man."

From 1909 to 1926, Guy lived and worked in thirty-two different homes.

The orphanage where Guy and his brother grew up

But, as in every story of redemption, God stepped in. 

This is from my dad's telling of his father's story: "When he was 20 or so years old, he found a steady job with {the couple who were the inspiration for David and Verna Mast} who lived on a 400 acre farm south of Topeka {Indiana} in Noble County. They needed someone to look after their fences, do chores around the farm, and to drive their car. Guy lived with them and worked on the farm...Guy's relationship with the {Mast's} was nearly that of an adopted child, a son that they did not have. {Verna} became a second mother for Guy and 'grandma' to his children."

The couple who inspired David and Verna Mast

Early in his young adulthood, Guy dedicated his life to serving the Lord. He met my grandmother, they married, and had five children, including two sons who became ministers.

The year after Guy’s death, Grandma wrote, “He wanted love and respect, but most of all he wanted a home and security, something he hadn’t had since his mother died.”

And what happened to the rest of Guy's family? The father who left the boys in the orphanage and the baby sister who was adopted out of the family?

Grandpa Eugene and his second wife
(Notice Grandpa Eugene's Plain clothing!)

Orville, Ruth, and Guy at their reunion in 1926
Those are stories for future books!

"The Amish Nanny's Sweetheart" is the story of a lost boy. A boy who longed for a home, a place to belong. In the story, Guy found that home.

In real life, there are children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren who can testify that yes, Guy found his true home.

Guy in 1929 with his oldest son, my dad
I hope you get an opportunity to read Guy and Judith's story!

Jan Drexler lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband and growing family. When she isn't writing, she loves hiking in the Hills or satisfying her cross stitch addiction.

You can find Jan on Facebook, Jan Drexler, author, or her website, Jan


  1. Oh, what a sweet and poignant heritage you have and how skillfully you bring it to your beautiful books.

    The stories of people like Grandpa, who made it despite the odds show us what can be done. And we know there are many who didn't come through unscathed... the human psyche is such a fragile blessing and can be indelibly scarred by those childhood traumas... I'm so glad that Guy's story came out as it did, and that they eventually found Ruth. (SUCH A GREAT NAME!!!!) Thank you so much for sharing this!

    1. Yes, I've always been aware how some come through adversity with the grace of God, but others are beaten by it. Guy had scars that he carried with him for the rest of his life, but he was able to break the family cycle...

      And yes! I thought of that as I typed Ruth's name!

  2. Sniff, sniff... What a wonderful way to start an otherwise gloomy Monday. Don't you just love it when God intervenes? That is so cool that Guy kept a journal. Now his testimony of overcoming adversity is there for all of the subsequent generations to read. Amazing.

    BTW, I made your grandma's sugar cookies. They were better than the ones you buy at the store. So soft and fluffy. Despite living in a low, humid area, I still only used the 5 cups of flour and it was perfect. Just the delicate batter you described. I can't wait to make them again. However wait, I must. Because I'll eat them all.

    1. It is a cool story, isn't it? And I only scratched the surface...

      And you hit on the exact reason why I rarely make those cookies - I'd eat them all! They do keep well in the freezer, though.

  3. You are such a tease! I want to know everything now!!! What a rich heritage you have and how wonderful that you actually have records and stories. That's priceless. The Amish Nanny's Sweetheart is up next on my TBR pile! Can't wait!

    Oh -- and before I start reading how do you pronounce Guy? Like Gaheye? Or Gahee (French way). The Gah is supposed to represent the hard g sound...hope that makes sense. I need to know before I start reading. :-)

    1. It's just plain "Guy," with no French undertones (we are talking Indiana, after all!). So you pronounce it the same way as the word - like in the sentence, "Hey, you guys! Want to have some ice cream?" So "Gaheye," if I'm reading your phonics correctly. :-)

      And what I've found is that everyone's family has a rich and interesting background...but if no one kept the stories alive and passed them on to the next generation, then they are lost. One of the richest things in my heritage is that I have a long line of storytellers stretching behind me...

    2. That's what I was figuring but I've been conditioned to the French pronunciation. I'm close to the Quebec border so all our Guys are'd be a laughing stock if you pronounced it Guy as in 'hey guys'. So, remember that if you ever go to France. :-)

  4. Jan, this is such a wonderful story. I'm with Kav on wanting more, and with Mindy on the tears.

    You reminded me of a letter I read recently. My grandfather's first wife died in childbirth just before WWI. When war broke out, and he was drafted, he wrote a long letter to his son offering all the lessons he wanted to be able to teach, just in case he didn't come home. Fortunately, because he was a single father, he was not sent into action, and he did come home to marry my grandmother and have 6 more children, one of whom was my mother. Reading that letter offers such a glimpse into the time and the concerns.

    1. Your comment makes me wonder what our generation will leave behind for future generations to read...will this digital/online/Cloud technology be so outdated that it will be inaccessible?

      Important stuff will be documented, of course. Speeches, news articles, etc. But what about the mundane? The every day stuff of a father's letter to his son?

      I'm afraid we will lose much, only because we don't think it's important now...

      That letter sounds priceless. I'm so glad you got to read it!

    2. Heaven help us if the future generations are left to pick up ancestry pieces via twitter. Oy.

  5. I'm looking forward to your next book! I enjoy hearing family stories and your grandmother sounds like one fantastic woman. You have a wealth of stories and that is worth more than gold to pass along to your family. I love the stories I have but wish I had more! Thanks for all the wonderful books you have written so far.

    1. Thank you, Mardell! And I agree, my grandmother was a fantastic woman. :-)