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Celebrate Lit: A Brighter Dawn by 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.

Click here to get your copy!

About the Author

Leslie Gould ( 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

  • 2 eggs

  • 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


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9×13 cake pan.

  2. Beat butter and eggs with an electric mixer until creamy. Add sugar and vanilla; beat well.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

Possible Toppings

Before baking:

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.

After baking:

Dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Drizzle with caramel sauce.

Sprinkle with white sparkling sugar.

Top with whipped cream.

Blog Stops

Lighthouse Academy Blog, April 27 (Guest Review from Marilyn Ridgway)

Vicky Sluiter, April 28

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, April 30 (Author Interview)


To celebrate her tour, Leslie is giving away the grand prize package of a paperback copy of A Brighter Dawn and one $15 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

My Review:

As of right now, I'm not sure I'm going to finish the book. I should have read the synopsis more clearly...not a fan of such tragedy in my books. I am also not a fan of the heroine (who was too old to act like a teenager) and not a fan of her friends...but I will try.

UPDATE: This book was a slow burn for me...I definitely had two spots early on where I put the book down and argued with myself as to whether I would finish (see above). I am still betwixt and between as to whether I recommend this to you, readers.

Here's why you might want to read this book: The story is heavily researched and I had my eyes opened to the history of how the Mennonites and Amish were treated during and between the World Wars. I have read a history of the Soviet Union (Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago) and I knew of the horrors of communism--then and now. I had heard of the Ukrainian starvation/forced famine, but I had not known about the targeting of the Anabaptists. I truly believe this helps me understand what is going on now with the Russian conquest of the Ukraine again.

Here's why you might not want to read this book: So much heartbreak in the terrible things human beings do to other human beings. I tend to want to escape when reading, no matter how good and important this knowledge is for me.

Conclusion--I do recommend this book, to be followed by at least two fun and light-hearted inspirational romance novels of your choosing. Then, message me in the morning.

Question, dear readers--do you have any light-hearted, joyful novels to recommend?

Thank you in advance.

45 views8 comments


May 04, 2023

A Brighter Dawn sounds kind of interesting in that it is a different approach to Mennonite/Amish stories. The historical aspect of this story could be interesting.

I don't have any fun books to recommend right off


May 02, 2023

By the way, one fun maiden name was Zimmerman. :)


Roxanne Cruz
Roxanne Cruz
May 01, 2023

I'll reserve a couple of books by Jen Turano to be read after A Brighter Dawn.

May 01, 2023
Replying to

Sounds like a plan--I love Jen Turano's humor!


May 01, 2023

Thanks for sharing!

May 01, 2023
Replying to

Thanks for reading the blog, glad to share!


Debra Pruss
Debra Pruss
Apr 30, 2023

Fabulous cover. Thank you so much for sharing. Happy Sunday. God bless you.

May 01, 2023
Replying to

Thank you for reading--blessings to you!

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