Joyful || Return to Sugarcreek series

A young Amish couple gets a second chance at love in New York Times bestselling author Shelley Shepard Gray’s final book in her Return to Sugarcreek series.

Randall Beiler is doing his best to put his family and the farm’s needs first, even forsaking love. But though he tries, Randall knows he needs help caring for his younger siblings and keeping the house together.

When his brother offers pretty Elizabeth Nolt a job taking care of the house and cooking for the family, Randall is furious—and guilty about the way he once broke Elizabeth’s heart. But when he learns that Elizabeth and her grandmother are struggling to make ends meet, he knows the offer, no matter how painful, is the right thing for everyone.

Elizabeth wants to refuse—to stay far away from the man who hurt her—but she needs the money. Though she vows to protect her heart, spending time in the Beiler household makes Elizabeth realize that, while she’s older and wiser, her love for Randall still burns strong.

Randal, too, seems to want something more. But does he want Elizabeth because he truly loves her—or because he needs a housekeeper? If Randall sincerely wants something more, he must find a way to show Elizabeth—or risk losing his chance at love forever.

Learn more and purchase a copy at Shelley’s website.


  • This is part of the Return to Sugarcreek series Book three. Like all of the books by Shelley Shepard Gray it is a sweet and a wonderful story. I loved this storyline and I loved the characters.

  • I was thrilled to return to Sugarcreek in Shelley’s latest masterpiece.

    Once you open up this book and start reading you will not move until you have read the very last page.

    This book captured my attention from page one.

    Looking for a great romance,then this is your book!

    I gave this book 5 stars and recommend this book.

    I was given a copy of this book by the publisher for my honest review.

  • I enjoyed reading the story, finding out what is happening at the restaurant that was key in previous series, as well as other characters such as Ben and Judith.

  • Joyful by Shelley Shepard Gray was a great book. This is the third book in the series and I have read the other two as well so I was so glad that I could review this one so I could stay caught up with the characters I have fallen in love with.

  • For those of us that have come to love and call Sugarcreek our home away from home, best-selling author Shelley Shepard Gray, takes us back in her latest novel Joyful, the third book in the Return to Sugarcreek Series. This has definitely been one of my favorites because I feel like I have come to know each of the couples we deal with in this novel, like they’re close family friends. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know them and the struggles they have had up to the point we are reunited with them once again. For me, it’s like having a really great television series, that you have to wait for each next episode to air so you can come back again and again to a place you’d love to be a part of.

  • I absolutely love the Return to Sugarcreek series so much!
    I’m so thrilled to have found such a wonderful new favorite Amish author…Shelley Shepard Gray. I have enjoyed getting to know the Beiler family, I feel like I’m a part of their story.
    Themes of family and what makes a real family run deep in Joyful.
    Forgiveness is another huge theme, as Elizabeth and Randall must work through the decisions of the past.
    Other characters bring so much life to the pages of this story as well and I loved being able to get to know Ben and Judith a little more.
    This is a stellar series! Truly a joyful reading experience from start to finish.

  • This book is a lovely addition to the series! Fans will be thrilled to Return to Sugarcreek.

  • This book focuses on three main stories. All three stories are quite different so it is easy to follow them throughout the book.

    I enjoyed this book. I like Gray’s easy style of writing. I also enjoy Amish fiction. Gray speaks of many topics that are relevant to both Amish and English in this book. I was happy to see closure for all three stories at the end of the book, because these characters were involved in the other books in the series as well. If you like Amish fiction you will enjoy this author’s works.

  • Joyful is book 3 of the Return to Sugar Creek series. I have shared before that I live near a large Amish population, and I greatly admire their simple ways. So, I do enjoy reading Amish fiction from time to time also. I do love a story of redemption, and this one has those elements as well…

  • I really enjoyed this book but be prepared with a few tissues because I needed them!!! I loved the characters as soon as I read about them. I started the book and read it in about 24 hours because I couldn’t put it down!! The best part is that I never felt like I was missing something because I hadn’t read the books earlier in the series. Super excited to read other books by the same author because I love her writing style and the subject matter in her books.

  • Linda Tittle says:

    I have read the previous 2 books in this series. Now waiting for this one to arrive at my door. Anxious, I love all of Shelley’s books, and have them all.
    Any time she comes to FL for book signings we try to go and see her.
    She is a wonderful writer.

  • A Rup Life says:

    I loved the character of Elizabeth! She was sweet and determined! The characters were introduced early on in the book so the mystery was how would they find their way back to one another. I loved the storyline of hiring Elizabeth to work for the family. It was evident that she would get under Randall’s skin the moment she came to their home! I thought that they characters in this book were well-thought out and enjoyable to read. I loved how they all had such strong bonds with family and how that transferred to their responsibilities as caretakers to their relatives. I’m going to have to read the rest of the SugarCreek books!

  • Leticia says:

    It’s a beautiful story about second chances. And when starting this book I was not to sure I wanted Elizabeth back with Randal. I thought he was a first-class, selfish, arrogant jerk. The way he ended their 2-year relationship was cold and heartless. I felt like crying for her. The humiliation she experienced, excruciating.

  • I have read some of Ms. Gray’s previous works and have enjoyed them so I was excited to receive this book and I was not disappointed. Once again Ms. Gray did a great job at writing an engaging book with enjoyable characters and enough going on to keep one intrigued. I look forward to reading more books in the series in the future. Such a good, easy read!
    I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

  • If you like Amish fiction, you will love this book. I would recommend reading the others first – not because the you HAVE to but because you will WANT to – Don’t miss out on all the goings on of Sugarcreek.

  • Great series to start and read. Love these Amish novels!

  • One thing I love about the author’s novels is that she likes to bring back past characters, even minor ones. It was nice revisiting with Elizabeth and Randall, but I wasn’t expecting the hardship their relationship would go through to find a “joyful” life together. Once again Shelly Shepard Gray has crafted together a heartfelt romance with loveable characters. Overall, I loved reading Joyful and I do hope the author continues to visit Sugarcreek in the near future.

  • This is a really good story about how sometimes love can go very wrong but for the right reasons. Of course, if Randall had explained the real reason to Elizabeth, he might not find himself in this situation.

    There is another background story going on also, which is a nice surprise, because I like the stories that I read to have more than just one main focus person. So, you will also get to read about Judith & Ben and how they fit into the storyline.

  • My Review – I love Amish fiction. I am so happy that I was chosen to review Joyful. It is a wonderful story and I love reading about these couples. They have the same sorts of struggles that all couples go through. I enjoy reading about their lives and wishing them the best.

  • “3.5 out of 5 stars! Since this was the first novel that I’ve read from Ms. Gray’s Return to Sugarcreek Series, I found that it wasn’t laid out like I expected–with it’s three “main” stories having it’s characters all knowing of each other in some way but not really going together–yet I was happy with how it all turned out.”

  • I enjoyed visiting with the characters in Sugarcreek again. Finding out how Miriam and Junior are doing in their new marriage and Christine and Aden in theirs. How Ben and Judith are doing with their foster son and other assorted family and friends in this small Amish community.

  • I would suggest reading the series in order. It is so good you do not want to miss any of it. I felt like I was part of an Amish setting and got to visit with the characters. It is a love story that can have your heart pattering throughout. I would recommend to adults as they would get the most from it. Youth and children probably would not like to get so involved in romance.

  • I enjoyed this book, Randall was a fun character to dislike. I connected with him because I I know people like him, that get gruff and mean, when they can’t express themselves any other way. This was a great story, and I loved seeing familar characters again. I enjoy Pippa and liked her side story, since she is not Amish, I am not sure we will ever hear her entire story, but I love the glimpses of her in this series. I loved Grandma Anna Mae, she was a character I would have loved to have read about her life as a young woman. Over all this was a good story that I just really liked. 4 stars from this reviewer. This book was provided for review purposes only, no payment was received for this review.

  • The author does a good job of capturing what a sick/injured man is like, and provides enough tension in the story to keep it interesting. The supporting characters are well rounded, too. I liked Grandmother and Kaylene and Levi.

    In short, this is a pleasant read, that doesn’t require you to have read the other two books first (I haven’t read the first one, myself).

  • It was wonderful to return to Sugarcreek, OH and catch up with the characters from the previous two books in this series, Hopeful and Thankful. In Joyful, there are three relationships that the reader gets to follow. I enjoyed all three storylines, and found them emotionally fulfilling.

    These Return to Sugarcreek books have been very fast and enjoyable reads for me. The stories just flow so well and I always want to see what happens next. Shelley Shepard Gray keeps me turning those pages! An enjoyable story for fans of Amish fiction.

  • I had such a hard time putting this story down. I loved catching up with other characters from the previous novels and meeting new one.

  • Joyful, number 3 in the Return to Sugarcreek series is definitely my favorite!The dynamic between Elizabeth and Randall is engaging and perfect. They are definitely at a crossroads.

  • “Joyful” is a fairly short and quick to read Amish novel set in everyone’s favorite town of Sugarcreek. Familiar characters from earlier Sugarcreek novels make appearances but this third installment of the Return to Sugarcreek series features Randall Beiler and Elizabeth Nolt. In addition to their story, at least two other subplots are woven through the book. The characters are well-defined and the story is homey and charming. “Joyful” is sure to be a favorite of fans of both Amish fiction and Shelley Shepard Gray.

  • I have enjoyed all three books in the Return to Sugarcreek series. These aren’t complex or dramatic stories, but just plain good reads with a cozy feel. Shelley has an easy style of writing and the ability to make me become invested in the character’s lives. I also enjoy how she brings back previous characters and interweaves multiple storylines. Joyful is a fulfilling conclusion to the series – but, of course, I’d like to return to Sugarcreek and read the stories of other characters.

  • Shelley Shepard Gray does it again! She has produced another Amish novel with realistic and loveable characters. Get wrapped up in their lives…read Joyful, and do not miss out!

  • LyonsLady says:

    My Review
    I have always enjoyed reading Shelly’s books!!! I love how the story comes alive with the people in this book. I felt like I was in the story with them. Not many books can do that but this one does….I could see the places they lived and the characters were very believable and interesting too.

    As always I highly recommend this book or any other book written by Shelley to anyone who enjoys a good story to read!!!

    May God continue to use you for His Glory and Honor, in Jesus Name Amen

  • Joyful is a sweet love story. Both families have experienced hard times-the Beilers with their parents passing at a young age, and Elizabeth with her mother leaving. Both Randall and Elizabeth are dedicated to their families, but must figure out where love and a relationship can fit in with their responsibilities.

  • Veronica's 'Views says:

    It was amusing to see Elizabeth and Randall trying to adjust to being near each other again and fighting their feelings for each other. I didn’t like this book as much as the first two because I didn’t find the main story as cute and didn’t like the male character very well. I liked the theme of looking for the small moments of joy in life. If you like Amish stories, you’ll probably like this one!

  • Barb Shelton says:

    Even though I had not read the first two books in this series – Joyful is a stand-alone story. Is there real joy in the end? That’s for you to find out. I am so thankful that God gives writers such splendid inspirations to write about. You will never be bored with a book written by Shelley Shepard Gray!

  • I think “Joyful” is the best book in this series. Ms. Gray, I believe, has woven into the story-line elements of the Biblical book of Ruth and I think that it added tremendously to the plot.I liked the theme of a second chance with the possibility of blowing that as well. Ms. Gray has given us real people in Elizabeth and Randall and watching them grow individually and then together is a real treat. The other characters from the first two books are in play here as well but the primary focus is Elizabeth and Randall. “joyful” is an exceptional story with exceptional characters that you care for and so want them to get together.

  • I fell in love with this book – the combination of the Amish lifestyle, faith, love, the witty conversations, importance of family, trusting God’s plan for your life, etc., all contributed to the amazingness of this book. Joy can be found in many things. The joy of life, love, family, etc. What brings you joy? I know this book brought me joy! I laughed, cried, smiled, hoped, felt joy, along with every emotion of all of the characters throughout this book! While it was a shorter book, and I read it in one day, it contained a lot of joy and I highly recommend it, and look forward to reading the previous books in the series.

  • I love Gray’s writing style. Smooth and dramatic, with clear, vivid descriptions, Gray’s stories play out like a movie inside my head. I can see everything happening, and it pulls me into the story.

    Unlike the other books in this series, however, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Usually I’m cheering hard for Gray’s characters, but this particular pair was a bit different. They were particularly … well … thick, it seemed, right from the beginning. The obstacle to their love didn’t feel like much of an obstacle to me, and instead felt as if it should have been the answer to their problems.

    As the story developed, however, Gray added more depth to the choices that Randall made at the beginning of the story. She made his decisions more understandable and easy to relate to.

  • I enjoyed reading a book about yet another character from Sugarcreek. This is the third book in this series and I recommend that you read all three books as they don’t stand alone. Elizabeth was such a good character that you want to be friends with her, there were times that I felt bad for her. It was fun watching Elizabeth and Randal become close once again. Shelley always does a great job of writing so that the story flows, the setting if written so well you can where the story takes place, and the characters are very well developed. I was sorry to see this series end but am looking forward to whatever Shelley has in store for us next.

  • WV Stitcher says:

    I have loved this entire series and my only complaint was knowing that this was the final installment. Overall, a book that will appeal to Amish fiction fans, but honestly anyone looking for a good clean romance that deals with family issues will find this a good read as well.

  • I am so sad that this is the final book in the Return to Sugarcreek series since I have enjoyed getting to know the characters and how they overcome difficulties. In all three books the family was all about doing the right thing and helping each other which I find inspiring. Both Randall and Elizabeth had expectations in their relationship but made the mistake of failing to communicate with each other. I know that not communicating with my husband about some issues has caused a few unpleasant discussions in our household.

  • Joyful is not a wild action packed story full of drama and intrigue but a story of simple Amish people and their desire to have a full family life. Sweet homemaking chores, delicious meals, and the routines of daily life. If you like Amish fiction and a slower pace you will enjoy this new tale.

  • Book by Book says:

    The third novel in Return to Sugarcreek, Shelley Shepard Gray’s Joyful is an enjoyable, heartfelt read. Following the stories of three couples (but primarily Randall Beiler and Elizabeth Nolt), Gray tells a story of second chances and finding joy, love and contentment. It’s sweet and encouraging, and I think fans of Return to Sugarcreek will enjoy this novel even more than I did. I recommend it.

  • This is a wonderful story by Shelley Shephard Gray about going back and starting over with your first love. Elizabeth and Randall may have been given a gift of a second chance but, are they willing to try again? They continue to question their feelings for each other. The problem is they may take to long to accept what their feelings are telling them? I give this book a 4/5. I was given this book by Litfuse Publicity Group and all opinions are my own.

  • Most recently, I finished reading Joyful by Shelley Shepard Gray. This is the third book in her Return to Sugarcreek Series. It was nice to be able not only to explore the story of the two main characters, but also to spend some time catching up with the other characters from the first two books. But don’t worry, there is no need to have read the first two.

  • This was a fun, clean, romantic christian fiction book that I would recommend! I was left smiling and feeling good at the end of the book.

  • Amish Reader says:

    Joyful (HarperCollins Publisher) is the inspired conclusion to the Return to Sugarcreek series by Shelley Shepard Gray. Reading the books from the Return to Sugarcreek series is like reuniting with old friends, you pick up just where you left off and it is all comfortable and fun.

  • I so enjoyed all three of Shelley’s books in this series. Not many get a second chance at love, but you will enjoy this story as Shelley takes us back to Sugarcreek. Follow the many story lines. Will the love that Elizabeth had for Randall still be there this time around ? Will true love win out ? If you have followed along in this series you will want to get a copy of this 3rd and final book, you just won’t want to miss out on the wonderful ending !

  • Make sure you have plenty of time to read “Joyful”. Once you start reading this book you won’t want to stop until you’ve reached the end! Joyful is the third and final book in the “Return to Sugarcreek” series. This is a fast paced read that will keep you interested from the very first page! Shelley Shepard Gray is a wonderful writer and has the ability of creating a story in which the reader can get lost. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I look forward to reading more books from her.

  • DebsHere says:

    If you are a regular reader of my blog,you know that I love Amish Fiction. There is just something about their culture that fascinates me.This is the third book in the Return to Sugarcreek series,and also sadly the final. As soon as you start reading,you will feel like you know the characters.

  • This books reminds us that pride goes before a fall. Also to help our neighbors and doing for others has its rewards.

  • This was the third book in the Sugarcreek series and it was wonderful. True to it’s title this book brought me great joy. There were three stories actually going on at the same time and each scenario reeled the reader in and would not let go. The characters were so real you felt as if they were your neighbors. Although this was the third book in the series you do not have to read the others to enjoy this one. I would recommend reading all the books in the series. I loved the letter from the author, the discussion questions and the sample from her next book. If you like Amish fiction this is one you won’t want to miss.

  • This book was a light read, with the characters and plots very easy to follow and predict. Besides the main story of Randall Beiler’s and Elizabeth Nolt’s working their way past a broken relationship, there are also conclusions to two other stories from the previous books in the series.

    Fans of Amish fiction should enjoy this book. The characters and setting seem true to the typical stories of this genre. I would, however, recommend reading the first two books in the series before this one to provide the background for a better understanding of the stories.

  • I think this book stands alone, although it’s helpful to read the other books in the series just to understand the situation. If you’re a fan of Amish fiction, you’ll enjoy this story! It is a heartbreaking predicament yet the siblings really bond in an unselfish and loving way. Sticking together, the family learns to depend on each other.

  • Review of “Joyful” By: Shelley Shepard Gray.

    This book is a breath of fresh air. It is such
    a joy to read Joyful. Excellent story, good clean
    Christian fiction. I love the Amish faith, devotion
    to family and friends.

  • Great Addition to the series. Shelley Shepard Gray is one of my go to authors when I want to read a great Amish Fiction book.

  • Moments says:

    I really enjoyed this story; it may be my favorite in the series. Elizabeth is such a sweet girl and an excellent main character. I found myself empathizing with her from the very start. However, I really liked Randall as well as a main character and love the interactions between these two and watching their relationship shift and grow. Shelley writes in such a way that the reader is completely drawn into the story and into the characters’ lives and I found myself not wanting to leave this story and the characters at the end. This is an excellent choice for Amish fiction fans!

  • This is book 3 of the Amish Return to Sugarcreek series. The story is heartfelt and shows us that GOD will guide you through life and bring you joy if you let him It all comes down to how you can be joyful, no matter what happens in your life, stay strong and hold on to GOD.

  • Mommy Has to Work says:

    I so enjoy reading Amish novels. They are a light, easy read that always make me feel good on the inside.

  • A New Leaf says:

    There is something warm and simple about reading an Amish fiction book and getting back to the roots of faith: loving and trusting God. It’s not always easy or fun, but it brings such peace to my heart, and peace is just what some of these characters are seeking. I have to say amidst all of the different plot points within the series, the plot point involving Judith and Ben is my favorite. They are fostering a little boy and have fallen deeply in love with him. Their story is fully resolved in this book, and while it was heartbreakingly sad, it was also happy… and well, joyful.

  • Oh how I hate to see a good series end. It seems like just when you feel as if you know everyone and you can’t wait to see what happens in their lives, it’s all over. It had been quite some time since I had read another book in this series and so, in some ways, it was like learning about everyone all over again. Like the other book, I very much enjoyed immersing myself into Sugarcreek. This book showed a side of the Amish community that I haven’t seen in other books…money and the need for it. It’s easy to think of the Amish world as that of a fairy tale land, but in this book, the reader gets to see that money worries touch everyone. I won’t give anything away but I was so happy in the way that the author wrapped up stories that I had followed through the other books..

  • A Book Lover says:

    I enjoyed reading this latest book in the Return to Sugarcreek series.The main focus in this book is the relationship between Elizabeth and Randall. Two other couples have stories featured along side. Judith and Ben Graeber are still struggling with childlessness. They have their foster baby boy,James, but they might be losing him back to his real family. Pippa Reyes from the Amish restaurant is asked out by ex husband’s friend and is exploring a relationship with him. Elizabeth and Randall were courting then he broke up with her unexpectedly because he thought he needed too in order to take care of his younger siblings. His brother Levi decides to hire Elizabeth to come cook and clean for them because Randall stinks at it. They all love Elizabeth and are waiting for Randall to get his act together. I liked Elizabeth but never liked Randall. Overall this was a good conclusion to the Sugarcreek series.

  • Loved this story, the ups and downs keep you rooting for the characters straight through to the very end!

  • Best Reads says:

    The third book in the Return to Sugarcreek series and while it reads well as a standalone there are a couple of secondary storylines that will bring more reader satisfaction if you have read the first two books.

    Elizabeth and Randall’s second chance love story takes centre stage in the aptly titled Joyful. Both struggle with their perception of duty and a reluctance to allow others to share the load. An
    interesting inspirational thread — the idea of being too self-sacrificing. Elizabeth and Randall need to figure out that only God can bring true balance and until they do there’s angst aplenty.

    Another more than satisfying read from this much loved author..

  • It’s good to be back in Sugarcreek with the Beiler family and Elizabeth Nolt, Randell’s former fiancee’. Things were beginning to get out of hand with the family. Randall’s cooking ability was very limited and forget keeping up with the house and laundry.

    You may need that box of tissues toward the end of this book. I did.

    Thank you, Ms Shepherd Gray. I hope you kee bringing us back to Sugarcreek.

  • Shelley has crafted another great novel that is filled with characters that I have come to know and love. I was anxious to return to Sugarcreek and to catch up with everyone again. I was not disappointed. Shelley writes with such feeling that I actually feel like I know the characters personally, and that I feel their pain right along with them. There were some on going things that were resolved in this book, but I hope it isn’t my last visit to Sugarcreek. This is a series that needs to be read in order as some things will be confusing if it isn’t.

    I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

  • I picked up Joyful and I simply could NOT put it down. It is that fantastic a story!

    Joyful shows the growth of an author who has honed her craft over the years but it also holds the same talent that has always been there.

    Shelley excells at taking a normal, average story that we could read anywhere and draw us in to it. This is a story that we could just as easily read about from a contemporary viewpoint but Shelley’s love of Amish culture brings an extra special touch to it.

  • I love reading Shelley Shepard Gray’s books. This is another in a series and I couldn’t wait to get started. It read so quickly that I was sorry to see it end. I’m ready for the next installment of the Beiler family. I want to learn more about watch the youngest grow up. She’s becoming quite the precocious little one.

  • Joyful was a great addition to the Return to Sugarcreek series. I loved the continuation of each of the characters in this series, and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author. This series does need to be read in order since each book builds on the previous one. I recommend the series as a whole, and I thought that Joyful was a great way to wrap up the series.

  • I feel like with each Amish book I read, I become a part of that community. The same goes with Sugarcreek. This quaint community is one full of people who have to make hard choices, put others first, and even be put in hard situations. One thing not lacking is love and support.

    I’ll admit that I was a bit surprised that Elizabeth agreed to a certain plan at the beginning of the book. She had to lay down a lot of pride. I’m not certain I would have been that way! (Sometimes books reveal the ugly side of us, don’t they?!) At first, I disliked Randall within the first few chapters. Once I understood his perspective, though, I came to like him.

  • Book three in the Return to Sugarcreek brings back the Beiler family, specifically Randall and his family. With a engaging writing style, Gray brings together the simplicity of Amish living, romance, a little bit of mystery and wonderfully developed characters that you will fall in love with. While part of a series, Joyful can also do well as a stand alone novel. As you read Joyful, you will find yourself engaging in all the emotions and experiences that each character does, through good and bad times alike

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