A mysterious outsider casts a long shadow on Ohio’s Amish country. Policewoman Rachel Troyer has always looked after her three elderly Amish aunts, proprietors of a farmhouse inn near Sugarcreek, Ohio. The idyllic town is popular with tourists, who come to sample its famous Amish goods. But one thing is clear to Rachel—Joe Matthews is no tourist. When the bearded stranger lands on her aunts' doorstep, begging shelter for himself and his young son, Rachel is suspicious. Will she be able to uncover Joe’s secrets despite her aunts'—and her own—growing affection for him?
This is a hard book to review, as I was on a rollercoaster of feelings toward and about the story and the characters. The Amish characters were well drawn people, and I honestly want a book about one of Rachel's Amish aunt - Bertha sounds like she has such stories to share about her time working as a nurse in an orphanage in Haiti! Anna, another of Rachel aunts, has Down Syndrome, but she is treated with respect and dignity by her community as well as close outsiders. Finally, the third aunt, Lydia, was widowed but without children; her relationship with Rachel was the most fragile.
Rachel's father grew up Amish, but chose not to join the church and instead, became a police officer and married an English woman. Rachel followed in his footsteps, but her upbringing in both worlds help move the plot along. Rachel was a complicated character - I loved her protectiveness and love for elderly aunts, then I was very turned off by her over-the-top bitchiness and paranoia over what Joe was hiding. Then she got her act together (courtesy in small part due to a conversation with her boss telling her she gets control over herself or she will be fired), opened herself and her mind up to Joe and his son - seems like the Rachel from beginning of the story. Then Rachel finds out Joe's secret, and defends him and his son like the most awesome warrior. Seriously, half the rollercoaster ride was my dis/connection with Rachel.
Joe and his son were great. I like that Joe was smart about him and Bobby going underground - it was not over the top at all. There was a point though that the heavy handed religious tone came from Joe, a preacher/missionary kid. In fact, for me the religious tone got to uncomfortable levels at a few points in the book; some of those levels came from Joe's opinion about his recently murdered wife in comparison with Rachel. I also didn't like that Joe could fall that easily in love with Rachel with his dead wife's murder case open investigation. I would have preferred a strong happy for now ending between two friends than the happy ever after found in the epilogue. Bobby was four and suffered traumatically with the loss of his mom. His regression and progress was realistic.
I would recommend this book if you like Amish stories or if you are a strong believer in Christianity (Protestant evangical specifically). 4 stars.