Few Americans really know much about the Amish culture or the philosophy behind it. Originating in Germany and East Europe, the Amish are a people who are non-violent, guided by their religious beliefs as stated in their guidebook know as the Ordnung and who have chosen to preserve their way of living in a separatist setting. Without the so-called modern conveniences of the 21st century, they embrace the values of family and friendship as they draw their life from the land and are supported and strengthened by their faith. Membership in the Church comes only in adulthood after a time known as Rumspringa, a period during which teens are free to explore friendships, employment, and even living in the outside world among non-Amish folk called the "English." When one of these young people determines that the Amish life is what they choose, they return fully, are baptized into the Church, and become a permanent member of the community.
This novel tells the story of an Amish teen who is in the midst of his Rumspringa and who is found unconscious right next to the dead body of an "English" girl, holding the weapon that killed her. He is charged with her murder, placed in prison to await trial--a world that is totally foreign to him and against which he has no protection. He is truly like a lamb being led to the slaughter. An elderly local attorney has taken over his defense, but he feels completely unprepared to try the case. Mrs Geneva Morgan, matriarch of a local family that is prominent and whose businesses employ a large number of the citizenry, calls in an attorney from a New York law firm in the hopes that someone from outside the area can better find the real killer.
Jessica Langdon is relatively new as a member of a private law firm having begun her law career as an assistant district attorney. Her firm wants her to get a plea agreement and close the case quickly. But Jessica doesn't feel that is the right thing to do, especially after meeting the accused and meeting his family. She is also introduced to Mrs. Morgan's son, Trey, the actual CEO of the Morgan Family holdings. He is reserved, overbearing, sometimes friendly and sometimes not, convinced of Thomas' guilt, and resentful that his mother is making such a fuss and getting involved with what is turning out to be a very controversial case.
This is a wonderful look-see into the Amish culture and how it clashes with the "English" world. It is a story that is full of friendship and caring, and the developing attraction between Jessica and Trey is central to the book. It is also about Jessica's own journey toward professional maturity as she must make some decisions that could well put her relationship with her father in danger.
Marta Perry writes out of her own experience and exposure to the Amish culture as a life-long resident of Pennsylvania. She writes with respect and admiration for the strength of their connections to one another, their values and the positive influences they bring to any community in which they interact. She has created a novel that is one more of her "keep-the-reader-on-the-edge-of-the-chair" stories, with twists and turns and surprises all throughout the narrative. Probably a seasoned mystery reader will find the resolution to the tale more easily, but this is still a great book and holds the reader's interest from start to finish. While Jessica and Trey's love story is central to the tale, this is not erotic romance but gentle and winsome. It is truly a delightful book.
So I recommend it to all who enjoy contemporary romance and who enjoy discovering ways of living that are out of the ordinary. I give this novel a rating of 4 out of 5.