Thursday, 17 March 2011

Secrets of Harmony Grove - Mindy Starns Clark

From the bestselling author of Shadows of Lancaster County comes an exciting new romantic mystery set in Amish country.

Sienna Collins, owner of the Harmony Grove Bed & Breakfast in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, learns that she is under investigation by the federal government for crimes she knows nothing about. A few hours later she finds her ex-boyfriend, Troy, dead, and her life and livelihood begin to spin wildly out of control. She begins to doubt everyone around her, even the handsome detective assigned to the case.

As Sienna tries to clear her name, she is forced to depend on her faith, the wisdom of the Amish, and the insight of the man she has recently begun dating. She’ll need all the help she can get, because the secrets she uncovers in Harmony Grove end up threatening not just her bed-and-breakfast, but also her credibility, her beliefs, and ultimately her life.

I can't believe I've not written a review of this book yet, especially as I read it well over a week ago! I was working on two essay deadlines at the time so this review will be more concise than usual as the book isn't so fresh in my mind.

Overall, I really enjoyed this mystery set in an Amish settlement in PA. I've never read anything from Mindy Starns Clark before but I have enjoyed some Amish romantic suspense from Marta Perry. I'd have to say that I probably prefer Marta as her style is a bit lighter. But Mindy's mystery was incredibly complex. I could not guess who was behind everything, which is unusual for someone who devoured Nancy Drew and Famous Five mysteries as a child! For me, a good mystery is always one that I can't solve before the characters.

But this book was more than just your standard mystery novel. Sienna, the heroine, was trying to simultaneously figure out who had murdered her ex-boyfriend and where her grandfather's diamonds were buried. This brought an entirely different aspect into the story, where Sienna uncovered her family secrets and learned the truth about her grandfather and his first wife. These secrets laid roots in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany and Mindy very delicately revealed some of the horrors of the Holocaust and how these had touched on Sienna's grandfather (an Amish man turned soldier) and his first wife (a German Jew). Sienna's grandfather planted a grove in memory of his deceased wife and it was fascinating to read about the history of it. This aspect of the story was woven through it very well and didn't overshadow the rest of it. Even for someone who is very well educated on the history of the Holocaust, I still felt that Mindy dealt with it in an incredibly touching and enlightening manner.

While I did enjoy the complexity of the mystery, it did seem a bit far-fetched in places. Yes, it was exciting and made me keep turning the pages, but on a couple of occasions I did wonder about how plausible situations were. I know I don't always look to fiction for realism but so many other aspects of the novel were believable that they made others feel a bit out of place. My only other complaint would have to be that while I found Sienna to be an interesting character, I never really connected with her. I could sympathise in places, but the way that a grown woman dealt with relationships kind of baffled me! However, I did enjoy the outcome of her romantic sub-plot; it wasn't predictable in the slightest.

All in all, I did enjoy my first Amish romantic suspense from this author. It was a refreshing departure from my usual romances and historical novels, and definitely a compelling read. While I didn't completely connect with the characters and found the plot unrealistic in places, I wouldn't hold that against this book and would probably read more from this author in the future. 8/10

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