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{February 21, 2012}   {ARC Review} Return to Grace by Karen Harper

From Netgaley: In the shadows of a graveyard, a SHOT rings out…

Hannah Esh fled the Home Valley Amish community with a broken heart, throwing herself into her worldly dreams of a singing career instead. But as much as she tries to run from her past, something keeps pulling her back. On a whim, she brings four worldly friends to the Amish graveyard near her family’s home for a midnight party on Halloween. But when shots are fired and one of her friends is killed, Hannah is pulled back into the world of her past.

The investigation into the shooting uncovers deep-buried secrets that shock the peaceful Amish village to its core. Determined to prove her value to the community she left behind, Hannah attempts to bridge two cultures, working closely with both handsome, arrogant FBI agent Linc Armstrong and her former betrothed, Seth Lantz, now widowed with a young daughter.

Caught between Seth and Linc, between old and new, Amish and worldly, Hannah must choose her future. Unless a killer, bent on secrecy, chooses it for her.  

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This mystery novel drops the reader right into the middle of the action as Hannah and her goth friends decide to spend Halloween in an Amish graveyard  near her childhood home.  Yet, unbeknownst to her, the graveyard on which she treads holds more than just the dead buried there, leading to an intense murder mystery as Hannah and her friends become victims of a graveyard shooting.  As the investigation unfolds, Hannah is forced to move back home to her Amish roots, facing the same situations and people she ran away from so long ago, including the man who broke her heart.

Return to Grace is an intense mystery novel that had me captivated from the very first page.  I love novels about the Amish way of life, and when these stories are combined with that of a mystery, one of my favorite genres, I am eager to read them.  Like Marta Perry, Harper weave’s an intricate tale of murder, love, and betrayal within the Amish countryside, juxtaposing the quiet Amish life with the hustle and bustle of the fast-paced city as Hannah’s community is drawn into the public’s eye due to the violence she survived in the graveyard.   

Hannah is a complex character, torn between what is “right” and what she wants.  Though she’s donned the gothic lifestyle to replace that which she has lost, she hasn’t truly given up her past.  Her struggle is very vivid and real, extremely believable, and I couldn’t help but be drawn in by her, rooting for her all the way.  She has many difficult choices to make, including whether to stay and join the church, marrying Amish, or go back out into the world—should she survive the murderer on the loose. Harper’s cast of complex characters throughout this novel were extremely well written and I enjoyed them all, especially the characters of Seth and Linc as they both vied for Hannah’s attention, offering her different pieces of the world that she yearns after.

This whodunit style novel is extremely original and entrancing, especially as everyone is a suspect.  I was surprised by the identity of the murderer, though, in retrospect, the foreshadowing was there, and the case against the actual culprit is extremely strong.  Yet,  I didn’t see it until the killer’s identity was revealed.  I truly enjoy novels that are able to keep me in the dark until the last possible moment, and Harper has done a truly amazing job writing such a complex story. It’s very well written and I highly recommend it to all.  Five stars.

Harlequin Publishers has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on February 28, 2012.

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kelsey d says:

Ok, you got me. This book sounds amazing, great review!



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