Mattie Diener can barely keep it together. A young Amish widow and mother of two young children, she faces the lingering heartbreak of lost love, her son’s mysterious illness, and a torrent of accusations that threaten to undo her. Bo Lambright is a fast-rising social services investigator whose high-society mother won’t rest until she finds his Mrs. Right. Despite Bo’s worldly success, the raw ache of a shadowy past and a series of unsettling dreams have left him reeling.
When Mattie and Bo cross paths, all signs point to disaster. Yet as they face a crucible of trials and tragedies together, longings begin to stir that seem destined only to end in more heartbreak. Is a miracle possible—not only of healing but of forbidden love? What secrets lie in Bo’s dreams? And will Mattie find the courage to face her uncertain future . . . or will she simply run away?
Mattie Diener is a young Amish widow with two small children, a daughter and a son. Her son Nathan has been sickly since birth, battling a mysterious illness no doctor can seem to entirely identify. One particularly bad episode has the toddler experiencing a high fever, low appetite and a rash of unknown origin. Mattie rushes him to his pediatrician only to find the doctor is on vacation. A new female doctor filling in for him looks over the little boy, finds blisters inside Nathan's mouth that Mattie can't explain. Even with little evidence to go on (since the boy's tests come back largely inconclusive), this doctor seems quick to proclaim this is a case of Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy (MSP) and immediately calls in Child Protective Services to investigate Mattie's mothering for evidence of child abuse. Social worker Bo Lambright is assigned to the case and, after an initial interview with Mattie, figures it's a open & shut case of a simple misunderstanding. But when Mattie's son soon ends up in the hospital yet again, some doubts and questions begin to cloud his initial impression.
Bo teams up with fellow social worker Erica Davis, a senator's daughter who claims she wants to bulk up her field experience a bit before she heads off for Harvard Law. Though he's friendly with Erica on a personal basis, when it comes to work he questions where her heart and motivation lies. Erica seems to go in to the investigation of Mattie's life and home with a bias, already assuming the woman is guilty. As the investigation continues, Bo sees signs that Erica might have ulterior motives behind so easily condemning Mattie.
It's sometimes tempting to dismiss many Amish themed stories these days because the genre has been pretty heavily saturated over the years and so many I've read seem to share a too-similar story arc with generic, cutesy, wholesome characters that come off as over-the-top perfect. This novel, I was pleasantly surprised to find, mixed things up a bit bringing in some unique and controversial topics to the genre. Not only does the reader get the Munchausen Syndrome mystery (is it or isn't it? must read to find out) but Reid also manages to believably work in the topic of fracking. Certainly never something I would expect to come across in an Amish novel, but the way Reid works it in, I could actually see it being an issue!
I also found the characters to be really nicely crafted. It's easy to feel for Mattie's struggle and her grieving process as a young widow having to raise kids on her own. Bo has a nice chill way about him but every so often you also see his strong side in the way he honestly cares about the futures of the kids he works with in his social work. He's always quick to be there as a reliable figure when some of them start to veer toward lives of petty crime. There are also hints at his mysterious past he seems so intent on keeping covered up from pretty much everyone. Granted, the "hints" are pretty heavy-handed, so it won't take much guessing to figure out what his secret is, but learning the details behind his story was still fun. And ugh, Erica. Did that girl have a personality that kept me cringing and fuming! But her manipulative nature provides a nice balance to the "good guys" of the story to keep everything interesting.
One story element that I was a bit meh about were Bo's brief dream sequences interspersed throughout the main plot. I get that these scenes were meant to be symbolic for events that unfold following each dream, but for me they didn't add any extra depth and I think I would've liked the story just the same had they been omitted completely. Or maybe they were just too short. Maybe if those sequences were expanded with more imagery with deeper, more thought-provoking (less surface level) symbolism ... perhaps that would've worked for me. But as is, yeah ... didn't do anything special for me.
Note To Readers: This is Book #3 in Reid's Amish Wonders series. I have not read the first two, but had no trouble with this storyline so I would say that each in the series can easily be taken as a stand-alone read.
FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.