on January 26, 2016
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Three months ago, everything changed for Darla Kurtz and her family. Darla’s father was responsible for a terrible fire at Charm’s lumber mill which killed five Amish men. And though he, too, lost his life, the town of Charm hasn’t looked at her family the same since. Even Lukas Kinsinger—with whom Darla used to have a close friendship.
Now her brother’s anger at the town is spilling over onto Darla, and she has the bruises to prove it. The accident already cost five lives, but if something doesn’t change soon, Darla fears it will cost her—and her family—even more.
Lukas Kinsinger wants to mourn the loss of his father, but he can hardly find the time to breathe. Suddenly the head of his father’s lumber mill and responsible for taking care of his three siblings, he’s feeling the pressure. He has also never felt more alone—especially with the new tension between he and Darla. But when he learns of her troubles at home, Lukas knows he can’t simply stand by and watch. Someone has to help her before another tragedy occurs.
As Lukas and Darla attempt to repair their families, they discover something deeper than friendship growing between them. But will Lukas and Darla’s love be accepted after so much loss? Or will the pain of the past overcome any chance of future happiness?
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
I was a little taken aback when Avon sent me A Son’s Vow for review. As a member of the current Avon Addicts group, I had gotten used to receiving historical and contemporary romances and romantic suspense from them, all of it ranging from mildly sensual to explicit enough to make me skip pages. I was certainly not expecting an inspirational Amish romance! Not that I had any real objection to reading it, but given some bad experiences with (poorly-written) Christian romance in the past, I was a little wary.
I should have trusted Avon. A Son’s Vow isn’t the kind of insipid, saccharine book my previous experiences in the genre had led me to expect. The characters and situations felt believable and realistic, and the book deals with issues of grief, anger, and domestic abuse. In fact, I’m tempted to class it more as general fiction than as romance, because the romance is only one aspect of the plot, and because there are four POV characters, only two of whom are involved in any sort of romantic relationship.
I’m also wary of books by “Englishers” about the Amish. As in writing about any other ethnic or religious group to which one does not belong, there are always the dual dangers of cultural appropriation and stereotyping, whether through idealization or demonization. As far as I can tell, Gray tried to avoid both dangers. While it’s hard for me to be sure (as an outsider with no personal experience of the Amish), she appears to present the setting and characters with respect and affection, not overly-idealizing nor sugar-coating them.
Nor does she preach at the reader; instead, she lets the characters’ faith and beliefs speak for themselves. I enjoyed Lukas and Darla, the two main characters, as well as a secondary character, Hannah, all of whom are trying to come to terms with the changes in their lives since the accident at the lumber mill. Lukas and Darla are childhood friends-not-quite-sweethearts, now estranged, and they both regret the distance between them. Darla’s brother Aaron’s anger and despair rang particularly true, and while he wasn’t exactly a sympathetic character, by taking me inside his head and showing me his conflicting feelings, Gray managed to make me care about him, too. Most of the secondary characters are a bit more two-dimensional, though there are flashes of individuality in several of them.
My only real complaint was that one of the major issues in the book was resolved perhaps a little too quickly and easily, although to be fair, it’s made clear that the resolution is only a beginning, and there’s still work to be done. I also wished that the author had more time to go more deeply into the characters’ thoughts, feelings, and day-to-day lives, as well as to provide more sensory descriptions. It’s not that it felt superficial; it didn’t. But it didn’t feel quite as deep or compelling as perhaps it could have, and I would have enjoyed having a better sense of what their world looks, sounds, smells, and feels like.
All in all, however, I found A Son’s Vow to be a welcome and refreshing antidote to the insipid inspirational romances that turned me off to the subgenre years ago.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Clean Sweep ARC Challenge (May 2016)