New levels of healing reach the Amish community in the lives of Winnie and her brother Jonathan. First, Jonathan is heartbroken when his barn burns down---it's been in the family for generations. When Winnie stumbles upon a clue, she must decide what to do. Should she confront the culprit? And if Jonathan finds out, will he be able to forgive? Injured in the fire, Winnie is confined to the hospital for weeks. While there she reconnects with her childhood friend Samuel Miller, a professor and researcher at the local university. Will their mutual respect for one another become something more?
I've been a big fan of the books in the Sisters of the Heart series since I picked up book one. For some reason, they read differently from other Amish books. It's fresh and light, yet takes into account realistic views of both the Amish and English world. I think what I like best is that there are those who do get a taste of the outside world but their decision to choose the Amish lifestyle is not forced or fake. I've read other books where the choice seemed to put the Amish world as a paradise or utopia as opposed to the sinful worldliness of mainstream America. These books put a refreshing spin on that topic and I applaud them for it.
In this story the focus is on Winnie, the sister of Jonathan and sister in law of Katie. From the last book in the series, we learn that she has just gotten over a failed courtship and is attempting to move on. Unfortunately she's been severely limited due to being injured from a fire at Jonathan's farm. Therefore Sam, a university professor who left the Amish years ago, comes to her rescue and offers to take care of her while she's ailing. I really liked Sam and it was fun seeing him in both of his conflicting worlds. He fits comfortably in both, which is a nice change from seeing an Amish person so out of place in the English world. I really liked the chemistry between the two of them and it was realistic enough to understand how if affected Sam's final decision. I was also pleased with the conditions of his decision as it was realistic, again with small details that other books fail to mention.
There are two other story lines that are taking place in addition to Winnie's and Sam's relationship. Jonathan is trying to find out who set fire to his barn and struggles with forgiving that person. It's understandable about his anger because his entire family could have been killed and the guilty party still won't fess up to the crime. Also taking place in the background is the upcoming wedding between Anna and Henry. I really liked seeing this even take place as it ties together the entire series and brings it around full circle. I really have enjoyed reading this series and I think it's one of the best Amish series that's out there currently. I'm going to be looking forward to the next series by Shelley when it comes out later this year.
Forgiven by Shelley Shepard Gray is published by Avon Inspire (2009)