Monday, June 24, 2013

HEARSE AND BUGGY by Laura Bradford

Publisher:   Berkley
Date published:   June 5, 2012
ISBN:  978-0425251317
Genre:   Cozy Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Book format: Paperback
Obtained via:  Publisher
Reviewed by name and email address:  Gina


Claire Weatherly had enough of the big city and her so not there for her husband, Peter and took herself to her aunt’s home in Heavenly, Pennsylvania. There she began to put the pieces of her life back together. Helping her aunt with her quaint and charming B&B and starting out on her shop in town is fulfilling in a way her high powered life in New York never was. Heavenly is pretty much the answer to all that Claire is looking for in life. It is in essence a cross-roads between the Amish and “English” in the area. The two communities live side-by-side, each living their lives as they see fit and yet mesh into a peaceful and happy town. That was at least until Walter Snow took off with a large sum of money owed to many of the Amish. When Walter is found dead behind Claire’s shop the detective who responds, Jakob Fisher, is a living example of the blending of the two worlds, except for him it is no easy thing.

Jakob is Amish in his heart, but because he left the community to become a police officer, he is shunned and they will not embrace him again. Now he must solve Walter’s murder but it will be no easy affair. When his own family and former friends will not speak to him how can he pursue his investigation? As an outsider Claire is trusted—to a point, but her assistant, Esther, has her own share of secrets, ones that could destroy the family of the man she loves.

Claire finds herself immersed in the community, the secrets held by Esther, and the Walter’s murder.  She finds herself helping in a most unique way and at the same time finds herself drawn to Jakob as a man. Complicating matters is one of her aunt’s visitors to the B&B, a graduate student named Arnie Streen. Arnie has his own issues and while an “English” he feels a connection to the Amish as someone who is viewed as different.

Meanwhile, strange goings on happen at the Shoo Fly Bakery next to Claire’s shop—it seems not a day goes by that the shop isn’t vandalized. When a fire breaks out Claire cannot help but wonder if the vandalize is tied to the murder.

When I first picked up Laura Bradford’s HEARSE AND BUGGY I wasn’t sure how a mystery series could be built around the Amish community. As pacifists and a gentle people, it seemed a conflicted premise. All I can say is that I already have book 2, ASSAULTED PRETZEL and can’t wait to start it. I’m also a bit disappointed that I haven’t seen anything about a third book in the works—this is one series I truly hope continues.

Through Claire’s aunt, Diane, Ms. Bradford introduces readers to the Amish way of life. She dispels some misconceptions and takes the reader deeper into the community. The duality that confronts Jakob—of being Amish but not accepted by his own family because of his decision to become a police officer is well done. His desire and need to do his job and their refusal to assist him because to do so would mean speaking to him takes the reader into that world from a different perspective. On the other side is Claire’s growing feelings for Jakob as well as her conflicted ones about another character, Benjamin, who is also Amish.

While HEARSE AND BUGGY is billed as a cozy mystery it is also a wonderful contemporary romance with several levels to it. I was pretty sure I knew who the killer was early on but that did not detract from looking for the clues and putting the pieces together.

The town of Heavenly and its shops are the kind of place anyone would like to not only visit but to live in. This is one series you do not want to miss.

This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.

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