The series begins with Ties that Bind followed by Fraying at the Edge before concluding with this book. I have already read quite a few of Cindy Woodsmall's series and each time I have believed that that one was the best one I have read, that is, until I would read the next series. This time I jumped in on the last book first. I don't recommend doing that with this author, because when she writes a series, they are usually books that are closely linked to each other. Fortunately, before the first chapter, this book had a running summary of the previous two books that I haven't read. It was so well summarized that I had no trouble reading this book by itself. But again, I really don't recommended that. Cindy Woodsmall's outstanding talent is to connect us deeply with her characters so that the reader forms an emotional bond and experiences the turmoil written about with the character. This is such a rare gift for a writer, so that when I find one I like to search for all their books and read them through.
That's how I feel about this series. When I read the summary, I had to chuckle. It read like a soap opera. I say that in the kindest manner possible. This series is intense, if all the books are like this one. There are several well-planned out plots, complex characters, schemes, turmoil, twists and turns, and just plain anguish laid out in the first two books that continue in this one. It was quite an amazing task to see how it all resolved. But it was definitely and happily resolved, in a way only this author can accomplish.
There are so many characters that are important to the series. Ariana is the one that stands out the most. Skylar is also another but not as much the focus as Ariana. Book three resolves a long standing issue between Ariana and Quill, a neighbor she had known since her childhood who had left the Amish years ago for reasons no one in the small community of Summer Grove really knew about and thus was a forbidden friend. Nevertheless, he plays a prominent role all throughout the series.
Among the complexity of details there arises a theme that may surprise the reader as it becomes clear. Ariana learned about bullying while she was "out in the world" with her birth father. Interestingly, bullying takes on a whole different shape and color when she encounters it in the Amish community after she returns. Had it always been there and she had never noticed before? The running questions then became how would she deal with it living at home with her parents while preparing for her upcoming marriage? This was not a cut at the Amish community by the author, but rather a commentary of society, that it can happen anywhere, even in places we don't expect to find it.
Finally, just like other books by this author, the spiritual elements of the story are authentic, realistic, respectful while helping us to gain some fresh perspectives on the character of human nature in general. Cindy Woodsmall's series are some of the best faith-based books I have ever read. They are not filled with platitudes or pat answers. Real issues are realistically dealt with that touched my heart deeply. Even though I haven't read the first two books, I know I will soon. So I can heartily recommend this series for you. If you like intense, complex characters who are not stereotypical Amish or non-Amish or former Amish, you'll love this series.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Blogging for Books on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."