PLAIN REFUGE - Janice Kay Johnson
Harlequin Super Romance
ISBN:  978-0-373-64021-8
April 2017
Contemporary Romance

San Francisco, California and Hadburg, Missouri - Present Day

Rebecca Gregory is in the midst of a divorce and custody battle for her five-year-old son, Matthew, when she finds evidence that her husband might be complicit in the disappearance of his business partner, Steven Stowe.  Steven took millions of dollars from their construction business and disappeared.  While the police are looking for him, Tim Gregory and his other partner, Josh Griffen, maintain their company was not affected by the loss.  Rebecca has been suspicious of Tim.  He is not upset about Steven's treachery, but when Rebecca stumbles upon solid evidence that Steven is dead and Tim is involved, she uses said evidence to force Tim to agree to joint custody with visitation rights.  It isn't long before she fears for her life:  someone fires a gun at her, then she's run down by a car on the sidewalk, and, finally, she receives threatening calls on her cell phone.  Rebecca takes Matthew and runs to the only place she knows she can be safe:  Hadburg, Missouri, where her Amish grandparents reside.

When the bruised Amish woman exits the bus in Hadburg, Sheriff Daniel Byler is astounded and angry.  Daniel can see the fear in this woman's eyes, and he knows she is hiding from someone, but there isn't much chance he will find out any answers today.  The Amish keep things close; they do not confide in the law.  Daniel, however, is not the ordinary Englisch lawman.  Yes, he lives Englisch now, but he was raised Amish.  He nods to his Amish friend, Samuel Graber, who explains that he and his wife Emma are there to meet the young woman.  Her name is Rebecca, and she is Samuel's niece, his sister's daughter.  And, Samuel explains, Rebecca suffered an accident, she was run over by a hit and run driver who left her for dead on the sidewalk.

Rebecca knows Tim and Josh will try to find her, but she prays that Tim will not remember where her mother's family originated.  She has promised her aunt and uncle that she and Matthew will live Plain while in residence in their home, and she knows the Amish community will protect her.  Her one fear is that her son, at five, Matthew is not one for keeping secrets.

Daniel walked away from his Amish faith in his teens after witnessing a terrible event the Amish refused to persecute.  He has been taught to forgive, but he cannot accept that the Amish just walk away after a horrendous crime has been committed.  Daniel wants to protect his people, and he believes in justice; after studying law he was elected Sheriff in Hadburg.  The Amish trust him, but they are still wary of him.  His family moved away from their own community and live close now, and even though Daniel visits with his parents, his relationship with his Amish relatives and others in the church is strained.

PLAIN REFUGE is a suspenseful story of deceit and fear, mixed with a little romance and a look into the lives of the Amish.  It is a good story, and the pulse pounding conclusion is worthy of the best mystery.  Rebecca and Daniel feel an intense attraction, but they have trust issues to overcome first.  Daniel wants to protect Rebecca from her demons, but until she can reveal who is after her, and why, he is powerless to help.  Rebecca feels secure in the midst of her Amish family, and she is glad to be near her grandparents, whom she visited every summer until she was thirteen, but she knows she can never be part of the Amish world.

A note of caution for those who enjoy Amish romances:  PLAIN REFUGE is not what I would call an Amish romance, but, instead, this novel is a contemporary romance that revolves around the Amish world.  Our heroine, Rebecca, chooses to hide among her Amish relatives, but she is still and will always be Englisch.  Daniel and Rebecca's romance contains sex scenes which are not a common element in Amish romances, and which I was disappointed to see in these pages.  That aside, PLAIN REFUGE is a great story!

Diana Risso