Shelley Shepard Gray

Avon Inspire
Hardcover/223 pages
ISBN: 0061474452
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". . . a quick . . . story that just doesn’t rise to the occasion long enough or often enough . . ."

Hidden: Christian romantic suspense with brief poignant moments and a heavy-handed message.

Anna Metzger held her palm against the side of her face where powerhouse politico Rob Peterson had just hit her. He was sorry, but he was always sorry afterwards. She kept quiet until she got home because she wasn’t going to stick around to see if he was sorry the next time.

After buying a ticket to Florida, leaving her car at the airport and taking a cab to Amish country, Anna arrives at the Brenneman Bed and Breakfast, her face bruised and her suitcase in her hands. She wants to hide away from Rob with her friend Katie and the Brennemans until she figured out what to do next. Katie is glad to see her, but Katie’s older brother Henry isn’t. He knows Anna is trouble and that she is putting his family in danger. Henry’s parents overrule his objections and welcome Anna into their home and their lives. Hiding in plain sight as a Plain Amish girl, Anna becomes one of Katie’s family.

Rob isn’t letting go. He has to find Anna because she knows too much and can ruin his chances for a political career. Anna’s mother and father finally realize, after Rob has gone through Anna’s room several times and not too subtly threatened them, that Anna wasn’t just being flighty and irresponsible; she had reason to fear Rob. They realize he won’t stop until he finds her. They have to find her first.

The Amish live side by side with the rest of the world or the “English” as the Amish say. But they are separate from the world, living a simple life full of hard work and service to God, their community and their families. This is the world Shelley Shepard Gray touches on in her suspenseful romance, Hidden. Gray does a good job within the confines of the story to paint Amish life with plain broad strokes, giving it a certain Old World charm. However, Gray fails to flesh out Rob Peterson, the greedy, controlling politician on the way up the ladder. He remains a black stereotype; Anna’s parents are sketchy at best. It is Anna’s story, and she is a bit more fully realized, but I found it difficult to get a clear sense of her. Emotionally, Anna is all over the place and inconsistent. Gray’s message in Hidden is mixed and a bit clichéd.

Henry Brenneman has a broken heart, and Anna isn’t sure what she wants but suddenly realizes that Henry is a handsome and strong young man. While looks are important in Anna’s world, and seemingly her only reason for giving the disapproving Henry a second look after he is pointedly rude to her, looks are not important to the Amish. Gray manages a few poignant moments as the relationship between Anna and Henry blossoms, but all too few, and those are over shadowed by a tendency to sermonize when the message should come simply and organically from the characters.

Hidden is a light, Christian romantic-suspense that could have been better had the characters been developed fully and the gulf between worldly and immature Anna and Henry Brenneman’s Amish beliefs made more realistic. Gray doesn’t give the characters or the plot enough time to develop without feeling forced. What Gray does very well is scatter shining moments of real romance and understanding of the characters and their lives among the litter of mixed messages and muddy motivation. Hidden is a quick and forgettable story that just doesn’t rise to the occasion long enough or often enough.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell