Tuesday, August 20, 2013
By Karen Harper
Published by Harlequin, October 2012
Alex Caldwell is in hiding; a key witness to a major international espionage incident, he has to be kept alive to testify at the trial of his former boss. After private security failed to keep him safe (although that was partly due to his own foolishness), he is taken to stay with the Amish Lantz family and pose as one of their cousins. He meets the shy and secretive Ella, a lavender-grower who has secrets of her own which she keeps hidden, and they are attracted to one another as their lives become increasingly complicated and endangered.
This is an Amish/Englisch thriller reminiscent of "Witness", parts of it were extremely well-written and got me well and truly gripped, but parts of it just did not ring true to me. I did struggle to reach the end and I was particularly struck by three things:
1/ The scene where Sarah returns to ask Ella to give a wedding gift to Hannah and is taken ill, in severe pain. As a Registered Midwife myself, I cringed at the explanation given later on that "The baby was turning inside her— got stuck against her spine, hurt her nerves" and that the medic men (presumably ambulance crew?) checked her out, said the baby's heartbeat was strong and for her to see her own doctor (presumably an Ob/Gyn) soon.
This simply would not happen. As Ob/Gyn is one of the highest litigation rated specialities in medicine, any woman six months pregnant, rolling on the ground in severe pain would be treated as if there was a potentially major emergency: any trained medic/paramedic/midwife would be alert to the possibility of placental abruption and of pre-term labour and would want to ensure an in-depth obstetric consultation, fetal monitoring, assessment and ultrasound scan to exclude these possibilities, as well as being alert to the risk that there may be one of several non-pregnancy related abdominal problems such as appendicitis/kidney stones causing the pain and which may have needed urgent surgical intervention.
2/ Later on in Florida, Alex and Ella are fleeing from the would-be assassin in a clown costume and Alex dumps the assassin's rifle in a dumpster next to a petrol station. If Alex is in hiding on a witness protection program, it would not be bright for him to handle a rifle, leave his fingerprints all over it and then dump it, with the possibility it may well be found by the cleaning crew and handed in to the police to complicate matters.... why did he not handle it with a piece of fabric, a handkerchief etc to leave no fingerprints? Here in the UK, all the petrol stations I have seen have security cameras and footage would have been checked if anything resembling a weapon had been found.
3/ At the risk of sounding prudish, I read Amish fiction out of respect and fascination for their way of life and as a way of tuning out so much of the worldliness of modern everyday life; I really do not want to be reading repeated episodes of heavy petting or lovemaking involving Englisch or Amish characters. If I wanted to read that, I wouldn't be reading Amish fiction, I would have been reading contemporary fiction :-)