After the Shadows by Amanda Cabot

After the Shadows, #1
By Amanda Cabot / Revell

Tragedies turn lives upside down with long reaching consequences. The dark shadows they cast are joy robbers. Sad individuals either succumb to the heavy weight of the event’s sadness or they find paths out to a new-found and unexpected sense of joy.

      The main characters in After the Shadows, Emily Leland and Craig Ferguson are true overcomers. Both lost spouses. Emily was bound to a controlling and abusive husband. Upon his sudden death, she returned to her family home only to discover her father had just died. Now she experiences a double tragedy. Craig Ferguson’s wife, and mother to his son, was the apple of his eye. Her death due to a fatal accident, caused his world to unravel. Her memory was everywhere. He struggled to raise his son amidst the heartache and constant reminders. Trained as a school teacher, he accepted a job in Sweetwater Crossing Texas. The new job required him to relocate. He was thrilled to accept this change.The move offered a brighter future for Craig and his son, Noah. 

   Emily and Craig both forge a new path. Craig insists on respecting the students’ self esteem and turns heads in town when he refuses to make students stand in corners and wear dunce caps. He welcomes children of all abilities to join in and take part in his lessons. As a former public school librarian, I appreciated this up-to-date view of educators and this character’s commitment to working with students with a variety of learning styles. 

Out of necessity, Emily uses her hospitality and baking skills to  open a boarding house. Within days of returning to her family home, she has multiple boarders and guests willing to enjoy her meals.
Soon a mystery is afoot. Older residents are dying sudden deaths. Even her father’s death seems suspicious. Emily and Craig join forces to uncover the truth. 

There are clues that raise suspicion on a few characters. But the red herrings built into the plot keep you guessing until the very end. The mystery is eventually solved. The criminal’s motive is unique. 

The author does a wonderful job weaving the dynamics of family relationships into the story. We can expect to see these characters in future books in the Secrets of Sweetwater Crossing series. 

The setting of this book is the late 19th century. It opens in 1882. One interesting twist to the plot involves morphine. We learn from historical accounts that injectable morphine was widely used during the U.S. Civil War to the point that many veterans at the war’s end returned home with drug addictions. For many, this habit of substance abuse became a tough obstacle preventing them from rebuilding a healthy post-war life. There are many subplots to this novel, and these facts play a role.  

I look forward to the sequels in this series. I have read four Amanda Cabot novels. I’ve enjoyed each one. The setting of each novel draws me in. The books always have a great pace and a full roster of memorable characters.