In her wildest dreams, spunky and impulsive nineteen-year-old Mary Kate Lapp never imagined herself behind a schoolteacher's desk. A run-in (literally) with the schoolteacher compels her to act as a substitute teacher, just as her restless desire to see the world compels her to apply for a passport . . . just in case. The only thing of interest to M.K. in the sleepy Amish community of Stoney Ridge is the unexplained death of a sheep farmer that coincided with the arrival of a mysterious young man into the community. Frustrated that no one takes the crime seriously, she takes matters into her own hands. Unfortunately, as tends to be the case for M.K., she jumps headlong into trouble.
Good conclusion to the series. In the first two books, The Keeper and The Haven, Mary Kaye (MK) is the trouble prone little sister. At the beginning of this book, she is now nineteen, but doesn't appear to have changed much. She is nearby when an apparent murder takes place, and believing herself to be something of a detective she wants to figure out who did it. She gets into trouble with the police one too many times, until it is made clear that she is to stay away. Taking her frustrations out in physical activity, she collides with the schoolteacher, causing some injury that keeps the teacher out of the classroom. MK is made the substitute teacher as a result. MK is not at all happy about it, as being cooped up in a classroom full of kids cramps her style.
Chris Yoder and his sister Jenny have moved to Stoney Ridge, where Chris is renovating property he is due to inherit in a few months. The life they left behind in Ohio had been one that Chris is anxious to put behind him. He doesn't talk to anyone about his past as he tries to make a place for himself in the new community. He is determined to give his little sister a good life, and works hard at any job he can get. He works mostly for MK's father Amos, doing whatever is needed around the farm. His dream is to renovate the property and start a horse breeding business. Chris is very wary around others, but as time goes on he begins to relax his guard around the Lapp family.
Chris's thirteen year old sister Jenny isn't at all happy about the move. Leaving Ohio means she doesn't get to see her mother at all. Their mother is an addict who has also been in trouble for most of Jenny's life, and is currently serving time in a rehab facility. Jenny doesn't agree with Chris's demand that there be no contact with her, and so she writes to her mother in secret. This will cause some problems down the road when Jenny is torn between her mother and her brother.
There is also MK's friend Jimmy, who has been right beside MK on many of her adventures. He continues to be rather wild and irresponsible. He makes several bad decisions through the book, one of which has repercussions on more than just him.
Throughout the book, Amos's wife and former housekeeper Fern, is a stable and guiding hand to many of the characters. Her actions are not always appreciated at the time, but she has a talent for knowing just what people need.
MK irritated me through the first part of the book. I thought she was immature and thoughtless for her age. It was interesting to see her reaction to having to take over as schoolteacher. She was definitely out of her comfort zone and I felt a little bit sorry for her as she struggled. Of course, it was also a bit fun to see her on the other side of the desk and having to deal with students who had been like her. I loved seeing how Fern guided MK by introducing her to the old lady who had once been a teacher. I enjoyed seeing how her influence helped MK see her potential, and loved seeing her grow into the job. She also jumped into that murder investigation without thinking things through and seeing the consequences of her actions put her on the road to a bit more maturity.
I enjoyed the relationship that built between MK and Chris. I thought that they were a nice balance for each other. MK's foibles seem to mostly amuse Chris, though there are a couple times it isn't so funny for him. Chris is cautious about opening up about his past, as he and MK get closer, but he finds himself wanting to do so. MK is drawn to Chris, but his reticence about his past concerns her. But there is also something about him that calms her restlessness. I loved the way that they came together during the crisis about Jenny, and how she stood with him later.