cover image Endless Chain

Endless Chain

Emilie Richards, . . Mira, $19.95 (464pp) ISBN 978-0-7783-2198-9

The backwater town of Toms Brook, Va., again forms the bucolic setting for the second installment in Richards's Shenandoah Album series (Wedding Ring ), a densely plotted romance centering on Elisa Martinez, a refugee from Guatemala, and Sam Kinkade, minister of the Shenandoah Community Church. Hiding a dark past, Elisa arrives in Toms Brook seeking the job of church sexton as the community deals with a recent influx of Hispanic immigrants. Not all members of the Shenandoah Community Church welcome the newcomers, but Sam Kinkade spearheads a church-run effort to create "La Casa Amarilla," an educational program for Hispanic children housed in a pre–Civil War house with an incredible history. From the get-go, sparks fly between Elisa and Sam, who is engaged to an Atlanta society belle. Richards weaves numerous subplots around Elisa and Sam's growing love: her escape from political strife in Guatemala, the challenges facing both working class and educated immigrants like Elisa, plus the history of a runaway slave who once hid in La Casa Amarilla's historic building and whose tale parallels Elisa's. Throughout this heartfelt if often implausible novel, the women of the church's quilting bee support Sam's religious calling to make a difference, Elisa's gradual revelation of her past and the couple's blossoming relationship. (July)