Book Review: After the Shadows by Amanda Cabot

Posted October 5, 2023 by meezcarrie in Amanda Cabot, Book Review, Christian, historical, romance / 11 Comments

After the Shadows book review

After the Shadows by Amanda CabotAFTER THE SHADOWS by Amanda Cabot
Secrets of Sweetwater Crossing #1

GENRE: Historical/Western Romance (Christian)
RELEASE DATE: March 21, 2023
PAGES: 345

A brighter future awaits–if she can escape the shadows of the past

Emily Leland sheds no tears when her abusive husband is killed in a bar fight, but what awaits her back home in Sweetwater Crossing is far from the welcome and comfort she expected. First she discovers her father has died under mysterious circumstances. Then the house where the new schoolteacher and his son are supposed to board burns, leaving them homeless. When Emily proposes turning the family home into a boardinghouse, her sister is so incensed that she leaves town.

Alone and broke, her family name sullied by controversy, Emily is determined to solve the mystery of her father’s death–and to aid Craig Ferguson, despite her fears of men. The widowed schoolmaster proves to be a devoted father, an innovative teacher, and an unexpected ally. Together they must work to unmask a killer and escape the shadows of their own pasts in order to forge a brighter future.

Bestselling author Amanda Cabot transports you to 1880s Texas Hill Country for a brand-new series that will have you flipping pages to solve the mystery and get to the happily-ever-after you long for.


The town of Sweetwater Crossing has some secrets, y’all. (Hence, the name of the series.) And while we discover some of them in After the Shadows, there are definitely hints that more will be revealed in future books. One in particular that I have my suspicions about and I’m dying to know if I’m right. Oops. Bad pun. Because, you see, one of the biggest secrets in Sweetwater Crossing involves several unexplained deaths.

Emily Vaughn Leland returns home to Finley House after the death of her abusive husband George, but she certainly doesn’t receive a welcome. Not only does Emily have to cope with the loss of her mother in her absence, she finds her minister father dead in the barn of a suspected suicide (which she doesn’t believe) the day she arrives. Her middle sister is away in Europe and their youngest sister Louisa is furious at Emily as a result of George’s isolating manipulations. I felt the tension palpably emanating off the pages as Emily is dealt one blow after another, including the need to open their home to boarders or risk losing it. My heart really went out to her, and the more time I spent with her character the more I loved her, her quiet strength, and her compassionate spirit. She may be gifted as a cook, but she’s also gifted at loving people well and making them feel at home.

One of those people is new schoolmaster Craig Ferguson, a widower with the most adorable toddler son – Noah. I loved his approach as a teacher, especially when that was not the norm for the time period, and the fact that he would not be swayed by voices of dissent when he knew something was the right thing to do. In this way, he and Emily are very much alike and clearly the perfect match for one another. Their easy friendship and mutual support of each other made me love both of them even more, and I appreciated how Cabot layers their growing feelings for one another with their understandable caution in starting a new relationship. The moment when Craig realizes he’s in love with Emily, though, is the moment I fell for him as a hero, and it made me grin like a besotted fool at his befuddlement.

Craig and Noah aren’t the only boarders at Emily’s home, and I adored Beulah and Mrs. Carmichael. The latter is a voice of wisdom and friendship for Emily and Craig both, as well as a surrogate grandmother for little Noah, and I really enjoyed getting to know her. Beulah is a young girl with what we now call Down’s Syndrome, a character that we don’t see often in historical romance but one that I can’t imagine After the Shadows without. She was a delightful addition to Finley House and to this story. The less said about some other boarders, the better – but I’m pretty sure that’s exactly how the author intended me to feel.

Bottom Line: After the Shadows is a multifaceted story with a sweet historical romance and a murder mystery undercurrent. It also tugs on the heartstrings and reminds us that beauty will rise out of the painful times in our lives. Sweetwater Crossing isn’t giving up its secrets without a fight though, and in this case it’s a matter of life and death. Emily and Craig are compelling and delightful characters that are easy to love, and their gently swoony romance grows from the warm friendship that first develops between them. It was nice to see references to the author’s previous series, too, and the theme of loving each other as Jesus commanded is timely and meaningful without being preachy. Looking forward to discovering the other secrets that Sweetwater Crossing is keeping!

(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)

My Rating: 4 stars / loved it!

KissingBook Level: 3 / may forget to breathe on occasion

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Amanda Cabot

Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of After the Shadows, as well as several historical and contemporary romance series, including Mesquite Springs, Cimarron Creek Trilogy, Texas Crossroads, Texas Dreams, and Westward Winds. Her books have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Awards, the HOLT Medallion, and the Booksellers’ Best. She lives in Wyoming. Learn more at

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11 responses to “Book Review: After the Shadows by Amanda Cabot

  1. Loved your review! You weave it all together! I just finished reading the sequel to this book: Against the Wind. As much as I enjoyed After the Shadows, I was NOT disappointed with its sequel. AND it can be read as a stand alone book. Cabot’s books whisper of hope and courage, no matter the situation. Thanks for the review!

  2. Roxanne C.

    The inclusion of a character who has Down’s Syndrome is the clincher for me! Of course, the entire story sounds wonderful, especially love blossoming between two friends.

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