I got a little scared in the beginning of this as I had assumed that Deborah was the daughter of Caleb and Norah from Beautiful Bad Man. The revelation that Deborah was molested by her father when she was seven would have turned an amazing hero from one book into the worst kind of villian in this one. Which was traumatizing.
Luckily I figured everything out.
Deborah was one of the little girls from Beautiful Bad Man that Caleb and Norah rescued from their father after their mother (Caleb's cousin) died. Deborah and her sisters then went to live with their uncle Jason and his wife Emma. All of this played out in Beautiful Bad Man and, I never realized, set the stage for this book. Into the Light starts eighteen years later.
Caleb and Norah from Beautiful Bad Man actually have a significant part in this book and it was great to read about them again. It was also interesting seeing Caleb from an outsider's perspective. BBM is from Norah and Caleb's POVs and so you get the perspective from two people with a history as they fall in love. In Into the Light all views of Caleb are from people outside his immediate family and so for once we see him how most people see him - a reformed, still slightly dangerous, hard, reserved man. It was very interesting seeing him from the outside. And kind of funny. The people of Hubbell have come to accept him after so many years of living among them, so that now they view his slightly dark side as almost quirky (i.e. the whole thing about cleaning his rifle before the shooting contest - this won't make sense out of context I realize, but I loved this detail about him)
I think one of the reasons I liked ITL as much as I did was because of Caleb and Norah again. I didn't find Deborah and Trey as lovable as them, and yet a story by Ellen O'Connell is still better than most. Though I didn't fall in love with the MCs, I could still appreciate the thoughtful characterizations of both, but particularly of Judith (the beginning being much stronger than the end IMO).
Different from any of O'Connell's previous books, this one had a mystery element to it, which drove a large part of the story.
Ultimately it was a good story, but not one of O'Connell's strongest. I would recommend anyone reading this to first read BBM (although not necessary, the story is much stronger with the background) or if they already have, to refresh themselves on all of the characters. All of Caleb's cousins and their families reappear in this story, as well as the Van Cleves and other lesser, supporting characters. Things will read a lot smoother with a clear understanding of the Sutton family tree.