Monday, July 26, 2010

A Shaker Romance?

Reviewed by Phee Paradise

The Seeker
By Ann H. Gabhart

A romance about the Shakers seems like an oxymoron, since they believed marrying was sin. In The Seeker, Charlotte Vance follows her fiancĂ© to the Shakers after he breaks their engagement, and joins them. Hoping to convince him to change his mind, she discovers that is not an easy task, since she is not allowed to talk to him. So where’s the romance?

Well, it isn’t really about Charlotte’s ex-fiancĂ©. There’s an artist that visits her father’s house, who is enchanted by Charlotte, but has no intention of making a commitment. So, although the Shakers play an important part in the story, it’s not really a romance about them. In fact, the book is more about the Civil War and slavery, than it is about the Shakers.

Charlotte has more than one reason for joining the Shakers, including escaping from her father’s new wife and trying to help her favorite slave. While she lives with them, she learns a lot about herself, about hard work, and about her own faith. The Shaker faith had some strange tenets, including belief that their female founder was the second coming of Christ. In spite of this, Gabhart dwells on their positive attributes and gives her readers an interesting look at this fascinating cult.

My favorite parts of the book were not about the Shakers. The story takes place in Kentucky, which hopes to stay neutral in the pending war. Many of its citizens want to stay in the Union, but keep their slaves. When the war starts, Gabhart provides moving, but not too graphic, descriptions of several of the battles. There is also a delightful series of letters between Charlotte and the artist, which document both the war and their romance.

You might pick up the book out of curiosity about the Shakers, and it’ll be satisfied, but you’ll get so much more than that.

Pros: Fascinating descriptions of a Shaker community and the Civil War. It also has good characters and a satisfying romance.

Cons: The main character lacks common sense and some situations seem contrived.

About the book

When well-laid plans go awry, can she still make her dreams come true?

Charlotte Vance is a young woman who knows what she wants. But when the man she planned to marry joins the Shakers—a religious group that does not allow marriage—she is left dumbfounded. And when her father brings home a new wife who is young enough to be Charlotte's sister, it is more than she can bear. With the country—and her own household—on the brink of civil war, this pampered gentlewoman hatches a plan to avoid her new stepmother and win back her man by joining the Shaker community at Harmony Hill. Little does she know that this decision will lead her down a road of unforeseen consequences.

Ann H. Gabhart brings alive the strikingly different worlds of the Southern gentry, the simple Shakers, and the ravages of war in 1860s Kentucky to weave a touching story of love, freedom, and forgiveness.

About the author

Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of several novels, including The Outsider, The Believer, and The Seeker. Her latest novel was inspired in part by the many stories her mother and two aunts told her of growing up in small town Kentucky during the 1930s. She lives with her husband a mile from where she was born in Kentucky.

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1 comment:

Ann H. Gabhart said...

Thanks, Phee, for reading my book and sharing your thoughts about it with your friends and readers. I'm glad you liked the historical background for the story. I like dropping my characters down into a time in the past and seeing what happens next. Charlotte and Adam certainly had some challenges in this story.