By Ann H. Gabhart
Shaker Series, #7
She longs for peace--for her land and her heart--but can it truly be found at Harmony Hill?
Carlyn Kearney has spent two lonely years not knowing whether to mourn or to hope after she receives word from the Union Army that her husband is missing. When the war ends without further word, Carlyn finds herself penniless, in debt, and forced from her home. With nowhere else to go, she seeks refuge at the Shaker village of Harmony Hill.
The Shakers profess peace through simple living, but to Carlyn, the Shaker life seems anything but simple. When mysterious deaths disturb the peace of the village, Carlyn falls under intense scrutiny. Can a kind sheriff help her expose the true culprit?
Bestselling author Ann H. Gabhart invites fans back to Harmony Hill for a story laced with intrigue, romance, and heart.
Ann H. Gabhart is an excellent storyteller. The Innocent is an intriguing novel - well written, with compelling characters, romance, mystery, rich historical detail, and a strong storyline that captured my interest on the first page. The story is tender, bittersweet and heartwarming, with the emotional depth and subtle humor that are trademarks of Ann's writing, which make for a very enjoyable read.
The Innocent, set at the close of the Civil War in 1865, is Ann's seventh stand-alone story set in the fictional Shaker village of Harmony Hill, based on the actual Shaker village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. The Shaker faith is unusual and fascinating, as are the followers themselves, and these elements work well as a backdrop for the stories. Sister Edna explains to Carlyn: "In heaven there are no marriages, only children of God. We, here in Harmony Hill . . . have brought heaven down to us in order to live a perfect life and shut out worldly things." The teachings of Mother Ann, legalistic rules, and passionate dances of worship are contrasted with their work ethic, having all things in common for the good of the community, simple living, and a welcoming spirit to those in need.
Carlyn and Mitchell are strong, compelling characters - fresh and appealing - and I was quickly drawn to them. Carlyn, a widow without proof of widowhood, came to the Shakers for sustenance and security. Mitchell, a war veteran who longs for a family of his own, has a sensitivity and wisdom that serve him well as sheriff. Carlyn and Mitchell didn't have as much time together as I hope for in romantic storylines, but allowances can made because of the time period and Shaker setting. Their relationship is still very satisfying. And it's Carlyn's dog, Asher, who practically becomes a main character, often stealing the show. I may technically be a cat person, but Asher captured my heart.
"Good and bad weave into the pattern of our lives.
Together they make us strong and able to
endure whatever must be endured."
- Carlyn's mother
Through the Shaker beliefs and the misguided understanding of righteousness passed down by Carlyn's father, we see a contrast between legalism and grace, making me ever thankful for the abounding grace that only comes through Christ. But the overarching theme is reflected in the teaching of Carlyn's mother, to "pray anyway," in all circumstances of life - and those are words to live by. Mitchell thought he had left his need for prayer on the battlefield and Carlyn tended to only want the answers she begged for, causing her to reflect that perhaps God "would have already sent her an answer if she had stopped making demands and simply listened." Wow, that certainly hits close to home! It was good to see Mitchell and Carlyn grow spiritually in ways that I could identify with.
Reading any of Ann H. Gabhart's stories is pure pleasure, and I thoroughly enjoyed returning to the Shaker setting in The Innocent. Highly recommended.
Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of Angel Sister, Small Town Girl, and Words Spoken True, as well as several Shaker novels--The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, and The Gifted--and The Heart of Hollyhill series. She lives with her husband a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky.
Connect with Ann online at annhgabhart.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Thank you to Ann H. Gabhart and Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.