Review: The Blessed by Ann H. Gabhart

The Blessed

The Blessed by Ann H. Gabhart
Publication Date: July 1, 2011
Publisher: Revell
Page Count: 400 pages
Source: book provided by Nancy Berland Public Relations

It’s 1844 and Lacey Bishop’s life is a tangled mess. When circumstances move Lacey to a nearby Shaker village, she is not prepared for the new life that awaits her. In the midst of her deep loneliness, Lacey works to fit in with this odd group. But everything shifts when she finds herself drawn to a Shaker man in a village where such relationships are forbidden.

Can Lacey ever find true happiness in this mysterious place?

Review:  When I got the notice to review The Blessed by Ann H. Gabhart, I have to admit that I was overly excited to read a novel—said to be a romance—about the Shakers. For those who don’t know, the Shakers were a religious sect formed in the eighteenth century. I say “were” because the Shakers didn’t believe in marriage or sexual relations for any reason. They didn’t have families nor children born into their communities. Consequently,their beliefs died out with them. And so I was very interested to see what Gabhart could do with a romance set in such a strict community.

I was instantly enthralled. The writing is beautiful, near poetic. The turns of phrases took me back in time and the distinctive voices of the characters kept me there. The Blessed is the story of Isaac and Lacey, both of whom have made multiple mistakes in life that have lead them to the Shaker community called Harmony Hill. Isaac, near suicidal over the death of his wife, allows himself to be taken in as not to be incarcerated. Lacey, who has no family to speak of, gets drawn there as the household where she was living gets torn apart. Neither one belong in such a stringent community, but both lack the will, the strength, or the means to leave.

The romance lover in me protests that the novel truly starts at page 250 and begs to know more about this gentle love story between two such likable and sympathetic characters as Isaac and Lacey. However, Gabhart does such an amazing job describing the habits of the Shakers and the strange way in which they lived that I cannot imagine the book presented any other way. Ann Gabhart’s knowledge of the Believers’ lifestyle makes for incredibly entertaining and informative reading. The Blessed is the perfect book for romance lovers, as well as those interested in historical fiction and Christian literature.