Seeker, The: A Novel is set at the time just prior to and during the Civil War in Kentucky, a border state that allowed slaves but in which Union sympathies were high. The heroine, Charlotte is the only daughter of a politician/plantation owner/slaveholder. She is very close to her old nurse, and her nurse's daughter, who is her personal maid. One day her father comes home with a new stepmother for her--a stepmother who decides that they own too many slaves and need to sell some, including her maid. At the same time, Edwin, the man to whom she was engaged to be married, decided to join the Shakers, a celibate communal religious sect which had a colony in the area. Since her father is away and not able to interfere with her stepmother's plans, Charlotte and her maid run away to the Shaker village, where she knew she'd be forced to free her maid (who she had insisted her father give to her, in writing). She doesn't want to be a Shaker, but didn't feel she has any other options. The hero is an artist who she met while he was painting a portrait of her stepmother. He is an illustrator for Harper's Magazine and returns to Kentucky to draw the Shakers. He is surprised to find her there. He goes off to draw pictures of the war and she remains, at least in body.
I liked Charlotte. She was a pampered Southern Belle who turned out to have some inner strength to handle adversity when it came her way. She was able to be respectful of the Shaker's beliefs and practices and obedient to them while living there, though she never actually adopted their beliefs. She was willing to stand up to those who were doing wrong to those she loved, and she was willing to love those it was not considered acceptable to love (her slaves).
With Adam we travel to Civil War battlefields and learn how people's attitudes about the Civil War changed quickly once it got started. As with most wars, young men seeking gallantry and glory quickly either became dead or well aware that very little gallantry and glory were accompanied by large amounts of gore and grief.
I enjoyed Seeker, The: A Novel. My only complaint is that like Gabhart's other Shaker Novel The Outsider: A Novel it's main character leaves the Shakers. In Seeker we knew from the start that Charlotte was just using the Shakers as a refuge; that she never had any intention of remaining with them or adopting their beliefs. I think in some ways their lifestyle is portrayed negatively--as would be expected if the story was written by one who left. In other words, it seemed to focus more on the negative aspects of their life than the positive--kind of like saying marriage means you are no longer free to date the people you want to, rather than saying marriage means having someone who loves you and is faithful to you. Both are true, but one sees the good side of the equation; the other sees the limits.
In short, I enjoyed to book and if you are a fan of historical romances, I think you'll like it too.
Seeker, The: A Novel is available July 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. I'd like to thank Donna Hausler with Baker Publishing group for sending me a complimentary review copy.