Somewhere, once upon a time, I happened onto a book about the Shakers, a religious sect that prospered during the 1800's. As was my habit, I then went looking for more information about them (so no, research is not a new interest, the internet has just changed how I do it). I found that the Shakers were an Anabaptist sect founded by an Englishwoman who had suffered through an unhappy marriage and had lost four babies. She believed she was the second coming of Christ and that God had told her that the believers were to live together communally, in celibacy. While they had a formal name, they were known as Shakers (or Shaking Quakers) because of their mode of worship, which was to perform what we'd now probably call line dances to religious music. While never huge, the group grew to several large colonies before it started to decline. One thing for which the Shakers were known was not turning away people in need. One way they grew or replenished their numbers was to take in orphans.
With that as background, it doesn't take much imagination to figure out the end of the story when the cover shows a young man and young woman making eyes at each other. However, the story itself was interesting, and gives what my memory of my long-ago research says is a pretty accurate depiction of Shaker life. Ethan, the hero, was kidnapped by his father from the home where is dying mother left him. He escapes from his father and is found and taken in by the Shakers. He finds a surrogate father in one of the men and sees no reason to leave the life in which he has grown up. Elizabeth, the heroine, seeks out the Shakers as sanctuary when her widowed father dies leaving her with two younger siblings and a very aggressive and unwanted suitor. Her father had told her about some seeds he purchased from the Shakers and had mentioned that they didn't turn anyone away. She and her sister have difficulty adjusting to Shaker life, and Ethan starts questioning it when, for the first time, he feels desire for a woman. The suitor she is trying to avoid is the bad guy in the book and yes, everything works out for the best.
Ann Gabhart does a good job of working Shaker customs and beliefs into the story. She shows the characters as human; some good, some less than so. She points out both the advantages of communal living Shaker-style, and the disadvantages. In short, this may not be the great American novel, but it is an interesting enjoyable easy read.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy.