The Gifted by Ann H. Gabhart
Could you imagine falling in love at first sight?
Jessamine Brady is taken to the Shaker village after her grandmother dies, when she was still a child. Now, she’s almost 21 – the age where most young Shakers sign a covenant to become an official member of the religious sect. Jessamine feels that something is missing in her life, and she struggles with her choice of signing the covenant. She’s a writer and writing stories and idle words are not allowed in the Shaker village. She loves to dance and enjoys gazing at God’s wonders, but, the Shakers allow little time for idleness. Jessamine’s life changes drastically when her and another Shaker sister find a handsome wounded man in the woods. Once they bring the wounded man back to their village, it’s discovered that he’s lost his memory, however, he manages to give them a fake name, Philip Rose. Jessamine soon finds his name is Tristan Cooper, and she longs to be with him, learn more about him, and to love him.
Jessamine struggles with the deep attraction she shares with Tristan. However, the Shakers feel that marriage is a sin, which is why they live secluded lives, with the sexes in separate dormitory-type rooms. The men and women only see one another during their eating and worship times, and even then, the sexes remain separate. They also dance and shake during worship, trying to stomp the devil out of their lives.
Tristan also struggles with his attraction to Jessamine. After all, he’s engaged to another – his mother is “forcing” him to marry privileged Laura so that their union will allow Laura’s father to save Tristan’s family from financial ruin.
I really enjoyed this book. The story is written in an intriguing way and it also only covers the span of a few days. Could you imagine falling in love at first sight? I felt that Jessamine and Tristan fell in love extremely quickly since they barely had time together in the Shaker village. Although they do spend time together later in the book, I still think they fell in love fast, but the story was written in a way that their love was believable and strong. This was a good read that’ll teach you a lot about Shaker life. Many thanks to Baker/Revell for providing me with a free review copy.
The Blessed by Ann H. Gabhart
This book is about Lacey – a motherless woman who came to live with a preacher and his wife as a youngster. After her father re-married, her new stepmother didn’t want her living with them. Lacey has a strange relationship with her new “parents” and as an adult, her and the preacher seldom speak, but she’s extremely close to Miss Mona, the preacher’s wife. Miss Mona is kind and she teaches Lacey a lot about faith and Christianity. Lacey’s life changes for the worse when Miss Mona dies, leaving 20-year-old Lacey and Rachel (an abandoned baby who was left in a box on their doorstep a few years ago). Now Lacey feels forced to marry the preacher – who’s old enough to be her grandfather, since the church ladies believe it’s sinful for her to be living with the preacher as an unmarried woman. When the preacher is sucked into the peaceful, cult-like Shaker community, Lacey and Rachel feel they must live with the Shakers, too.
Also, Isaac, another “worldly” person, is part of the Shaker community. His wife died and he feels guilty for her death. The Shakers take him in and he finds himself attracted to Lacey.
I enjoyed this book, but, as I said in previous reviews, the Shakers still left me with an unsettled feeling, with their strange unBiblical beliefs. One of the Shaker characters kept “seeing” angels and she danced with them in the field and her Shaker brothers/sisters were mesmerized and amazed by her “angelic” ability. I sensed that this book did portray an accurate picture of the Shaker way of life and showed how hard, almost impossible it would be to convert to their way of life. This is a great read if you want to find out more about the Shakers and about how difficult it is to fall in love amidst ones that feel marriage is a sin. I thought the characters were well-developed and the story was enjoyable.
The author also did an awesome job in showing the love between a mother and her child. The Shakers don’t believe in families – everybody is a brother and sister to one another. Families are separated – for a mother to be separated from her child…well, just kind of hard to deal with and Ann really did a great job showing these familial-bond emotions.
Many thanks to Baker/Revell for providing me with a free review copy of this novel.