The villagers have begun calling her Widow Kearney.
Not that she hears it often to her face- Carlyn has avoided the village for many moons. She's been busy eking out a hand-to-mouth existence, watching the road for her Ambrose's return. Carlyn is one of many wives left behind when the Civil War called away her husband, but his status as 'missing' places her in limbo. She can't carry on her life, and she can't fully grieve his death.
When the ax finally falls and Carlyn loses their little house, she beseeches Heaven for an answer, and she seems to hear it in the ringing of the Shaker's bell. This celibate community offers her refuge in exchange for two things: put your hands to work and turn your heart to God. Carlyn has practiced both of those disciples all of her life. Becoming Sister Carlyn- just until Ambrose comes home- seems to be her answer.
Ann Gabhart's books have always been literary comfort food for me. They're quietly nourishing, and leave a sweet "taste" in your mind when you finish. This is no exception.
The spiritual heart of the story was, for me, a question of the answers God provides. Asking for them, and then opening up to them. Few "answers" are obvious, like a bolt of lightning writing words across the sky would be. Maybe they're more like a rain storm, pouring all around you- both calling you out to drink in the freshness and sending you to shelter.
And the romance- well, as Ann admits in the dedication, a Shaker and a Sheriff is a new combination for her. And it's a very good one. Mitchell Brodie is first intrigued by Carlyn, then comes to care for her. But how does a man reach out to an only-perhaps-widow who's chosen a life in a religious community?
I'm guessing that Carlyn's dog Asher was one of Ann's favorite characters to write. He is indeed a special creature- but you'll have to read the story if you want to know how.
I'm going to have to read the rest of Ann's Harmony Hill series now. She did a great job spinning an engaging yarn, weaving in a thread of Shaker history, and dying her characters vivid colors.
I thank Revell for providing me with a review copy.