This new book by Ann H. Gabhart shares a lot of the history of the Shakers, a religious community that was prominent in Kentucky in the 1800s but best of all, she gives readers a wonderful love story. Yes, there is a hint of a romantic love that might develop but the true love story involves parental love. Much of the plot revolves around the influence that the Sisters and Brothers of the Shaker community have on Darcie Goodwin's and Flynn Keller's commitment to their children. Darcie's love for her unborn baby and her determination to provide for it until she can find a real home after her husband's sudden death exemplifies the ultimate mother/child bond. There is also the love that widower Flynn Keller has for his young daughter. Flynn and his father-in-law are trying to raise Leatrice as she should be raised but this young girl definitely needs a woman's influence in her life. Choosing to join the Shakers may seem to to be answers for both of these parents but Darcie knows that she will never want to become a permanent member of this community; Flynn understands that Leatrice needs supervision but he also rejects the idea of choosing this way of life forever.
I really liked Darcie Goodwin and I enjoyed watching the friendship that developed between her and a few of the Sisters. I also liked how the author chose to share all of Darcie's thoughts and readers can see how she grows in confidence and in her faith in God. Flynn Keller is a worthy hero and I found myself hoping that his daughter's need for a mother would somehow lead to a relationship between him and Darcie.
The Refuge is a heartwarming story and it proves once again Gabhart's expertise in understanding and explaining the Shakers. Yes, I find it hard to understand their belief in celibacy and their forbiddance of marriage that ultimately led to their extinction but I have to admire their commitment to helping those in need and their "hands to work, hearts to God" motto.
*I received a copy of this book from the author and the publisher. These thoughts are mine alone.