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on June 16, 2011
Lacey Bishop is in a heap of trouble. She's a young woman who, for several years, has lived with a Kentucky pastor's family. Rejected by her father, Lacey earns her keep by taking care of the pastor's wife and an abandoned child. When the pastor's wife dies, Lacey "does what has to be done." She up and marries the pastor so that she can continue to care for the child. Through a troubling series of events, Lacey and her new family finally join the Shaker community.

Isaac Kingston is a widower, shunned and vilified by his former wife's family. He encounters a Shaker man who invites him to the Shaker life, also. Isaac is attracted to Lacey, even though she's legally married to the preacher. This isn't supposed to happen among the Shakers because they believe romance, marriage, and having children are sinful.

Conflict, intrigue, romance, deception, forgiveness, redemption---all figure in this engaging story. In some of the earlier Shaker books, the story seemed to bog down in the middle. Not this one, though. The characters are compelling, and the story moves at a pleasing pace.

The author lives near one of the now-deserted Shaker villages, and she has thoroughly researched their living habits and their beliefs. Not only does she tell a great story and create fascinating characters; she also educates the reader about Shaker life and beliefs.

The Blessed is the fourth novel in Gabhart's Shaker series. And---based on this story, I think the Shaker series has a bright future.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this author's copy at no charge from Revell Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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on July 14, 2011
These days it's hard to find any kind of romance be it Christian, general market or otherwise, that has such an original and complex setting as Ann H. Gabart's Shakers series. Where Amish fiction seems to have flooded the market it's nice to pick up a "bonnet" book that doesn't quite fit the mold. I'm not the biggest fan of slower paced novels like this one but Ms. Gabhart definitely catches the oddities and strangeness of the Shaker religious sect.

That said, at times, it was a little too much for me. I found that since most of the book took place in a Shaker village with little interaction from the outside world or a secondary story line set in the surrounding town I got a little bored. Not much happens until the very end that held my attention for more than a few chapters at a time. I was a little frustrated that there seemed to be absolutely no happiness or pleasantness, not even a smile shared among the Shakers. I was also a little frustrated at the relationship between Rachel and Lacey. At one point in the novel it was mentioned that Rachel no longer wanted Lacey as her mother, which I understood, but all seemed to be forgotten and came together too easily for my taste by the end of the book.

Don't get me wrong I liked the book and it was a good conclusion to the series but after having read and loved The Seeker, book 3, I was a little let down by this one. For those readers who love multi-layered characters (you either love or hate those in this book!), different religious groups, or just plain ol' historical fiction you might want to give The Blessed a try!

* I received my complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for posting my honest review.*
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Although well written and filled with information about the Shaker lifestyle, I didn't think I would ever reach the end of this book. Its overwhelming sense of hopelessness was both depressing and frustrating to me. I was constantly wanting to tell Lacy and Issac to run as fast as they could to get away from the warped religious practices of Harmony Hill but at the same time realized that they had little choice in the matter.

I have heard of the Shakers all my life but until I read Gabhart's novels about them, I knew very little about their beliefs. Her meticulous research for the Shaker Books series presented Shaker life in a manner that made me feel as though I was there. I can only assume that Gabhart's purpose in writing this series was to highlight the history of the Shakers while illustrating the dangers of religious groups whose beliefs are contrary to Biblical truth. I just hope that other readers will not misunderstand and see these books as an endorsement of Shaker teaching.

This book was provided for review by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
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on July 11, 2011
THE BLESSED was a difficult read for me. First, let me say I am not a fan of Amish-themed books. But the plot sounded interesting enough that I wanted to give it a try. I should know by now that no matter the plot, I just don't care for this style of book. This is my fault. Nothing against the writer. The other thing that made this book difficult to read is I didn't feel it was labeled correctly. Historical - yes, Romance - no. I have a hard time when books are categorized as romance books but there are only a handful of pages where the hero and heroine have any interaction. I would label this "a longing" not a romance. Anyway, with that said, it is obvious Ms. Gabhart did her share of research into the life of a Shaker. Some of it was quite disturbing. I don't know how people could misconstrue the Bible to the point of thinking marriage is a sin. The better part of this book was spent on the extensive details of the Shaker life, too much in my opinion. I didn't feel the entertainment value I look for in fiction. It felt more like a history lesson. Though I liked the characters of Lacey and Isaac, a part of me wanted to just shake them out of the stupor they were in. I also felt the parentage of Rachel was dealt with haphazardly. So, if you have a voracious appetite for historicals, you will probably enjoy this book. If you are looking for a romantic love story, excitement, and entertainment, I would look elsewhere.

Book provided for review purposes.

"Available July 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group."
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on August 1, 2011
Ann H. Gabhart takes us on a fascinating journey into the world of the Shakers, a religious sect in the 1800s, who believed in a utopian type of lifestyle, communal living, visitations from angelic beings, and no marriage or family ties. Lacy Bishop agrees to marry her widowed preacher, almost twice her age, to help her take care of Rachel, a child who was left on her porch as a baby, but one Lacey loves as much as if she had given birth to her. Immediately, Lacey realizes her mistake, but knows she must keep her vows to the elderly man, even if those vows take her to a nearby Shaker village. There Lacey encounters a strange, hardworking group of people, with stringent rules and ritualistic type worship. Rachel is immediately taken from her, and she is separated from her husband as well, for Shakers regarded marriage as a sin.

Isaac Kingston, a widower, and a victim of circumstance as well, finds himself in the Shaker village also, but only to put food in his stomach and a roof over his head. Isaac carries around a burden of guilt over the death of his young wife, and only when he meeets the lovely Lacey, does the sun begin to shine once again in his life. But, for him it is a futile attraction, for not only is Lacey married, but all interaction between the Shaker men and women are strictly forbidden.

As Lacey and Isaac live amongst the Shakers, dark, hidden secrets begin to unfurl, and they must find their way to the one true God, a God of grace and not of rules, a loving God, who ordained the sanctity of marriage and family.

Who is Sister Aurelia, who supposedly receives visitations from angels, and what does she have against Lacey? What dark secrets are exposed in this seemingly peaceful, loving community?...and what does the future hold for Isaac and Lacey?...for not only is she married, but cannot leave the village, for to do so would mean leaving behind her child.

I was totally fascinated with this book..the fourth Shaker novel written by Ann H. Gabhart. It can be read as a stand alone novel without reading the first three, although I highly recommend those as well. Ann stayed true to the reality of a Shaker's life, and therefore the romance was downplayed between Lacey and Isaac, and centered more around the drama of living in a Shaker's world. Beautifully and realistically written, Ann has given us a fair look at the Shaker lifestyle, the good AND the bad, with a very satisfying ending. Beautifully done, Ann!
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on June 23, 2013
Lacey Bishop was taken in by Preacher Elwood Palmer to care for his wife Mona and later baby Rachel when she was left on their doorstep. When Mona died the ladies of the Ebenezer Church didn't think it was right that Lacey and Rachel live with Preacher Palmer unless they were married. Lacey didn't love him, really didn't even care for him but she did love Rachel and she knew that if she didn't marry Preacher Palmer she would lose Rachel. They agreed to be married and Lacey would have some time before she would have to become a real wife to him.

In the mean time the Shaker's came to sell their seeds to the parishioners but they got into a deep discussion with Preacher Palmer, after coming back several days they soon had him convinced to move his family and as many church members that wanted to, to join the Shaker's. He did give Lacey a choice, but if she chose not to go with him, again, she would lose Rachel. Lacey did go with him even though she'd heard they would take Rachel away from her because they don't believe in families in the conventional way, everyone is called brother or sister. The children are kept in one house, the women in one and the men in one.

How is Lacey going to survive, will she ever come around to their way of belief?

I thought the book had a slow start to it, maybe it was just because I was upset with the way Lacey's life was going and when she went to live with the Shaker's it seemed to get worse. As I read I was figuring some things out and then needed to read faster to see if I was right. I am enjoying this series but I really don't agree with the Shaker's belief's, maybe that's what keeps me coming back to try to understand it. I know, at least I think I know, that I could not live the way they do. Anyway, I would recommend this book, this series, yes, please start with the first book, to others. The Shaker's I guess really do amaze me with their ideas.
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on July 16, 2011
The Blessed by Ann Gabhart is the fourth book in her Shaker series. The story covers two people, Lacey and Isaac, each trapped between a rock and a hard place, and living life without hope. Lacey's family was shattered with the death of her mother, and after her father married an abusive woman, she was sent to help out Preacher Palmer's family in another town. Lacey grew to see his wife, Miss Mona, as a mother figure, and when an infant girl was dropped off at their doorstep, the two women raised little Rachel together. But with Miss Mona's death, Lacey feels the preacher's eyes on her all the time until he coerces her into marriage so she can continue to raise Rachel, but she gets him to promise to allow her time before attempting to consummate the marriage. The preacher's frustration fills the house with tension and Lacey with the fear that this is all there is for her life. Isaac Kingston thought his wife Ella was just malingering when she told him that she would die if he took her away from her home. His dreams a life and fortune out West took them far away. Ella's words were prophetic, and Isaac brought his young wife home to be buried. Ella's father is an important judge who is angry at the "murder" of his only child and determines to destroy Isaac, making the young man hide in the forest, starving, homeless, and considering suicide until he meets Brother Asa, a young Shaker man who promises a full belly and a bed to sleep in if he comes to work at the Shaker commune, Harmony Hill. Lacey and Isaac are hurting and lonely and wondering if this is all that God created them for when they find each other. Gabhart has done a terrific job with this series of presenting both sides of the Shaker community, their deep abiding faith, work ethic, and desire for peace, along with the legalistic members and strange rules that seem almost crazy today. Gabhart really gives the reader the opportunity to get to know Lacey and Isaac, aching for their helplessness and hopelessness. Her writing is compelling and poignant and always has a message of faith and hope for readers.
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on July 11, 2011
Lacey Bishop hasn't had an easy life and things get even more difficult when she marries Pastor Elwood Palmer in order to continue caring for Rachel. Though she did not give birth to Rachel, Lacey considers Rachel to be her daughter and would do anything to stay with her. As tensions in the parsonage mount, a move to the Shaker community, where all marital relationships are dissolved, seems like a relief. Unfortunately, the Shakers also believe in dissolving parent-child relationships. Lacey is compelled to stay within the Shaker community to be near Rachel. The strange rules and practices of the Shakers leave Lacey feeling isolated and desperate. When she finds herself drawn to Isaac Kingston, a widower living among the Shakers, Lacey struggles with to trust in God. Trapped by obligations, Lacey must fight to keep her faith and hope alive. Will she ever fit in with the Shakers? Can God deliver her and Rachel from this tangled mess? Will she find true love in this unlikely place?

Reading The Blessed by Ann H. Gabhart was an interesting experience for me. I've never read a book about the Shaker religion. Though I don't know much about the history of the Shakers, the book seemed well-researched and included Shaker songs. As a word of warning, this book is much more fiction than romance. Although romance is included, it reads more on the fiction side. I don't mind fiction, so this was okay with me, but I expected more interaction between Lacey and Isaac. Lacey and Isaac are extremely well-developed characters. The author takes the reader deep into their thoughts and feelings without boring the reader with a lack of action. Fans of historical Christian fiction will probably like this book.

Available July 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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on July 16, 2011
The Blessed by Ann H. Gabhart is a beautiful story of love, forgiveness, and redemption.

This lovely story takes place in 1843 in Kentucky. Isaac has suffered great loss and has nowhere left to turn when he discovers the Shaker village. It seems like the perfect place to get lost, and simply follow orders. Maybe he can forget about his past and leave the world behind.

Lacey ends up in the Shaker village due to circumstances that were out of her control. She hopes it will be a new adventure but she isn't really prepared for their way of living. Everything normal to her seems to be forbidden to the Shakers. And their way of life seems so strange to her. Will she ever be able to adjust and find the peace that they promised?

I VERY highly recommend this book. It is beautifully written. The author gives us a look into the lives of the Shaker world during this time period. If you don't know anything about the Shakers, it really is quite fascinating. Ann Gabhart has written several novels about the Shakers and I have read a couple of them and thoroughly enjoyed them! This story is full of wonderful characters that I loved and I was rooting for them the whole way through. There are some great messages woven into the story as well. It's a beautiful story that will stick with you even after you've finished the book.

A complimentary copy was provided for an honest review.
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on November 7, 2012
Lacey Bishop life is in tatters. Alone in the world, she goes to work for a preacher and his wife, and so remains in their employ until the wife passes, her dear Miss Mona. Having no where else to go, she stays with the preacher and the little girl, Rachel that had been left on his doorstep years before. When the women in the parish raise a protest about the improper living conditions of a 20-year-old single girl living with the widowed preacher, Lacey is convinced that she has no other recourse. But even after their marriage, she cannot bring herself to be a true wife to Preacher Palmer. Distraught by his life falling into sin, Preacher Palmer follows the Shakers to their village in Harmony Hill, taking Lacey and Rachel with him. Once there, Lacey embraces the idea of a celibate life, but is confused by her feelings for a young brother named Issac. Will she ever be happy, or will she have to settle for just being blessed with the breath of life?

The one thing that I have to say I am relieved about in this story, is that despite the unnatural marriage of Lacey and the preacher it never truly came to fruition. I know it was due to the Shakers arriving at just the right time, and of course that is due to the writing of Gabhart. But it was a great relief when things turned out the way they did, and I have to admit this 4th installation to the Shaker series sucked me in just as hard and fast as the first three. This book breathes life to it's characters, and makes you feel as if you can take a little walk and simply go meet them. This is a story of a forgotten people in American history; and while we know that they are wrong in some aspects of their beliefs, we can appreciate what they contributed not only to history - but to every person they touched.
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