Review: The Refuge

The Refuge





When Darcie and Walter Goodwin hear of a new cholera epidemic sweeping the area, they join the Shakers whose villages seem immune to the disease. It’s meant to be a temporary stay, but Walter is killed in a riverboat accident. With no family and no money, Darcie has little choice but to stay with the Shakers. To complicate matters, she is expecting a baby conceived before she and her husband came to the Shaker village. Marital relationships are considered sinful in this celibate community, putting Darcie in a unique–and lonely–position. Can the arrival of widower Flynn Keller and his headstrong daughter offer Darcie the hope of happiness . . . and family?

Ann H. Gabhart returns to the enigmatic world of the Shakers in this emotional exploration of the power of love and the bond of family.

Rating: 5-stars


The Refuge by Ann H. Gabhart is a heartfelt novel. I instatnly felt the main character’s worries and pain. She lost her husband to an illnesss, is left alone in a community that has rules which would push her away, and she is pregnant. The risks of staying in the Shaker community spills danger. My interest grew. The woman, Darcie, couldn’t escape her situation. No money meant she had to stay. Her survival is at risk. Then enters, a widower, Flynn, and his daughter. Hope reemerges. My heart both broke and healed at the same time. So much could or will happen. Ann H. Gabhart caught my curiosity. I was glued into the plot. I couldn’t leave until I finished reading this wonderful yet intriguing book.  Overall, this writer has a knack for turning fiction into a visual world in which I got lost within. I highly recommend this Christian novel to all readers.

Ann H. Gabhart

About the Author

Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling and award-winning author of several Shaker
novels—The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, The Gifted, and The
Innocent—as well as historical novels—River to Redemption, These Healing Hills,
Angel Sister, Love Comes Home, and more. Writing as A. H. Gabhart, she is also the
author of the popular Hidden Springs Mysteries series. She has been a finalist for the
ECPA Book of the Year and the Carol Awards, has won two Selah Awards for Love
Comes Home, and won RWA’s Faith, Hope, and Love Award for These Healing Hills.
Ann and her husband enjoy country life on a farm a mile from where she was born in
rural Kentucky. Learn more at

Interivew with Ann. H Gabhart


Q: In addition to your newest novel, The Refuge, you have written six other books about the Shakers. Why did you become so interested in this community?

When I began writing historical novels many years ago, I looked close to home for ideas. Kentucky has a rich history and the Shakers were part of that history with two villages that prospered for a number of years in the state. So, since there was a restored Shaker village not far from where I live, I decided to write about the Shakers. That first story, set in 1812 and including history of the War of 1812, eventually became my first Shaker novel, The Outsider. I didn’t originally plan to write any more books about the
Shakers, but when my editor said readers were responding to the Shaker story, I headed back to my fictional Shaker village of Harmony Hill and found more characters with stories to tell. Each time I researched Shaker history to come up with a story, more ideas surfaced for additional books. The Shakers were such a unique group with some unusual beliefs, but they practiced kindness and never turned away those who were hungry or in need. That opened the door to many ways to have my characters come into the Shaker village without actually embracing their beliefs. Then, because the Shakers practiced celibacy, any romance in my stories had to sneak in through a back door. My characters were often confronted with a choice—romantic love or the Shaker life.

Q: Readers may not be familiar with the Shakers’ beliefs and practices. Can you provide some information on this religious group?

American Shakerism originated in England in the eighteenth century. Their leader, a charismatic woman named Ann Lee, was believed by her followers to be a female form of Christ and to have the Christ spirit within her. After being persecuted for those beliefs in England, she and a small band of followers came to America in 1774 to establish their first community in Watervliet, New York. While they officially called themselves the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, they were more commonly
known as Shakers. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the Shakers had nineteen communities spread throughout the New England states and Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana.

The Shaker lived as brothers and sisters since they believed in celibacy. They owned all property andnpossessions in common and practiced confession of sins. Their aim was to make their villages heavens on earth through unity of spirit and actions. These guiding principles were based on revelations their Mother Ann claimed to have divinely received. The name Shakers came from the way they worshiped through
song and dance. At times, when a member received the “spirit,” he or she would begin shaking all over. Originally, Shakers was a derisive term used by those outside the Shaker villages, but the Shakers embraced the name and used it on the products they sold.

The Shakers sought a peaceful, simple life by shutting away the “world.” One of their most well-known sayings was “Hands to work. Hearts to God.” Since they believed work was a form of worship, they performed all their tasks with perfection in mind. The Shakers were also known to be peaceful and generous people. The villages all died out in the first half of the twentieth century, except for the smallShaker village in Sabbathday Lake, Maine, where two Shakers still live.

Q: Two of the main characters in The Refuge flee to the Shaker village in order to escape a cholera epidemic. Did people really join a religious group to flee an epidemic?

I did not find confirmation of that in my research, but it seems reasonable to think they might have, since the Shakers, due to their focus on cleanliness, never had an outbreak of cholera in their villages. Also, the Shakers did often take in people who would come to their villages during the hard winter months and then leave when spring came. They were called “winter Shakers” by the Shakers with irritation at times, but
they were never turned away.

Q: You explore some powerful themes in your new book. Can you expand upon these themes?

One of the hardest things to understand about the Shakers by most of us in this modern day is how they separated families once the family joined with the Shakers. Not only did the husband and wife become like brother and sister and live on opposite sides of the houses, the children were housed in a special Children’s House with appointed caretakers. Most of us mothers can’t imagine giving the care of our children completely over to others. In The Refuge, my character comes to the village with her husband to
escape the cholera. Her husband dies in an accident before she had the opportunity to tell him she is expecting a child, conceived prior to their time with the Shakers. She hates the thought of giving her child over to others to raise, but since she is widowed with no money and no family to take her in, she can’t see any way she could survive if she leaves the Shaker village. She can only pray that God will make a wayout of no way, for her and her baby.

In The Refuge, each of my main characters has experienced sorrow and each has to find the best way to handle their grief and get on with life. One of the characters moves forward without proper consideration and then has to live with the results of his hasty decisions. Others have to learn to trust in the Lord’s providence for their futures.

Q: In your writing career, you have tried your hand at several different genres. Do you have one genre in particular that you enjoy the most?

That’s an interesting question and similar to one I’m often asked about which is the favorite among the books I’ve written. That’s also a question I find hard to answer. I have very much enjoyed writing the family series. I had fun with Jocie and her family and friends in the Heart of Hollyhill books. And if I were to pick a favorite book, it would be Angel Sister, since the background of that book was inspired by the stories my mother and her sisters told about growing up during the Depression years. Even though the story is fiction, I can see Mom in many of the scenes.

Those Merritt sisters in the Rosey Corner books were very alive for me as I wrote their stories. At the same time, I really enjoyed writing my cozy mysteries with the small-town setting and characters. I loved going to the mountains for These Healing
Hills and finding out about the Frontier nurses. I like discovering some previously unknown-to-me history to wrap a story around, as I did with River to Redemption, Words Spoken True, and my Shaker novels.

So I guess my answer is that my favorite genre is any story where my characters come to life in my imagination and begin sharing their stories.

Q: Your books are often set in your native state of Kentucky. Why did you decide to use the same location for your books?

I had several years in my writing life where I struggled to find publishers for my stories. So, I came to a decision point. Should I get a full-time job or continue working part time and writing stories? I doubt Iwould have ever made the decision to stop writing completely. The writing urge is too strong in me, but I gave myself one more book before I had to make that decision. Since the time-honored advice to writers is to write what you know, I came up with a story about a preacher and his family set in a small town like
the small Kentucky town where I grew up. The story eventually became my first inspirational novel, Scent of Lilacs.

I liked using places I knew as models for the setting in those Heart of Hollyhill books, and that led to more stories set in Kentucky small towns. I was born in Kentucky and I am a small-town Kentucky girl. Actually, I’m a farm girl raised out in the country near that small town. But I know Kentucky people and places. I know Kentucky weather and seasons. I like digging into Kentucky history to find new stories to tell. Some of those stories had never been told, so I was glad to drop my characters down into some
fascinating history in the beautiful state of Kentucky to share a few stories.

Q: What are you working on next?

I’m excited to go back to the Appalachian Mountains for another story with Frontier Nursing background history. I enjoyed exploring that history and writing about the mountain people in my book These Healing Hills. This book isn’t a sequel to that story. Instead, my setting is at an earlier time, 1932, during the Great Depression, and I am centering the story on the couriers, privileged young women who volunteered to
come to the mountains to run errands, care for the horses, and help the nurse midwives in whatever way was needed. Of course, romance may be in the mountain air and plenty of adventure as well.

Q: Where can readers find your books?

My books are available at most online book sites. You can find links to some of these sites on my website book pages, You can also find my books at many fine bookstores. If my books aren’t on the shelf, most bookstores will gladly order them for you. Here in my hometown of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, a store called Tastefully Delicious that carries many fine food products also stocks books by hometown authors, including all my inspirational novels. That section of their store sort of looks like Ann’s Bookstore. It’s nice to have my books available to hometown readers and to visitors to
our town too, since the small-town settings of several of my stories look a lot like Main Street, Lawrenceburg.

Q: How can readers connect with you?

I love connecting with readers on my Facebook author page, I tweet out on Twitter @AnnHGabhart. I love taking nature pictures here on my Kentucky farm to share on Facebook and Instagram. You can find me on Pinterest too. I have a Bookbub author profile under Ann H. Gabhart
and another for my Hidden Springs mysteries under A. H. Gabhart. Readers can keep up with new releases and hear about deals on my books by joining Bookbub and following me on both profiles.

Readers can find links for all these on my website,, as well as an easy sign-up form for my newsletter. Getting my newsletter is a good way to be first to hear book news, find out what’s going on down here on the farm, and join in with some fun giveaways.

Readers can also find my blog posts and be part of the conversation on my One Writer’s Journal blog and Jocie’s Heart of Hollyhill posts. A “contact me” page makes it easy for readers to let me know what they’re thinking. That’s great. I’m always happy to hear from readers.


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