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Ann Gabhart goes back to the Shaker communities in her newest novel, The Refuge. And I’m here for it! I’ve reread The Outsider (the first about Shakers) so many times so I couldn’t wait to get into this book!

Ann’s writing has matured quite a bit as has the subject! The plot follows both Darcie, a pregnant widower Shaker woman and Flynn, a widowed horse tamer that lived near the Shaker village, and Flynn’s cute wild daughter, Leatrice. I went in expecting a romantic plot because of this, but let me be clear: this is very much not a romance book. It’s a book about family and friendship. About love in its many forms. I can’t tell more without spoiling but it’s sooo worth it!

At times the pace felt a bit slow, probably because Darcie kept thinking about how she had to leave the Shakers but didn’t know how. And yes, I felt a bit trapped with her, but there were also many blessings. She has 3 sisters who each have their own reason to be in the village, and who give her amazing support. The faults of the Shaker cult were also pointed out, and it shows us we’re all very human and that earth is very much not heaven as they would like to be. The historical details were very mind baffling to read about and the personal tragedies it created all too real.

I liked Flynn’s POV a bit less than Darcie’s, though the cute Leatrice made up a lot with all her insights and questions. I have no experience with children but I think she was written very well. But the antagonist was a bit too much a villain where all the other characters were really human. The ending suprised me though so that was good! However I’m not very happy with how the little bit of romance was handled, it felt a bit rushed.

All in all, it felt good coming back to the Shakers and this story was very entertaining yet thoughtful, so I adored it. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for granting me an e-arc!

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The Refuge - Ann H. Gabhart
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