Friday, November 22, 2013

Review: Christmas at Harmony Hill

Christmas at Harmony Hill (Shaker series Novella) by Ann H. Gabhart

Publication Date: 09/15/2013
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Imprint: Revell Books
Genre: Christian/Inspirational Fiction
Pages: 208
ISBN-10: 0800719824
ISBN-13: 978-0800719821

(Received for an honest review from Revell)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, ChristianBook, IndieBound

Ann H. Gabhart on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Books in the series:

The Outsider (2008), The Believer (2009), The Seeker (2010), The Blessed (2011), The Gifted (2012), Christmas at Harmony Hill (2013)

Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.

Excerpt from Christmas at Harmony Hill, courtesy of the author's website.


It is 1864 and the nation is still torn apart by civil war when Heather Worth discovers she is with child. She has been working as a laundress with her husband's army unit, but when the army gets orders to march south to Tennessee, Gideon insists Heather go home to have their child under safer conditions. Heather agrees, but returns home to another kind of devastation--deaths in the family and a father who refuses to forgive her for marrying a Yankee. With nowhere else to turn, Heather seeks refuge at the Shaker village of Harmony Hill, where her great aunt Sophrena lives. There, after many peaceful years at Harmony Hill, Sophrena is having doubts about her Shaker path. Both women are in need of love and forgiveness--whether given or received. With Christmas coming, can the miracle of new life fill their hearts with unexpected joy?


Christmas is a time of miracles and Ann H. Gabharts Christmas gift book set during the Civil War is about the miracle of life. Set in Harmony Hill, a Shaker village in Kentucky, this book has all the makings of a great Christmas story. Gabhart's simple, yet elegant writing style, coupled with amazing research and a heart for stories of God's love and faith make this a must read for this Christmas season. As Heather prepares to have her baby, the war divides her from her husband Gideon. When she is turned away at home, she seeks refuge and with her Aunt Sophrena in the Shaker village. But will the beliefs of this isolated religious community offer the peace and hope that she is looking for? A great Christmas read!

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year and I eagerly await the time when I can start reading Christmas themed novels. Christmas at Harmony Hill is a Christmas novella and a part of Gabhart's Shaker series. I was really excited to receive it since the Shaker series is one of my favorites because it is set in Kentucky and centers around the Shaker faith. Gabhart always does such a wonderful job bringing the Shakers to life and educating readers about the faith of this small but mighty group of believers. Readers who have not read any of Gabhart's books or know very little about the religion will find a great starting place with this book. It is short, at only 208 pages but each one is worth the read. 

The relationship between Heather and Gideon is strong and beautiful. Heather defies her father by marrying a man who is fighting for the union during the Civil War. She follows him to battle and becomes a washerwoman, cleaning the uniforms of the soldiers. But when Heather becomes heavy with her first child, she and Gideon must decide what's best for the baby. I loved the way that Gabhart is able to show the love between these two characters and how much this child meant to them both. Heather was very courageous to follow Gideon even into war and she loves him dearly. She doesn't want to leave him but knows it's for the best. 

The resistance of her family when she returned home was hard to understand and believable. This was such a hard time in American history. Heather's father can not reconcile the fact that his daughter married a man who could in part have been responsible for deaths among their own family members and he turns her away out of grief and desperation. I thought Gabhart really nailed it with this portrayal of what was going on in the minds and hearts of families that were torn apart by this conflict. It was such an honest portrayal and very poignant.

Heather goes to Aunt Sophrena at the Shaker village for help. The beliefs of the Shakers are not well known and I thought that Gabhart did an amazing job with showing the reader what they believed and why. She doesn't just fall into the trap of relating these truths through a narrator but lets the characters show what they believe. It felt authentic and believable. This was a people who do not believe in marriage and believed children should be raised apart from their parents. This is contrary to what Heather and Gideon wanted but Heather has very little choice. I liked the fact that Gabhart shows both sides of the Shaker beliefs and thought she did a great job of showing Heather's struggles with what she wanted for her child.

The birth of a child is truly one of the great miracles of God. This story has all the earmarks of a great Christmas story. Wonderful characters, a serious conflict, and faith. God has a plan and figuring it out isn't always easy, but he knows what he's doing in spite of how it may sometimes look. This is a book about life and about forgiveness and I thought it was simply amazing!

Available November 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

I'm giving this novella, 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

About the Author:

Ann H. Gabhart caught the writing bug at the age of ten and has been writing ever since. She's published over twenty-five books for both adults and young adults. Scent of Lilacs, her first inspirational novel, was chosen as a Top Ten Books in Christian Fiction by Booklist magazine. Her first Shaker book, The Outsider, was a finalist for ECPA Christian Fiction Book of the Year and was a Top Pick by Romantic Times Book Review Magazine. 

Ann lives on a farm in Kentucky not far from where she was born. She and her husband have three children and nine grandchildren. Ann loves hiking on her farm with her grandkids and her dog, Oscar. Her website is