The story of Charlotte Vance, the seeker, reminds me a little of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. But, Charlotte is a much more believable character. She's strong and capable without the air of caricature that defined the GWTW characters.
The story is set in Kentucky in 1861. Charlotte is heir to a plantation and daughter of a prominent state-level politician. She's a planner, but her plans come unraveled. First, the man she intended to marry runs off to join the Shakers, a religious community that does not believe in marriage. Next, her father brings home a "gold-digging" new wife who's not much older than Charlotte. About the same time, Charlotte meets a portrait painter and journalistic artist who takes an interest in her. With war on the horizon, her position in the family threatened, and her father blind to the manipulations of the new wife, Charlotte runs away to the Shakers herself. She learns about the simple life, but she also turns to prayer to help her chart her future.
Gabhart artfully weaves historical events into the story while allowing her readers to experience the turmoil of the times through her characters. From the politicians and planters to the soldiers and slaves affected by the events of the time, Gabhart presents them all in a non-political and non-judgmental manner. I think the highest compliment you can pay a fiction writer is to say, "I was there." That's how I felt as I read.
Gabhart gives a little background about the Shakers at the beginning of the book. Many people think they are just an off-shoot of the Amish, but they are entirely different. Read this portion on Amazon here (beginning on page 7).