Friday, July 09, 2010

The Seeker; Murder by Mistake



Ann H. Gabhart

"The third book in Gabhart's Shaker series is an amazing read. The characters must make decisions they never thought they would have to face. Gabhart continues to surprise and treat her fans with her vast knowledge of Shaker history." - Patsy Glans, Romantic Times Review

"A definite can't-put--it-down book!" - Suzanne Woods Fisher, bestselling author of The Choice

Charlotte Vance is a young woman who knows what she wants. But when the man she planned to marry joins the Shakers – a religious group that does not marry – she is left dumbfounded. And when her father brings home a new wife who is young enough to be Charlotte's sister, it is more than she can bear. With the country – and her own household – on the brink of civil war, Charlotte hatches a plan to avoid her new stepmother and win back her man by joining the Shaker community at Harmony Hill. Little does she know that this decision will lead her down a road toward unforeseen peace – and a very unexpected love. Ann H. Gabhart brings alive the strikingly different worlds of the Southern gentry, the simple Shakers, and the ravages of war to weave a touching story of love, freedom, and forgiveness that sticks with readers long after they have turned the last page.

Mercer County, Kentucky
April 1861


"The Shakers! Have you taken leave of your senses, Edwin? You can't seriously be considering joining the Shakers?" The words came out harsher than Charlotte Vance intended and Edwin Gilbey stepped back from her until the budding branches of the lilac bush behind him had to be poking holes in his dinner jacket.

"Please, Charlotte. Calm yourself. You know I can't abide a scene." He sounded alarmed as he shifted his eyes away from her face to look longingly over her shoulder toward the veranda door.

Charlotte's irritation grew as she stared at Edwin in the light of the nearly full moon. He didn't even like social gatherings. Behind her the door opened and laughter mixed with the music of the string ensemble she'd hired from Lexington flowed out into the garden. The party seemed to be proceeding well in spite of the charged emotions in the air.

When her father first sent word from Frankfort that he wanted her to arrange a grand gala for his return home to Grayson Manor after completing his business in the capital city, she'd doubted his sanity. Surely as a senator in the State Legislature he was more than aware the country was teetering on the brink of destruction after Mr. Lincoln had taken the Oath of Office and moved into the White House last month. Half a dozen southern states had already followed South Carolina out of the Union. That's all anybody was talking about. Whether they could do that. Whether the government should allow them to do that. Whether there would be armed conflict to preserve the Union.

How in the world did her father expect them to have a civil party with half the guests waving the Union flag and the other half shouting State's rights and favoring secession? She'd sent a message back to him saying they might as well lay the dueling pistols on the table in the front hall and let the men take turns out on Grayson's front lawn. But he had made light of her worries and on return post had insisted he had news to announce that required the finest party she'd ever arranged. Astounding news.

Charlotte had surmised he was bringing word back to Grayson that the Constitutional Union Party had pegged him as their next candidate for governor. Certainly reason enough to dare entertaining in spite of the political climate. But no, that hadn't been his news. Instead he had handed a woman dressed to the nines in silk and jewels down out of the carriage and introduced her as his wife.

Not wife to be. Wife. A woman from the North. Selena Harley Black. A widow with a young son somewhere still in the north or so Betty Jamison had whispered in Charlotte's ear while her father escorted his bride from group to group to introduce her. Of course, after the death of Charlotte's mother, Betty had entertained the improbable notion that she might eventually catch Charlotte's father's eye.

When the veranda door closed again and muffled the sound of the party, Charlotte was relieved. She couldn't think about her father and that woman right now. Not with Edwin talking this ridiculous Shaker talk. One problem at a time. She turned her attention back to the man pinned against her mother's favorite lilac bush in front of her. He shifted uneasily on his feet and glanced over his shoulder as though considering an escape under the lilac's branches even if it did mean spoiling the knees of his trousers.

"But Edwin," she said as sweetly as she could under the circumstances. "Unless I am greatly mistaken, the Shakers have a ban on matrimony."

Edwin straightened his shoulders and almost looked at her face again before he let his eyes slide down to the ground at their feet. "You are not mistaken. It is one of their strongest tenets. The avoidance of such unions allows them to live in peace and harmony. Hence the name of their village, Harmony Hill."

"I am well aware of the name of their village." The irritation in her voice sounded a bit strident even to Charlotte's ears. Not the way to win arguments. She attempted to pull in a deep steadying breath, but with the tight lacings of her corset constricting her breathing, she simply ended up feeling light-headed. She fought the feeling. She refused to have the vapors. She could control this. She could control Edwin. Hadn't she done so ever since they were toddlers playing together in the nursery?

He threw up his hand to ward off her anger as he hurried out his words. "Yes, yes, of course you are. At any rate, I have become well acquainted with an Elder Logan in their village. He has found great peace among the Believers there. A peace I envy." Edwin peeked up at her and went on in a tremulous voice. "You know yourself how unsettled I've felt ever since my dear grandmother departed this world last spring."

"I do understand how difficult the loss has been for you. For all of us. She was a fine lady." It took effort, but she managed to sound sympathetic as she spoke the oft repeated words. What she actually wanted to tell Edwin was that Faustine Hastings had been well along in years and that no one could live forever. Or grieve forever. Charlotte had resigned herself to a year of mourning before their marriage even though that would make her nearly twenty when they spoke their vows in May. A mere month from now.

The Seeker is available at most bookstores and book retailers. Online purchase a copy at,/ or .

Living just thirty miles from a restored Shaker village in Kentucky, Ann H. Gabhart has walked the same paths that her characters might have walked in generations past. Gabhart is the author of several books, including the bestselling The Outsider, a finalist for Christian Fiction Book of 2009.

Visit Ann's website -
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Copyright ©2010 by Ann H. Gabhart
Published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3363-6
All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

* * *


Ellie Quicke, once a tearful widow, is now comfortably remarried to her best friend Thomas. However, having been on her own for so long, she is inclined to act hastily, not always consulting him on matters which affect them both. When she took in a young rape victim, she guessed that the commitment might become a burden, but she didn't expect it to be an invitation to murder.
Publishers Weekly: `Intrepid Ellie injects this high-octane cozy with endearing humor and enduring style.'

Chapter One

Monday afternoon

They weren't expecting trouble. The interview at the solicitor's office was the only thing on their minds as they walked along the pavement. They took no notice of the passing traffic until . . .
Woosh! A roar from a powerful car engine, a squeal from mistreated tyres. A woman's scream. A man's hoarse shout.

Ellie staggered, cannoned into from behind. She fell. A heavy weight pressed her down,

squeezing all the breath out of her.

Someone screamed.

The weight upon her was removed and she managed to lift herself enough to
see a car speed off and turn left into the traffic on the main road ahead.
Mia! Where was the girl? Was she all right? Ellie looked around, pushing herself up onto hands and knees with an effort.

Oh, thank the Lord. Mia was all right. At first glance, anyway. The girl had been thrown against the wall, was crouched there. Bewildered. Frightened.

Ellie tested her arms and legs. Everything seemed to work, after a fashion. She tried to stand and didn't make it. Went down on her knees again, with both hands on the pavement. Her pretty blue dress was no longer pretty. She'd scraped the skin down both forearms. A pity it had been a hot day, because she hadn't worn a coat. If she had, she might have saved herself grazed arms. She was trembling, but she was all right. She told herself.

Someone was screaming. Well, it wasn't her, and no, it wasn't Mia, who'd been walking on the inside of Ellie, nearer the wall. `Mia, are you all right?'

Mia nodded, over and over. Like a puppet. Speechless. In shock. Someone was still screaming. A

child was crying, thinly, hopelessly.

A big black man towered over Ellie, offering a helping hand to get her to her feet. She made it, somehow. Gave him a reassuring smile. He had blood on his T-shirt and jeans.

A youngish woman clad in Lycra cycled up. She got off her bike and looked beyond Ellie and the

man to where a woman lay sprawled . . . the buggy beside her, wheels spinning . . . Don't look,

Ellie. Don't even think about it for the moment. Concentrate on getting yourself to stand unaided.

A car came by, slowly. Drew to a halt. Another car came up behind the first car, tooted its horn. Why the hold-up?

The man who'd saved Ellie from being run over asked, `Are you hurt?' A deep voice, reassuring. Rough clothes, torn jeans. A workman? Big hands.

`Did you get their number?' The cyclist had a high, thin voice. She hauled her bike off the road and onto the pavement.

A man, a businessman, got out of his car. `What . . .? Are you all right, missus?'

Ellie nodded. She was, sort of. More or less. Blood was dripping off her chin onto her dress. She checked that she still had her handbag – which she'd worn across her body to deter muggers - and scrabbled inside for some paper tissues. Used them.

The child was crying, hopelessly. Ellie wished it would stop.

The businessman got his mobile phone out. The car behind him tooted again, then swung out into the road and went round him. The driver of the second car then saw what had happened and slowed right down. Traffic began to pile up behind him.

The cyclist leant her bike against the wall and bent over, retching. Ellie didn't want to look. Mia had her eyes closed. Just as well.

Two large women in their forties panted up. Dyed blonde hair strained back into unbecoming pony tails. Both were overweight, bursting out of tight sleeveless tops and even tighter jeans. `OhmiGawd!'

That was a prayer, not an obscenity. Please God, don't take it the wrong way. The women might or might not go to church, but they knew when God was needed in the aftermath of a tragedy.
Veronica Heley
Murder by Mistake, Severn House.
From , and good bookstores everywhere.
Please do not reproduce without permission.

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