Established by Anne Lee in the late 1700s, the United Society of Believers, better known as the Shakers, worshiped in several religious communities around New England. Through sexual abstinence, hard work, and charity, the followers believed they could create the kingdom of heaven on earth. They were also known for their unique form of worship, dance.
By the 1830s, strict celibacy rules threaten the commune’s survival. Without marriage and procreation, they have no offspring to fill the ranks of aging members. The community offers to take in and educate children, hoping they will eventually become devoted and productive members. When a recession hits toward the end of the decade, Lucy Hammond is left at Hancock while her parents move west in search of a new life. Her parents promise to return for her when they are settled.
After her father’s death, thirteen-year-old Sarah Bishop is indentured to the Shakers in exchange for her inheritance. Lucy is thrilled when Sarah arrives at Hancock. Lured by her new sister’s pluck and beauty, Lucy immediately befriends Sarah.
In spite of her fear of unchaste reprobates living outside the Community gates, Lucy follows Sarah as she escapes the dormitory to steal back her inheritance from the Shakers. Sarah’s contempt for the strict rules becomes apparent to all but Lucy.
A historical with elements of romance and suspense, Winter Harvest portrays the rich history of 19th century New England from inside the stone fences of a flourishing religious sect. But despite the leaders’ efforts to safeguard their world, duplicity, murder, and Lucy’s eventual attraction to a young bank detective unsettle the peaceful yet industrious keepers of the “Garden.”