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May 4, 2012

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen

Absolute MUST read for lovers of Austen and Downton Abbey! A Favorite read of 2012!

Bethany House (January 1, 2012)
416 pages paperback
Review copy provided by the publisher via HNR, thank you!
Review originally posted in Historical Novels Review Magazine, May 2012
Burton Book Review Rating:5 Shiny Stars A FAVORITE OF 2012!

Pampered Margaret Macy flees London in disguise to escape pressure to marry a dishonorable man. With no money and nowhere else to go, she takes a position as a housemaid in the home of Nathaniel Upchurch, a suitor she once rejected in hopes of winning his dashing brother. Praying no one will recognize her, Margaret fumbles through the first real work of her life. If she can last until her next birthday, she will gain an inheritance from a spinster aunt--and sweet independence. But can she remain hidden as a servant even when prying eyes visit Fairbourne Hall?

Observing both brothers as an "invisible" servant, Margaret learns she may have misjudged Nathaniel. Is it too late to rekindle his admiration? And when one of the family is nearly killed, Margaret alone discovers who was responsible. Should she come forward, even at the risk of her reputation and perhaps her life? And can she avoid an obvious trap meant to force her from hiding?

On her journey from wellborn lady to servant to uncertain future, Margaret must learn to look past appearances and find the true meaning of "serve one another in love."

Julie Klassen has written a clever book that incorporates what readers love of Jane Austen, Downton Abbey and even a bit of Jane Eyre. The novel offers everything a historical romance reader looks for, and I was sad to let these fun characters go. Margaret Macy’s once spoiled life takes a turn for the worse after her father dies and her evil step-father wants to take control of her inheritance. She impulsively runs away, and finds herself becoming a maid in a household where two former suitors reside, Nathanial and Lewis Upchurch.

Margaret, masquerading as Nora, mimics the servants’ mannerisms and dons a wig to hide her identity, eventually finding an unexpected accomplice in the sister at Fairbourne Hall. Margaret matures as she is able to realize how blessed her life once was and acknowledges the hard life of a servant, as well as the missed opportunity with Nathanial. However, the disappearance of Margaret from the social set causes a stir, forcing her out of hiding. Is there hope that the right Upchurch brother could rescue Margaret? The atmosphere of the belowstairs administering to the upper crust, along with historical quotes annotating each chapter makes this an entertaining and inspiring read.

I loved this one and recommend it to lovers of either historical fiction, romance, regency or inspirational readers. There were small mentions of Margaret's doubts of spirituality, but it was barely a theme, so if you are one who does not like Christian Fiction, please do not let that label persuade you to not read this one. This was an entertaining read that I couldn't put down, and I already have The Girl in the Gatehouse, Lady of Milkweed Manor and The Apothecary's Daughter on my TBR shelf and will definitely be adding anything else of hers that she writes.

Julie Klassen is also the author of Lady of Milkweed Manor; The Apothecary's Daughter; The Silent Governess; The Girl in the Gatehouse.. all of these are going to be high on my TBR pile soon! She is a two time Christy Award winner, among other accomplishments. Check out some of the awesome reviews she has received over on Goodreads.

Edited to add that The Maid of Fairbourne Hall was the 2012 Christy Award WINNER! Congrats!