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Jan 3, 2015

The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen

My newest favorite Julie Klassen work!

The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen
Bethany House Publishers, December 1, 2014
Historical/Christian fiction
Paperback 460 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher in expectation of an honest review
Burton Book Review Rating: 5 stars

Read my reviews of other Julie Klassen titles here.

Abigail Foster fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry to improve her charms and the one man she thought might marry her--a longtime friend--has fallen for her younger, prettier sister. When financial problems force her family to sell their London home, a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll's house left mid-play . . .

The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem to know something about the manor's past, the only information they offer Abigail is a warning: Beware trespassers who may be drawn by rumors that Pembrooke contains a secret room filled with treasure.

Hoping to improve her family's financial situation, Abigail surreptitiously searches for the hidden room, but the arrival of anonymous letters addressed to her, with clues about the room and the past, bring discoveries even more startling. As secrets come to light, will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks...or very real danger?

This is the third year in a row that I have read a Julie Klassen novel this time of year and I believe I enjoyed this year's title just a bit more than last year's The Dancing Master. This novel packed a bit more of the gothic suspense in it, which is a return to the style I loved in The Tutor's Daughter and The Maid of Fairbourne Hall. Klassen is a skillful storyteller who can easily channel Jane Eyre and Jane Austen as she writes her intriguing Regency novels which are also laced with an inspiring Christian theme.

The Secret of Pembrooke Park introduces us to a young Abigail Foster who is very close to becoming off the shelf in comparison to her beautiful sister Louisa. After an unfortunate series of events, Abigail gives over her dowry funds to provide a coming out season for the younger Louisa. Meanwhile, a stroke of luck lands Abigail and her family in Pembrooke Park, a large estate which needs a house sitter. Mysteries and strange characters follow Abigail's path as she tries to uncover the past of Pembrooke Park with the help of the locals who remember only pieces of the legend that haunts Pembrooke Park.

The previous inhabitants were distant cousins of Abigail's family, and feature two rival brothers who eventually grew up to have families of their own. One brother comes back to reclaim what he thought was his, and the children become victims of Clive Pembrooke's greed. How this all happens is what Abigail slowly entangles, just as she is also trying to entangle her heart from her girlish fantasy over a beau ignoring the more realistic path to a brighter future with the local parson who is a better fit for Abigail, but it'll take a lot for Abigail to let her guard down after her heart was wounded so recently.

Julie Klassen's The Secret of Pembrooke Park is perfectly packaged with several threads of the gothic suspense, Regency romance and inspirational themes while presenting a well plotted story with intriguing characters in an amazing setting. This one is a bit longer than her others which is always welcomed when stories are written are so well. This is definitely one of my very favorite Julie Klassen novels which I highly recommend to readers of Jane Austen and Jane Eyre.