The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen

IMG_3823-0 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ My synopsis:  When a reversal in financial circumstances causes Abigail Foster’s family to sell their cherished family home in London’s trendy Grosvenor Square, and remove to the dilapidated and foreboding Pembrooke Park in Berkshire, a manor house that has stood uninhabited for 18 years, Abigail wonders what the future holds for herself and her family. But as mysterious and sinister occurances associated with the old house come to light, her once somewhat optimistic view of residing at Pembrooke Park begins to change.

REVIEW:  When the book unfolds we find Abigail Foster and her family getting ready to attend a going-away party that their long-time neighbors and friends are hosting for their son Gilbert, who’s leaving for a year to study abroad. Abigail has formed an attachment beyond friendship to Gilbert, and expects a proposal upon his return; but as the night progresses Abigail witnesses Gilbert with her younger sister Louisa engrossed in a tête-à-tête. Gilbert appears interested in Louisa and Abigail is crushed. To make matters worse, during dinner Gilbert’s father addresses Mr. Foster, alluding to financial woes involving one of the Fosters’ recent investments.  This painful development further saddens poor Abby, especially since she feels principally responsible for her family’s financial predicament.

When the worst is realized and the Fosters are forced to retrench, they are concerned about where they will take up residence. Fortunately their situation is remedied when a distant but undisclosed relative conditionally offers them the use of their vast, uninhabited, decrepit manor house, Pembrooke Park.  When they agree to the stipulations, Abigail and her father head to Pembrooke Park to assist the servants with readying it for habitation. Things seem to be looking up for the Fosters until Abigail begins receiving cryptic torn-out journal entries and letters from an anonymous source, warnings from neighbors of treasure hunters, mysterious visitors around the estate, footsteps in the house at night, and other unexplained phenomena. Although these are unexpected challenges, Abby is determined to stay at Pembrooke Park, and the local curate, William Chapman, is quickly becoming an incentive to remain. Is he the man she thinks he is or is he possibly seeking the hidden treasure rumored to be in her new home?  Can the servants be trusted?  The neighbors? Are the journal entries and missives she receives, seemingly chronicling her goings on inside the house, proof that someone is watching her?

MY FEELINGS: Extraordinary!! I found this book to be a cleverly crafted story, somewhat of an amalgam of several of Jane Austen’s brilliant novels, and at times reminiscent of Charlotte Bronté’s Jane Eyre. For me this was by far a good thing as I am an admirer of both authors.  Reading The Secret of Pembrooke Park was like consuming the most decadent dessert, each layer richer and more succulent than the one before it. This regency period, semi-gothic, historical romance and inspirational fiction novel (whew), involving an old manor house, family secrets, obscure identities, hidden rooms and lost treasure engrossed me from beginning to end. And although this book is considered Christian Fiction which I appreciate for the lack of profanity, explicit sexual content, vulgar language and wanton violence, I don’t necessarily appreciate an influx of scriptural references, heavy doses of doctrine or preachiness. Klassen did a superb job at balancing scriptural content. Whereas there was mention made regarding things of a theological nature, it fit in with the plot and did not supersede the storyline. I will admit I was apprehensive when I saw the size of the book, 456 pages, which is normally a bit lengthy for my taste.  However, I found it was surprisingly well sequenced and fluently paced to the degree that it kept me fully absorbed and in eager expectation of the next reading opportunity.  In fact, it was actually hard to put down, and I read it in about the same time it ordinarily takes for me to read a book about half its size.

If you relish the masterful storytelling of authors like Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronté, then I expect you will find The Secret of Pembrooke Park a thoroughly enriching experience. I absolutely LOVED it!!

Thank you Laurel Ann Natress of Austenprose for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review which I have given. Thank you Bethany House and Julie Klassen for providing this publication for my enjoyment.

QUICK FACTS:

• Title: The Secret of Pembrooke Park
• Author: Julie Klassen
• Tour Dates: February 16 – March 02, 2015
• Genre: Regency Romance/Gothic Romance/ Historical Fiction/Austenesque/Inspirational Fiction
• Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (December 02, 2014)
• Trade paperback ISBN: 978-0764210716
• eBook ISBN: 9781441264824
• Audio: B00QXKRDZ6
• Video Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-X4nLZlzBSQ&feature=youtu.be

IMG_3819AUTHOR BIO:

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her books have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in St. Paul, Minnesota. Learn more about Julie and her books at her website, follow her on Twitter, and visit her on Facebook and Goodreads.

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Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James

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MY REVIEW:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ What a delightful surprise this book was!! A lovely, charming and beautifully written account of Jane Austen’s first love interest, Edward Taylor, inspired by true events. Jane Austen is 15 years old when the book opens and excited when she learns that she is to accompany her mother, sister, and younger brother to visit her elder brother Edward, who resides with Thomas and Catherine Knight of Godmersham Park, Kent. Edward is recently engaged to Ms. Elizabeth Bridges of Goodnestone Park, and the family is invited there to celebrate a month-long multitude of festivities, to Jane’s overwhelming delight. As they got underway to Goodnestone their carriage met with peril and was nearly upset, leaving them virtually stranded on the road. When circumstances begin to look grim, Edward Taylor appears and rescues them. This is where Jane and Edward make their acquaintance, and she is at once smitten by his smart appearance. Jane eventually learns that Edward is highly accomplished; at 17 he’s traveled the world and been educated by many Masters, speaks several languages, been in the company of numerous influential people including princes, ambassadors and lords. She’s enamored by his opinions and thought processes regarding various subjects, and appreciates how his insights encourage her to think differently about some of her own deeply entrenched ideas. He is also somewhat of an enigmatic fellow and likes to take risks, challenges commonly accepted practices, and prefers not to inherit and manage his father’s estate. The daredevil in him is somewhat displeasing to Jane on more than one occasion. Nevertheless, Jane feels certain that she truly loves Edward. Or does she?
I was enraptured and caught away by the mention of balls, picnics, garden parties, long walks and similar activities that the family engaged in. The visual detail of the aforementioned was splendid and I felt transported back in time where I could be a spectator of Jane’s young life. Character development was excellent and I could easily envision many of the key family members, friends and acquaintances that were met with while I read along. It was nice to see the close bond that was evident between Jane and her older sister Cassandra, and also her younger brother Charles. I also liked how the book reminded me of Jane Austen’s book Emma, and her disastrous match-making attempts. Mostly I loved watching how Jane and Edward’s attachment unfolded.
This was the first book I’ve read by Syrie James and I was truly impressed!! So much so that I immediately looked into her other books and purchased one in audiobook format. If you enjoy Jane Austen inspired works, I trust you will be thrilled when you read Jane Austen’s First Love. MAGNIFICENT, and highly recommended!
Thank you Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose, and Syrie James, for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, which I have given.

 

Longbourn by Jo Baker

IMG_3581.JPG⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 4.5 stars. Longbourn is a cleverly written, Pride and Prejudice variation told from the standpoint of the servants below stairs. I’ve owned this book for many months but was reluctant to read it because of the varied reviews. In spite of some of the negative reviews I decided I wanted to read it and I am sure glad I did. I loved the author’s writing style which captivated me rather quickly. And while some of the words were unfamiliar to me, I saw this as an opportunity to expand my vocabulary rather than a nuisance. I really liked how some of the the more memorable events of Pride and Prejudice were weaved into the Longbourn narrative; instances such as when Mr. Bingley arrives at Netherfield, when Lydia runs away with Wickham, and when Darcy and Elizabeth fall for each other and marry. I was afraid that Jo Baker might mar my idealistic notions of the Bennet girls, particularly Jane and Elizabeth. There were instances where Elizabeth was portrayed in a less favorable light than Jane, but not so much as to ruin my memories of the beloved classic I so fondly remember. Sarah, one of the housemaids, was an interesting character, and most of the book revolved around her. She was a spirited, curious, mischievous, responsible and sometimes rebellious young girl who was eager to experience the life she could only dream of having; a life that didn’t involve serving others. I loved her character.

In conclusion I felt that this was a very nicely written story that I would recommend to those who enjoy Pride and Prejudice retellings. This book is a part of my personal library.

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and SensibilitySense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I loved this book!! This is my fourth Jane Austen novel and it’s one of my favorites. I loved the characters, plot and ending. There were twists and turns that I didn’t anticipate, as well as laugh out loud moments throughout the book. This is Regency period drama at its best. But then again it’s Jane Austen so how could I expect any less? If you loved Pride and Prejudice you will probably love this book too.

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The Darcys of Pemberley

The Darcys of Pemberley (The Darcys of Pemberley, #1)The Darcys of Pemberley by Shannon Winslow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Darcy’s of Pemberley was an exquisite continuation of Pride and Prejudice. The essence of the original characters were captured precisely, and the book carried the dignity and writing style of a Jane Austen novel. It was like meeting up with dear old friends again. Since the writing was so true to Ms. Austen’s style, my imagination whisked me right back to where Pride and Prejudice left off. The transition was flawless and thus I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Whereas when devouring a Jane Austen novel an annotated version can be helpful, Ms. Winslow’s The Darcy’s of Pemberley was less complicated and may only occasionally require a dictionary if the reader is not already familiar with Regency era language and expressions; this is just my opinion. Additionally, I found that the book started off at a slower pace but quickly gained momentum and kept me engrossed to the very last page.

I completely enjoyed this book and recommend it highly. I was so pleased by it that I am looking forward to reading Return to Longbourn. Excellent!!

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