Many fans of historical fiction enjoy the Regency setting of Jane Austen’s era – a period of elegance and etiquette, when young ladies spent their days preparing for ‘the season’, and personal success was measured by the mastery of social graces. On the other hand, some readers prefer more intrigue, suspense, and action in their historical novels, even though it may be unorthodox for the time period. In either case, bestselling author Julie Klassen delivers a tale that is sure to appeal to both ends of the spectrum in her newest release from Bethany House, The Secret of Pembrooke Park. To fans of her previous works, including The Dancing Master, Ms. Klassen suggests that this novel may be her best work yet. Does her untypically strong focus on the mystery woven throughout the romance prove her right, or will both facets fall short?
With good reason, the lengthy, 460-page duration of the novel may appear daunting, but in truth it is just right. Over time the characters are carefully developed and revealed layer by layer, just as the intricate, twisting plot is neither rushed nor stretched beyond the limits of believability. Abigail Foster is a very relatable heroine, and although her circumstances are far from ordinary, her inner struggles pertain to many. As the guilt she feels for her family’s loss of wealth and status threatens to engulf her, will a second chance at the mysterious Pembrooke Park lead to restoration – or complete destruction? And when Pembrooke’s secrets come to light, will the truth bring good or evil?
Although the tone and events of the novel are perhaps a little darker than other titles in the genre, The Secret of Pembrooke Park does not present gloom or depression as the overall feeling. Being a Christian-based story, hope and healing are the ultimate conquerors over despair and devastation. On a deeper level, the theme of discovering your source of value is portrayed with insight as Abigail realizes it is not the possession of a large dowry or stunning beauty that makes her worthy of love – what matters is that she is treasured by God. Additionally, when faith and family are in our possession we are wealthy in all that truly matters.
The Secret of Pembrooke Park is a highly enjoyable book with many well-developed, multi-layered characters, and fascinating, unexpected plot twists. The one major drawback to the novel occurred in multiple scenes between couples, when details were painted in an overly intimate light, and situations became very emotionally charged. Apart from the discomfort of these various portions, however, The Secret of Pembrooke Park is an excellent Regency mystery, brought to life with just the right amounts of mystery, inner growth, surprises and love. If you enjoy Jane Austen-like novels of Regency romance, prefer historical fiction or mysteries, or are simply looking for a well-told story, don’t hesitate to immerse yourself in the account of Pembrooke Park – a tale you won’t soon forget.
Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.