Okay, so I read The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen about a month ago on a trip and it KILLS me that I didn’t write this blog post sooner because the story was that good. The book was so different from most Christian/inspirational romance books that I’ve read. In fact, I’d say that if it wasn’t for having a curate in the story and the characters occasionally going to church, the book would not scream “Christian romance” at all. Instead, it was more of a mystery book, which the last I checked, there really are not a lot of inspirational/mystery/romance type books out there (if I’m wrong, I’d love it if you’d share some titles with me!).
The book opens up with Abigail Foster’s family on the brink of financial ruin after having made bad bank investments. After selling their home, a distant, mysterious family member offers the Foster family the use of Pembrooke Park for one year. Upon arrival at the Park, Abigail receives a less than warm welcome as the curate’s father holds her at gunpoint, assuming she is one of the many vandals that has come to look for secret treasure. After assuring the man that she has the right to be on the property, Abigail ventures inside the house, only to be immediately stunned. The home looks like the Pembrooke family just stepped out of the house for a moment only to never return. Tea cups and food lay abandoned on tables. A dusty dollhouse looks like it is waiting for the little girl to come back and resume playing. As mysterious and creepy as the house is, it is just as frightening that no one in the neighborhood will tell Abigail what happened to the family. Abigail is determined to solve the property’s mysterious past and hopefully stumble upon the missing treasure so that she can right her family’s lack of fortune. What Abigail didn’t expect is possibly falling in love with Will, the handsome, young curate. However, Abigail’s determination to figure things out may expose secrets within Will’s family that they prefer to be kept hidden. Will romance between the pair blossom or shrivel up as Abigail is determined to solve the Park’s creepy and dangerous past?
If you’re looking for a riveting read, this one definitely fits the bill. I imagine it isn’t coincidental that this book reminds me of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, except with a gothic flair and a more laid-back writing style. After all, Pembrooke Park sounds an awful lot like Pemberley! After reading so many romances, it is pretty expected that the heroine will end up falling in love and getting married. That’s a given. However, Klassen’s plot in every other way was unpredictable. When one mystery would get solved, another would pop up. As a reader, I never knew what to expect, which I greatly appreciate. I’ve read where some readers complained about the characters’ behavior not conforming to that which is expected of people in the regency period (ex. men and women never being left alone in the same room). However, do we really know if people in the gentry were always so particular about following these social rules? Perhaps they really did, but I found Abigail’s independence refreshing, even if the author took a little liberty with creating a character that would not have existed during the regency period.
I’d like to thank Bethany House for sending me this novel in exchange for an honest review. I’d love to hear your opinions on the novel if you take my recommendation to read it!
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