Title: The Secret of Pembrooke Park
Author: Julie Klassen
Genre: Christian Historical/Regency fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Received via NetGalley
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?
I don't usually read regency fiction, but Julie Klassen has hooked me from the first book of hers I ever read, and her books have never disappointed. This was no exception. I loved it from start to finish, and it kept me enthralled the whole time.
This one was filled with more mystery and intrigue than most of her others. One of the reasons I love her books is because of the twists and turns that keep you guessing, that I don't see coming. I'm not saying some things aren't predictable, after all she does get her influence from classics, but there have been many a time when I didn't know what was going to happen or was surprised.
Abigail Foster's family is seeing some financial hard times. Forced to sell their house to downsize, they are not sure what to do, until a strange man comes to them with an even stranger proposition: his employer has offered them use of Pembrooke Park, which has sat idle for 18 years, abandoned under mysterious circumstances. The offer is almost suspicious, but as her sister still expects to have her season in London, Abigail and her father agree. But, everyone around the house is guarded and suspicious, refusing to tell Abigail anything, except to warn her about any visitors named Pembrooke.
I liked Abigail. She was hard-working and kind. Although she had a bit of a martyr complex about her--oh, my sister is so much prettier than I am and no one notices me and everything is my fault--I liked that most of the book was actually set with her at the manor by herself, because we really got to see her, not her under the shadow of her sister. Abigail really shines, becoming more comfortable with herself and learning how to manage a household.
Although I am usually not a fan of love triangles, I enjoyed both the boys in this one. Before William became a key player, I was kind of hoping that Gilbert would show up and something would happen between them. But by the time Gilbert did show up, William had already won me over. And honestly, I didn't like Gilbert for Abigail for this point. I like the best-friends-from-childhood romances, but that wasn't the case here.
But those weren't the only secondary characters that I liked. I loved all of them really. Leah, Mrs. Webb, and trying to figure out how they all worked into the big picture. What they were hiding, what they knew.
There was a lot going on in this one. Not to the point where you were so confused it took away from the joy of reading, but enough that it kept you intrigued the whole time. But I also loved how everything tied together. Nothing happened that didn't somehow play into the story later. And I loved the way it all came to conclusion.
I'm pretty sure this was one of Klassen's best yet. Or at least, one of my favorites so far. It is slightly longer than her others, and although it felt like it at the beginning, the end flew by. I cannot recommend it enough.